Ladt week Unspun spent five days in Labuan Bajo, Flores. Three were spent in the client’s office teaching te staff communications skills and two were spent outdoors and underwater as Unspun went diving with a friend in the fabulous Komodo National Park.
Where and what is Labuan Bajo? It is a small fishing village on the north western tip of Flores.
It has an airport that, if you’re vested with a healthy dose of imagination, you could fool yourself into think its your own private airfield. Its that small.
The airport (access to the outside world!), as well as the proximity, makes Labuan Bajo or LBJ the staging point for tourists visiting the Komodo National Park, which recently made it to the finalist list of the 7 Wonders of the World competition.The Komodo National Park, of course, is the home of the Komodo Dragon, huge, primitive lizards that kill their prey by iting them, letting the toxic saliva take effect and they prey collapse from toxic shock, before making dinner out of them.
The Komodo National Park, however, is not just barren dry islands and lizards. It is also home to many islands, volcanic mounts and fantastic dive sites that are probably one of the best int he world for the variety of undersea flora and fauna, but more of the diving later.
LBJ itself is nothing much where villages go. Unspun‘s seen it described as a picturesque fishing village but if you take off the tinted glasses and unclog your nose then its not so romantic. Take a stroll along the waterfront where the fishermen live and you are greeted with the sight of rubbish and the stink of decaying fish and whatever else.
It has virtually one main road that runs parallel to the coast and loops upwards hugging the hills that hem in the village.This is what the main drag looks like in LBJ.
As I said, not much. But change has already begun to sweep to LBJ. Partly because of increasing number of tourists because of the park and partly from the proliferation of NGOs (mainly Australian ones helping out in birdlife, the handicapped and other good causes), LBJ now has decent boutique hotels and guest houses.
Unspun stayed in one of these, the Bayview Gardens that’s run by a Dutch Guy who came to Flores and didn’t leave. It is located in a beautiful spot, perched just above the village and overlooking the sea and ilands beyond. The views are stunning.
Here’s what it looks like from my hotel room that was air-conditioned, clean and reltively new.
One of the good things about the place was also that they fed you well. Unspun’s daily breakfast looked like this:
In the town dive centers and restaurants catering to foreign visitors have cropped up and provided a contrasting modernity to the basic buildings of LBJ, the kind you see in any small remote town in Indonesia. With names like The Lizard Lounge, The Corner and Gardena, most of these places have the essentials of what a traveler needs – WiFi (srprisingly quite fast) and cold beer.
When the weekend came Unspun was all excited because it was time to dive. The dives were interesting not only because the marine life in the Park’s waters was one of the most diverse and best in the world but also because th conversations with our dive operator made you think about the delicate balance between tourism and conservationand the local politics and forces at play that make the place a delicate balance. Do it well and the Park and its surroundinggs can be a wonderful showcase a destination of the best of concervation; do it badly and a disaster is waiting to happen. More of the diving and the environment in the next posting.