Each one of Indonesia’s islands will intrigue, mystify and stop you in your tracks at their different yet equal beauty that runs across this volcanic archipelago. Each island can easily justify a month of traveling to truly discover all its hidden treasures while I’m sure even then some would be left unturned. While many, myself included merely get the 30 day visa on arrival, decisions are made and time is split between a few islands. Flores was the island I started with and although a bit fast paced, I got a good sense of the island and saw much of what there was to offer.
Day 1 – Beginning in Ende on the southern coast of Flores, it was my entry into the country as I had to make my way back towards Bali for my flight out. The town itself is small with a handful of hotels, restaurants and quiet attractions, but little that keeps most people. If there for a day, there is a beautifully unique black sand beach to lull the day away on. Most use Ende as a transit hub on their way to Moni, which was my purpose of landing here. From the airport or nearly anywhere in town it should cost 10,000 – 20,000 IDR on a moto-taxi to bring you to the Wolowana bus terminal on the east side of town. From here catch a bemo (30,000 IDR, 1.5 – 2hrs) to Moni, the gateway to Kelimutu.
Arriving in the quiet rice paddy encircled hamlet of Moni, there is little to do and for those people who can’t go without wifi, be warned. Instead though, go for a walk. The natural aura of the place is enough to captivate for an afternoon. A path opposite Rainbow Café leads to a roaring waterfall. I stayed at Bintang Lodge, but I found overall accommodation a bit expensive here from my usual budget. Most places will arrange transport for the following morning to and from Kelimutu National Park.
Day 2 – An early start to the day at 3:45am, a bemo (75,000 one way, 100,000 return) brings you to the national park. 150,000 IDR entrance fee and a short 30 minute walk along a dark path (bring a torch, or stay close to others with one) leads to two viewing points. The farther of the two, where all three lakes can be viewed is generally chosen as the place to watch the sunrise over the tri-coloured crater lakes. An amazing experience as the sun lights up the volcanic landscape bringing life to the lakes once more.
On the way down, if you choose to walk, there is path to hike down (2-3hrs) passing local villages as well hot springs near the entrance to the park. Back in town, grab a quick breakfast before jumping on the local bus to Bajawa (100,000 IDR, 7hrs). For more on Kelimutu, click here.
Day 3 – Bajawa is known for the traditional Ngada villages in the surrounding countryside. Renting a scooter for 100,000 IDR a day, hit the road at your leisure exploring the area. A lot can be seen in a day if you start early. There are a handful of villages to visit, all more or less the same. A small donation box is at each one to kindly help with the maintenance of the villages. Bela, Luba and Bena (the largest and most popular) are all within close proximity to Bajawa. A little farther out are hot springs and a few spectacular viewpoints with Gunung Inerie in the distance.
For dinner walk around the local market for some street food or step into a small warung (restaurant) for a bowl of Bakso. A soup of noodles, meatballs and egg with sambal and kecap manis as condiments. Pisang goreng (fried banana) for dessert.
Day 4 – Another early rise before the bus to Ruteng, go and climb Wawo Muda. Flores’s youngest volcano forming a mere 15 years ago in 2001. During the rainy season the lakes in the crater are often a blood red. Unfortunately for me, it was quite dry, but the hike and vistas make it well worth it. Checking out, it was to the local bus station for the bus heading for Ruteng (75,000 IDR, 7hrs).
Checking into the Rima Hotel, the sun nearly set there was little time for anything but dinner. Many local warungs are in the area with their dishes in the window. Find one that’s busy and dive in. Nasi Campur , a dish based around rice with whatever selection chosen from the window display is placed on the plate.
Day 5 – Renting a scooter from the hotel, as Ruteng was a short pit stop to break up the journey from Bajawa to Labuan Bajo, I wanted to get out of town to see the spider web rice fields. About a 30 minute ride to the small town of Cancar, the rice fields are extremely unique in their formations looking like the crop circles from home in corn fields. Back to town for lunch and onto the 5hr bus to Labuan Bajo, the entrance to Komodo. Arriving as the sun was setting, scour the tour shops for a package that suits you leaving the following morning for Komodo and Rinca, or spend a day in and around the port city.
Day 6 – Waking early the boats load up between 8-9am, to begin the Komodo tours. There are numerous options to choose from. Commonly a 2D/1N package (800,000 – 1,200,000 IDR) are taken incorporating both hiking and snorkeling. The first day is a visit to Rinca and Komodo, viewing the prehistoric dragons on the two islands, which are surprisingly different landscapes. Fed lunch and dinner on the boat, it’s an early night anchored in a quiet bay off Komodo. If the timing is right, you may be able to view the flying foxes, giant bats gliding through the glow of sunset.
Day 7 – Waking with the sunrise, the second day is spent snorkeling in a few different spots. Pink Beach on Komodo is a beautiful coral garden and the first stop for a morning dip. Moving on to Manta Point is one of the best spots to see and view manta rays in the clear aquamarine waters. Our last stop before heading back to Labuan Bajo was the small island of Kanawa, where there is expensive accommodation, but most importantly one of the most beautiful coral gardens I have had the pleasure of laying eyes on. Cool Corner Backpackers is a small hostel and cheapest to lay your head on either side of the Komodo trip (60,000 IDR). For a more comprehensive post on Komodo tours, click here.
This basic itinerary will feel a bit rushed and was against my normal way of traveling at a much slower pace, but with time not on my side this trip I got to see much of what Flores offered. An unbelievable stunning island with its lush volcanic spine and less touristic feel, it was a pleasure to start my Indonesian experience here.
A few places I missed – If time permits the town of Maumere on the far east side of Flores can be flown into making it another great place to start before making your way west. There is a beautiful beach and boat trips that stop at a few snorkeling spots. Some trekking can also be organized from here. A 3-4hr ride will bring you to Moni.
Riung is on the north coast about 70km from Bajawa (about 40,000 IDR), known for its 17 Island National Park. Island hopping tours can be arranged there visiting a few of the more popular islands.
In Bajawa spend an extra day and make the strenuous climb up Gunung Inerie.
A day around Ruteng could be spent seeing the Leang Bua Caves. 1.5hrs north, they are prehistoric caves where fossils of ‘hobbits’ (homo florensis) have been found. Also, Ranamese Lake is a short drive away from Ruteng with a path to stroll around the perimeter of the lake.
Many people fly in or out of Labuan Bajo depending on which way they choose to traverse Flores. It can also be reached by a 7hr ferry from Sape on Sumbawa. Relaxing in the port town for a day, there is a beach not far from town as well as some waterfalls to discover through trekking. Diving can be arranged along with the Komodo tours as it is considered a top dive site in the world. There are many restaurants and cafés here and an amazing seafood market which would be my recommendation for dinner here.
Have you been to Flores? What else did I miss?