When I told my mom about the plan to explore Flores, she just raised up her eyebrow and said: don’t you have any other place to visit?..well, Flores may not become a common travel destination for Indonesian (as many Indonesians prefer to go outside the country instead of exploring theirs, I don’t know why)..it’s quite reasonable since traveling to east Indonesia is far more expensive than going to any other countries in South East Asia. The limited flight, the accommodation as well, even transportation within the cities are not as good as other travel destinations in west Indonesia, especially Java. As one of my bucket lists is to explore Indonesia and promote this beautiful country, so Flores it is!..The chosen route: Labuan Bajo – Ruteng – Bajawa – Riung – Moni – Kelimutu – Ende – Maumere – Larantuka 🙂
Flores located in East Nusa Tenggara Province (East Sumbawa) which famous with the komodo, a giant lizard (small dinosaurs I guess) which can only be found in Komodo Island, west Flores. If you ever heard about Kelimutu Lake or the three colors lake, yes, it’s in Flores! In the diving world, Flores is one of the top dive destinations in the world, from Komodo to Maumere, they are offering the amazing underwater world. There are two options to start exploring Flores, from west which starts from Labuan bajo and end at Larantuka (like mine) or vice versa. There is direct flight to Maumere from Jakarta or you may transit and spend overnight in Bali before continue to Labuan Bajo or Maumere.
After staying overnight in Denpasar, I start my journey to Flores from Labuan Bajo (West Flores) by using transnusa airlines. It’s a small jet which requires all passengers to be weighed. Yes, and the officers announced your weight loudly. I was in the 3rd queue lines, and before I jump into that giant scale, I beg to the officer: Please sir, do you mind if only you and God who know that number? 🙂 . It took like around 1 hr to reach Labuan Bajo, and the view of Flores from up there is magnificent..it’s like going back to pre-historic time! So natural, so quite, so beautiful! The airport in Labuan Bajo called Komodo Airport, small airport that full of foreign tourists and small numbers of Indonesian tourists (including me). I choose to stay in a nice hotel in Labuan bajo, since one of my friend has an allergic to anti-malarial drugs (some malaria cases found in East Indonesia, so we don’t want to take a risk by staying at non AC hotel). A driver from Bintang Flores Hotel picked us up and if you expecting the Labuan Bajo like Denpasar, sorry to say..Labuan bajo is a small city with only one main road about 2 – 3 km. The main road is full of dive centers, restaurants, small hotels, stores. The first destination after checked in is Batu Cermin Cave, a cave with beautiful stalagmite and stalactite. In some parts of the wall cave, we can see the fossils of coral, fish, even turtles, it is believed that this cave is kind of ocean trench in the past. The cave called batu cermin (mirror stone) because if we light up the stalagmite and stalactite, you will get a shining crystal rock.
The next few days are diving days. Actually, I’m not dive just snorkel, but the boat is carrying both divers and snorkelers to the same sites. As I mentioned in my Lombok’s story trip, I’m not allowed to do dive anymore due to my diabetes issue. Oh God, please give me a chance to see turtle, manta, beautiful coral, starfish, and that cute tiny fish even from the surface! Different with Lombok, most snorkeling sites are in the middle of the big “O”..yes in the middle of the sea (with its unpredictable current, deep-sea).. Honestly, I’m not a good swimmer, and it’s kind of giving me a heart attack when the boat crews told me, I will go to the same sites with the divers (I taught they will put me on the beach..My God!…life vest please!) and as safety is not a crucial issue in Indonesia, my life vest is not a safety vest anymore. And I almost drowned twice because of it (which makes me not to put sea and beach in the my next destination trip)..it’s the most scariest moment in my life where all my memories suddenly flashed out in my eyes :). Fortunately, God answered my pray..I can see manta, coral, fish but I missed the turtle 😦 ..
While diving and snorkeling, another agenda is to visit the komodo in Pulau Rinca (2.5 hours from Labuan Bajo). The “battle field” called Loh Buaya (fyi, when I purchased the entry tickets, the officer told me that a ranger has died few weeks ago after attacked by Komodo…you can imagine how my face turn into the pale one, instantly!..it’s a ranger man! me?….). Thanks God, when we arrived to Rinca, the komodo were taking a nap..yes, it’s true, they will take a nap at 2 – 4 PM..Alhamdulillah! Our ranger said there are almost 1300 komodo in this island, and they live free (like a bird 🙂 ). Some tips to visit the komodo: never wear red clothes, for woman: if you on your period time, it is recommended to cancel your plan, use sunblock with the highest SPF, use the most comfort trekking shoe and the most important thing: BRING ENOUGH MINERAL WATER…it’s so hot and dehydrating out there! So, komodo checked, underwater world checked, let’s go to next route!. Culinary info: you should try all menus in Philemon and Paradise Cafe, it’s delicious!
Ruteng – Bajawa
If you are the off-road person, you should try the trans Flores road. If you have traveled to Danau Maninjau in West Sumatra and try the Kelok 44, it’s all Kelok 44 from west to east flores! prepare your mood, emotion, physical condition, and the most important thing is FOOD!..trust me, you’ll need it :)..It is recommended to rent a car instead of using bus to get more effective and efficient traveling time (Thanks to Pak Hendrik for being our driver and guide, two thumbs!). From labuan bajo, our first pit stop is Lembar, all we can see in Lembor is Rice field. Next to Lembar is Cancar (West Manggarai). Cancar has unique culture called Spider Web Rice Field. It’s a rice field that owned by several people in that village, where each person will get their part based on the place they have in the community. They divide the field like a giant spider web (you should climb up to the hill to see it)..It’s the only one in this world!
It’s almost 1 PM when arrived at Ruteng, I decided not to spend overnight in Ruteng and continue the journey to Riung through Bajawa (the first plan is to stay overnight in Bajawa, but Pak Hendrik recommend to stay in Riung instead so we can explore Riung in the next morning). The road to Riung is the most challenging one across Flores! It’s dark and it’s a jungle out there! It’s all paid when entering the Riung, even it’s still dark since most villages have no electricity, but if you see the night sky up there..millions stars (well I don’t know the exact number, I didn’t count the stars 🙂 ) will welcoming you in Riung.
It’s a breath-taking scenery when see the Riung island in the morning. Small and natural village with a beautiful landscape makes you feel like in the middle of nowhere (Are we still in Indonesia?). The first island to be visited is Ontoloe Island, a bat island..thousands of bats lived in this island (I’m wondering where is Batman?). The next island is Rutong Island, from 1 – 10, I will give the perfect score 10 for this island..Can’t describe more about the island..just see the pic! The last but not least is Tiga Island, another beautiful island with a crystal clear sea..Feels like in heaven! It is almost 1 PM when we leave Riung to the next destinations, Kelimutu Lake thru Ende and Moni.
Ende – Moni – Kelimutu
Ende is the biggest city in Flores and most travelers use this city as a transit city before proceeding to Moni, small village nearby the Kelimutu Lake. If Ende has hot weather then Moni is the cold one. Before entering Ende, we stopped by at Blue Stone Beach, the stone is not white nor black, but it’s truly blue!
Kelimutu Mt. is famous with the three colors lake. To see the sunrise from Kelimutu Lake, we have to wake up at 3 AM in the morning and start to do trekking at 5 AM. It took 45 minutes to get to the top. It’s so cold out there! My guide is the beloved driver, Pak Hendrik, and a man who sell the food and drink at top of the mountain (I forgot to ask his name, let’s call him “A coffee man”). The first 10 minutes, I’m still on track to follow others, the next minutes are the hardest journey. I feel exhausted and hard to breath due to high elevation and sulfur that come out from the mountain. While the others struggling with the tough climb route, I was accompanied by the coffee man with small chat inside. After having a near to death experience (I’m about to faint 🙂 ), the Kelimutu is in front of my eyes..and suddenly the sun start to shine the world..(tears start to fall). After having small breakfast (instant noodle and tea 🙂 ), it’s time to go back to Moni. I had a touching moment with the coffee man, before I start to climb down the mountain, he gave me a beautiful hand weaving scarf for free! (I will remember it and I will not lose that scarf!)
After having the 2nd breakfast 🙂 , we leave Moni for Maumere. We stopped by at traditional village called Jopu. We can get detail explanation about Flores culture and see some beautiful hand weaving clothes.
From Moni to Maumere, all you can see is another breath-taking landscape..*miss Flores so much*..
The sea world resort become our hotel in Maumere. Info for divers, Maumere also known for its underwater world. Even tsunami destroyed most corals but Maumere still has some beautiful dive spots to explore. When arriving at Maumere, Pak Hendrik suggested to complete the journey by visiting Larantuka, so while my friends dive the Maumere, Larantuka here I come!
Larantuka known as a Catholic center in Indonesia (while waiting for airplane from Maumere to Kupang, I met some people from Vatican..wow!). It’ took like 3 hrs to reach the Larantuka. It’s worth because you will get amazing scenery across Maumere – Larantuka. The city has several ancient and beautiful churches. Pak Hendrik told me, The Pope will come to Larantuka from Vatican in October, there will be a ceremony about that.
After 10 days exploring Flores, from West to East, it’s time to go back to reality…the flight route was Maumere – Kupang – Surabaya – Jakarta (believe it or not, it’s the cheapest route among others!). And I will miss Flores for its breath – taking scenery and the hospitality of the people..I always in love with Flores!
– More stories are illustrated in my web album “An Illustrated Journey” –