Labuan Bajo near Komodo now under Indonesia Tourism Authority

Indonesia, Flores, Komodo, sustainability,

Komodo Dragon (¨Photo: JSTOR-Daily)

Authorities in Labuan Bajo and Komodo will regulate the development of tourism activities and infrastructures while the government is preparing a law which will limit the number of tourists to protect Komodo National Park and its famed dragons…

Presidential Decree No. 32 of 2018 dated 5 April 2018 declared the town of Labuan Bajo and surroundings, situated on the most western tip of the island of Flores, has been determined as Tourism Authority (B0P Labuan Bajo), announced Indonesia Tourism Minister, Arief Yahya recently.

The town is the maritime tourism gateway to the Komodo National Park and serves as a buffer zone to the park which was established in 1980.

The destination is one of four declared “extraordinary priority destinations” that are being prepared to host pre- and post-tours for delegates attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in Bali next October. Other destinations are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur Cultural Park in Central Java and Mandalika Beach resort in southeast Lombok.

The town of Labuan Bajo is located some 4 hours boat ride from the island of Komodo or some 3 hours away from the island of Rinca as well as the island of Padar. The three are the last remaining habitats in the world of prehistoric Komodo giant lizards.

Originally just a small fishing town, Labuan Bajo has grown in a chaotic way in the last years since tourists came flocking to witness and get close to the  only still living prehistoric giant lizards.

Tourists discover the breathtaking underwater paradise of the National Park, playground of manta rays and huge turtles. They also enjoy remote isolated islands fringed with white sands, and the rare Pink Beach.

Park authorities say that there are 2,762 Komodo dragons living in the National Park, which is slightly down from the 3,012 in 2016, however, this is still considered stable growth.

To meet the surge in tourist demand,  the government has built the bigger Komodo Airport which allows more domestic airlines to fly to Labuan Bajo from Jakarta and other Indonesian cities.  It has also allowed cruise ships and yachts to berth here.

However, tourist facilities and infrastructure in the town as well as in the Park have become increasingly inadequate to accommodate the tremendous growth in demand. In 2017, the number of international and domestic tourists totaled 120,000 up 11.04% compared to the previous year. For 2019, however, the government estimates that this number could jump to 500,000.

To facilitate tourist arrivals and at the same time to protect the National Park and the endangered Komodo dragons, the Tourism Authority was established to manage the area. This includes a number of infrastructure and tourist facilities constructed in and around Labuan Bajo, such as :

  • A pedestrian walkway will be built along the coastal road at Jalan Soekarno-Hatta.
  • A special culinary center will also be built at Kampung Ujung
  • A green open area will be made at Kampung Air formerly used for the Sail Komodo regatta.
  • An a bridge will connect Kampung Air with Pramuka Hill
  • At sea, 20 mooring buoys will be placed around the Komodo National Park to avoid damage to coral reefs by anchorage of ships, boats, and yachts.
  • To protect the cleanliness of the area and surrounding seas the Ministry of the Environment has established a coordinated Garbage Disposal Management, whereby a Garbage Recycling Center will be built to support garbage disposal from the town of Labuan Bajo,  at the Komodo National Park, and provide island garbage disposal management modeled after the one at Pulau Messa, as well as  provide garbage ships.
  • Expansion for Komodo Airport at Labuan Bajo and conversion into an international airport, allowing international airlines to land here direct.  The airport should be ready by 2019 to receive direct international flights.

Most importantly, the Authority is now in the process to assess the National Park’s Carrying Capacity. 11 dive spots have been identified, including Manta Point.

To efficiently protect the dragons, coral reefs and other sea animals, regulation is being drafted which will limit the maximum number of visitors allowed at a given time and season and to manage visitors flow. Regulation is expected to come into force this coming October.

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