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Tucked into Flores’ west coast and blessed with surrealist sunsets, Labuanbajo is a romantically ramshackle little harbour town, that isn’t so little anymore. According to state reports, Labuanbajo is the fastest growing regency in Indonesia. Within the last three years, the harbour has doubled in size while the population has exploded. More than ever, international visitors bound for the spectacular Komodo National Park, check into a growing number of homey guesthouses etched into the rugged hills – or one of the new tower hotels down the coast. Meanwhile, hundreds of young Florinese stream in for steady work, which lends a lively boomtown bustle. Sure, Labuanbajo’s chief attractions remain offshore, but two stalwart Italian kitchens have raised the bar on a growing dining and nightlife scene in this charming town that is hard to leave.
With such rapid growth comes increasing concerns about expanding development and its environmental impact. Causes for concern include the dumping of raw sewage into the bay and rumours of alleged corruption. Tower hotels continue to open on a once lonely coast, and the recent arrival of a splashy Euro beach club lead some to believe there is an even bigger boom waiting down the line. While more business in Flores is doubtless a boon to the people, many are left to question what impact this development will have on the Komodo ecosystem as a whole.