Flores island & the Dragoons of Komodo
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Would you like to visit Flores but you don't know how many days to spend on this wonderful island? Here I am ready to help you!
-If you are interested in beautiful beaches, Komodo dragons and snorkeling/diving and you have limited time on a slightly higher budget, I recommend you take a direct flight to Labuan Bajo (usually departing from Bali) and from there to book a boat tour among the various islands (4 days). There are then different types of tours, according to the duration and the level of service offered.
-If you want to discover the island deeply, then I suggest you take a flight to the east (either Maumere or Ende). From there it is not difficult to move towards Labuan Bajo. In each city there is a bus station called "Gunang Mas" where you can receive information on timetables and routes (8 -14 days). This is an alternative for those who want to venture into the fantastic nature of this island, adapting to and respecting local cultures.
I personally chose the second option. Below is my itinerary:
ARRIVAL IN ENDE (DAYS 1-2): arrival at 4 pm after taking 3 flights (Lombok - Bali - Labuan Bajo and finally Ende) for a total cost of € 105 with Wings Air. As soon as you arrive in Ende, you will be amazed by the size of this airport, probably the smallest I've ever seen!
I start to look at booking.com to book an accommodation; I walk on the main road and take a look at various rooms but none of them satisfies me. Most of the structures, in fact, are old, dirty and full of mosquitoes. Having to choose one, I opt for the Hotel Flores and paid 175,000 rupiah (1 € = about 16,000 rupiah) for a double room with A / C.
In the evening, dinner at the "Sari Rasa" restaurant. The owner of the restaurant explains us (I’m with a friend Luis) the only 5 dishes on the menu. Very nice and good food with prices ranging from 18,000 to 36,000 rupiah.
The next day I rent a scooter for 100,000 rupiahs and head for the Kelimutu National Park. Mount Kelimutu, with its 3 coloured lakes, is one of the most spectacular phenomena in Flores. There are many myths about the origin of these lakes and it is for this reason that Mount Kelimutu is still a sacred place for local people. Over the years, the 3 lakes have often changed colour. Currently one of the lakes is brown-black, one blue and the other changes from turquoise to red. One reason why colour changes are the variation of minerals contained in water. Another rather legendary explanation suggests that colour change is caused by neglected ancestral souls.
I stopped to eat in the Moni village, not far from the entrance to the park. It seemed very nice. It could also be an excellent place where to stay overnight if you want to make a stop.
BAJAWA (DAY 3): arrival at 11 am after taking a minibus from Ende paid 100,000 rupiah (3 hours). The road is full of bends so, in case of car sickness, I advise you to buy medicines. I sleep at "Christian Guesthouse", which is not on the web but is easily accessible: just at the end of the only road full of guesthouses.
The centre of Bajawa, in fact, is very small. Here I pay 175,000 rupiah for a double room with bathroom but with cold water (breakfast included). Imagine how difficult it was to take a shower with cold water when it is cold even outside since Bajawa is located at 1100 m. above sea level.
I hire a scooter for 50,000 rupiahs and start exploring the area. First I see the "Manulalu Panorama", a very nice view of the surrounding mountains; then I go to the "traditional village of Bena" where the entrance costs 25,000 rupiah and it is a pure tourist village and therefore not very authentic. Next stop: Malanage natural spa where the entrance costs 20,000 rupiah and the water is really pleasant, warm and relaxing. Finally, I head towards the mountain "Wolobobo Hill" located just 3 km south of Bajawa, for the sunset. The "hill" is actually a perfectly formed crater rim, created after an eruption ten thousand years ago. All very impressive, but the real attraction is the breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside, including the volcanoes Mount Inerie and Mount Ebulobo, the strange shape of the hill of Batu Jaramasih and the city of Bajawa.
ARRIVAL IN RUTENG (DAYS 4-5): in the morning I take a shared car with other people paying 80,000 rupiah and after 4 hours I arrive in Ruteng. In fact, I could have taken the minibus for 75,000 rupiahs but I thought the car was better (actually it was not because there was really little space between us ). Arrival in Ruteng around 2 pm and I start looking for accommodation but prices are quite high and the shower without hot water (even here we are at 1200 m). After a couple of hours, I found a room that suits me: Hotel FX 72. Here a double room costs 200,000 rupiah but there are hot water and breakfast included. The landscape is terrific: we are surrounded by the terraced rice fields. It is located 2 km from the centre but there is a shuttle bus that offers free service to and from the town throughout the day. The next day I take a scooter for 100,000 rupiahs. It was difficult to find a scooter available because there are no renters here on the island so you have to ask the owner of the accommodation and then he through his friends can get one. I start exploring the surroundings of Ruteng. I reach the "Web Spider Rice Field" where you can see spider web fields of rice. I then head towards the village Tenghu Lese to visit a waterfall even if it is not clear how to reach it. Therefore I ask for help from local people who draw me a sort of map on a piece of paper and so I can reach the village passing first from Nanu Village.
After that, I would like to reach the caves (Hobbit Caves) where the remains of the first inhabitants of Flores were found, but the road turns into a path full of stones and difficult to drive. So I decide to go back but it starts to rain so I stop to shelter under a roof and a kind local gentleman invites me to his house for a coffee. We chat a little bit about this and that, trying to communicate in fairly basic English. It was one of those experiences that I prefer the most while travelling. I return to Ruteng and have dinner at the "Café Agape" with great food and prices ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 rupiah.
ARRIVAL IN LABUAN BAJO (DAY 6): from Ruteng I take a bus (bought at Gunang Mas and paid 110,000 rupiah) to Labuan Bajo. Arrival after 4 hours with only a stop for lunch. Accommodation at Bajo Nature Hostel where I pay 100,000 rupiah per night with breakfast included in a dorm. Dinner at the near restaurant "Raphael" with good food at reasonable prices. After that, I start looking for a tour to visit the Komodo National Park, which is the main attraction of the island.
TOUR KOMODO ISLANDS (DAY 7-8): I buy 2 days and 1-night tour for 700,000 rupiahs. Then I pay extra 285,000 rupiah for various entrances to private islands (250,000 rupiahs: Rinca island - 20,000 Komodo island - 15,000 Kanawa Island). First stop: the Rinca island where we see the Komodo dragons for the first time. They are the largest and heaviest lizards in the world and among the few with a poisonous bite. These stealthy and powerful hunters rely on their sense of smell to detect food, using long forked tongues to catch prey. They can spend hours waiting for a considerable meal wandering within range before launching a deadly attack with their large, curved and sharp teeth. They live in the tropical forests of the savannah but extend over all the island, from the beach to the highest peak. It is possible to find them on the islands of Komodo and Rinca (Indonesia).
Curiosity: Komodo dragons can briefly reach speeds of up to 20 km / h. When they are threatened, they can vomit the contents of their stomach to reduce their weight in order to escape. In short, they’re rather scary live!
We then head to the Pink Beach for snorkeling. It takes its name from a particular red coral that shatters on the shore. It's really beautiful! Later we go to see the dragons on the island of Komodo. The overnight stay is on the boat in private cabins (at a higher cost) or in a room with several beds (on the boat there are only 3 couples in addition to the 4 crew members). Here we admire a sunset to say the least fairy-tale, with wonderful colours of the sky and the sea that surround us.
Dinner on board is included in the price and also includes drinks. In fact, included in the price, there are 2 lunches, 1 breakfast and a dinner.
On the second day at 6:30 am we start a trek on the Padar Island where the view from the top is truly exceptional and breathtaking! We then head towards the Manta point to see the manta rays. We waited a bit but we saw 3-4 and with them also 2 turtles. As a last stop we visit the Kanawa Island. Here the colour of the sea is fantastic: the water is limpid and crystalline, with a lot of starfish. We stop here for an hour and a half and then head towards Labuan Bajo, arriving at the port at 5 pm. There are so many agencies that sell tours of this kind. I chose the agency called Harmony with fairly low prices and basic services. I was satisfied with it.
LOMBOK IN FERRYBOARD (DAY 9): purchase, at an agency at the pier, a ticket for the ferry to Lombok for 300,000 rupiah including a dinner. The journey is really long as it lasts at least 24 hours. The journey includes the following stops: Labuan Bajo - Sape (7 hours in ferry), Sape - Bima (1 hour and half by bus), Bima - Sumbawa west port (10 hours by bus), after which the bus goes on the ferry and after 2 hours I reach the Lombok Island. From there I get back on the bus and after 2 hours I reach the final stop or the bus station of Mataram, the main city of the island located to the northwest. It was really a long journey but nothing impossible. If you have time, patience and you want to save money, it is a good alternative to the flight certainly more expensive.
Other places that you can visit in Flores (but out of my itinerary due to lack of time) are: Riung (beaches in the north) and village Wae Rebo (near Ruteng). If you also include these destinations, it would be better to have at least 2 weeks available. Furthermore, the island of Flores is more expensive than the other Indonesian islands visited. Tourism here in fact is not yet widespread (excluding Labuan Bajo). Local people speak very little English and so you have to get a lot of patience to get information of any kind. It is an island that is still underdeveloped and in which wild nature predominates. Nonetheless, you find ATMs in major centers, along with the main services.
If you decide to cross the island by land, arm yourself with patience as the road that crosses the island is full of bends with numerous climbs and descents, where it is very easy to suffer from car sickness.
Very rich from the landscape point of view with spectacular volcanoes, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, rice fields, paradisiacal beaches and unique animals like the Komodo dragons. Absolutely not to be missed!