Indonesia - Flores is more than just Komodo Dragons
Updated: Aug 19
Our main aim was not different from all the other tourists - of course we came to Flores to see the Komodo Dragons. How lucky we were that we also saw many turtles, mantas and a fascinating underwater world! That was already more than we had hoped for.
Before planning our trip we thought of spending much more time on flores. I mean, this island is really still in its development and naturally it seemed to be incredible. But when we further planned we realised that the risk of getting dengue AND malaria is really high especially in rainy season. With dengue, you have the problem everywhere in Southeast Asia. But a high risk of malaria is a bit too much. Since 7 years we do not take any chemical medicine and completely rely on homoeopathics. And as we did not want to risk getting malaria as well, we skipped the idea to travel overland and stay longer in places like Kelimutu, Ende or Maumere. Additionally, the weather is too unpredictable to hike around the famous lakes as well. So we kept this for another time in the dry season when both mosquitos are less active. But basically this is the reason why we only spend 3 nights in Labuanbajo (which ment 2,5 days).
And we realised that mosquitos are active and numerous, especially during sunrise and sunset. Anyway, we had lots of bug spray and looking back we have to say: nothing happened to us. So, after the one day at Komodo National Park we had another full day. And we wanted to explore a bit of the island. So we rented a scooter. Well, or a vehicle that was called a scooter and that looked like a scooter. It was a terrible vehicle. No mirrors, no number plate (which was no problem as we were told) and it felt like we sit on a wooden bench instead of a seat. The front wheel felt like going left and the back wheel like going right. A strange feeling while driving. But we were brave and decided to visit a waterfall. On google maps it looked like being just outside of Labuanbajo.
So we put on bug spray and sunscreen, bought 2 big bottles on water and hit the Trans Flores Highway. Just outside of Labuanbajo, the tourist world ended. Suddenly, we were in the middle of really undevelopped, rural and terrible poor Indonesia. Being in Bali one sometimes can forget that this is a third world country (same for Java). But being in Flores, that is the first thing one is reminded of. We went past ricefields having the hills of Flores right in front of our eyes. Naturally beautiful, but the way people live here and how poor is the country was really shocking. People were superfriendly, children waving and screaming of joy when we passed. Really hearttouching! Just 20 minutes away from Labuanbajo the highway started winding its way up into the mountains. It was going up steeply, sometimes our scooter nearly did not make it. There was jungle vegetation all around us with all the noises. Sometimes cars passed by or some lorries - in front of them were endless hours on a winding road. In nealry all the private cars people were hanging out and being sick. We nearly went as high as 1.000 metres above sea level. The temperature was super pleasant, natur stunning and like this we were driving slowly (due to our scooter) for more than one hour. On a viewpoint we could see the sea and Labuanbajo far in a distance - but on google maps we were just outside Labuanbajo. Well, we got the idea of how big this island is and that it is not really easy to get to all the viewpoints. On Flores you need time and patience to travel. As we were not in a hurry, we went for the adventure and continued. Our plan is to go to the Cunca Rami, a wonderful waterfall on the pictures. But, google maps gave up after half way. We had no phone sign at
all any more. We had downloaded maps.me, a navigation app, but this could also not help us as the card we needed was not available in the detail we needed it. From the roadside we also could not spot a sign leading to the waterfall - but there was one path. We asked a passing car for help. Luckily the driver spoke english and was from Labuanbajo. He told us that the path was leading to the waterfall, it was the only possibility to go there - but impossible with the scooter in rainy season as it was rocky, steep and muddy. He advised us to skip it. So we drove back a little bit and followed the sign of the Cunca Wulang Waterfall. Basically, who cares how the waterfall is called - we wanted to explore a bit of the island, so every nice place was good for us. And it was an interesting experience. There was a new tarred road which went right in the middle of the jungle. No cars, no people, just jungle around us. And the road went like this for about 12 km. It was a bit scarry. On the roadside we saw a huge dead snake and the jungle was making the full a spectrum of jungle noises. Wonderful and frightening at the same time. We felt like 2 stupid european tourists with flipflops lost in the middle of the indonesian wildlife. So we were really happy when we saw quite a neat and tidy little village called Wersawe popping up. It looked like an aid organization has done a pretty good job here. Everything was well kept, people came running towards us, ready to help with huge smiles on their faces. So we relaxed and started to enjoy the jungle even more. We could
park the car here, pay an entrance fee for both of us and a guide offered for free to walk with us to the waterfall. It was not necessary to have the guide, but he offered not to take any money, just to practice english. So it as a good deal for us. It was a nice, easy but superhot and humid hike through the jungle when we crossed over the waters of the Cunca Wulang on a hanging bridge. It was only the guide, us and 2 locals living in a hut near the waterfall - no-one else. Just the nature and lots of water. With the daily rains the waterfall was really massive and the water was very muddy. We did not feel like swimming in it - even less when we heard that on top of the waterfall there might also be crocodiles (why not also below?). so we preferred enjoying the nature and also hiked up on top of the waterfall. It was beautiful.
The guide brought us back to the village, we waved our goodbyes to all the inhabitants (at least it felt like this) and went back to the highway. On the way we found an abondonned catholic church (Flores was once taken by the portugues - and like Bali is a hindu island and
Java a muslim island, Flores is a catholic island) and also the remnants of a hospital and a childrens home. It looked like some severe diseases or the lack of money had marked the end ot this tiny "village". Back on the highway we started our journey back to Labuanbajo. We went down a little bit and spotted a very inviting Mountain Ecolodge on the roadside. That looked like a place for us. And we were right: It is a brandnew ecolodge built by the local community (it is called Mbeliling Mountain Ecolodge). A wonderful project and it belongs to an organisation that promotes ecolodges around the island. It has not seen many western tourists so far and the owners were superfriendly and very informative. We had a wonderful juice on a breathtaking terrasse with the sound of birds all around us. Next time we are on the island, we will come here for a few days to hike and explore the jungle. We can highly recommend it! Very nice place that is supporting the local community and taking great care of nature.
Back we went down the mountains with many breaks to enjoy the views and to give the breaks of our shaky scooter a rest. Clouds started covering the mountains in the meantime and it was getting chilly. But we made it dry, safe and sound to Labuanbajo. Spontanously we decided to drive to the Puri Sands Hotel. We had planned to stay there (before we found the Sunset Hill Guesthouse) and were curious how it looks like. It is outside the town on the beach. It is a nice hotel, but is is a ressort kind of thing. Nice pool, wonderful private beach (the water is too dirty to swim in here due to the proximity to the harbour of Labuanbajo) - but it is the kind of places you can stay as a tourist without getting in touch with the local life.For those who look for this kind of experience - very nice. We were happy we had chosen the Sunset Hill Guesthouse.
We finally ended the day with a perfect sunset on our private balcony - Labuanbajo is famous for coulourful magic sunsets. The first nights the sky was always covered with clouds due to the rainy season, but on our last night we were lucky to experience the magic coulours. Wow! Simply stunning! Later we made a last trip on our rusty scooter to town, enjoyed another vegan dinner that was out of the world (the Meditarranean Restaurant has fantastic indonesian vegan food) and were really sad that our time on Flores already had come to an end. This island is more difficult to travel, it is so much poorer, it is rougher (when you look at the peoples faces, they tell you stories of a hard life) but it is touching in a certain way. And nature is out of this world. Maybe, one day we will come back and explore more. Hopefully.
Next morning we were up early, took our free 2 minute shuttle to the airport and were ready to board our short propeller flight to the newxt island. Where did we fly to? Check this out in our next blog.