Updated: Oct 14, 2021
If one were to mention Bali, most people would say that this well-known destination in Indonesia is on their bucket list. However, about an hour flight away from Bali sits a lesser-known island called Flores. It’s located in the eastern Indonesia region, in the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province and unlike others, this island has been my bucket list since 5 years ago.
Being a frequent traveler of Indonesia, I’m fascinated by its natural beauty and the various cultures of its people. Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and a lot of these islands remain untouched by either human or technology. Flores Island, although starting to see a boost in tourism, has maintained its pristine beauty by the care of its people.
My trip to Flores consists of five adults with my 1-year-old baby. The trip to Flores has many options to choose from; sailing liveaboard, day trips, and sailing + overland. We chose the three days liveaboard option, with the intention to experience a different type of traveling. There are many operators to choose from in regards to liveaboard experience, so we chose an operator suitable for our budget.
How to get to Flores Island
From Malaysia, it took us 3 hours by flight to Bali. Then, from Ngurah Rai International airport, we walked for about 10 minutes to the domestic terminal for our flight to Labuan Bajo airport in Flores. We chose Nam Air because the airline offers 10kg free check-in baggage. Upon boarding, we were given candies, and later to my surprise, we were also given a simple refreshment of small mineral water, cookies, and bread. It was something quite memorable as budget flights often don’t do this anymore. Furthermore, Bali to Labuan Bajo was only an hour flight.
Flores Island Itinerary: 1st Day
As soon as we arrived at Labuan Bajo, we headed straight to the harbor, to board our boat that will be our stay for three days. Do inform earlier that you require halal food while living on board so that this could be arranged by the boat crew beforehand.
From the harbor, we boarded a skiff that brought us to our boat. To describe the boat, it is a cross between a fishing boat and a yacht. It has two tiers; the first or main tier housed the sleeping cabins, a water closet, a bathroom, and dining area with table and benches while the second tier is where the captain steers the boat, with a sun deck in front and another sleeping deck in the captain’s cabin. We were quite intrigued to be sailing the vast ocean in this boat for the next three days.
Our first stop was Kelor Island, hiking up the hill for a view of the opposite island. Although it is not that high, the hike up can take some time as it is covered with sand and rocks. It took us roughly about 15 minutes. From above, we can see the turquoise blue water and the hill on the opposite island, Tugas Island. I recommend wearing a hiking sandal or a good pair of sneakers to hike up and down here as it is really slippery.
Meals were prepared by the boat’s chef. Despite being in a fishing boat, our meals surpassed our expectations. I personally think it helps that we are a simple family, from similar roots, thus for us the food was simply delicious.
Arriving at Kalong Rinca, we decided to laze around on the sun deck. There were some bean bags and also benches to sit. I was able to nurse my baby while the husband slept. As the sky began to change its colors, we propped ourselves on the beanbags and waited for the sun to set. In the middle of the open sea, we were enthralled with the changing colors of the sky. We couldn’t help exclaiming God’s beautiful creation, the moving colors as the sun goes down was simply mesmerizing. When the sun started meeting the horizon, thousands of bats flew out from nearby cave starting their nightlife. I couldn’t be sure whether they were thousands, it could as well be millions! Our heads tilted towards the sky just taking in the beautiful sight. At times, I looked at the seawater glistening with the colors of the sunset. Somehow, it seemed so calm. We lay on the deck until dark and then try to find the Milky Way. We saw many constellations but no Milky Way though.
We spent the night in the middle of the ocean at Kalong Rinca. According to our guide, the captain chose a place where the sea is calm to park and stay the night. That way, our body is at ease while sleeping. But the nights were cold though.
Flores Island Itinerary: 2nd Day
Being on a boat means that our qibla to pray was always changing. But it was also quite easy to determine where we were as we clearly could see the direction of the sun. As the sun was rising on the second day, we noticed our boat was slowly heading towards an island with brownish looking hills full of terrains. Suddenly, by a stroke of luck, what I thought was initially floating rubbish was actually a couple of dolphins swimming beside our boat! And later they joined a school of other dolphins not too far from us. What a lovely morning greeting!
It turned out we were stopping at the island ahead of us, called Padar Island. This island is a part of Komodo National Park, thus before hiking up the hill, one must pay the park’s entrance fee and this includes all entrances for Komodo National Park for the day. At the time of writing, the entrance fee for weekdays is Rp150.000/day and Rp250.000/day for weekend entry. This is foreigners fee whereas local is so much cheaper.
The hike up on Padar Island’s hill is all steps. Some may say it’s easier than Kelor Island with its rocks and sand. However, steps give you more legwork than a natural trail. Our hike to the viewpoint took us about 20 minutes or less. For those with a slower pace, can take about 30 to 40 minutes top. The journey to the viewpoint is all picturesque. I couldn’t help taking photographs and videos of the scenery.
The hill on Padar Island is known for its exquisite viewpoint. And I could attest to that. Once you get to the best point (which is not even at the peak), the view from the top is just breath-taking. Since we went in the month of September, the hills were brownish looking due to the dry season. Else, they would be covered with greenery. But whichever season you go, you will get the same feeling. The views of the terrains on the other end of Padar Island, with the sea on the right and left-hand side of the island is proof of God’s powers; His ability in creating a beautiful sight for us to see. Although there are many hills on Padar Island, we were only allowed to hike where specified. There are actually few Komodo dragons around the island.
After spending around two hours on Padar Island, we continued to our next stop, Pink Beach. Pink Beach got its name due to the pink hue of its sand, caused by broken coral pieces, shells, and other materials from Foraminifera. These are microscopic organisms that produce red pigments of the coral reefs. So when these broken pieces are washed ashore, mixing with the sand, it creates a soft pink hue that can be seen from far away.
Next, we headed off to see a species endemic to Flores island. Komodo dragons roam freely in the wild here at Komodo National Park. Villagers have learned to live with the big lizards from long ago. These lizards are found in the surrounding islands of Rinca, Padar, and Gili Motang. In order to track wild Komodo dragons, we have to get the park’s natural guide, which costs us Rp350.000. There are several trails to follow and we decided to follow the middle trail. Konz, our natural guide, told us that the length of the trail we choose does not necessarily mean that we will get to see the lizard. There are times when visitors on the longest trail weren’t able to see the lizards at all.
Being similar to water monitor, Komodo dragons are different in that they are stubbier and bulkier, with a lighter colored tongue. They are also cannibals in which they eat their younglings. However, this is because the females will leave their nest after some time and when the eggs hatch, the Komodo dragons aren’t able to recognize their own younglings. The young lizards’ survival depends on them being able to climb trees faster before the bigger Komodo can get to them. Adult Komodo dragons are not able to climb trees because of their size and weight.
Attacks on humans by these lizards are not unheard of. Komodo dragons’ saliva secretes venom that prevents blood from clotting thus causing the victim to lose blood rapidly. It is strongly advised to follow the rules and guidance from the park rangers to prevent any unwanted mishap from happening.
After a hot day at Komodo Island, our next destination was Taka Makassar. Taka Makassar is a small crescent-shaped barrier beach surrounded with shallow turquoise water lagoon. Barrier beaches or bars are exposed sandbars formed by wave action and currents, pushing sand, gravel, and silt together from all sides which caused them to remain exposed. We walked from end to end of the sandbar as it is not more than the size of a football field. The water was so crystal clear that one couldn’t help but get into the water. I recommend wearing footwear here as the sand is covered with corals.
Flores Island Itinerary: 3rd Day
In the morning, we made way to Kanawa Island for our last snorkeling trip. The gleaming water in Kanawa is so clear that you can even see the corals and fishes from the jetty. Our drone shot featured here showed the difference between cyan-colored shallow water and the azure deep waters.
Alas, came the day for our departure. The 3 days’ boat living has definitely left something for us to remember. We took Air Asia flight back to Bali as they also offer 10kg free check-in luggage. We spent a few days in Bali too, but that’s another story to tell.