The Paradisical 17 Islands Riung Marine Park Of Flores

Located on the north coast of Flores island in the Ngada district lies an archipelago that forms a unique, paradisical sea garden, called the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park. This cluster consists of islets whose waters are rich in biodiversity, sandy white beaches and crystal clear blue waters where you can dive in and swim among the colorful and varied coral beds.

One of the most popular attractions, for which these islands are famous is the ‘Rose of the Sea’, a renowned underwater phenomenon, which can be seen around several of the islands. Below the oceans surface you will find clusters of sea roses waving mesmerizingly in the current. These are in fact a collection of giant sea hare eggs that, bound by membranes, together form red petals like giant red roses waving in the sea.

The 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, which extends from Toro Padang in the west to Pulau Pangsar in the east, range in size, but all are virtually uninhabited.

The major islands are: Pulau Ontoloe (the largest), Pulau Pau, Pulau Borong, Pulau Dua, Pulau Kolong, Pulau Lainjawa, Pulau Besar, Pulau Halima (Pulau Nani), Pulau Patta, Pulau Rutong, Pulau Meja, Pulau Bampa (Pulau Pulau Tampa or Tembang), Pulau Tiga (Long Island), Pulua Tembaga, Pulau Taor, Pulau Sui and Pulau Wire.

View from the top of a hill in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung
View from the top of a hill in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung (Source :

The Park itself is located just behind the quiet pier in the small town of Riung, where a dozen Bajo fishing boats are tied, Although named the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, the Park is in fact a chain of 24 small, beautiful islands. However, the name “seventeen” was given to this cluster as a sacred reminder to Indonesia’s Independence Day, which fell on 17 August 1945.

The Riung Park, located in the Riung District, spans the five villages of Sambinasi, Nangamese, Benteng Tengah, Tadho and Lengkosambi.

Aside from marine adventures to be had, on land are also forests to explore, inhabited by exotic species like the Timor deer, the Biawak Mbou – a smaller type of Komodo -, marsupials, to name a few. There are also a large variety of rare birds, which make this a great spot for bird-watching. Here you will see eagles, bluwok, white storks, parrots, cuckoos, black stork and bats, and yellow chested parakeets.

In 1995, Ngada in the Ngada District, was on UNESCO’s list as a tentative world cultural heritage because of its unique and distinctive community. Here you will not cease to be ‘wowed’ by the slew of natural attractions to be seen among the islands. One of which is the exceptional 17 Islands Riung Marine Park.

The 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, Flores
The 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, Flores (Source :

To reach this destination one must ride overhills and along narrow, winding roads; a journey which may be somewhat daunting for some. But a number of visitors have actually commented, that these narrow and winding roads along the edge of the abyss in just getting to Riung, was half the adventure. However, what is waiting at the end of the journey is a beauty that will amaze anyone, and makes the trip well worth the challenging ride to get there. In one section of the journey to Riung, around the town of Bajawa, you will see a large expanse of green, tundra-covered hills, where are scattered single palm trees appearing like candles on a birthday cake.

For the most part, Riung is still quite hidden from the crowds of tourists, partly due to its remote location and the challenging journey to reach this destination. You will frequently see tourists walking shirtless through this small town, enjoying the sun and the tranquility of it all. It’s a far cry from their seasonal hometowns, which they may have left to escape the freezing winter.

Island life on the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung
Island life on the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung (Source :

Aside from having one of the best Marine Parks in Flores, it has a very laid back, no-rush ambience. But the friendliness of its people help to create the peaceful, neighborhood-like atmosphere which makes for a quiet getaway, very different from the more well-known and more frequented tourist destinations like Jakarta, Surabaya, or even Bali.

Riung coastal settlements are inhabited mostly by the Oting Bajo known as ‘the sea gypsies” of Indonesia. Some members of this community are involved in dryland farming, while others have also opened homestays for visiting tourists.


As Riung is a small remote town, currently public facilities are still minimal. Electricity, as one of the most important public facilities, is still supplied by a generator which works every day from only 6 pm till 6 am. This makes Riung a suitable place for the adventurous.

Riung has several lodging places, such as follows:

  • Pondok SVD Riung
  • Bintang Wisata Riung

Available around the pier are also private homestays. You can inquire there directly.

After passing the long, winding, narrow roads, you will arrive at Riung and witness the hard-to-find, stunning beauty of the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park. This area is beautiful both above the oceans surface with the clean, white sands, and below as well, with the crystal clear water and colorful coral reefs. The water is so clear, making swimming, snorkeling, and diving an extra unique experience. For photography buffs, this is an excellent location to capture the beauty beneath the ocean’s surface. Due to its exceptionally clear waters, underwater photography can be amazing.

You can also take a boat or a speedboat with a fiber-glass bottom to enjoy the beauty of the diverse and colorful underwater world from the surface. This is also an impressive diving site as there are a large variety of sea creatures and coral reefs to explore. Here is an overview of some of the major and larger islands of the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park in the Ngada district of Flores.

Pulau Batang Kolong is most popularly visited by divers in search of a first-hand view of the affectionately nicknamed, exotic ‘sea rose’, a unique organism resembling the shape and color of a rose. Layer upon layer of red hair tendrils anchored to a rock pulsate to the rhythm of the underwater currents at depth of 10 meters. This flower of the sea has the appearance of a bright red and orange flame, waving its long petals. In fact, the ‘sea rose’ is a collection of the eggs of the red Giant Sea Hare (Hexabranchus sanguineus), growing to a size of 30 centimeters. The eggs are bound by mucus and float like flowers in the wind. A specific type of sponge common to the area also attracts large tortoises. The long stretch of coral gardens indicates to divers, that they are indeed nearing the home of this large sea creature.

Pulau Meja or Tembaga is the habitat for Acropora and soft coral in addition to the beautiful giant sea fans. This locality is an underwater heaven. Rocky outcrops are decorated by the table shaped acropora coral and giant sea fans, bringing a kaleidoscope of colour to the shallower waters. There are schools of Dakocan fish, sedentary rock dwellers of this watery paradise.

Pulau Sui is touted as an ideal underwater video production location because of the stunning gulfs and steep, underwater cliffs covered with beautiful Acropora. There are a great variety of rock types and fish in the waters around this island. On the western side of Sui the table shaped acropora coral grows profusely amongst the many undersea gaps and ravines. Such steep ravines as these are rare and sought out by divers making Sui the perfect spot for using your underwater camera.

Pulau Tiga or Bampa Timur is one of the most visited islands for its beauty both above and below sea level. This island is so-named because, from a distance it looks like three separate islands. Closer it becomes obvious that they are hilltops, separated by sand and piles of seaweed. On the southern side of Bampa Timur, at a depth of around ten meters, divers may come across red sea roses similar to those found around Batang Kolong, made of collections of eggs of the Hexabranchus Sanguineus. Take to the hills in Pulau Tiga and witness a once-in-a-lifetime view. From this height you will be able to see the ocean floor and the gradation of colors as it slopes with the deepening waters. Beginning at a pale, light blue, the shades vary making this scene beautifully fascinating, an indescribable, natural beauty indeed.

Pulau Rutong or Tangil should not be missed for its wide expanse of sand that appears to have the shape of a grinning crescent arch at the end of this island. This lovely, golden view is best seen from the top of a nearby hill, which is overgrown with shrubs and grasses. The climb will work up a sweat and gets your heart pumping, but there will be no regrets once you reach the top and witness the breath-taking view. Beach parasols are made available for visitors who want to escape from the scorching midday sun. Here the underwater corals are dominated by long branches of the acropora Formosa coral. Below the ocean’s surface is a thermocline phenomenon, which is a drastic change of water temperature. On the surface, the water is warm, but very quickly, after only less than one meter, the water temperature changes drastically and becomes very cold. If lucky, divers can see whales playing on the west of the island as well.

Tanjung Toro Padang is actually part of the mainland of Flores island which juts out to form a small cape.This is the western limit of the 17 Island Riung Marine Park, where acropora coral and soft coral predominate. The adjacent hills are inhabited by a species of monitor lizards, the Varanus riungensis or known locally as Mbou, which is closely related to the Komodo, The Mbou have a flatter belly, a brighter color and a more ferocious appearance. They often visit villages to prey on chickens or goats. Those who are fortunate may see whales cruising the waters to the west of Tangil and the north of Pulau Pata. These whales often visit the seas surrounding Flores. During the monsoon season the warmer water attracts them to the Gulf of Riung.

Pulau Wire is a small island situated directly in front of Kampung Oting Bajo, a village to the east of Nangamese. All along the beach there are groups of mangroves and some sedimentation clouding the water, but at the dive location there are plenty of acropora coral and fish, with very few ocean currents. Beyond ten meters depth there is no more coral, and only a large variety of fish can be seen. At sunrise the view of this village set among the backdrop of the mangrove forests is often the object of photography.

Pulau Ontoloe is the largest of the islands with a fresh, green ring of mangrove forest. The middle of the mangrove forest ring is home to giant bats which live in large colonies. Quiet by day, at dusk they become more active. Many monkeys hang from the mangrove branches and eat the mangrove fruit, soaring eagles build their nests at the top of the tallest trees. The water is warm and usually tranquil. The sandy sea-bed is carpeted by seaweed. All of this can only be seen at high tide as the coral reef at the edge of the mangrove forest is very shallow, which makes the forest inaccessible at low tide. High Tide occurrs approximately at 11 am daily.

Pulau Lainjawa has waters rich with a variety of sea-life. The Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus Undulayus) is about a metre in length. Even larger are the giant sea-eels (Kerondong) which can grow to two meters in length with heads measuring up to ten centimeters in width. Although most of the coral is dead, at a depth of three meters there are plenty of surgeon fish (Ikan Butana) and angel fish (Kambing Kambing).

Pulau Wongkoroe, which is located between Ontoloe and Toro Padang serves as a barrier reef under the sea because of a fault there which extends as far as 10 meters. Above a depth of three meters, corals grow profusely in a colourful sea-garden. Multi-branched acropora corals extend deeper to around ten meters. There is also a sand pit some ten meters in width.

To the north and east of Riung Bay, a barrier reef offers a dive drop with coral tables right down the wall. Barracuda are often seen here, and there is also a sunken ship to be explored.

Other smaller islands such as Pulau Borong and Pulau Taor also have beautiful beaches with crystal clear waters, which is almost the trademark for these islands of the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park.

The underwater scenery is fascinating from most all of these islands. Plunge even deeper down into the sea to witness the beauty of the smaller sea creatures and enjoy the view of the widely scattered, small islands, a truly amazing sight from below!


The closest airport to Riung is the Maumere Airport. There are airlines operating from Jakarta, Surabaya, or Bali to Maumere. From Denpasar there are daily flights to Maumere flying with Lion Air or Citilink. The flight from Denpasar to Maumere is about 2 hours. Flights from Jakarta or Surabaya to Maumere usually have a connection at either Denpasar or Kupang.

There are also flights from Bali to the town of Ende. From Ende to Riung by car takes about 3 to 4 hours.

From Maumere you can continue the journey by bus or rental car to Bajawa and then on to Riung. Car rental is available in Maumere. To reach Riung from Bajawa, it is about 72 kilometers and takes around 4 hours by car.

Public transportation is also available in Bajawa. One service is Gemini which drives twice a day once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Renting a vehicle may be the best alternative to get to Riung. Travelling alone is not advised if it is your first time to Riung, as the roads are rather difficult to navigate and it is easy to get lost.

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