The 17 Islands just in front of the tiny village Riung is probably one of the most beautiful spots I’ve seen on Flores. The unspoiled and empty beaches on the 17 islands are a true paradise, to say the least. But I guess many people still skip it because it’s a bit off the tourist route. It’s maybe a bit of a hassle coming there (especially due to lack of information) and there’s not much more to do apart from the day tour to the 17 Islands, but it’s worth it. If you’re already on Flores and you can really value pristine beaches and some good snorkeling, than keep Riung on your itinerary.
I came to Riung from Moni. I left Moni at 7am in the morning with the bus to Ende. About 1.5 hours later I reached Ende from where I had to get to the another bus station first. When I arrived at the other “bus stop” (there’s really nothing, it’s opposite of a gas station, but for the rest there’s no way I could describe where exactly it is or how it looks like, but it’s marked on maps.me as Damri Bus stop), I was lucky to bump into a local guy who was just waiting for the bus to Riung. If I hadn’t met him I might have ended up taking an expensive taxi, as no one really seemed to know whether and when the bus to Riung was leaving. While I was waiting with them (which eventually was bit more than an hour) many people tried to get me into a taxi or even on their motorbikes. So, when you travel from Ende to Riung make sure you find someone who has accurate information on the bus schedule, before you jump into some taxi! In the end, I still got ripped off a bit which seems to happen in this part of Flores. I was told the price is 50 000 IDR, but the bus assistant insisted on 70 000. I was told later that this is quite common, so be aware.
From Ende it took about 3.5 hours before we reached Riung. I hadn’t booked my accommodation as all the options either looked really expensive or really bad. The bus driver dropped me off at Bintang Wisata which I had seen on booking.com but had some mixed reviews. So, I went inside and it turned out to be 50 000 IDR cheaper than on booking.com (250 000 IDR instead of 300 000 for double room with private bathroom) and the room was very clean. The place is definitely in need of some renovation, but it’s not dirty as I had read in some reviews
After I had checked in, I wanted to withdraw money from the ATM nearby. Unfortunately, the ATM turned out to be broken, telling me that my card was blocked. When I came back to the hotel, the manager, Peri, told me that this is what often happens to international cards and that the next ATM was one hour away. I really needed the money as I only had 200 000 IDR left over which was not even going to be enough for the boat trip.
Peri saw my distress and offered me to bring me to Mbay with his scooter, the city where we could find an ATM, all I had to do was paying the petrol of 30 000 IDR. Since I didn’t really have any other option, I agreed to this crazy long drive to an ATM. Fortunately, his small daughter seemed to be excited and immediately grabbed the opportunity to go to the “big city” and asked daddy whether she could come along. At least I felt someone was enjoying this, what felt a bit of “unnecessary” trip, haha!
In the end, the trip was not even that bad. It really made me realize again how friendly Indonesians are and that there’s really no way you can get lost in a country where people try to help you where ever they can. After having traveled already for 7 hours, I was not really excited to travel another 2 hours, but I’m grateful for Peri’s kind gesture which I will always remember.
When we came back to the hotel, I was confronted with the next “problem”: I didn’t have anyone to share the boat tour with. Peri had told me that later two other people would arrive with whom I could share the trip, but they turned out to be an older couple who preferred having a private tour. So, he told me to look for people while having dinner, but neither did I see anyone in the restaurant, nor did I even see a tourist walking on the streets.
When I came back, Peri told me he was going to call the captain, so I could talk with him about the price. I was already prepared for the worst as people in Moni had warned me that if I couldn’t find someone to share the tour I’d have to pay more than a million which was stretching my budget quite a bit. But fortunately, the reality turned out to be completely different. The captain came and immediately offered me to come for exactly the same price people pay when doing a shared tour, the only thing that wasn’t included was the lunch (400 000 IDR for the tour, 100 000 entrance fee to the park and 50 000 for full snorkel equipment). Relieved and happy, I accepted the offer!
The next day I had my private tour in paradise! As I said, Riung has nothing else to offer than the 17 islands tour, so I only met the couple from my hotel and two other guys. That’s it! The entire day I only had to share these beautiful islands with 4 other tourists and their boat crew (I do have to say that I arrived mid-November which is low season). It almost felt surreal to be in such a beautiful place which is not overrun by tourists. Suddenly, I started to feel grateful for the bit of hassle it takes to get there, but this is exactly the reason why so many people decide to skip it.
The boat tour takes you on three different islands from where you can do some snorkeling. Compared to the snorkeling in Karimunjawa the snorkeling was better in terms of colour of the corals and amount of fish, and I had already enjoyed the snorkeling over there!
The stop on the first island is rather short, but that’s fine because there is not much to do.
On the second island, you’ll have more time as this is also the island where people will get their lunch if they have some. I used the time to walk along the beach a bit and just soak up the beauty of my surroundings.
On the third island you can go up to a viewpoint from where you can get a jaw-dropping view over the area.
As if the day wasn’t already great enough, the tour also passes by a colony of flying foxes, before you head back to the harbor again. There are really thousands of bats sleeping upside down in the mangroves. Obviously, they start to look interesting when they fly around, so the boys on the boat would make some noise to wake them up. I told them they didn’t have to do it, but somehow this message didn’t really come across. So, I enjoyed the bat-show before I finished off a wonderful, memorable day in paradise.