Another bucket list striked off! Labuan Bajo! (also lesser known as Labuhan Bajo). Most Malaysian, (even Indonesian!) do not know the existence of this island. But thanks to social media ( Instagram in my case) people like me finally set foot on this magical island.
Labuan Bajo is a fishing town located in Flores island; one of the Lesser Sunda Islands; a group of islands in the eastern side of Indonesia. Still considered uncharted territory from the rest of world, what greeted us when we arrived was truly and indeed magical to my soul and to my eyes. *sigh* ok im exaggerating but TBH I was very happy when I landed.
Malaysia does not offer direct flight to Labuan Bajo (yet) but seeing that the airport on the island is rather small (more like Mulu / Bario airport) - that would be a long way to go.
But the pain of being a Sarawakian, our flight hours were extra longer compared to other Malaysians because yeah; we do not have international flights except to Singapore. SAD
Bear in mind that flights to Labuan Bajo are rather pricey even if it is a domestic flight. I spent close to MYR 1k just for my return flight from Jakarta.
Bintulu- Kuala Lumpur - Jakarta-Labuan Bajo - Jakarta - Kuala Lumpur - Miri
A total of 6 flights!! Once i got back i had to hibernate for a whole day.
Accommodations in general are affordable. I was actually surpise with the quality of the hotels we stayed in depsite the VERY cheap prices
Sepang (Transit): City View Hotel, Container Hotel
Jakarta: Kyriad Hotel, Digital Capsule Hotel (Transit)
Labuan Bajo : Eco Tree O'Tel
Day 1: Flight to Jakarta
Funny story. We missed our flight on the first day. This is not the funny part. We were already by the gate but we were all thirsty so we all went out of the gate to get a drink of water. Little did we know getting a measly cup of water made us miss our flight.
On schedule, we were suppose to arrive by noon, getting on the morning flight from Kuala Lumpur. But since we missed it, we bought the next available flight at 1PM and only arriving by 3PM.
This is not the end though.
We did not realise that we have arrived during peak hours and on a working day. Hence, the jam we had to endure just to get to our hotel (by length is could've taken us only 15 mins to get to without the jam). It took is 2 HOURS to get arrive! NEVER AGAIN!
So because of this we lost one whole day of exploring in Jakarta. But when you travel with me, there will always be a silver lining to a bad day. We came across the BEST TEMPE GORENG aka deep fried tempeh i have ever tasted in my life (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) JUST ACROSS OUR HOTEL!
Day 2: Exploring Jakarta
We did not take in account how jam Jakarta could be. In my head, Jakarta couldn't be any worse than KL right? haha fml
It took us the whole morning just to get to the Old City from our hotel. Good thing we took Grab, so it didn't cost us much. We were stopped at one of the Entrance of Fatillah Square and started from there.
We arrived in time for lunch so we start to explore the area for some decent Nasi Padang. Wasn't great,a tad salty, a little bit dirty but good enough. We were too hungry to care.
But as Malaysians say, if the place isn't dirty, the food isn't good either. OK. Maybe its just me.
Day 3: Flight to Labuan Bajo
Got on our morning flight from Jakarta. We were extra careful this time around and went in extra early. no funny business anymore. Can't afford it. LOL
Flight duration took us about two hours. More then enough time for us to catch some sleep and finish my book. (the only time i read undisturbed apparently).
Once the Captain announced we should get ready for landing; i got out my phone/camera and ready myself for some shots. i promise you, even the aerial view of the island was out of this world. It was magnificent. ( at this moment i have decided that i need to explore/lookup more of Indonesian islands for future trips/references)
On our first day on the island, we took time to explore the vicinity and made our way into town to haggle some tours for the next day. owh, and haggle we did!
Most tours provide 6 stops in a day. We wanted a private boat but could only get a normal boat for hire if we wanted something under IDR 1 million/pax. Plus, we wanted less stops so we can chill.
I WAS SUPER GLAD WE HIRED THE SLOWER BOAT. Because we were dead tired in between the stops we had time to nap. Also, make sure your hired boat has a BEAN BAG. Best bed ever. Not a mattress ya. A BEAN BAG.
We decided to got to :
1. Pulau Padar ( 4 Hours from Labuan Bajo)
2. Long Beach Island (Pink beach -Lesser Known beach, less people) (30 mins from the hike entrance by boat-bear in mind its the same island)
3. Rinca Island (Lesser known Komodo Sanctuary compared to the touristy ones like the main Komodo Island) (1 hour from Pulau Padar)
4. Kelur Island ( 2 hours from Rinca Island and 1 hour from Labuan Bajo)
Day 4: Island Hopping Day
The day started off gloomy, with the rain threatening us of what can be a wonderful sunny day. As soon as I woke up (this is 4 AM) I heard the thunder. The thunder was my alarm clock.
Half awake and worried, we prayed that it just drizzles and go away. We got dressed,went up to the reception and inquired about the weather. Seems redundant for me to ask right?
Just so you know, weathers at sea is a bit different. They spot. When I say spot, I meant, the weather on the mainland does not necessarily reflects the weather out at sea.
The receptionist reassured us that the rains here don't last long. We had a 4 hours boat ride till we get to our destination. The weather might warm up by then.
On the way, we were greeted with dry, windy, drizzling and down right pouring rain all in 4 hours alone. Unfortunately when we arrived, it was pouring quite heavily so we decided to wait it out.
The bigger boats were kind enough to let 4 helpless girls onto their boats and wait the rain out.
When the rain slowed down, we head down to shore and started our climb. What could've been 20 minutes turned into 1 hour climb because of traffic. lol
Yes there were traffic! of humans! Apparently we weren't the only one waiting for the rain to stop.
The route up was narrow, slippery and a slight misstep would thrown us off to our deaths.
Day 5: Pre Dive Day : Relax Day
We decide to chill in between the Island hopping and dive day. Because we knew how tiring a dive day can be!
We took our time having breakfast today ( our hotel has a treetop restaurant and a great viewpoint of the Jetty!)
With not much in planned that day, we decided to hunt down some IG worthy sunset view point and came upon Ayana Komodo Resort in Waecicu Beach.
Though we weren't guests in the resort, we were treating like one! They have guides to bring us around the hotel. The servers come by a few times just to ask how our food and day was (some people wouldn't like this but we didn't mind). We exchanged experiences and cultures ( Malaysian and Indonesian culture are almost similar anyway)
Even the in house dive masters came out of their way to help us take some group pictures/boomerangs.
Then it poured. lol
We managed to get a few quick shot before we made a run for it. The hotel staffs even come over to bring us umbrellas! EACH!
Good thing we manage to get a few good shots before the rain interfered. Pictures here were some of my favorites
Day 6: Dive Day
Under our hotel's recommendation, we booked with IDIVE KOMODO just across the street for our fun dives.
The original plan was: Fun Dive 2 pax, snorkle 2 pax. But we managed to brainwash the other two to try the "Try Dive" Programme and it was the best decision of their lives! I'm proud to report that they will be getting their official OWD license in this April!
Met up with everyone at the dive center by 7am, got everything settled and off we went by foot to the jetty.
First dive overseas! I was nervous and so excited!
We were scheduled to dive in Siaba Besar, Manta Point and Pengah.
Diving in Flores needs a certain amount of experience to dive due to the unpredictable currents around the island. I've only dived within Malaysia so I wasn't ready for the extra energy needed to face the currents underwater.
The first dive in Siaba Besar was fine, plus I wasn't tired yet. Hence the dive went well but two of our buddies went up early because they were struggling already.
Second dive- Manta Point. This was where things went side ways. On deck we saw that the currents were pretty rough already. But I guess this situation was normal with the locals so it was still green light to dive. Who are we to say otherwise.
We jumped in, and one of us lost a Gopro. What? and it was just a week old!
Second, I got separated from the group. Fun divers were not given metal sticks so I can't call my dive master. Good thing she looked back to check and went after me. But this got us BOTH separated.
After the dive I found out the group looked for me. The other dive master decided then to tie the rest of the fun divers to a rock due to the current; afraid they might get separated as well and let the animals come to them.
The others who were under the "Try Dive" programme were tied to a rock as well and managed to see schools of Manta Rays!
Advisable that you have an AOWD license but we made it with "Try Dive" and OWD divers in tow because we had amazing dive masters leading us!!
My reaction was of a relieved one in this picture. I was struggling with the currents. The currents are crazy here! This was the dive i got separated from the rest of the group. I panicked. My breathing started to get ragged hence my buoyancy was messed up so I couldn't stay at the same level with my dive master. Though my tank was still at 150 Bars, i decided to abandon the dive. Even though it was shallow dive ( only 9.6 meters) I was so tired by this dive I had to ascend after a bottom time of 41 minutes ( I was actually surprised i was in that long actually)
After the dive we went back with full heart, got ready for dinner and head out for drinks in Paradise bar.
It was my first time in that type of bar. Just so you know, Paradise Bar is a reggae bar and the line up was amazing! Band starts at 10PM everyday. i was so excited they did Kings of Leons!
After drinks, we went out to see Bioluminescent Planktons down at Waecicu Beach courtesy of our Dive Masters! Amazing thing I tell you!
We ended the night with a goodbye and hopefully a lasting friendship. But more because we had a flight to catch the next day. lol
Day 7: Flight back to Jakarta and home
We planned to explore Jakarta again TBH. So we bought the the flight at night back to Kuala Lumpur.
But knowing how Jakarta's jam can be we decided to abandon the idea and decided to stay at the airport instead.
No ATMS available on the island. So please bring enough cash! - is what they say online.
Boys and girls, listen to me carefully. Labuan Bajo is not that Kampung lah.
The town is more then equipped with ATMs and online transaction services for anyone to survive. (as long as you have cash in you bank account)
For cheaper rates easier transaction; i advice Malaysian to register for Bigpay. it acts as a debit and ATM card but with the cheapest rates and international charges around. Rather then bringing a wad of cash everywhere. Go Plastic! its safer and less space.
1. No need to activate your card for overseas transaction
2. Cheap exchange rates - based on current online rates
3. Affordable fee charge for ATM withdrawals at any mahines with a Mastercard logo
4. Act like a debit card - but cheaper
5. Acts like a prepaid card. you won't need to open a bank account. Only top up $$ for usage - if it gets lost; there's less risk.
6. It is fullt managed by it's Bigpay App
7. The app also allows you to set your preferred PIN and you can block your card IMMEDIATELY if its's stolen or missing - (back again to prove point num 5)
8. can also SPLIT bills amongst Bigpay card users
Explore the main island itself! - we didn't manage to explore the island but rather the islands around it only - no time! But the Labuan Bajo itself cannot be explored in a few days. A proper 2 weeks would suffice to explore the island (AT LEAST)
I am planning another trip over just to explore the mainland this time round.
So stay tuned for the next trip to Flores Island!