Flores is a rather small island which has not yet been fully discovered by tourists, but has many beautiful things to offer. The island is mainly known for Komodo National Park, the only place on earth where you can find wild Komodo dragons. But the park has even more to offer, such as some amazing diving spots and incredibly beautiful surroundings. Many tourists actually only come for the diving, maybe squeeze in a visit to the Komodo dragons between the dives, but skip the rest of the island which I think is a big mistake. Traveling on Flores may not be as easy as traveling on other islands and having come from Java it was comparably pretty expensive, but very much worth it.
Those tourists who decide to explore more of the island follow more or less the same itinerary which is probably due to the fact that there are not that many other options. Reaching some of the tourist destination and finding accomodation there can already be tricky at times, so I guess if you want to explore other parts of Flores you’ll need to either have your own transport and/or your own tent. Since I had neither, I had to stick to the beaten track which was really no problem, as there is really only few other tourists roaming the island of Flores and the sights are truly amazing!
Day 1 & 2: Maumere
I arrived in the afternoon in Maumere after traveling for 27 hours from Karimunjawa on Java to Maumere, using almost all modes of transport (ferry, car, scooter, train and airplane). Since I was completely wrecked after this long trip and I had just come from a bounty island, I didn’t really feel like getting on long scooter rides to see again other beaches, so I decided to just relax the day at the hostel I stayed in. I stayed in Pantai Paris Homestay which is a lovely place, just along the sea. Even though the place is situated right next to a rather busy street, it feels very laid back and it’s the perfect place to just hang out and have a break from traveling.
The staff is very friendly and helpful and the sea right in front of the place is clean and perfect to swim in. To top things off, I asked where I could get a massage and it turned out the hostel is in contact with a lady who comes to the hostel and gives 1 hour massage for 150 000 IDR. The massage was truly great and eventually even took almost 1.5 hours. After this perfect day of relaxation I was ready to discover the beauty of Flores!
Day 3: Moni
The hostel arranged the bus the next morning at 6:15 to pick me up and bring me to Moni from where I wanted to visit the Kelimutu Volcano. The drive is only 2.5 hours, but believe me after those 2.5 hours you’ll be happy you finally arrived. The entire road is full of curves and even though I’ve never been car sick, I felt for the first time in my life how this curves can cause nausea in some people. So, in case you experience car sickness: you’re warned!
At around 9 o’clock I was already at the guesthouse, so I decided to do Kelimutu the very same day. For 100 000 IDR I arranged a moto-taxi to bring me up the volcano and I decided to walk back down again. The volcano itself is not spectacular, but the three lakes on the volcano are. From the top you can see two of them next to each other on one side and another one on the other side. The special thing about the lakes is that they all have a different colour and one of them seems to change colours (I saw pictures in which it had a red colour).
If you’re coming to the volcano to get some real nature-experience, you’re at the wrong spot here. From where the scooter leaves you it’s a quick hike up and you’ll bump into many local tourists, who do not only want to take pictures of the volcano, but of you as well ;) Maybe it was my mistake to come on a sunday (which by the way means you have to pay more entrance fee as well, 250 000 IDR on weekends vs 150 000 on weekdays), but due to lack of time, I had no other option. I still enjoyed the view and soaked up the bright colours of the volcano lakes, before I made my way down again.
If you want to walk back to Moni (3-4 hours) there seems to be a shortcut (check maps.me), but I decided to go back the way I came up with the scooter. It’s a really scenic walk in which you’ll first pass through a foresty part, then get some nice mountains views and at the end get a nice view over the rice fields. ,
Just be aware that you’ll be a walking attraction to the locals. As I mentioned, most of the tourists at Kelimutu were Indonesian and foreign tourists are not seen in abundance yet. Open and outgoing as the Indonesians are, I met many Indonesians on my way down, asking me where I’m from and requesting a selfie with me. As I also have Indonesian blood flowing through my veins, I quickly took over this habit and started to ask for selfies in return, haha!
Day 4 & 5: Riung
Getting to Riung was a bit of a hassle since information around the times of the bus don’t seem to be very clear. I left Moni at 7am and arrived around 1.5-2 hours later in Ende. From here I had to go to another bus station from where the bus to Riung leaves. I was lucky enough to meet someone who was waiting for the bus as well and who assured me that the bus was coming. Otherwise I might have fallen prey to the many men who tried to get me in a taxi or even motorbike all the way to Riung.
The ride to Rung takes about 3.5 hours. Don’t expect much of Riung, it’s nothing more than a sleepy village. Even tourism hasn’t really taken off here since it’s also a bit off the road and literally only has the 17 Islands boat tour to offer. The tour normally costs around 400 000 IDR plus an additional 100 000 entrance fee to the park and 50 000 for full snorkel equipment. When you book this trip with a group, you’ll have some lunch included. But since there was a lack of other tourists and I couldn’t find anyone to share the boat with I paid exactly the same price, but without the lunch.
The tour will take you to three different islands from where you can snorkel and relax on the beach. On the third island you have the possibility to go to a viewpoint from where you can enjoy a truly amazing view over the area. Last but not least, you’ll stop by a colony of flying foxes. The tour is really amazing and even though it’s neither an easy nor a cheap undertaking, it’s definitely worth it!
Just make sure you take money with you, as the ATM seems to have difficulties with foreign cards. I ended up having to go one hour by scooter to the next city just to withdraw some money…If you would like to have some more information and more pictures on the tour and the stay in Riung, read my detailed post about it.
Day 6: Bajawa
Early in the morning, at 6am, I took the bus to Bajawa which picked me up from the hotel. The ride takes about 3.5 hours which was perfect for me. I didn’t have much time as I planned for an extra day in Labuan Bajo just in case things wouldn’t work out. So, once I checked in to the guesthouse, I immediately asked how I could arrange someone to drive me around the area. Since I don’t know how to drive a scooter myself, I had to arrange a driver and I realized it’s not much more expensive than renting only a scooter. I was fortunate to meet a driver just in front of my guesthouse. I was told that it normally costs about 100 000 IDR for a driver who takes you to the main stops, but I ended up paying 150 000 because he spoke English pretty well, he already conveniently sat in front of my guesthouse and was a friendly guy.
He took me to Bena village which is one of the main traditional villages in the area. Entrance fee to the village costs 25 000 which feels a bit strange. You can see ladies sitting on their porch weaving the traditional scarfs, but for the rest the village seems to be rather deserted.
I later talked to my driver, Melchior, about the situation as the whole thing felt a bit artificial to me. I had long doubted whether or not to go to the village exactly for this reason. But he assured me that the village still works as it has always done. The men are still working on the fields (which is why I didn’t see any) and they still follow the same rules and rituals they have always done. Tourism to them is a nice extra income, but hasn’t changed anything about their lifestyle, according to Melchior. No idea, whether or not to believe him, but it feels better to do just do so :)
Afterwards he took me to a viewpoint over the area and the Inerie volcano. The viewpoint was nice, but nothing that will sweep you off your feet :P
After that we went to some natural gas pools. Melchior tried to explain me how they are formed, but my understanding of natural science is really limited, so all I understood is that they are linked to the volcano. Some of the pools are pretty big and they are boiling hot, so be careful! In one of the smaller pools Melchior boiled some eggs which we enjoyed on our way back.
The last stop was a waterfall near the seaside. I really enjoyed the view on the way there. There were some good views over rice fields and the volcano. The waterfall itself is not the prettiest I have seen, but it was great after a hot day on the motorbike to just cool off and enjoy the water. Melchior told me that not many drivers take tourists to this waterfall, and indeed there was no one. After we relaxed and cooled down, my driver took me back again to the guesthouse.
Day 7: Ruteng
The next morning by 8am I was in the bus towards Ruteng. From Bajawa it takes about 4-5 hours to reach Ruteng. Fortunately, in Ruteng I didn’t want to see that much, so I organized at my guesthouse (Sun Rice Homestay) a driver who took me for half the day to the spider rice fields and afterwards to the local market for 75 000 IDR.
The spider rice fields are the main attraction in Ruteng. For 10 000 IDR you can go up to a viewpoint from where you enjoy a nice view over the rice fields that look like a spider web.
Afterwards we stopped at the local market which I actually really enjoyed. The market is one big chaotic place which doesn’t seem to have any organization and seems to sell everything from dried fish, to alive chicken, fresh fruits and clothes. The people seemed to be happy seeing a tourist walk by since I was the only one. Some of them tried to have a conversation and others asked me to take pictures of them. Visiting the market was actually very pleasant and I enjoyed soaking up the lively and colourful energy of this place :)
My stay in Sun Rice Homestay was a very deliberate choice. The owner Jeff offers sunrise walks over the rice fields every morning. He charges 200 000 IDR per group. A part of this money goes to the farmers which I consider to be very fair. The hike takes about 2.5 hours and is indeed very nice. You can tell Jeff has been doing this for a while and he enjoys doing it. He knows where the nice viewpoints are and asks the guest whether he should take pictures of them. Obviously, he already practiced a lot and his pictures are actually really great!
Day 8 -13: Labuan Bajo
After the hike over the rice fields, I enjoyed the breakfast and took the bus at 10 am to Labuan Bajo. There are buses every hour until 5pm and Jeff made the reservation for me the previous evening. The bus ride takes again some 4-5 hours until you reach Labuan Bajo (including 30 minute lunch break).
In Ruteng I had fortunately met a very nice Belgian couple in the homestay who had just come from Labuan Bajo. They advised me to not only do the standard 2-day Komodo Tour, but also go snorkeling with a diving group (Unfortunately, I don’t have my Padi Open Water…yet!). This is probably the best advice I got throughout the entire trip!
I ended up going with the dive group the first time the day after I arrived. I chose to go with Divine Diving as this was the dive school the Belgians had recommended to me. Coming along with the group as a snorkeler costs 600 000 rupiahs, excluding fees for the national park (215 000 IDR for snorkelers on weekdays). This trip includes a full day on the boat, three snorkeling spots (check the previous day where they go, some spots in the northern part are not suitable for snorkelers because of the strong current), equipment, a snorkel buddy who shows you everything you’d otherwise miss out on and a delicious lunch! It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s worth every single rupiah! Which is exactly the reason why I decided to go snorkeling again on my last day :)
On my third and fourth day in Labuan Bajo I did the 2-day Komodo Tour which will bring you to several different spots, such as the Komodo Island, Rinca (another island where you can see Komodo dragons), Padar Island, the pink beach, snorkeling in front of Kanawa Island and manta point. The tour is really nice and I’d recommend doing the tour, but if you’re mainly attracted to the underwater world, this is not the best trip to make. Some dive schools also offer tours with 2 dives and a visit to Rinca, for example. This might be a better alternative.