Gua Rangko is a small cave approximately one hour by road plus 30 minutes by boat from Labuan Bajo. The accessible part of the cave is very small – its entirety is visible from the entrance. However, the main attraction is a small underground lake which glimmers a brilliant blue colour in the half light. If you’re lucky, as we were, you will have the lake to yourself as you swim in the slightly eerily blue waters, with bats nesting overhead.
Batu Cermin is a cave complex reachable by a short drive from Labuan Bajo. After paying the entrance fee (50,000 IDR each), we turned down the offer of a guide and followed the clear footpath to the cave entrance. This is the first cave we had seen which was guarded by a concrete wall with a metal spiked fence on top, but this strange construction surrounded the exterior. The entrance to the cave is actually just a narrow slot between two rock faces, which makes for some spectacular photos with the light shining through the forest above.
A short way in we found a pile of hard hats – apparently left there by the rangers – marking the entrance to the cave proper. Many of the helmets were falling apart and some had whole chunks missing, but we grabbed a couple that looked half decent just in case.
We were glad we had brought our head torches as they are essential to explore this part of the cave. The route quickly ducks and twists out of sight and although it would be hard to get lost, it would be impossible to see anything of interest without a good torch. We weaved our way under a couple of low sections – sometimes having to squat but never having to crawl. In general the low sections only lasted a few seconds, and there were some spectacular slots to see.
Our favourite was a short climb up at the end of a passage which gave amazing views into an adjacent slot chamber. With daylight streaming in through a small hole in the ceiling we definitely felt an Indiana Jones moment coming on.
Later the route continued into the bottom of one of these slots, making access somewhat easier than having to climb the cave walls. Overall we probably spent the best part of an hour exploring the cave, poking our heads and torches into all corners, and taking photos. There is no signage in the cave and nothing to stop you doing something to hurt yourself (which is the way it should be, we think), so common sense is required.
At the car park next to the ticket office we enjoyed our lunch at one of the local restaurants, selling local food at reasonable prices, and offering welcome shade from the midday heat.