A line of minibuses is parked at the port of Labuan Bajo, a small town that serves as the regional capital of the West Manggarai district of Flores Island, in East Nusa Tenggara Province. The afternoon sun heats up the asphalt that covers the area. People walk from the buses through the gate of the port, carrying their bags. Others sit talking, sheltering from the heat under the shade of mango trees. The sky and the sea share a calm shade of blue.
Some of the islands that make up Komodo National Park can be seen from the port, giving a special attraction to the town of Labuan Bajo where, every Saturday afternoon, a crowd of more than a thousand people gathers.
“They are waiting for Tilongkabila,” says Don Bosco Mansen, a resident of Labuan Bajo who works as a guide.
Named after a mountain in North Sulawesi Province, Tilongkabila is a passenger ferry that operates between Surabaya, Denpasar, Labuan Bajo and Makassar.
Fidelis W. Peranda, the district head of West Manggarai, said: “Labuan Bajo is considered a tourist destination and we are working to build the necessary infrastructure, including hotels, roads and other facilities, to develop tourism. We have to develop it according to our financial ability.”
The development of the port area is part of a plan to increase tourism to Komodo Island. But so far, in tourist numbers, a year in West Manggarai is comparable to less than four days in Bali. Data from the Komodo National Park shows that last year 21,000 tourists, both foreign and domestic, visited the park.
Full article by Benito Lopulalan