Komodo Island | In the Midst of the “global pandemic” of COVID 19

Updated: May 8, 2020

A child from Komodo village play at the beach, holding a plastic bottle filled with sea shells. Labalaba boat, Komodo boat tour

Yesterday I was invited by Labalaba Boat to give an insight regarding COVID 19 situation in Labuan Bajo, Komodo island, so that the readers can keep updated about the latest information. To be honest, I don’t know where to start. I think we all already know that the global tourism sector is among the hardest hit. There is no need to talk about it anymore. After all, we are part of this industry. There is nothing in our language to talk about negative things. But I’ll try.

A woman standing alone at the beach of Padar Island, in Komodo National park. Photography of Labalaba Boat. Private Komodo boat tour, Labuan Bajo

Everything happened very quickly. Emails after emails come one by one with "urgent" notification, coming from our clients who have planned Komodo liveaboard vacation months prior, to the island of Komodo, asking about rescheduling and canceling their booking. Then almost simultaneously, the same urgent emails also appeared in our inbox, from the online booking platforms where we also placed our business listings. "An open letter from the CEO" it said. Although the writing seemed calm and collected, I could feel a sense of urgency and panic.

It has become a yearly routine for us that we always decided to stop operating during the rainy season or west monsoon season. Starting from mid of December to March. Within a year, our business only ran for 8 months. Not many boats practice things like this. Most of them continue to operate despite bad weather. But for us, safety and peace of mind is the most important thing. After all, who wants to come all the way to Komodo Island just to experience heavy rain, high waves, and gloomy sky? During the rainy season, we take our boat Labalaba to her parents in Sulawesi. We dry-docked her at the beach and did some touchup and routine maintenance. Sort of boat rejuvenation so that she's always in top condition. We replaced the old woods with new ones.

A boat builder from Bira, Sulawesi Island. Labalaba Boat is a handmade wooden Phinisi boat from Iron Wood and Teak Wood

Labalaba boat has been operating for 7 years, and we're just a small-medium scale business. Our team consists of only a few people. We were just a group of friends who shared a passion for traveling. We were first set foot in Labuan Bajo about 11 years ago. That's when we together began to dream of having our own boat in Komodo island. And miraculously it happened. We keep trying to build this business like caring for our own children.

Up until this day.

But at least we are still more fortunate. During this global pandemic, the situation in Labuan Bajo for others is another story. Small scale businesses one by one being affected heavily. Hotel occupancy has dropped more than 60%. Hundreds of people have begun to lose their jobs and many businesses and restaurants are starting to send home their employees.

Misleading mainstream media coverage affects Tourism in Komodo

The tourism sector in Labuan Bajo has been affected negatively long before the virus came. In early 2019 last year, misleading rumors had already been spread by the mainstream media regarding the closure of the Komodo Island, which was in fact, a premature and misleading report. Numerous headlines are distributed and appear on the Google Search top page, informing that the Komodo National Park is officially closed by the government. Where to date, even this closure has never happened. The mainstream media outlets still keep reporting premature and false narratives for the sake of clickbait and exposures. It's a sad situation nowadays, that they prefer listening to the algorithm rather than trying to obtain and report facts as it is. I still remember last year I got a call from one of the major international news media from UK, who also wanted to hear directly from small-medium scale businesses in Labuan Bajo regarding the Komodo island closure plan. Thankfully, I managed to correct their narrative and the report came out, well.., almost accurate. Until now, they still continue to spread misinformation. The latest news the circulate is related to the plan to enforce the price of entrance tickets for Komodo National Park which previously amounted to USD 16/Person to USD 1000/Person. A report which to date, on May 7, 2020, is still in the form of rumors and there is no official statement both from the Government and also from the Komodo National Park officials. Making their local and international readers confused and not properly informed. Then COVID came.

Komodo National Park will be scheduled to re-open on May 29, 2020, the official said

Currently, flights to and from Labuan Bajo are still operating as usual. Komodo National Park is temporarily closed due to COVID 19 until May 29, 2020. This Plan still might change in the future so we will keep you informed if there’s an update. The Indonesian government will still plan to make Labuan Bajo a premium international tourist destination, and that's good news.

We are all affected by this pandemic. In times of difficulty and uncertainty like this, our best hope is to look into ourselves and find the peace and positivity within. Maybe this is indeed the right time for all of us to look after ourselves and others. Like a web (Labalaba), creating a new fresh network and tightening friendship within family and friends.

Our boat will be operating again in June 2020. Hopefully, this pandemic will end sooner than later. The beach is calling and we must answer! Looking forward to sail with you. Visit our website for more info and special early booking offers.

About Labalaba Boat Laba Laba boat has been proudly operating our own Komodo liveaboard tour for 7 years. Our boat is a sturdy wooden boat crafted by the experienced Phinisi boat maker in Sulawesi Island, made from the best material of Iron Wood and Teak Wood. We maintain the classic design of a traditional Indonesian wooden boat called Phinisi but in a smaller version. Visit our website to learn more |