Asia, Indonesia, Travel

Trip of Wonders | Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo wasn’t part of the original itinerary for Trip of Wonders. But a volcanic activity in the west of the archipelago necessitated some last minute changes in the schedule. Hence, the happenstance to Flores’ tourism epicentre.

Maktub; the Arabs has a term for things that are fated. Serendipity; the English has, too.

When the plane landed in Komodo Airport, a knowing feeling— as if the island always knew I’d be there— stirred inside me. If only to feel the earth under my soles, I was tempted to walk barefoot. Glad to be where I was, I wanted to show gratitude that way.

flores indonesia

But I got up at 3AM that day, having to fly back to Bali from Lombok, before catching another flight to Komodo. Being too sapped out of energy to think poetry, I didn’t walk barefoot. But I was thankful still, albeit in silence.

I ran the shower a little longer that afternoon. It almost didn’t matter that I was in an oceanfront hotel and my room had a boulder for a view. My priority then was to stay awake long enough for the promised sunset on the trip’s guide book.

Paradise Bar

Perched atop a hill, a bit away from the chaos of the town centre, was a shack-cum-bar aptly named Paradise.

At once, I rushed to the invitation of the open deck, boasting panoramic views of the Labuan Bajo coastline and the calm waters of Sumba Strait.

“Front row seats,” I announced whilst grabbing a chair to sit beside Indra, one of my new-found friends.

“HiSo!” he teased, meaning High Society, a moniker we’ve adapted during the trip to denote special privileges.

paradise bar labuan bajo

It was too early to party, so we settled with mocktails. However, judging from the makeshift stage on one corner, and a wooden bar on the other, I was certain what chill a place Paradise Bar is at night.

“Sons of the sea under a star-studded tropical sky, darn.” I mused, just as the yolk of the dying sun sank into the flaming horizon.

Whilst everyone else was on their cameras, I put mine down and sat back. “There is no way still photographs could capture this drama,” I mumbled. I then went back to my drink, savoured the fortune of just being there, and sang along with the soundtrack in my head:

“My youth, my youth is yours!”

Labuan Bajo LOB

The next couple of days passed in a blur as our jaunt was nearing its end. In speed boats, we hopped from one shore to another and explored some of the least frequented but most must-go-to parts of the Lesser Sunda Islands.

In between sunscreen spray retouches, I stood on the hull of the boat like a she-hero in a quest for lands to conquer.

Komodo Island

In factions, we swept the woods of Komodo and came face-to-face with the last of the dragons. Perhaps, also of the dinosaurs.

The book nerd in me kicked in. My name was Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons. With a wardrobe ensemble pre-rehearsed the night prior, I completed the look with a wooden staff, borrowed from one of the park rangers.

komodo island

By virtue of semi-matching outfits, Marcos, who was garbed in a multi-colored cape from the weavers of Sasak Sade, became an instant ally

“Travellers are the real fashion bloggers,” I declared, and we guffawed at our shared hilarity.

Pink Beach

My first memory of Pink Beach wasn’t its salmon-coloured sand. Right after disembarking from the boat, someone I had a short chat with back in Komodo Island, asked if we could climb the headland together.

Because I disintegrate at the sight of tall, lanky Southeast Asian Chinese men, I reflexively responded with an excuse that really, meant No— much to the chagrin of my gay friend, Lloyd, who was crushing on Jakarta boy, too.

For the rest of the afternoon, I steered clear of the headland and settled with Woman Versus Wild snaps in the vast mousy field beyond the beach.

pink beach

Kanawa Island

As a popular stop for divers and manta ray spotters, there were more amenities in Kanawa than most of the other islands. Drinks were sold too, albeit a bit overpriced.

There , the sea proved irresistible. Starfishes scattered across sand beds and baby sharks swam through calf-deep waters. Upon seeing the first baby shark, I jumped at once. Thankfully, it seemed uninterested and swam on to the foot bridge before the setting sun.

kanawa island

Padar Island

Nothing prepared me for the sheer awesomeness of Padar. It was the perfect backdrop for everyone’s perfect moment— NatGeo moment for explorers, Wallpaper moment for fashionistas, this-trek-is-so-tiring-imma-eat-afterwards moment for foodies. I was all three.

On one hand, I couldn’t wait to tell the planet about the magic at the summit. On the other, I wanted to keep the place a secret, if only to shield it from commercial exploitation.

I ended up sharing anyway. I am a teller of travel stories, after all.

Padar Island

Rinca Island

An array of mangroves forming a barrier around Loh Buaya was Rinca’s most recognisable landmark. Unlike the other islands we’ve been to, Rinca had no beach. Or at least, I didn’t see one where we were.

A stone arch featuring a giant ora on either side was erected near the dock. From there, we had to walk across a barren field— an area reached by water at high tide, I was certain— to the base camp.

A short trek further into the island led us to sightings of more Komodo dragons, perennially patient but ever poised to slay.

rinca island

Kelor Island

Kelor was a subtle ending to a series of awe-inspiring discoveries. Its underwater wasn’t as colourful as Kanawa’s. Its sand wasn’t as fine as Pink Beach. But Kelor’s secret weapon was the undeniable charm of its twin island, Kukusan, acting as a photogenic backdrop.

There, I climbed on trees, like a warrior surveying distant lands for prey.  I only saw beauty everywhere. 

kelor island


Labuan Bajo PostScript


Labuan Bajo was the last stop in September 2016’s Trip of Wonders, an invitational trip for ASEAN travel influencers. It was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia. Opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Ministry.

Published by Rain Campanilla

Born under the star of Sagittarius, the centaur of adventure; and in the year of the Rat, the ever curious--- Travel is my birthright.

20 thoughts on “Trip of Wonders | Labuan Bajo”

  1. Anita Oliver says:

    Gorgeous photos! Your story had me wanting to pack a bag and go! Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Please do! Labuan Bajo is so underrated 🙂

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Thank you! Please travel to Labuan Bajo too! Worth the long trip!

  2. fulltimecanada says:

    The Komodo Dragons are such incredible reptiles. It’s wild that you could get so close to one.

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      True! The geek in me is thrilled that they’re sorta dragon-slash-dinosaurs :D. We were briefed beforehand and were accompanied by trained rangers 🙂

  3. utravelshare says:

    OMG what a beautiful place; I have been to Indonesia (Lombok, Sulawesi and Sumatra) but I missed Komodo Island; my wife has been there last year and there are no words to describe how beautiful is the whole island; you took beautiful pics and what did you think to see that “Monsters” just in front of you? I have been told that they are pretty static, don’t make many movements expect when the males fights during reproduction time!thanks for sharing it, 😀

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      I agree with your wife! Flores (Labuan Bajo) is other-wordly in its beauty <3 Yes, they behave like crocodiles! Very still and observant, but also very dangerous! 🙂

  4. explorelovetravel says:

    Wow, your photos are amazing. Lovely landscape! And it must have been such a cool experience to see all those Komodo dragons! Awesome creatures.

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Thank you! Yes, I was channeling Game of Thrones for a while and was Mother of Dragons. haha! I hope you too can visit Labuan Bajo someday!

  5. Neha Verma says:

    Your pics are so wonderful. Are you allowed to be that close to the dragon ? I thought they are very dangerous

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Thank you very much! Well, the island is beautiful, so it didn’t take much effort photographing 🙂 Yes, Komodo Dragons are dangerous, but we were accompanied by well-trained rangers. They were awesome!

  6. Bruce Schinkel says:

    Thanks for this great post. You’ve made me feel like I’ve been there, but left me wanting to return!

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      That is so nice for you to say! Thank you 🙂

  7. Suz says:

    That feeling of instant belonging, like you were always supposed to go and visit the place you’re currently standing in, is one of my favorite feelings in the world. It’s one of the biggest reasons I travel, so I’m glad to see others feel it too! This trip looks stunning, your photos are gorgeous. I really loved the way you wrote about it too! I would be a bit terrified to get that close to the Komodo, but bravo for you on getting that Daenerys shot 😉

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Oh, a lady after my own heart! Yes to everything that you said. Also the reason why my favourite people in the world are travellers! no need to explain how traveling affects me 😀 Happy travels to you!

  8. Wanderlust Vegans says:

    You went to so many different islands. I can’t believe how close you were to that komodo dragon. Is that safe? Your picture on Padar island is my favourite. It looks so amazing there. Crazy landscape.

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Yes, it was safe. We had rangers with us. And yeah, Padar was the most Picturesque <3

  9. Agness of Fit Travelling says:

    Stunning landscape and inspirational photos, Rain! Indonesia is definitely on my bucket list for 2017!

    1. Rain Campanilla says:

      Yaay! Good choice. Please do not miss Flores. It’s very underrated! 🙂

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