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A short hop from Bali, the island of Flores is quickly becoming a refuge for those seeking to escape the crowded tourist scene. Boasting lush forests, deserted white sand beaches, incredible wildlife, and diverse cultures, Flores has something to please everyone, with much still left to explore. Flores is more than deserving of a spot on your Indonesia itinerary, and here are some of the top things not to miss.
Real dragons don’t breathe fire, but the famous Komodos are still an impressive sight. No trip to Flores would really be complete without seeing these massive reptiles that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While watching them bask in the sun is a sight enough, the dragons are more active in the mornings, when lucky guests may catch them fighting or sometimes even feeding. Besides the dragons, the treks on Komodo and Rinca islands, where ranger stations are located, offer expansive views of the park and are worth the trip in a local boat to get there.
Komodo National Park is best known for its namesake dragons, but its underwater world is truly impressive. Here, you’ll find reefs bursting with color and life, frequented by sharks hunting among large schools of fish and mantas circling gracefully overhead. The best coral sites are shallow and mantas often feed at the surface, making for incredible snorkeling as well. Strong, sometimes dangerous currents are what bring all of this life to Komodo, and the diving will be much more enjoyable for more experienced divers.
Address: Komodo National Park, Indonesia
One of Flores’ biggest landmarks, the volcano of Kelimutu looms over verdant valleys and is an impressive sight from ground level, but a trip to its peak reveals its true treasure – multicolored lakes. The pastel waters, with colors so rich they appear to be made of paint, are particularly impressive in the early morning light of the sunrise. The peak is a short walk from a car park accessible by motorized transport, but intrepid travelers may enjoy a stroll down past cascading rivers and through local villages.
Address: Kelimutu National Park, Indonesia
Caci is a traditional fight dance of the Manggarai people of Western Flores that occurs during festivals or celebrations. It consists of two men — dressed in colorful handmade outfits depicting animals — leaping and lunging in an attempt to strike one another with leather whips while defending themselves with shields. When combined with the beating of drums, it is a thrilling sight, and the injuries inflicted are not severe. All done in good fun, the best way to see a caci dance is to find a local guide who will know when they are occurring around the local villages.
While many tourists come to experience a traditional Manggarai village, the journey to get to Wae Rebo is an adventure in itself. The only way to access the village is to trek 10 kilometers through lush rainforests over steep mountains, past waterfalls and swimming holes. The challenging but worthwhile hike provides spectacular views plus the chance to see one of Flores’ best traditional villages, where you will be treated to music, dance, and food before bedding down like a local in a conical-shaped home.
On Flores’ northern coast lies one of its best-kept secrets. Charter a boat to 17 Islands Marine Park for a day of snorkeling in glassy turquoise waters inhabited by a variety of colorful fish, relaxing on pristine white-sand beaches on uninhabited islands, and a chance to see the flying foxes, giant fruit bats that blacken the sky around sunset. Hire a local guide, who will know the best snorkel spots, cook a delicious lunch, and provide endless smiles and entertainment.
Flores has a homestay network set up by a nonprofit that offers travelers a chance to experience the authentic Flores. The network consists of locals in small villages that have offered to open their homes to travelers to achieve culture exchange and stimulate community-based tourism. The accommodation is simple but hosts are warm and welcoming, plus it is a fantastic opportunity to experience life as it truly is in Indonesia. Be sure to practice a bit of Indonesian, as people in these communities speak very limited English.
While rice paddies are common in Bali and other locations throughout Asia, the ones in Flores are particularly unique. Here, you will find patches in various shades of rich green splayed out from a central point, growing gradually smaller until they concentrate in the center of the ‘web.’ In addition to being visually stunning, these fields have a purpose. Divided into sections allocated to families, the workers start on the outside of their section and work their way in, with everyone meeting at the end of the day to enjoy tea and conversation, promoting camaraderie amongst the village families.
Eastern Flores is known for its ikat, an intricate process of dying and weaving fabrics to create textiles rich in patterns and colors. Examining the hand-made products sold throughout Flores gives you an idea of the painstaking process that creates them; however, the best way to gain an understanding of the incredible skill required is to watch how they are made, or even better, try it for yourself.
With endless amounts of fried rice and instant noodles growing dull after a few days of traversing Flores, Restaurant Laryss is a welcomed respite for the taste buds. The friendly owner, Agustinus, speaks excellent English and German and cooks up some even better fish. Freshly caught tuna or snapper is rubbed with a generous dose of spices and roasted over an open flame flavored by coconut shells or otherwise stirred into a rich tamarind fish soup. Possibly the best restaurant on all of Flores, it is well worth the visit.
Restaurant Laryss, Jl Raya Maumere-Ende, Paga, Flores, Indonesia, +62 852 5334 2802