IO – Indonesia is well-known for its amazing tourist destinations. Other than Bali, which is beloved by both local and foreign tourists, Komodo Islands are another attraction with undersea charms and a dazzling panorama. For divers, marine tourists, and trekkers, Komodo Islands are the choice to get it all. Part of the Nusa Tenggara Islands, Komodo is also a world-heritage site, selected by UNESCO in 1991.
Life in the small town of Labuan Bajo is not as lively as in, say, Lombok or Bali. The busiest local traffic is only in the port, market, and fish auction. In the daytime, all residents gather in Labuan Bajo briefly to sell their wares, buy household necessities, and work. Labuan Bajo is the economic center; residents may live far away, such as in Komodo Village, and may even take 4 hours to reach the town by motorized boat.
Both local and foreign tourists have recently made Labuan Bajo their destination. According to the Head of the Tourism and Creative Economy Office of the Province of East Nusa Tenggara, Marius Arda Jelamu, up to 82,000 tourists visited Labuan Bajo in 2016, increasing to 122,000 visitors in 2017. It is no surprise that there has been an increase in the number of tourists that arrive year after year. After all, other than its lovely landscape and friendly locals, Labuan Bajo is also famous for its sumptuous seafood dishes.
A visit to Labuan Bajo is incomplete without a sailing trip. Tourists can easily find this service downtown or through social media. The prices offered differ according to the length of the sailing trip, and the type of ship used. A sailing trip takes you on a tour around the islands in the East Nusa Tenggara area. This includes Komodo Island, Padar Island, Rinca Island, Pink Beach, Komodo Village and other attractive spots. The budget for tourists who want to enjoy this trip ranges from Rp 2,500,000.00 to Rp 3,500,000.00/person.
After obtaining their sailing schedules, tourists gather at Labuan Bajo Port in the morning. ‘We usually pick up our tourists in their hotels or homestays straight to the port,’ Rezky, the head of the sailing trip organizers, mentioned. ‘The tours generally leave at 10.00 a.m.,’ he added. We took the 3-day, 2-night package and mixed with other travellers in a boat with a maximum capacity of 10 passengers.
A sailing trip is a different kind of attraction. Other than allowing you to see the beauty of the islands in East Nusa Tenggara, it also allows you to get to know the locals more intimately. For example, in Komodo Village, when a ship arrives at the port, tourists who get off the ship are welcomed with a cheerful vision of local children at play. The village maintains its traditional ambience. homes constructed on the island are built on stilts. ‘Our houses are built this way to prevent Komodo dragons from coming in,’ admitted a resident. Komodo Village used to be a part of the dragon’s habitat, but they are now scarce here because they have moved to other places to avoid the ever-increasing human population.
Another tourist destination is Padar Island. To enjoy its rocky and hilly contours to the fullest, tourists trek to the top, where they see the natural beauty formed by the mixture of tall hills and green grass. Furthermore, the charms of the white sands and blue water combine to a different type of satisfaction after an exhausting climb. Padar Island is about 3 to 4 hours from Labuan Bajo port. This island used to have Komodo too, but the absence of a food chain interrupted the ecosystem. This extinguished the local Komodo population.
Other than Padar Island, Rinca Island is also a favourite tourist destination. It is part of the Komodo Islands chain, the original habitat of the Komodo. With a population of 1500 Komodo or so, it has the second-biggest dragon population after Komodo Island itself. Across the Rinca Island savannah, we can see not just Komodo, but also buffalo, wild hogs, birds, and snakes.
There are 3 trekking routes to explore the island: short, medium, and long routes. Tourists are free to choose the route they want to take according to their physical condition. Along the trekking route are views of tall hills and wide meadows. Tourists might also be able to see where Komodo lay their eggs, and might also take pictures with the dragon.
Sailing trips around these islands provide a view of the maritime charms of Indonesia, especially the Eastern part. It validates the perception that Indonesia is one of the most appealing maritime countries in the world. (Nurhidayat Nasution)