Best Tour in Flores Island, Indonesia!
One of the Lesser Sunda Islands measuring 14,300 square kilometers, Flores is an island sanctuary lying on the chain of a volcanic mountain belt known as the ‘Ring of Fire.’ Once, Flores was just a tiny dot in the east Indonesian archipelago, until just recently when it was put on Indonesia’s tourism map. This is due to Flores’ heavily wooded, rugged, and mountainous landscape that has hindered access to the mainland’s interior up until 25 years ago. Unlike Bali – a neighboring tourist hot-spot – the island remains pretty much intact, with very little exposure to the hustle and bustle of a popular tourist destination.
This is one of the features that Flores has to offer to travellers in search of an amazing, mind-blowing experience for the soul. Get there, see, and sense Flores. Every journey along its off-the-beaten paths can be your next spectacular adventure.
On the east of the Komodo Island and west of Lembata Island lies the Flores, one of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. On the West coast of port town of Labuan Bajo is the gateway to Komodo National park. Famous tourist attraction in Flores is 5377 foot Kelimutu volcano. This Island is the 10th most populous Island and the name a El Flores’ is derived from the Portuguese, meaning “flowers”. The chief places you must visit are:
Labuan Bajo is the capital of the district of Manggarai Barat (West Manggarai) and is located at the westernmost tip of the island. Its 3000 residents mostly make their living on the water. This is reflected by the busy bay fully laden with spider-like trimarans, canoes of different sizes, sailing vessels, and motorized boats.
Labuan Bajo is launching points to explore the island’s interior and visit the giant dragons on Komodo and Rinca Island. In recent years, Labuan Bajo gradually turned into a busy spot because of the divers and the increased number of Komodo visitors. Today, this town offers a wide range of tourist facilities.
MELO TRADITIONAL VILLAGE
Located only 17km from Labuan Bajo, Melo is an excellent choice for travelers in search of a distinct Manggaraian cultural experience. A visit to Melo offers a range of village-based tourism activities, exciting cultural art performances such as the traditional bamboo pole jumping game ‘Tetek Alu’, the ‘Ndundu Dake’ dance, and the well-known Caci performances. The cultural cooperative of Compang To’e will be eager to receive you with a warm traditional welcome ceremony.
The Melo experience also gives you time to lie back and digest your impressions in the ‘Panorama’ Hut, which is the cooperative’s headquarters. This bamboo building is the perfect place to have a cup of Flores coffee or a sip of sopi, the traditional Florinese palm liquor. The friendly villagers can even show you the process of making sopi from the sap of the aren palm.
Caci Dancing Performance
Caci is more than just a traditional performance; it is a major element of Manggaraian cultural identity and an important part of ceremonial life. Being a unique aesthetic delight for spectators, Caci performances are an attraction to overseas as well as domestic visitors to Manggarai.
In Kampung Melo (kampung means ‘village’ in Indonesian), visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a Caci performance organized by Compang To’e cooperative. you are invited to a traditional ceremony where guests are served sopi, the local palm wine, before joining the Caci performance. The wine cups are made out of coconut shells – one of the many vigilant details that gives the visitor an idea of traditional Manggaraian daily life.
In Manggarai you will certainly notice the impressive lingko fields. The most amazing view over a number of these fields is offered at Cara Village situated on a small hill 17km west of Ruteng in Cancar. With their round, spider-web structure, these pieces of land are unique eye-catchers in Manggarai.
Nowadays, the lingko fields are primarily used for wet-rice cultivation. With the dominance of this new form of farming, the significance of the traditional agricultural calendar with its rituals and ceremonies, embedded in the planting and harvesting of dry rice and corn, has also faded.
WAE REBO VILLAGE
Wae Rebo is an old Manggaraian village, situated in pleasant, isolated mountain scenery. The village offers visitors a unique opportunity to see authentic Manggarai housing and to experience the everyday life of the local community. In the village of Wae Rebo, visitors can see mbaru niang – traditional, circular cone-shaped houses with very unique architecture. Nowadays, it is still a place to hold meetings, rituals and Sunday-morning prayers together.
The village can only be reached by way of a three-hour hike (depending on your physical condition) from the lowlands. The hike is definitely worth the effort: the dense rain forest along the narrow path to Wae Rebo is one of a stunning biological diversity. Not only does it host interesting vegetation, including orchids, palms, and different ferns, but also an impressive population of singing birds.
Wae Rebo has been supported to become the major culture tourism attraction in West Flores. Together with a team of Jakarta-based architects and the Indonesian government, the local community renovated four of their mbaru niang – or ‘drum houses’ in the Manggaraian language.
When you visit Wae Rebo, you will not only see the authentic Manggaraian housing, but also get an opportunity to experience the daily life of the local people. Most of the people work in their gardens from early morning until dawn, busy with harvesting coffee and processing the beans. Even though weaving is not a major activity in Wae Rebo, you may encounter some women weaving traditional songket cloth. Visitors are welcome to spend the night in the mbaru niang, and to socialize and dine with the Wae Rebo community. You will sleep on a tikar, a woven mat made out of pandanus leaf, in the mbaru niang, and get a taste of how life used to be when the extended families still lived their lives under one roof.
BENA TRADITIONAL VILLAGE
Bena, a community that is situated about 16km from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie, is the most famous and also most visited village in the Ngada district. With its impressive stone formations and ancestral shrines, as well as traditional houses, Bena has turned into a signpost for Ngada culture.
The village consists of two parallel rows of traditional, high thatch-roofed houses. Highly visible in the center of the village are ngadhu and bhaga, pairs of shrines – one for each clan of the village – representing the clan’s ancestors. The ngadhu is an anthropomorphic umbrella-like pole embodying the male ancestor of a clan. The trunk is decorated with carvings and is topped with a warrior-like figure. The ngadhu symbolizes fierceness and virility. After a new ngadhu has been carved out of a special tree, the men of the village carry the pole in a ceremonial way into the village.
Lying to the east of Bena, Wogo is another picturesque village which features all the richness of the traditional Ngada culture. The village of Wogo is actually a new comer in the Ngada landscape. Indeed, it has been inhabited only since 1932, when the inhabitants from the ‘Old Wogo’ decided to leave their original village with their ancestral megaliths behind.
As in Bena, Wogo’s vivid ceremonial and ritual life reflects the interplay of the animistic belief system with the Catholic religion. If you are lucky enough to take part in one of the lively house-building ceremonies, you will experience the Ngada house as a space divided by seniority and gender, which expresses itself clearly in the order of seating at ceremonial events.
17 ISLAND RIUNG
The sub-district of Riung, located to the north of Bajawa, is famed for its beautiful coral gardens. The coast and the surrounding area of the town of Riung have become a national conservation area, and were even given the status of a national park and named Pulau Tujuhbelas, or ‘Seventeen Islands’. In fact, the national park consists of more than 20 small and larger islands. The local people, though, have named the area ‘Riung Seventeen Islands’, a label that is easy to remember as it refers to the personification of a beautiful 17-year-old girl and also Indonesian Independence Day on the 17th of August.
The national park area is inhabited by various exotic species, e.g. the Timor deer, hedgehogs, monkeys, ferrets, the Timor monitor lizard, marsupials, and partridges. The large varieties of birds, such as eagles, white herons, black storks, partridges etc, make the area a great spot for bird watching.
Even a moderate-sized species of a Komodo dragon named Mbou is said to exist in some regions such as Torong Padang, where it has been spotted in particular seasons only. It has hardly ever been encountered by either the conservation management or tourists.
The marine park status has been established to preserve the area’s underwater world. The Seventeen Islands area encompasses a rich coral-reef ecosystem where you can count up to 27 different species of coral. The Riung waters are home to plenty of exciting animals, ranging from marine mammals such as dolphins and whales to various colorful fish. The crystal-clear water makes it a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and underwater photography.
The biggest island is the hilly Ontoloe, which is covered with short grass and a few trees, as well as fringed with mangroves. On the north coast of Ontoloe, you can observe the famous large fruit bats, called ‘flying foxes’, flying over the mangrove trees.
A visit to Kalong, the ‘Flying Fox Island’, gives you the opportunity to see these fascinating animals as they fly into the sunset. The island of Bampa Barat is a temporary home to several fishermen, who sometimes sell their catch of the day directly from the boat.
If you plan to see the national park, you should also take some time for visiting Riung Village (Riung), as it offers you the possibility of unique cultural encounters. A lively celebration of the Ngada people’s traditional hunting and boxing is just one part of their manifold cultural life.
MANGERUDA HOT SPRING
Located in the Soa sub-district, about 23.5km from Bajawa, Mangeruda Hot Springs offer you the Florinese highlands at their warmest.
Travelers coming to Ngada often visit Mangeruda Hot Springs to escape chilly Bajawa and enjoy the warm water that flows from a river under the shade of coconut trees. The spring water is believed to have curative effect for those suffering from skin conditions. Howsoever, the experience of taking a warm, soothing bath in a beautiful, natural atmosphere is definitely a true delight for your body and soul. Some pools are especially designed for visitors, including a large, artificial pool that offers space for quite a lot of people.
If you prefer to enjoy a more untouched scenic view of the hot springs, ask a guide to take you for a walk to where the hot water originates, along the descending river across rice fields and coconut trees to a canyon with beautiful drop-offs that almost look like little waterfalls. If you continue to walk, you will finally arrive at Soa Poba Polo where the hot spring water meets the river.
INERIE MOUNTIN AND WAWO MUDA
Mount Inerie with its beautiful, harmonic pyramid shape, is an eye-catching peak in the Florinese ‘mountain skyline’. With an altitude of 2245m above sea level, Mount Inerie is also one of the highest volcanoes in Flores.
If you would like to climb to the top, you do well to start your trip at night or in the very early morning. You will be rewarded with a magical moment when the sun slowly rises up behind the hills. From the top of Mount Inerie, you have a stunning view that sometimes even goes as far as Sumba Island in the south. Starting from an altitude of about 900 meters, the hike will take you about 2½?4 hours. Be aware that climbing Mount Inerie demands a good physical condition, and the expertise of a local guide who knows about the safe trails and weather conditions.
Besides mountain climbing, the area around Mount Inerie itself has much to offer. Exploring the slope of the mountain in surroundings of lush green trees is refreshing for both body and soul. As in many mountainous areas in Flores that are of high biodiversity, you can also observe the endemic birds and listen to their amusing songs here. If you wish to enrich your Inerie explorations with some cultural experiences, nearby traditional villages such as Gurusina or Bena offer you opportunities to experience the fascinating Ngada culture.
Mount Inerie has not shown any significant activity for centuries. However, in the year 2000, due to small eruptions, a red-colored lake emerged out of the mountain’s crater named Wawomudha. Thus, the new-born lake was called Wawomudha Crater Lake. This spectacular natural phenomenon is located a 1½ hour hike from Ngoranale Village. From Bajawa to Ngoranale it takes about 15–20 minutes (8–10km) by motorbike or car. In Bajawa, you start driving toward the Bajawa market and continue toward Hotel Kembang. There, you turn right in the SMA Regina direction, passing Kantor Kelurahan Susu, and then drive up toward Ngoranale Village.
Kelimutu National Park
The Kelimutu crater lakes are only a small part of the Kelimutu National Park. This fascinating area belongs to the worldwide protected areas and is internationally recognized by the United Nations Environment Program. Due to its unique natural features, its high biodiversity, and cultural heritage, Kelimutu National Park attracts thousands of tourists each year. Numerous hills and mountains (Mount Kelibara is the highest peak at 1,731 m) give this region its characteristic touch and provide a habitat for at least 19 rare, endemic bird species. As in so many places in Flores, traditional architecture, dances, and ikat weaving are still deeply rooted among the local people.
Mount Kelimutu, with its tri-colored crater lakes, is probably the most amazing natural phenomenon in Flores. Beyond that, the ‘steaming mountain’ is also the island’s most famous tempat angker, or mystical, haunted place.
Scientific explanations aside, there are many myths about the origin of Kelimutu. This is one of the reasons why Mount Kelimutu was, and still is a sacred place for the local people. Over the years, the three crater lakes have often changed color. At present, one of the lakes is black-brown, one is green, and one is currently changing from green to a reddish color. A reason may be the varying mineral contents of the water. Another explanation suggests that the changing colors are caused by the neglected ancestral souls.
The first lake is named Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of the ancestors’ souls); the second is named Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (lake of young people’s souls); and the third is called Tiwu Ata Polo (lake of evil spirits). The first and second lakes are situated close together; while the third lake is about 1.5km to the west. Kelimutu is a beautiful place at any time of the day. However, the best time to enjoy this magical place is in the early morning when the clouds haven’t yet covered the view. Many visitors prefer to see the sunrise.
The most popular and convenient starting point to visit Kelimutu is Moni, a village close to the Transflores ‘highway’. Whereas until not too long ago visitors had to hike all the way up to Kelimutu, there is now a paved road to a parking lot where you can enjoy a 30-minute walk through a lush forest full of birdsong, before entering the lake area.
Moni, too, is worth a stay. You can do many nice treks in the fertile surroundings of rice fields, forests, and hills. Relax in the hot springs nearby, look at some fine Lio ikat in the market, or enjoy a performance of local dance and music. Another starting point to Kelimutu, and a good alternative to Moni, is Detusoko village, which is about 33km from Kelimutu.
When talking about East Flores, Kelimutu National Park with its tri-colored crater lakes is definitely the first thing to cross one’s mind. Beyond Kelimutu, there are actually more than twelve volcanoes throughout Flores that are suitable for trekking. Mount Egon is one of them: sitting astride the narrow waist of East Flores, its summit reveals a crater 350m wide and 200m deep. Depending on the season, there is also a lake in the crater. Other small crater lakes can be found on the flanks of Mount Egon. Its 1671m high summit is formed by a lava dome from which billow puffs of smoke emerge.
The hike to the summit takes 3–4 hours, and is well worth the effort considering the absolutely amazing views from the crater rim into the volcano and over the island. Starting out through dry grasslands, you will soon hike through savannah scrubs interspersed with eucalyptus trees. After about two hours you will get a first glimpse of wide-open landscapes. Another hour of hiking brings you to the summit, where you can walk around the rim or even go down towards the seasonally dried out Crater Lake.
The village of Sikka (natar means ‘village’ in the local language), with its pleasant sea view on the south coast, is one of the first places of Portuguese influence and Catholic missionary activity in Flores. Therefore this is a place to take a leap into the past and learn about Sikkanese history, such as the colonial era.
The former center of the Kingdom of Sikka features a big church, which was built with the support of Jesuit priests in 1899. Its inside walls are nicely decorated with local ikat motifs. During the rule of the Sikkanese royal palace, the church was not only a place to hold Holy Communion, but was also used for the inauguration of new kings.
WATU BLAPI MAUMERE
Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
In the 1980s, the villagers – along with the assistance of the German priest, Pater Bollen – established a cultural cooperative called Sanggar Bliran Sina with the goal of preserving and promoting local dance, music, ikat weaving, and other handicrafts.