If Grant Denyer from Family Feud asked 100 Aussies what they thought ‘Flores’ was, the top 5 answers would probably look something like this:
- Brazillian soccer player
- Something to do with broccoli
- High end perfume
- Spanish flower
- Tropical woodwind instrument
The more curiously minded respondents, of course, would know the true answer; an Indonesian island paradise with adventure potential literally exploding from its coconut husks.
We Are Explorers has up until now focused largely upon Australian microadventures – weekend escapes that are close to home and where skill and budget don’t stand in the way. However, a few weeks ago Skyscanner sent me an email, asking if I’d join them on an exploring mission through Flores and it’s surrounding islands.
Is a frog’s ass water tight? It wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make.
This 5-part article series should make it abundantly clear that just a few hours away on a cheap flight from Australia – and 50 mins from Bali – you can touch down in one the most epic places on Earth that you’ve probably never heard of.
To kick off, here are our top 8 Wild Experiences to be sniffed out in Flores:
#1 Sunrise at Kemilutu Volcano
A short midnight hike from the car park in Kelimutu National Park you’ll witness something utterly remarkable from the summit. As the sun slowly spills it’s light over the horizon, illuminated beneath your feet emerge three magnificent volcanic lakes that carry a colour pallet no artist could ever recreate accurately.
It’s might mean waking up at an ungodly hour to get there, but my god is it worth it.
Oh, and keep an eye out for the Kelimutu Cowboy, he’s in the (unofficial) Guinness World Record Book as Earth’s happiest human.
#2 Wild Swimming & Canyoning at Cunca Wulang Waterfall
No adventure is complete without a dip in nature’s bathtub.
Find a secluded one in the middle of a jungle and throw in a 60ft waterfall, canyoning, cascades and an array of rock jumps and you’re pushing the ‘Top 10’ status.
Approximately 30km’s drive east of Labuan Bajo (the area’s major hub), the road enters a thick jungle canopy at Wersawe Village before becoming an undulating dirt road designed for 4×4 trucks and dirtbike only. You’ll pass bushes with fruit that’s sweeter than honey with zesty green leaves that you can actually munch on if you pick up a guide from the village! Eventually, this track hits a dead end, so it’s time to trek. Don’t forget good shoes and plenty of water, because you’re going to sweat like a Mexican racehorse.
#3 Get a Selfie with a Komodo Dragon
We’ve all heard the tales and probably seen these monsters gulping down a water buffalo on Planet Earth, but until you come face to face with one it’s hard to appreciate how incredibly prehistoric these creatures are. They’re bloody huge and appear relatively docile (perhaps a symptom of hearing Attenborough’s voice)
Grab a local boat from Labuan Bajo and head to Komodo National Park. One hour later you’ll pull into Loh Liang on Komodo Island and begin a guided walk from one of the rangers through the dragon zone.
The only other place in the world where you can also see dragons in the wild is neighbouring Rinca Island, but apparently they’re smaller! We’d also advise maintaining a comfortable distance for this selfie.
#4 Climb Padar Island
Boasting the lookout of all lookouts, the view from the top of this island is one of the most jaw-bashingly beautiful in the region. It’s slog getting but worth every slip, slide and broken toe #thongs.
You’ll get a sense of the plethora of islands that make up Flores (most of them seemingly untouched), as well as the rich array of colours that include the different beaches – some white, some black, and some even pink!
#5 Scuba Diving
Widely recognised as one of the best diving & snorkelling locations in the world, Komodo Island National Park has 30 official sites for you submersify yourself in. My favourite of all was Batu Balong; it felt like I’d been dumped inside the aquarium section of Noah’s ark. There was so much to see I couldn’t actually take it all in!
Depending on your time and budget you can book day trips or live aboard, but either way expect to see more fish and coral than you thought possible, and if you’re lucky some giant Manta Ray – they’re 7 metres wide, no biggie.
#6 Koka Beach
Picture it: You’re driving along a road that weaves through tropical, monkey riddled valleys; passing towering mountains and volcanoes, dodging falling coconuts and sunburn. You drop further towards sea-level and pop out of the jungle to a beach that makes Bondi look like Chinese river mouth.
A double-coved white-sand paradise with not another soul’s towel on it. “Get your own bloody beach!” you’d rightfully shout to any lost fool who dare lay foot on it.
Ladies and Gents, welcome to Koka Beach.
#7 Pink Beach
Yeah, it’s actually pink. The colour comes from a microscopic organism in the sand that has an incredibly camp, reddish-pink shell on it called Foraminifera.
The place is an awesome stop off after the Komodo dragon trek with some amazing snorkelling options just off the beach.
Sadly though, the vibrant colour is fading fast because dim-wits from around the world are bottling it up and taking it home with them.
God-bless Lightroom hey?
#8 Waerebo Village
Tucked away in the cloud forests of Western Flores is a mystical village like nothing you would have seen before. 108kms from Labuan Bajo, the settlement comprises 7 huge bamboo/grass huts you can sleep in, providing a fascinating and unique insight into the vibrant culture of the Manggarri people.
It’s a steep one day trek to get there which is brilliant because only the more hardcore travellers embark on this trip, so during the off season you might find you’ll have a hut all to yourself.
Flores completely blew me away. I also couldn’t believe how close it is to Bali – 50mins to be precise. See for yourself how cheap and accessible Flores is from Australia!