This tiny island is home to around 70 Bajo sea gypsy families, among them some of the friendliest people you’ll ever come across. Not a lot of tourists call into Kukusan Island, but when they do, the islanders make them welcome and are happy to show them around their village. In fact, you’ll probably be asked to pose for photos with some of the locals.
If you haven’t visited a sea gypsy village before, or like me you find them endlessly interesting, a tour of Kukusan village is fascinating. Located on the south side of the island, the village occupies a narrow strip of land at the base of a steep hill overlooking a deep lagoon.
You’ll most likely have smiling village children trailing along as you wander through their village. Don’t be surprised if they invite you to look at their school or to take a swim with them. These kids swim like fish so and will delight in showing off for you. Before you leave, ask them to show you the trail to the top of the hill. It only takes around fifteen minutes and you’ll be rewarded with some great views.
Kukusan Island is located around 45 minutes cruising time from Labuan Bajo on the way to Rinca Island. To visit, you’ll need to charter a local slow boat or speed boat from Labuan Bajo. Kelor Island, a popular snorkelling spot is located just nearby so you could combine the two into the same day trip or a longer duration charter.
There are no costs to visit Kukusan but this is a poor community so it’s good form to make a donation to the village or their school. Since our visit, we’ve heard Kukusan are offering “Day in the life of…” village homestays where you stay overnight with a village family. If this sounds like something that interests you, ask around the tour agents in Labuan Bajo – someone will be able to set this up for you.