Flores is four islands east of Java and is in the province Nusa Tenggara Timur. Like the rest of Nusa Tenggara Timur, Flores is predominately Christian and less developed than the island of Java. Flores does not have a capital but the three largest cities, from East to West, are Maumere, Ende, and Labuan Bajo (the later also being referred to simply as Bajo). Major attractions include the Kelimutu lakes, 17 Islands National Marine Reserve, and access to Pulau Komodo and Pulau Rinca (also spelled Rinja).
Our general approach to the trip was to fly into Ende, travel Flores East to West, and depart via Labuan Bajo. The East-West traverse allowed us to put our more relaxing activities at Kanawa – off of Labuan Bajo – at the end of the trip. We would have liked to have visited Maumere, but our best flight option landed us in Ende.
All of our plans were made, at least in their initial form, with Lonely Planet Indonesia 2009. It was a good guide. We were also helped considerably by a man named Frans. Frans works for the tourism office and teaches SMP (?) English. We met him by chance in Ende, and he turned out to be a big help. He arranged transportation for us multiple times, provided transportation himself in another instance, gave many recommendations, and provided advice. His recommendations were always honest and helpful, and his information was never wrong. From his work in the tourism office, he has contacts all over Flores, so he was able to help us on all stages of our journey. If you ask me, Frans is Flores. If you travel to the island, consider contacting him. A Peace Corps Indonesia Volunteer should have his cell phone number.
By all accounts we gathered before departure, we were visiting Flores during the rainy season. We say hardly any evidence of this. We had mostly good weather, and parts of Flores’s interior – Flores is not that large anyways – appeared dry. Our only encounters with rain occurred during travel, and this did not seem to present a problem. Landslides and rockfalls slowed things down between Bajawa and Bajo, but these partial roadblocks were only minor inconveniences. Overall, infrastructure and travel in Flores was much better than our group was led to believe it would be beforehand.
Below is our itinerary, followed by descriptions and comments for items in the itinerary.
Dec 18 – Travel to Denpasar airport
Travel: Public bus from Ketapang ferry terminal in Banyuwangi, Java to Denapasar, Bali. Rp 40.000-60.000 (?) per person. ~6 hours (arrived ~0100h the next morning).
Public buses between Ketapang and Denpasar run frequently between 0700h-~2000h. The cost of a public bus is around Rp40.000-60.000 (?), and the travel timr from Ketapang to the Denpasar terminal (including the ferry) is around 6 hours. Buses to Denpasar originate in Surabaya and Jember.
Dec 19 – Flying into Ende
Travel: Taxi from Denpasar terminal to Denpasar International Airport. Fixed fare Rp 250.000 per taxi (?). ~1 hour.
There is no public transit from the terminal to the airport – at least at the hours we were there – so you must take a cab. We got a fixed fare for Rp 250.000 (?) per cab, which we guessed would be about the same if we used a metered taxi. The number for BlueBird Taxis in Bali is 0361-701111 (Note: this is not the same number for service in Surabaya). The ride should be between 45 minutes to an hour.
Lodging: A few comfy chairs outside of the 24/7 Starbucks inside the Denpasar airport.
The Denpasar airport isn’t a bad place to spend the night. Starbucks and other shops are open 24hrs, and comfortable seating is available. Security and actual airport operations open up around 0600h or 0700h.
Travel: 1015h – TransNusa flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo to Ende. Check times and fares.
Rinjani and Tambora should be visible from the left side of your plane during the flight from Denpasar to Bajo. Get a seat on that side of the plane for the best view. There’s no reason to believe TransNusa is un-safe, but check-in was a little Helter-Skelter. All the ticketing and desk work was done with paper and pen, no computers. Thus, the check-in process took a while, multiple people were assigned to the same seat, and one of our bags got left in Labuan Bajo. None of these problems created major difficulties, but be prepared. Also note that Denpasar’s airport security is more strict than Surabaya or Jakarta’s for domestic flights. Certain items that may be okay in the cabin over Java (such as knives) will have to be checked for flights out of Denpasar. (We may have learned from experience).
Travel: Hired car outside Ende airport to take us around to different hotels. Rp 90.000 (?) for the group. Distance ~5km. Alternatively, bimos can transport you to the main parts of Ende for Rp 5.000 if you’re luggage isn’t too bulky.
We hired a car to drive us around from the airport to different hotels. We ended up staying at Dwi Putra, the first hotel we were taken to. It was simple and cheap. You might be able to do better in Ende if you look around, but Ende isn’t a big place. Dwi Putra has a restaurant downstairs, but we never ate there.
Lodging: Dwi Putra Hotel. 2 rooms, 4 total beds. Rp 120.000 per room.
Dec 20 – Around Ende
Activity: Exploring Ende
This was our day to get settled in Flores, explore Ende, and decide the moves for the rest of our trip. Travel websites have many suggestions for activities around the town, but we primarily stuck close to the port and market. There are beaches, but they are filthy near the center of town. One part of the group went for a longer walk and found cleaner sands. Another part of the group negotiated with some fisherman to rent a canoe for the afternoon. Pulau Ende, located a few kilometers off the coast, also sounded like an attractive option to us, but we were never able to make the logistics work. Ask around for the ferry schedule to and from the island.
Dec 21 – To Moni, Kelimutu National Park
Travel: Private car from Ende to Moni. Rp 350.000 for the group of 6.
Lodging: Saoria Bungalo. 2 rooms, 2 total beds, porch, shared bathroom. Rp 100.000 per room per night.
We hired Frans to take us from Ende to Moni, the launching point for Kelimutu.
We stayed at Saoria Bungalo off the main road a few kilometers outside of Moni. The bungalows were cheap, nice enough, and had good porches with a nice view. The walk into Moni for dinner options was very easy. We also found a nice waterfall across from the Rainbow Cafe. From the bungalows, you can see the turn-off to Kelimutu.
Dec 22 – Kelimutu
Travel: Private car from Moni to Kelimutu Lakes. Rp 50.000/person = Rp 300.000 per group.
Activity: Kelimutu National Park. Entrance fee = ~Rp 8.000 per person + Rp 15.000 (?) camera fee.
Travel: Walk down from Kelimutu to Moni
Frans drove us from Moni to Kelimutu. He gave us the normal price of Rp 50.000 per person. This is the rate that has been standardized according to Lonely Planet and Frans. Personally, I would be inclined to turn-down rides and walk the route if I could do it again. It would be a long, uphill walk, but it wouldn’t be impossible. The road is paved the whole way, and thus well marked. Hiring a car or bimo makes it easier to catch the sunset from the top, but you still need to leave early. Most people choose to take a ride to the top of Kelimutu and walk down. This is what we did. For the ascent or decent, you can choose to follow the asphalt the whole way, or you can take two shortcuts through fields and villages. We were already privy to one shortcut, so we took it. The entire walk down took a couple of hours.
The entrance fee to Kelimutu for foreigner’s is around Rp50.000. The local price is Rp1.500. Our Peace Corps ID’s didn’t convince the ticket-seller to give us the full local price, but he did knock it down to Rp 8.000 per person. There was an additional charge for cameras
Kelimutu itself is nice. It requires some walking, and the two main trails are well taken care of. There’s isn’t a lot of exploring to be done. There’s a nice viewing platform at the top form which you can see all three lakes. We hung out there for a couple of hours and drank coffee.
Dec 23 – To Riung
Our travel from Moni to Riung was somewhat involved, but we could have made it easier:
Travel: Public mini-bus from Moni to Ende terminal. Rp 30.000 per person. 2 hours (?).
Travel: Public bimo from Ende terminal to central Ende. Approx 5km; Rp 5.000 per person. 5 min.
Travel: Private car from Ende to Riung. Rp 450.000 flat fee for a driver for 1 day. 4 hours.
Lodging: Tamri Beach Homestay – Small house, 2 rooms, common area; bathrooms outside. Rp 75.000 per room per night.
Comments on travel from Ende to Riung: Our next plans were to head to Riung, a small fishing village on the north coast of Flores. Our combination of travel options from Moni to Riung was the one logistical mistake we made in Flores. We planned to take public transit the entire way. We started with a bus out of Moni to Ende. This cost us Rp 30.000 per person and was surprisingly comfortable. Our particular bus was not crowded, and there was no need for passengers to be piled onto the roof – a common site in Flores. This bus, however, did not take us all the way to Ende; to get back to the city center, we had to take another bimo for Rp 5.000 per person. Onece we got to Ende, we had to find the terminal with busses that departed to Riung. Because Riung is small, public transport options in are limited. Various sources told us the only bus to Riung departed between 1100h and 1300h. Considering the projected cost of public transit and the estimated travel time, we decided we would be better off hiring another car. We had to pay the day rate of Rp450.000 as a group. We could have chosen this option from the very beginning and arranged to be picked up in Moni for the same price. Had we done this, the cost of a private car would have been equal to all public transit costs. As we did it, the private car was a little more expensive than public transit, but the car was much more comfortable and got us from Ende to Riung in only 4 or 5 hours.
Comments on Tamri Beach Homestay, Riung: We were essentially able to rent a small house that included two bed rooms and a sitting room for a total of Rp 150.000 per night (each room was Rp 75.000 per night). Two bathrooms were located outside. The family that ran the guest house was friendly and let us use their kitchen on Christmas morning.
Dec 24 – Riung and 17 Islands National Park
Activity: 17 Islands National Park. Private boat and guide = Rp 450.000 for the group. Park entrance fee = Rp 1.500 per person (local price) + ~Rp 20.0000 (?) camera fee.
Lodging: [see above]
Comments on 17 Islands National Park: The National Park is what drew us to Riung. Lonely Planet’s suggestion for a boat driver was away when we called, but he recommended another friend for us. We arranged a deal for Rp 450.000 for the group for the entire day. We cruised around several islands, saw some large bats, snorkeled, and walked around a few of the islands in the national park.
Dec 25 – Christmas in Riung
Activity: Lazy in Riung.
Lodging: [see above]
Transport out of Riung was not available on Christmas Day – we were not even able to get a hold of a Muslim driver willing to take us. We spent the day at the homestay cooking pancakes and recovering from the arak that the host family generously offered us the night before.
Dec 26 – Travel to Labuan Bajo
Travel: Public bus from Riung to Bajawa. Rp 30.000 per person. 3 hours (?).
Travel: Travel van from Bajawa to Ruteng. Rp 60.000 per person. 6 hours (?).
Travel: Travel van from Ruteng to Labuan Bajo. Rp 60.000 per person. 6 hours (?).
Lodging: Hotel Mutiara. 2 rooms, 2 total beds, AC. Rp 130.000 per room for 3 people (Rp 100.000 for 1 or 2 people).
Outside of hiring a private car, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to get from Riung or Ende to Labuan Bajo. There is one daily bus from Bajawa to Riung, but it departs Bajawa at 0600h. The only bus out of Riung also leaves at 0600h, so there’s no way you can make it from Riung to Bajawa in time to catch the bus to Bajo. No matter what mode of transportation you find, the trip will take a while. I’m not sure why we didn’t hire a car – perhaps it was because nobody was willing to take us that far – but we took a series of travel vans that we knew would be available between Bajawa, Ruteng, and Labuan Bajo. My advice would be to check your guidebooks and ask around for the best way to get to Labuan Bajo after you are already in Flores. You might also want to check out things to do in Ruteng and stay there a night to split up the trip.
Dec 27 – Jan 02 – Kanawa
Travel: 0800h – Shuttle from Kanawa to L. Bajo. 1200H – Shuttle from L. Bajo to Kanawa. Free for Kanawa guests.
Activities: Komodo (Komodo Island, Manta Point, Batu Bolong), swimming, beach relaxing, Frisbee, volley ball, scuba diving.
Lodging: Kanawa bungalos. 2 bungalows. 2 total beds. Rp 180.000 per night per bungalow.
Jan 02 – Check out of Kanawa and back to L. Bajo
Travel: Complimentary shuttle back to Bajo
Lodging: Matahari [same as before]
Jan 03 – Fly from L. Bajo to Denpasar