After arriving at the both animistic and religious (read: Catholic) island, Flores has many beautiful places to see. Though in the dry season, the heat can be felt as soon as you step on the island, in the contrary, smiling people will neglect the heat with their only English words that they can speak: Hello Mister : they do not care whether you are a man or a woman, just friendly.
And not to forget the splendid scenic drive over the nearly 800 km of trunk road, connecting the East of the island to the West .
Regardless the sometimes dry and infertile land, there are many places for you to enjoy. On the beach you can make a snorkeling or go further to Babi island. Or if you do not like this sport tour, you can do a little tour to Geliting beach which is only around 15 minutes from Maumere. This beautiful and calm beach inhabited by local fisherman with many small wooden boats, give you a feeling of real Flores where people and their activities, their behaviour are so pure and not much influenced by other people’s cultures. Under the coconut trees with fresh wind give peace to your heart and the most important thing is that the people do not think that you are a foreigner.
In many villages on Flores, also in the neighbourhood of Maumere, you will find the women weaving their beautiful traditional clothes (ikat). Every region has its own patterns and colours.
Another point worthwhile to visit is a characterisitic Bugis village, around 20 minutes by car from Maumere. Here the atmosphereis totally different, there is no Catholic church in this village, unlike other parts of Flores. It is easily understood that this village is inhabited by Bugis people (from Sulawesi) who immigrated to Flores as fishermen and brought all their family.So this village can be seen at variance with the other Flores villages. See their colourful houses propped by pillars, and boats everywhere.
Around 4 hours driving from Maumere, you will find the highlight of Flores; the three colorful lakes in Kelimutu. But to reach this volcano you should start from Moni because it will be nice and clear enough to see in the early morning around 05.30. Though I missed this highlight due to heavy rains, on the way to Moni at least there is a traditional village that can be visited, Jopu village.
This village is very religious (animistic) and its dwellers believe in many spirits. The village consists of three small tribes; Suka Lumba, Ambulaba, and Amburai. And each tribe has 7 tokoh adat (prominent figures) to whom all villagers have to obey the rules decided by the tokoh adat.
The ancient adat house where the prominent figures gathered at a certain occasion is made from wood and with grass roof. The front roof of the house is very low with the purpose that everybody entering the house has to bow himself meaning respecting the people inside and other mystical things inside the house. One of the houses I visited harboured the 27th generation. The only thing that changed over the 450 years of its existence is the grass roof, which has to be renewed regularly. The woodcarving, with all its meaningful symbols dated from the building period.
Really interesting in this village is, that if the dry season last for too long a time and the villagers run out of the water, they will make an offering ceremony in which they have to sacrifice a buffalo to the god. In this ceremony all villagers are forbidden to go out of the village, neither kill an animal, cut any plant, nor even take the leaves during four days and four nights If someone breaks this rule he will get a punishment from both the god and the society. Believe it or not?, they believe it.
Before reaching Bajawa around 2 hours from Ende to the west, you can make a stop to see a beautiful blue coral beach at Penggajawa beach.. See people busy exploring the blue coral.
Anyhow, the most interesting traditional village in this area is Bena. Though this village is quite touristic, Bena is the village where all houses are neatly built in rows, clean enough, though people still adhere to animism but they already know about general hygiene. Located on top of a small mountain Benabelongs to the most developed villages among other traditional villages in Flores. The village is not so big and they make the houses in tworows and let the yard wide, because the yard is for holding ceremonies and for their ancestors’ graves. So do not be surprised when you are taking a picture you may able to step on a tomb.
The women chewing sirih smiling at you while their hands are busy weaving the “ikat” a traditional kain from this island, and sometimes offering you to buy some special souvenir that they make.
Not to forget, just in the neighborhood of Bena village there are two other small villages which are interesting to visit; Luba and Sarebawa.
If you spend more days in Bajawa a local guide (ask in the Bintang Wisata Hotel) can take you on several trekkings over the rugged volcano Ine Rie, which offer you the possibility to see even more absolutely unspoiled traditional village life, far from the modern tarmac and its noisy traffic. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery on your journey back in time, and hear the old story about the stone man high in the mountains.
North of Bajawa, if you might decide to be idle, it is a good idea as wellto relax at SOA river hot spring. This place, however, will be very crowded during weekend and holiday.
This place has no real specialty, but it is worthwhile if you travel from Bajawa to Labuhan Bajo (the western part of Flores) which takes around 9 hours,to make an overnight stop, if you feel that Bajawa – Labuhan Bajo is too far and too heavy to drive. Before arriving in Ruteng from Bajawa, you can have a look in a village where people make arak (a high percentage alcoholic
drink) and visit a small beautiful lake just 30 minutes before Ruteng, in an old crater high up in the rainforest.
If you leave Ruteng in the morning for Labuhan Bajo, make sure you make a stop in Cancar where you can have a perfect view of the beautiful cobweb structured rice fields, so characteristic for Flores, beautiful! So don’t miss it.
Though Ruteng itself has no special interest, the way to Labuhan Bajo provides spectectular views where you should make many stops just to enjoy more.
This is the western part of Flores island and is the most practical startingpoint to reach Komodo and Rinca islands.
A man from the hotel where I stayed has idea that Rinca is better than Komodo island where you can find wild “komodo-dragons” while in Komodo island the komodos have been fed.
It is not difficult to go to Rinca island. From Labuhan Bajo you can easily rent a boat available almost everywhere in the harbour.
It takes about 2,5 hours to reach Rinca but it is so beautiful sailing, whileseeing a lot of uninhabited islands, besides the sea will give you a magnificent panorama. Blue water of the sea is normal, but look ! green, yellow, even pink colors are there. What we can expect more from the sea? White beach? Yes, on the left and on the right sides, white beaches appealing you to lay on. And at a distance again a few fisherman’s villages on piles in between the mangroves
Reaching at Rinca island, it can be possible if you are welcomed by a komodo. Have a walk to the main post and rent a ranger is a must. It takes more or less 45 minutes to walk to the place where usually komodos are gathering. Through a narrow path slowly you enter the place where it should happen. In the meanwhile see monkeys playing and hanging above or sometimes fighting to get food. Oeps, a small komodo can jump over your feet while you are busy taking pictures of the monkeys. You may also sometimes find deers, birds, and buffaloes.
After enjoying the Island of Flores, heading to the west to Sumbawa and Lombokyou will be full with beautiful memories of the End of the Eastern Islands where I have been for two weeks.
How to reach Flores:
There are three important airports in Flores to connect to other islands; Maumere airport, Ende airport, and Labuhan Bajo airport.
You can fly from Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Bima or Kupang
Harbours: Ende and Labuhan Bajo harbours.
You can reach Flores from Bima, Kupang, Lembar. Arrangements to visit the Komodo Archipelago are possible from Lombok as well.
Sea World Club Hotel, Maumere; good and clean enough accommodation, located on the beach, AC and fan room available.
Arwanti Bungalows, Moni: brand new hotel (home stay), basic facilities, located at the main road in Moni, small restaurant is available.
Bintang Wisata Hotel, Jl. Palapa, Bajawa. Though this is one of the best hotels in this town the rooms arebasic standard room, clean enough, very friendly and helpful staff.
Sinda Hotel, Jl. Yos Sudarso 26 Ruteng. Very basic room, clean enough, it is possible if in the dry season the hotel runs out the water.
Golo Hiltop Hotel, Labuhan Bajo. Located on the high land facing to the sea, nice panorama, clean room, fan and AC room available, hot and cool water in each room.
– Suggested not to go in rainy season (October – April)
– Take malaria medicine with you
– Drink enough mineral water
– It may be needed for you to bring mosquito net
– Take with you anti mosquito spray or lotion