Merpati Airlines increases flights to Indonesia’s nature and diving hotspot – Labuan Bajo, Flores.
Visitors to the Mau Ke Mana page on Flight Memory (see banner above) would be surprised to discover that MKM’s most popular route isn’t one of the more popular routes like:
- Bali to Lombok: a 30 minute hop between two premier tourist destinations and often the cheapest flight available.
- Jakarta to Bali: a popular choice for visitors needing a rest or a domestic connection for their cheap flight between Europe and Jakarta.
- Jakarta to Surabaya: the two most populous cities and the route with the greatest number of flights in Indonesia.
No, it’s actually Bali to Labuan Bajo. How so?
As you can see above, Labuan Bajo has the nearest airport to Komodo Island, home of Indonesia’s candidate for the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World: the komodo dragon. The airport was recently renamed Komodo Airport to highlight this. There are many different tour operators based in Labuan Bajo, so organising a tour to Komodo Island (or its neighbour Rinca Island) is not difficult.
Labuan Bajo is also justifiably famous as a centre for diving. There are many dive shops and resorts on and off-shore. You can pre-book a live-aboard before you come, or shop around and arrange it yourself upon arrival.
Finally, Labuan Bajo is often a starting point for a trek across Flores on the Trans-Flores Highway. Many visitors fly from Bali to Labuan Bajo, hire a car with driver/tour guide for a few days, then return to Bali from Maumere in East Flores.
Elsewhere in Flores there are also other natural tourist attractions such as:
- The history-changing Flores Hobbit Cave, near Ruteng.
- The inspirational multi-hued crater lakes of Mt Kelimutu, near Moni.
So it is a welcome development to see that Merpati Airlines now flies more frequently between Denpasar and Labuan Bajo. Before it flew daily; now it operates 13 flights a week.
Here is a list of flights between Bali and Labuan Bajo:
|Departs Bali at:||Daily: 08:40
M, W, Th: 13:15
Tu, F: 11:25
|M, W, F, Su: 10:20
Tu, Th, Sa: 13:35
|Departs Labuan Bajo at:||Tu, F: 09:20
M, W, Th: 15:20
|Tu, Th, Sa: 08:30
M, W, F, Su: 12:05
|Tu, Th, F, Su: 10:05
M, W, Sa: 16:30
|Plane||Xian MA60||ATR72-500||BAe 146|
|Notes||Tu, F: Continues to Maumere||Tu, Th, Sa: Continues to Ende||Fastest/shortest flight|
M = Monday, Tu = Tuesday, W = Wednesday, Th = Thursday, F = Friday, Sa = Saturday, Su = Sunday.
All three airlines have a free 15kg checked baggage allowance that isn’t strictly enforced.
If you would like to visit Labuan Bajo and see some of Indonesia’s amazing and unique natural beauty, click here to book a flight.
Not that surprising, given that Labuanbajo/Komodo has very obviously become a phenomenal “flavour of the moment” in the last two years, the number-one choice for an “excursion” for tourists visiting Bali (many of who seem unaware that there are two large – not to mention very interesting – islands between Bali and Komodo)…
This has all led to a real business boom in LBJ, but there is something that needs pointing out – although much of the vacant land there has been snapped up by developers (many of them reportedly from Bali), not much has been built yet, and the available accomodation hasn’t yet caught up with the demand, in terms of both volume and standards.
Labuanbajo was for a long time a sleepy stop-off for backpackers and divers. It first rose during the decent tourism boom of the 1980s/90s. The first time I went there about ten years ago things were at a pretty low ebb – there were plenty of aging guesthouses, none of them full, all looking a little shabby. These are still the same places accomodating the hordes of flown-in visitors who arrive there now. The last time I was there (briefly last year) Labuanbajo felt like a place that didn’t really know what had hit it (and some of the tourists looked like they didn’t know what they had hit them either, when they saw the rooms they were staying in and heard what they had to pay for them)…
It is, however, a very lovely spot, and one that well deserves its current good times in the tourist trade…