Most people who travels to Indonesia would often visit Bali and Java. Some would even venture to Lombok or the Gili Islands. However, there is this huge chunk of an island that has always intrigued me to visit. It is called the Flores Island. This place has been in my travel list for quite some time. I never got a chance to visit the place due to timing conflicts and priorities, but in September 2017 I decided to put everything away and put a check on this item. Flores Island is situated on far east of the Indonesian archipelago. It is the huge chunk on East Nusa Tenggara, the southernmost province of Indonesia. The name Flores derived from the Portugese word for “flowers”. Famous for its high standard Arabica coffee beans, the island is very different from the rest of Indonesia in terms of culture and demographics. Most of the locals are Roman Catholics and they live side by side the Muslim minorities on the island harmoniously. Flores thereby also has less religious violence that has sporadically occurred in other parts of Indonesia. There are several churches and many languages are spoken on this island.
If you want to getaway far from the city and its skyscrapers, then this is the place to visit. It is extremely off the beaten path and is under developed. This is where beautiful beaches and hidden waterfalls come to meet. It is definitely not recommended for high maintenance travellers. Many parts of the islands only has home-stays which provides extremely basic necessities. This is evident when you notice that your toilet doesn’t have a flush but a bucket of water on the side with a scoop. We even showered in a shack made of wood that came with a pipe connected from the water tank and a bucket. Electricity in most home-stays only runs at night when the generator is on. Flores has very little stores in sight. Most of them are just stalls and shacks. Nature on the other hand, is left untouched and is therefore extremely gorgeous. The terrain on Flores are mostly mountainous and some of the roads have potholes so huge that sometimes we have to carry stones to fill them up for our vehicle to continue the journey. However, don’t let all these things put you down. Flores is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Fann and I enjoyed every single bit of the trip despite occasional inconveniences. But with the friendly locals that inhabit this stunning island, the travel experience was top notch.
Flores Island is full of surprises. It is one of my most enjoyable trip. Far away from modern technology and luxury hotels, this island has so much to offer in terms of experiences and scenic views fit for a king. I would strongly recommend everyone to visit Flores once they have a chance.
Why Visit Flores?
If you TL;DR and too lazy to read this post, please watch the video below.
When to go to Flores Island?
Answering this question is tricky depending on your purpose there. But to keep it simple, Indonesia has 2 distinct seasons which is the dry and wet seasons (similar to the rest of Southeast Asia). As a rule of thumb, the more east you go, the longer the dry season is. Flores island has an extremely long dry season that stretches from April to November and the wet season runs from December to March. Since Flores is huge, the extend of rainfall varies depending on the region of Flores. The northern part of Flores tends to be the driest with little rainfall. While western Flores tends to get heavy rains so it’s good to avoid the wet season during this time. However, if you’re visiting the Komodo islands, May to August would be a great time to visit because it’s the Komodo Dragon’s mating season. You’ll have a higher chance of seeing these beasty creatures that roams the island. To see manta rays, your best bet is September to October. That’s when you have an extreme high chance of seeing them at Manta Point. June to August is the peak season for Flores Island and it’s best to book in advanced if you plan to go with the crowd. Avoid January to mid-March as the monsoon season would definitely spoil your plans. I visited in September and the weather was beautiful. Sunrises and sunsets greeted me most of the time. There were occassional fogs when I was on the mountaineous regions but most of the time, weather was pretty good.
Getting into Flores island is relatively easy. There are no direct flights from Malaysia to Flores. However, there are a few flights that flies from Bali and Jakarta. Air travel options include Garuda Indonesia, NAM Air and Sriwijaya Air that flies to airports on the island like Labuanbajo, Maumere, Ende and many more. It all depends on how you want to move about when you’re there. With up to 13,540 km2 in land mass to choose from, it’s quite overwhelming when it’s your first time to plan a trip there. Here’s how Fann and I traveled when we’re there. Since Flores island is extremely huge, we decided to spend 12 days on the island. We started our journey by flying Garuda Indonesia (RM230 or USD60) to the town of Maumere, which is located on the North part of the island. We then slowly moved southwards. Along the way we went to Moni, Bajawa, Ruteng and many more. We covered as many towns and sights as we could. We then ended land jourbey when reached the town of Labuanbajo which was the western port city where most tourists visit. Before ending our trip, we rented a boat and spent a night on the ocean to visit the Komodo islands and see the Komodo Dragons. After that, we took a Sriwijaya Air flight (RM230 or USD48) back to Denpasar. If you’re more adventurous, then you may hire a PELNI (national ship passenger service) boat from Benoa Harbor in Bali to Labuan Bajo which takes about 36 hours. You can read more about boat rides here.
Hiring a driver and car is the best option to enjoy Flores Island. Roads in Flores are not easy to drive. Sometimes, you may need to drive up and down mountains just to get from Point A to Point B regardless if the distnace was short. By hiring your own driver and car, you get to choose where and when to go. Picking your own route is extremely fun when you’re in Flores. Sometimes, you just want to stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere and take in the air while snapping pictures of the beautiful sceneries as you pass by. Rates for car rental can be rather expensive compared to the rest of Indonesia. Expect to pay around 600,000 – 700,000 rupiah per day for your trip. My driver was extremely helpful. He assisted to make reservations for the accommodations that I couldn’t book online. With his help, I managed to enjoy a smooth trip, despite a flight change which gave me an extra day in Flores in the last minute. He even helped me to rent a boat for my 2 days 1 night trip for the Komodo Islands. I was extremely lucky to have found him. While we were there, we also met many tourists who rented a scooter and rode their way on the entire Flores island. They explained to me that there is a Trans-Flores Highway that runs the length of the island. This makes their scootering journey extremely easy. So, if you’re adventurous enough, renting a scooter to tour Flores is doable. However, I still prefered to spend a little bit more money to hire a professional local to bring me around. This way I could not only plan my sunrises and sunset more efficiently, but also have lesser worries on getting lost while I focused on my photography assignments and enjoy the time with Fann.
Where to Stay?
Quality of accommodations vary from region to region on Flores island. As tourism here is still in its infancy, there is a lack of proper hotels. Flores is still home to a small but growing number of accommodation opportunities, such as home stays, bed and breakfasts and resorts. Most of the luxury hotels are situated in Labuanbajo. That’s where most tourists go and leave. At most times for us, we stayed in home-stays and B&Bs. Conditions were pretty basic but they were usually very clean. So, it wasn’t such of a problem. Occasionally when we reach certain towns, we would treat ourselves to a better room. That way, Fann could get her hair cleaned properly with proper amenities. Most of them were pretty decent and I would not worry too much. Here’s a short list of places I stayed while I was in Flores.
|Koka Beach||Koka Beach Homestay|
|Bajawa||Manulalu Bed & Breakfast|
|Denge||Wae Rebo Lodge|
|Wae Rebo||Wae Rebo Traditional Village|
|Labuanbajo||Bayview Gardens Hotel
Sunset Hill Hotel
What to Eat?
Most of the time, you don’t get to choose what to eat when you are there. Especially when you’re staying in a homestay in the middle of nowhere. This may sound scary but in fact it’s not. Food in Flores is extremely delicious. We had mostly fish in our meals and lots of super fresh vegetables. All grown from the very farm you’re staying in. The typical nasi goreng and mee goreng is also available here. However, for the pasta and bread lovers, this may be lacking until you reach more touristy townships like Labuan Bajo or Moni.
Fruits are also abundant on this side of the island. A local type of Passion Fruit known locally as Markisa is famous here. When chilled, this fruit is the best dessert one can have on a hot day. You can get a bunch of them at the markets or even stalls situated on the mountains.
Even when we were on the boat to Komodo, the captain cooked us our lunch and dinner. It was simple but it was delicious. One of the most amazing things we’ve eaten throughout the trip were the fried potatoes. Surprisingly, Flores potatoes are very sweet and fragant. It was one of my favourite snacks to go along with rice. The captain whipped up some fried potatoes for us and it was just heavenly as it melts in our mouths while we enjoyed the gorgeous sunset.
Things to See & Do
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Flores. Mountains, volcanoes, traditional villages, lakes, farms, etc. the list goes on. The island will not disappoint. It’s extremely difficult to put every single detail down in this post. I will shortlist a few highlights from my trip and I hope these would be enough to convince you how beautiful this place is. Below is the list of 6 items that I strongly recommend everyone to visit when in Flores.
See the Sunrise at Kelimutu Crater Lakes
As you can see in the image above, the Kelimutu National Park boasts one of the most beautiful things in the world. The Kelimutu Crater Lakes is a stunning natural wonder one should not miss. This was the main reason how I knew about Flores Island. Little by little of research got me to discover how much there was to see in Flores. Mount Kelimutu is a volcano that visitors can climb. At the summit of 1700m, you can see the famous tri-coloured Kelimutu Crater Lakes. It consists of three lakes and the colours varies from each other and changes from time to time. Once you reach the summit, you will be welcomed with this breathtaking and surreal lakes that is out of this world. It’s a must see sight. I would suggest visiting it early in the morning to escape the heat and see the sunrise. Accommodations can be found in the nearby town of Moni.
Visit the Wae Rebo Village
Wae Rebo is a traditional Manggarai village. The village consists of 7 cone shaped houses called Mbaru Niang measuring up to 10 meters in height. The houses are made from grasses and coated with palm fiber called ijuk that protects it from rain and wind. The villgers at Wae Rebo still preserves their old customs and traditions. The village is constantly covered in mist and fog, making the experience so surreal and weather so cool. However, getting there is not easy. It’s a 7 hour drive from Labuanbajo to reach the foot of the mountain where the village is located. Then you need to do a 3 hour climb to reach Wae Rebo Village. But once you have reached the summit, you will be rewarded with an amazing experience and view. They also welcome visitors to stay the night at the village at a fee of Rp. 350,000 per person.
See the Spider Web Rice Fields
Rice Fields shaped like they were spun by Spiderman. These odd looking rice fields is a highlight of Flores. Known as Linko Fields, they are nestled in the mountains and it is a mean of fair distributions across all families. It is generally thought that the design was intended to symbolize balance and harmony between people and nature. In the center, there is point called the lodok where a pole is situated. When a field is requested, the head of a family is said to hold up a number of fingers to the pole depending how big the family was. A larger patch of field is given to families with higher statuses.
Sit on the Swings at Blue Stone Beach
Another hidden treasure, this beach is covered by blue stones. Hence the name Blue Stone Beach or locally known as Penggajawa Beach. Located on the way to Bajawa, this beach is very odd and the stones here are all in various tints of blue and turquoise. These stones are a source of income for the locals. They would gather and sort the stones by colour, shape and sizes to sell to tourists and buyers. The beach is a long stretch but what’s interesting is there is a swing in the middle of the ocean. You can reach it on foot and grab a few beautiful shots of yourself on the swing. There is also a small restaurant beside the beach whereby you can have a nice lunch while enjoying the beautiful scenic beach in front of you.
Take A Boat to Watch the Komodo Dragons
Only reachable by boat, these massive creatures inhabit the Komodo Islands and Rinca Islands. A boat can be rented from Labuan Bajo, the town where most tourists land. Komodo Island is getting way more popular lately and it’s good to book your trip earlier to avoid any disappointments. These dragons can grow up to 2.6 meters long and are fast. They are vicious predators and it’s best to stay really far from them. However, don’t worry because the rangers at the park is armed with a big stick. They will guide you on how to navigate the island and walk alongside you. I brought along my tele-lens in order to take some close shots of the dragons because it’s too scary to be near them. I’m not a fan of lizards but these gigantic monsters is the closest dinosaur looking creatures I will ever get to see. Even Fann took a few shots of the dragons, but she was more interested and worried for the deers that which happens to be one of the Komodo Dragons’ source of food. She told the deers to be careful as we left the island.
Take A Picture at Pulau Padar
The most picturesque island I’ve ever been to. Padar Island (or Pulau Padar) was once inhabited by Komodo Dragons. Today, the dragons are no where to be found on this island and what’s left is this surreal view of a savannah covered island. Wedged between Komodo Island and Rinca Island, Padar is the third largest island within the Komodo National Park region. The island is surrounded by 3 main bays and each of them has different coloured sand. One is white, one is black while the third is light pink. Hike for around 30 minutes to the peak and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire Padar Island.
I managed to capture many breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that I would love to share with everyone. We climbed mountains, hiked waterfalls and visited loads of beaches. Flores island is a trip I will never forget. Most travellers only visit Labuan Bajo and Komodo islands, but if you have more time to spare I would strongly recommend you to extend your stay and visit as many sights the amazing Flores island has to offer. I will be posting up a longer list of things to see and do on Flores Island. So, keep checking back for updates.