Le Pirate Beach Club is a massively popular destination in its own right, and can be found in Bali's Nusa Ceningan, Gili Trawangan, as well as Labuan Bajo. Owned by a Frenchman, Le Pirate employs visual-driven marketing platforms and tools such as Instagram to promote the Le Pirate experience.
My past week in Flores Island had me staying with Le Pirate for the first time, primarily because I'd seen the posts on Instagram, and it seemed like the perfect fit for the adventure I wanted, not to mention the fact it wasn't too out of reach price-wise for a group of students.
I should state here that none of this is sponsored, nor am I writing this for anything other than to reflect my actual experience staying here, and which will hopefully inform other travellers better when it comes to booking accommodation in the port town of Labuan Bajo.
I should start off by saying that Labuan Bajo offers many accommodation types despite being small, ranging from backpacker hostels to luxurious villas situated a bit away from the main town.
Le Pirate attracts a young, millennial crowd (of course), and over the course of more than a week, I stayed in the 4 person bunk room, as well as the Boatel docked 10 minutes away from the main harbour. Beyond that, we dined at their restaurant on the mainland for breakfast, lunch and dinner (on separate occasions, promise), as well as the rooftop bar "The Deck", experienced their nightly programme line-up, went on the Le Pirate Explorer day trip tour and daily island excursions to Monkey Island included in the Boatel rate. So it's safe to say I tried to get the most of my experience at Le Pirate, so I'll write about all my experiences here.
How to get to Le Pirate from the Airport
Labuan Bajo is a small town, so a ride from the airport to Le Pirate only takes 10 minutes.
Once you leave the airport, you'll be swarmed with a whole lot of, "Taxi? Where are you going?" and the works, and there's no other option other than to take these private cars. There's usually a fixed price list for destinations and hotels depending on the distance, so you don't have to worry about one driver in particular trying to rip you off.
We paid IDR 50, 000 for 4 people going into town.
On the mainland, Le Pirate occupies a spot right along the main road of Jl. Soekarno Hatta, where the office is on the ground level, and you'll go up a flight of stairs to reach the hotel restaurant and bar. Immediately though, you already get the vibe of the place, which is more relaxed and attracts loads of adventurers and travellers.
You have several room types on the mainland, including a harbour view room for 2, a courtyard view for 2, a family room for 4, a 2 person bunk bed room as well as a 4 person bunk bed room.
We went with the last option as it was the cheaper option that was available at the time, and we paid IDR 700, 000 for the room every night, which split between 4 people was just over €10 per person which was pretty good going.
Rooms aren't big, so there's not much space for you to walk or put your stuff anywhere, but a locker is available for each person to store their valuables, albeit also not the biggest.
The private bathroom however, was plenty spacious, and would become something I dearly missed when we shifted to the Boatel (that, and hot water, which you can read about below).
Air-conditioning is available, as well as other basic amenities like toiletries, shampoo and body soap, towels, and thick quilts (our air-conditioning unit was pretty strong) etc.
The courtyard view really is just the other rooms, but even in close proximity to other rooms, I never felt like we had trouble with noisy neighbours so that's no trouble.
And because there really isn't much space to chill and hang out, most escape to the restaurant downstairs (using the term restaurant almost feels wrong, open-air cafe would be more reflective, I think), or the rooftop bar "The Deck".
The Deck gets a little warm when the afternoon sun comes in, which is why you'll pretty much have the whole place almost all to yourself, and if it gets to warm you can always cool down in the small rooftop pool facing the harbour. The harbour is really busy, and I don't think it's all that pretty, but The Deck more than makes up for it. If you order food, the food's prepared downstairs and brought up to you. The Deck's fantastic during sunsets, and that's when the crowd comes in in droves, also presumably after their daily activities and tours.
It's important to note that wi-fi is only available in the restaurant and at The Deck, so you won't be getting any in the rooms.
What I love here is the sense of community this environment fosters, with many other travellers at the bars and restaurants so there's a nice atmosphere. I got to know a lot of the service crew as well, and after a while of seeing each other day in and out, it kinda started to feel a bit like part of the family.
Food served up was really good as well, and I've compiled a list of all there is to eat in the town which you can read on.
Shuttles to and from the boatel run on a fixed timetable, but if you require one outside of the timetable, you can order one you'll have to pay for.
The boatel itself looks stunning in pictures, and it is.
There was a special offer for a Boatel stay booked with a Le Pirate Explorer day trip, so we opted for the Island Explorer to Sabolo Island and Bird Island, and as such paid IDR 540, 000 a night for the cabin on the Boatel and IDR 630, 000 for the day trip. The regular price for the Island Explorer day trip is IDR 700, 000 per person, and IDR 850, 000 for the Gecko Cruise to see the Komodo Dragons on Rinca Island as well as two other surrounding islands. This is quite a bit more than what I paid for with local tour operators, almost twice and more than twice for the Gecko Cruise, and of course Le Pirate's Explorer boats were more well-equipped and quieter (not faster, though), but whether you believe that is worth the premium is completely up to you.
The cabins are clean, and face the sea, but if you require privacy you can draw the curtains and roll down and zip up the cabin completely, though if you do it does get quite stuffy, and there's only one small fan on top of you facing the bed. Like on the mainland, rooms aren't spacious, and you won't have much space for 2 people to move around, but there's a hammock and extra space in front of your cabin on the nets lying above the water.
I was initially concerned about mosquitoes, both on the mainland and at the Boatel, and I'm pleased to report they weren't around much (at least in May), flies were more of a nuisance, and certainly more so on the Boatel.
The Boatel employs a barefoot policy, which I actually enjoyed, and it also meant the surroundings were cleaner because the dirt from the main town or hiking trails in the surrounding islands didn't make their way onto the boat.
Note that there are no private bathrooms here, but 2 male and 2 female bathrooms shared amongst the boat's occupants, which is 20 at maximum, and I never had any trouble getting an available bathroom, but we also had around 10 to 12 occupants in total during our nights at the Boatel. Bathrooms are tiny, and I probably couldn't stretch my arms without hitting the walls. The thing I missed most here though was having hot water to shower.
And like the mainland hotel, there's a hang out area on the deck, where I met loads of other travellers and we got to hang out. Meals are a communal thing served here, and though the menu is slightly more limited than on the mainland unsurprisingly, I did think variety was sufficient. Breakfast was included in the rate, and lunch and dinner's ordered with the crew on board.
It's stated there's wi-fi on board, but the wi-fi here is actually a personal hotspot from a mobile phone to serve that purpose. If there are too many people online, you get cut off, so I spent most days going without wi-fi.
Le Pirate Explorer
As mentioned, we took the Le Pirate Explorer to Sabolo and Bird Island, which is great for island hopping, snorkelling and light trekking. We didn't do much snorkelling at this point at the end of our trip so we managed to arrange with the captain to stop at another nearby island and found a swing in the middle of the sea, casual. Wasn't planning on getting the "giant swing in paradise Instagram" snap but I'm not complaining. Apparently it was a private island, but we got permission to dock before disembarking.
The boat itself, as mentioned, is bigger, cleaner, and painted with the green and white colours that adorn the hotel and Boatel. There were beanbags and places to lie down, and coupled with the fact it's quieter, it was a pretty comfortable way to sail.
Lunch served was also really good, we even got a bowl of green curry that was pretty delicious. You can opt for vegetarian options as required. We got loads of other snacks as well like local cakes, doughnuts, nuts, water and coffee and tea.
The islands were beautiful of course, and through conversations with travellers who took the other tour to see the Komodo Dragon, they got to see quite a great deal as well.
There are a number of Explorer Boats for these daily excursions, and the number of people joining your group depends on who booked which tours on which date. No other guest booked this excursion on the day we set sail, so we had the whole boat to ourselves, not too shabby indeed.
Daily Island Excursion to Monkey Island
Monkey Island sits right across the Boatel, and included in the Boatel rate is a daily excursion to the island by a small speedboat. No lifejackets here, by the way. The whole ride takes about 10 minutes.
These excursions supposedly take place from 11am to 1pm, and 3pm to 5pm, but these timings are pretty flexible, and we left just after 4pm.
There are monkeys on the island, quite different from those on Bali (anyone who's been to the Monkey Forest or Uluwatu will know), and these ones don't steal or harass tourists because no one feeds them here. We saw a group of monkeys on the beach from where we were at the Boatel, but when we went out to the island an hour or two later they'd all disappeared. The hike up was nice and well-trodden, it was a really easy hike that ended before we knew it, and we saw loads more trash than wildlife.
There's supposedly a secret beach here and spots for snorkelling, but we didn't do those activities.
Le Pirate also has set dates for liveaboards where you get more freedom to explore certain islands or to take the time to trek in some islands and take in the otherworldly views, and you can enquire with the team directly.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Le Pirate and I feel like I really got to enjoy a lot of the varied experiences, but beyond that I got to meet the incredibly warm and welcoming locals as part of the service crew that I wouldn't have had the chance to if it wasn't for the trip (many locals have never left their island), as well as all the other travellers I got to meet who I feel were all pretty like-minded.
Most were seeking an escape or adventure more than, say a party.
I'm already hoping I get to go back someday, and I rarely like revisiting a place.
From my trip to Labuan Bajo in Flores and Indonesia, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to this part of Indonesia, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!
View the full product catalogue at the shop here.