Flores is the most fascinating and beautiful island. Long hidden in the shadows of its more famous neighbor Bali, the island of Flores is finally emerging as a unique destination of its own. So, after visiting the lair of the Komodo dragons, take time to marvel at some of the wonders of Flores. Here you can swim in pristine lakes and waterfalls, dive at one of the 50 spectacular dive sites, go kayaking among craggy coasts and mangrove shores, explore mysterious caves and be warmly welcomed by the island’s people in their rituals, dances and daily life.
Flores spells adventure, diving, eco-tours, and mountain climbing interspersed with visits to prehistoric heritage sites, traditional villages and cultural events.
Until recently, many tourists have only been familiar with Labuan Bajo, the small port located on the western-most tip of the island, and the taking off point for a visit to the last natural habitat of the prehistoric Komodo dragons, the islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar.
Situated in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Flores is a long island that contains some of the world’s best kept secrets. A chain of volcanoes stretches the length of this 450 km long and narrow island, creating complicated V-shaped valleys and knife-edged ridges – terrain that was near impenetrable until recently and has separated the island into many distinct ethnic groups.
Administratively the island is divided into 8 districts; West Manggarai, Manggarai, East Manggarai, Nagekeo, Ngada, Ende, Sika and East Flores. Further east are the adjacent islands of Alor and Lembata.
Here you will find some of the world’s most exotic underwater life. Diving in the pristine seas of Komodo, divers find themselves swimming along with huge manta rays, dolphins and dugongs, while whales can be seen passing Flores’s east coast during their migration period.
The island itself is surrounded by sparkling white beaches, where one beach even has pink sand. Mt. Kelimutu, near the town of Maumere, has three different coloured lakes that can change colour from time to time.
Besides Komodo dragons, Flores has been in the world’s limelight with the discovery of the Flores hobbit, or homo floresiensis, a new hitherto unknown prehistoric human species, whose remains were found in the caves of Liang Bua.
This island is indeed ancient, having been untouched for centuries, once inhabited by prehistoric men and still living prehistoric animals, as well as containing remnants of a petrified forest.
At the easternmost tip of the island, Larantuka is famous for its Easter-week rituals that still continue the old Portuguese traditions brought here some 500 years ago. While at adjacent Lembata, islanders hunt whales manually, harpooning precariously from small boats.
As a newly emerging destination, the island of Flores has limited accommodation facilities, there are now a number of starred accommodation at Labuan Bajo and Maumere, and also small hotels and guesthouses. In Labuan Bajo, there is the four star Bintang Flores hotel. A number of smaller hotels are the Puri Sari Beach Hotel, the Bayview Gardens Hotel, the Gardena Hotel, the Golo Hilltop Hotel, the Waicicu Eden Beach Hotel, and smaller accommodations, called “losmen”.
At Maumere, the favoured hotel is the Sao Wisata resort, which offers deluxe, superior rooms and standard rooms. Sao Wisata is located some 100 meters from Manly beach. Or you may wish to stay at the Sea World Club which offers facilities for divers. A number of companies from Bali also offer live-aboards on phinisi boats. Best bet is to contact a travel agency specialized in offering all inclusive tours of Komodo and Flores, operating in Flores or from Bali and Jakarta.
If you have one week to spend here, travel agents can take you by road across the island, from Labuan Bajo to Ruteng, and on to Bajawa, Ende, Detusoko, Kelimutu, ending up in Maumere, from where you take your flight out. Ruteng is a small, cool town in the mountains. This is where you will find the unique formation of spider web rice fields at Lembor and Cancar. At Bajawa is the traditional village of Bena, where, according to megalithic tradition handed down through generations, people pay respect to their ancestors who are believed to dwell in the conical thatched roof huts called “Ngadhu” and “Bhaga”, symbolizing the spirits of their male and female ancestors.
Note the huge boulders of stones and stone seats planted in front of their houses, not unlike the ones seen in the villages on the island of Nias in North Sumatra. Onekore by the the town of Ende, is famous for its beautiful ikat weaving. From here stay overnight at a missionary guesthouse at Detusoko.
For adventure, take the drive up Mt. Kelimutu, where visitors must still walk another 1.5 km. then climb 127 steps to the edge of the crater, from where one has a panoramic view of the three lakes, currently green, blue and black. When Dutch geologists discovered the craters in 1914, the colours were red, blue and white.
At Maumere enjoy the pristine beach and snorkel to your heart’s content before taking your flight out. Maumere offers great diving. There are 40 wonderful dive spots in the marine gardens in the Bay of Maumere. If you only have a few days to explore West Flores, you might want to try one of these attractions: In the Komodo National Park itself, besides watching the dragons you can find numerous species of birds including imperial pigeons, sunbirds, egrets, quail, and exotic mound-building megapodes. There are also horses, wild pigs, crab-eating macaques, flying foxes, besides snakes, cobras and vipers. Its flora includes orchids, lontar palms, bamboo, soursop, tamarind and custard trees.
In the waters of the park live a rich variety of cetaceans, including whale sharks, marlin, tuna, whales and dolphins. There are colourful corals, nudibranches, giant clams, turtles, and a plethora of reef and pelagic fish. Many tour operators run liveaboard tours for divers out of Bali. When you get back to the mainland hike through canyons, watch clear water cascade down boulders into pristine pools that just invite visitors to plunge in. Not far from Labuan Bajo are the limestone formations known as Batu Cermin, or Mirror Caves.
There is also the Snake Palace, or Istana Ular, that has an amazing collection of pythons and bats. Make sure that you have a local guide with you and obey the customs here, since people believe in a mystical relationship between the snakes and the local people. Here you can also see petrified large trees. Do not miss the legendary Caci or “Whip fight Dance”, that combines ritual, legend, mysticism and music in one single colourful spectacle.
Trans nusa in cooperation with Aviastar now operates twice daily flights from Denpasar (Bali) and Labuan Bajo, leaving Bali at 08.00 am and 12.00 noon. The flight takes about 1 hour. While starting 27 May, Lion Air has started flying daily Denpasar-Labuan Bajo at 09.00 returning from Labuan Bajo at 10.45.
Trans nusa also has 3 weekly flights to Maumere from Bali using Jet BA3-146 with 82 seats capacity. Additionally Trans nusa flies Bali-Ende-Kupang (Timor) – Ruteng on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and Kupang (Timor)- Labuan Bajo daily. Trans nusa also serves Kupang – Larantuka.
Citilink Air has started operating Surabaya-Denpasar-Kupang-Maumere-Kupang flights using B737-200 aircraft. Flights to Maumere are 4 times weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
While Lion Air flies Kupang-Maumere and Garuda Indonesia flies only Jakarta-Kupang (on the island of Timor) from where you can connect on local airlines to Flores.