If you’re not a die-hard diver, chances are the name Flores won’t ring any bells for you. But it should – especially if you’re on the hunt for the next undiscovered destination.
This mini archipelago in eastern Indonesia, that’s just an 80-minute flight from Bali, offers everything anyone wanting an escape from reality might crave: deserted islands and beaches, komodo dragons, manta rays and more exotic wildlife, traditional weaving villages, some of the world’s best diving and hiking spots and much more – all without Bali’s crowds. If that’s not enough to convince you, our ten reasons to visit this enchanted destination surely will.
1 Komodo spotting
Flores is renowned for being the world’s only home of the Komodo dragons, scattered throughout the islands that make up Komodo National Park in western Flores where they’ve lived for millions of years. Komodo is the big ticket island, but take a one-hour boat trip from Labuan Bajo, Flores’ ramshackle harbour town where the airport is, to Rinca Island for prettier landscape and fewer crowds. Hire a guide when you arrive to help you find and learn about these prehistoric two-metre giants, the world’s largest lizard that have more than 50 deadly strains of bacteria in their saliva. See peramatour.com.
2 Sunset with the fruit bats
When you’re done dragon hunting, ask your boat driver to whiz you over to Kalong Island, or Fruit Bat Island. Here at sunset thousands of flying foxes scatter overhead in search of fruit for dinner. A moment improved only by a dip in the ocean.
3 Pink beach
If you spend the night on your boat (and you absolutely should), start the next morning with a visit to Pink Beach. The sand on this island is turned pink by the red coral reef surrounding it, making it the perfect place to bask in the morning rays and to spend a blissful hour snorkelling amongst the tropical fish and bright chunks of coral.
4 Swimming with manta rays
Putter over to Manta Point, an endangered manta ray hot spot, then plunge into the water with your snorkel and wait for the playful creatures to emerge out of the deep blue. They can be up to five metres wide, so it can be a slightly overwhelming experience at first. But once you remember that they lack the poisonous tail spikes of their sting ray cousins, you can simply enjoy their otherworldly elegance as they whirl about below you.
5 Divine diving
Komodo National Park is one of the most diverse marine habitats on earth, and is also home to sea turtles, whales, dolphins, dugongs and much more. If diving’s your jam, organize an adventure to one of the world-class dive sites through one of the many dive shops in Labuan Bajo. Maumere Bay in East Flores is also great for diving, and less crowded.
Just 15 minutes’ drive from Labuan Bajo you’ll find Batu Cermin Cave, crammed full of stalactites and stalagmites, sparkling crystals, tiny bats and spiders. Visit at the right time of day (usually between 9 and 10am) and light will stream through a gap in the rocks and cause a glittering light show on the mirror-like rock surfaces.
7 Island hopping
For an unforgettable experience, spend a night on one of the islands off Flores. On Kanawa, you’ll find pared-down beach huts and great snorkelling. For a more upmarket experience, Seraya is smattered with 15 wooden beach bungalows, has a saltwater pool right on to the sugary white sand beach, fantastic Grecian-inspired cuisine and a jaw-dropping sunset viewpoint right on the island’s peak. See kanawaislandresort.com; serayahotel.com.
8 Traditional villages and hot springs
Head south to Bena, a traditional village encircled by jungle and consisting of just two rows of traditional thatched-roof houses and a pair of shrines, where you’ll get a taste of life as untouched by the modern world. Hike from here to the magical Malanage Hot Springs.
Flores is famous for its traditional naturally dyed, hand-woven ikat weavings, with each area specialising in its own distinctive colours and motifs, including lizards, serpents and intricate floral patterns that are handed down through the generations. For the finest ikat, head to Ende and Maumere coastal towns.
10 Crater lakes
Behold Flores’ most instagrammable locale: Mount Kelimutu. Hike up the volcano at dawn to see the sun rise over its stunning tri-coloured crater lakes, the colours of which vary from green to blue to red depending on the mineral content of the water. Remember to be respectful: locals believe the lakes are sacred and that the souls of the dead rest inside them.
THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED HERE