Flying into Flores, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands off the east coast of Java, Indonesia, I did something I never do. I took one of those cheesy photos out the plane window.
I couldn’t help it. The islands dotted off the coast of Flores are breathtaking. One in particular I couldn’t stop staring at; a perfect splice of green shaped like a smile, hovering over an aqua orb of coral reefs that bled out into a limitless blue ocean.
I was transfixed.
So much so that when we reached our AirBnB pad in Labuan Bajo (the port town on Flores’ west coast that serves as a base for visitors venturing out on dives and boat trips), I showed our host, Will, the photo. He started laughing. As fate would have it, he was currently planning to build a small hotel on that very island. Not only that, he knew the girl who was opening a hotel next to his the very next week…
Fast forward a couple of days and we’re pulling up to Seraya Hotel on a wooden boat we’d rented to explore the islands the previous day. We can’t quite believe we’re there, on that little amethyst nugget that seemed like a mirage from above.
THE LOW DOWN
This is how it goes at Seraya Hotel. You walk down the 50-metre jetty, over the sand to the seashell-encrusted check-in desk. You’re led by Rozi, the beautiful, young, curly-haired Greek owner, past the pool and over to one of the 15 white-washed wooden villas with their palm-thatched roofs. You put your bag down in the frangipani-scented room and take a quick wash in their outdoor shower. Then don your cozzies and grab one of their custom-made printed beach towels, mosy on over to the pool with a glass of chilled local rosé in hand (believe it or not there is a more-than-decent Indonesian rosé they serve called Plaga Rosé) and while away the afternoon doing, well, nothing much at all.
Until it’s time to eat, of course. Seraya Hotel offers half- an full-board packages. Their breakfasts are very simple affairs (basic omelette with toast and a fruit platter), but the dinner we had was pure deliciousness. A tomato-based spicy seafood soup that took us straight back to summer nights in Santorini, followed by lemon, herb and olive oil flash fried mahi mahi with hand-cut chips and salad, and a dessert of the most delectable Greek dessert of Lokma – which is basically like an insanely soft, melt-in-your-mouth doughnut.
All this enjoyed in their stunning dining room which makes the most of the natural materials on offer (think huge spherical lanterns crafted from pieces of driftwood, a bar made from one of their old boats that sank during the hotel’s construction, coral and palm leaf decorations and floaty white muslin curtains hanging from the rafters), and is accompanied by a soundtrack of tasteful chill-out music.
Seraya Hotel is the kind of place you could happily spend just one night, or ten. We spent out 24 hours there lazing by the pool, watching the startlingly beautiful sunset from the top of the hill behind their property (by now their sundowner deck should have been completed up there), and eating and drinking at their alfresco restaurant. We were in bed by 9pm, but I’d advise those with more stamina to stay up late, stargaze and take a midnight dip, skinny style, in the warm-as-a-bath ocean.
Getting to bed before most toddlers, however, meant we were up at 5.30am to watch the sun rise right in front of our villa. Afterwards we snorkelled over their coral reef (they provide guests with masks and flippers) where we saw enormous star fish, parrot fish, huge schools of tiny silver fish, butterfly fish and more.
If you were to stay on longer, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a week or more. Day trips are offered to Komodo and Rinca Islands to search for Komodo dragons, to Kalong where at sunset you can witness thousands of flying foxes make their way into the forest, to Pink Beach and to Manta Point, where you swim with dozens of elegant rays floating playfully around you.
Seraya Hotel also offers yoga classes and massage on the island by advance request, and are about to open an on-site dive centre.
Back on the mainland if you’re left with time to kill before your flight out of Labuan Bajo, have a bite to eat at Warung Mama. Choose between yellow, wild and white rice, then from their display of Indonesian dishes including beef rendang, spicy eggplant and braised water spinach – all for 50 cents each. Simple Indonesian food at its best, with delicious fresh juices to boot.
CLICK HERE TO DISCOVER THE BEST WAY TO SPEND A DAY ON GILI MENO
Seraya Island Hotel and Resort
Cost: From 105 Euro per day per person, half board.
Getting there: Seraya Island Hotel provides transfers on their sweet blue wooden boat to and fro Labuan Bajo, about a 35-minute boat ride away.
Garuda flies from Denpasar, Bali, to Flores daily, from $250.
Phone: +62 821 464 713 62