A 400-kilometre-long island in Indonesia, which has recently become more accessible to travellers through new Garuda Indonesia Explore flights from Denpasar, Flores is the new Bali. Home of the Komodo dragon, it is rich in natural and cultural wonders. There’s plenty to discover and the good news is there are few pesky souvenir sellers. So pack your surf board and sense of adventure. Here are our top 10 things to do in Flores.
1Explore Labuan Bajo
A small town on the west coast of Flores, Labuan Bajo is a laid-back gateway to the region.
There are a few good restaurants, such as Café Selini and the multilevel Treetops Café, which has harbour views and tables made from restored teak from old fishing boats.
For a dash of adventure, crawling through the Batu Cermin Cave, which has stalagmites and stalactites and plenty of bats hanging on the ceiling.
2Cruise the Flores Sea on a Bugis schooner
A 25-metre Bugis schooner, Plataran Felicia has two master cabins and four twins. It’s a luxurious way to cruise around the islands and bays. The “wow factor” comes at dusk when the setting sun polishes the glassy bay with a golden glow.
3Komodo dragon hunting
Komodo Island is part of the World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and voted as one of our planet’s “Seven New Wonders of Nature”.
The Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are prehistoric lizards that evolved through hunting 300-kilogram dwarf stegadons or pygmy elephants.
The komodos populate several islands off the western tip of Flores in eastern Indonesia.
The chain of islands around Maumere Bay is ideal for discovering remote beaches and villages. Deep sea fishing is a popular activity.
There are beautiful beaches and good snorkelling around many islands near Labuan Bajo including Seraya, Kanawa, Bidadari and the chain of 17 Riung islands.
5Discover the wonders of the ocean
Portuguese traders and missionaries who came to Flores in the 16th century named the region after its amazing underwater world of coral, fish and marine life.
Some of the world’s best diving is to be found in Komodo National Park. There are over 1000 species of fish and more than 350 reef-building corals.
6Delve into history at Bung Karno museum
The former home of Sukarno, now a museum, Bung Karno in Ende is where Sukarno, who was Indonesia’s first president, successfully led the nation’s struggle for independence from the Dutch colonial authorities.
7Watch the sunrise on Mount Kelimutu
According to local legend, Mount Kelimutu is the final resting place for departed souls.
The colour of the water in the three lakes, located on the crest of the same volcano, changes between blue, green, black and red.
A winding mountain drive leads to Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge. The lakes are a solid hike up steps to the viewing platform where the sunrise is magical.
8Visit Saga Traditional Village
The village is built on the side of a hill and there is some steep climbing involved. The children are delightful and the villagers are friendly.
Two clans of the Lio people live harmoniously in the village and most of the villagers are Roman Catholics.
9Sample local food
Foodies will find plenty of new tastes to sample. Local dishes are enhanced with turmeric, lemongrass, chilli and lime and there’s plenty of seafood.
Eating out is cheap and the local markets are an adventure. The Catholic nun at Pangan Lokal (Traditional Food Centre) in Ende runs a restaurant and school to teach girls from poor families how to become cooks.
It’s a great way to taste local food and help a child in need. Of all the things to do in Flores, I wouldn’t miss this one.
10Discover weaving traditions
Flores has diverse textile traditions, from the cultures of Bajawa in the west, Ende in central Flores, and Sikka in the east.
Ancestral traditions have been influenced by both Catholicism and Islam. Most textiles are handmade from organic natural dyes and patterns are geometrical.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Garuda Indonesia
Garuda’s new Explore fleet of ATR72-600 aircraft now fly to untouched areas in eastern Indonesia previously unreachable by commercial flight. Tropical destinations now accessible include Labuan Bajo (the gateway to Pulau Komodo) and Pulau Ende, where Mount Kelimutu, a volcano with three crater lakes filled with water of different colours, is a little-known gem.
Going surfing? Garuda has a complimentary sports equipment allowance of 23kg. You can lug along equipment such as surfboards, golfs clubs or diving gear at no extra charge.
Garuda offers immigration on-board service on all flights from Sydney, a convenient service that allows passengers to avoid long queues at immigration.
In 2013, Garuda Indonesia was awarded ‘The World’s Best Economy Class’ by SkyTrax and ‘Best in Region: Asia and Australasia’ by APEX and ‘Rising Star Carrier of the Year’ by Payload Asia.