The Transformation of Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is transforming – from a sleepy seaside village, to a thriving and vibrant tourist destination. Walking down the main street, evidence of progress is everywhere, with new buildings and businesses popping up before your eyes. And with a multi-million dollar investment from the Indonesian government, there is no reason to think it’ll slow down anytime soon. The government spend is earmarked for infrastructure to support the rapid growth and increased numbers of domestic and international visitors, safeguarding the sustainable future of Labuan Bajo.

In large part, much of the change in Labuan Bajo can be credited to increasing tourist numbers, and budget airline carriers making travel more accessible to a greater number of people. Air Asia’s inaugural flight to Labuan Bajo, which landed on August 1st, was met with a festival atmosphere, with crew decked out in floral shirts, and a lot of fanfare, singing and dancing, as flyers were welcomed into the airport. Air Asia flights into Labuan Bajo herald a new era in travel, with budget flying options and standard inclusion fares that offer a new level of comfort for travellers. As tourist numbers continue to increase, particularly with the new marina opening and its 1000 person capacity convention center, the addition of new carrier and extra flight services to Labuan Bajo and the rest of Flores, is in fact, vital.

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The exciting food scene in Labuan Bajo is enticing food lovers from all over the world, eager to try the diverse and lively cuisine on offer. From fine Italian dining, to Japanese restaurants, American style burgers, and more traditional Indonesian food like masakan padang and incredible fresh seafood, often sold in buckets by the side of the road, Labuan Bajo has something for everyone. The fish markets at the harbour have been attracting locals and tourists for years, who come to buy the freshest seafood and enjoy the daily catch shown off by the market holders. And now the markets are looking better than ever, after undergoing a total facelift, as well as having proper work stations installed to include running water and bins for waste management. They’ve also closed off the roads into the markets, so that stallholders can cook out in the open air, allowing people to wander through the stalls to try the fresh fish as they go, making the markets a major tourist drawcard.

The restaurants and eateries in Labuan Bajo are more conscious than ever of sustainability and responsible practices, and are sourcing fresh produce from local growers, removing single use plastics from their businesses, and encouraging patrons and staff to be more aware of these issues. This kind of awareness is a positive step in managing the rapid development and progress in Labuan Bajo, and ensuring a healthy future.

And similarly, there are groups all over Labuan Bajo taking this responsibility seriously, and working towards progressive and positive strategies to preserve the natural beauty of the region. Groups like DOCK Komodo and Trash Hero run regular education programs, and have established themselves as leaders in environmental practices that benefit the whole community. Regular clean ups, the ‘Save Money Save Komodo’ campaign, plus water refill stations all over town, are helping to reduce the amount of plastic seen in Labuan Bajo.

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We recently featured an article about the floating hospital and their medical team from Labuan Bajo, who visit remote villages and provide life-saving care. This team is also behind an initiative to introduce a ground-breaking new invention, a machine that could change the way we use plastics and recycle our rubbish. This incredible machine can convert plastics into fuel through a process of combustion that turns the plastic into gas. The gas is collected in a storage bottle, is then distilled, and turned into viable fuel. There is very little residue left behind from the plastics, and it emits zero toxic gases or pollution into the air. It could revolutionise the plastics, recycling and fuel industries, and is an incredibly exciting step towards a sustainable future. For more information on this machine, please contact the team from the floating hospital on FB at @RSTKsatriaAirlangga

Progress is happening in Labuan Bajo, but with initiatives like these and a collective effort towards positive development and change, the future is looking very bright indeed.

Written by Clare Srdarov and Suzanne Srdarov, The Travellist for The Voice of Flores.

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