An Insider’s Guide to Exploring Flores & Komodo

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world. To observe them in the wild, a trip to Flores and Komodo in Southern Indonesia is a must. After your first encounter, you’ll want to stick around to discover what else Komodo National Park and Flores have to offer.

Photo © iStock.com/joakimbkk

Exploring Flores

Bajawa 

Flores is a fantastic destination for adventure junkies. For hiking, Bajawa in the central highlands is the base for travelers to organize challenging two to four-hour treks up pyramid-shaped Mt. Inerie volcano. Ask your guide to start your hike early, so you don't miss the magic of the sun slowly rising from behind the hills. 

The mountains surrounding the town are dotted with waterfalls and hot springs to explore, making Bajawa a fantastic destination on your Flores itinerary.

Catch the sunrise over the tri-colored Kelimutu volcano crater lakes, which is easily one of Flores’ highlights and a rewarding experience - but be prepared to brave the early morning cold.

Crater lakes of Kelimutu Volcano on Flores. Photo Credit: iStock.com/joaimbkk

Culture and Etiquette on Flores

You'll feel like you have stepped back in time when you explore the traditional villages of Flores, and get a glimpse of life with minimal modern amenities.

Villagers typically practice animism (a belief that objects, places and creatures possess a distinct spiritual essence), sometimes alongside Christianity, and animal sacrifices during ceremonies are common. 

It’s important to be respectful of the villagers' customs and beliefs and, in particular, show respect to the elders. Interacting with the locals is truly rewarding when respect is reciprocated. 

Where to Stay

Accommodation is plentiful across Flores, especially in the town of Labuan Bajo. Spend the night in one of the traditional villages (such as Wae Rebo), to gain a better understanding of local life. This can easily be organized by hiring a car and driver from Labuan Bajo or Ruteng, or it can be done independently by using local transport.

Many of these traditional villages are quite isolated, and some hiking may be involved to get to them. However, the experience of peaceful village life is well worth the effort.

Spend the evening eating local food under a sky full of stars, before settling down for a comfortable sleep in a traditional hut.

Traditional Houses in the Wologai Village near Kelimutu. Photo Credit: iStock.com/Danaan Andrew

Komodo Island

Komodo, which shares its name with the largest species of lizard, isn't the only island where the creatures can be observed; they can also be spotted on Rinca Island.

Both islands can be visited on an organized boat trip from Labuan Bajo on Flores. Trips are typically combined with other attractions, such as Pink Beach, Padar Island and Manta Point.

A park ranger, armed with a stick, will take you trekking to observe the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat.

Tip: Menstruating women or visitors with fresh wounds should notify the ranger, as lizards are very quick to smell blood, and will immediately think of food.

Attacks are rare, but precautions are necessary. During our visit, the Komodo dragons didn't seem to be at all concerned with our presence, and looked very chilled.

Komodo dragon at Komodo National Park. Photo Credit: iStock.com/Andrey Gudkov

Padar Island

The views from the summit of Padar Island are nothing short of spectacular, and making the trek is very rewarding. Wear sturdy shoes for the short, 30-minute hike on the dust and gravel-lined path.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Pristine waters, rich marine life and healthy corals make Komodo National Park one of the most popular diving and snorkeling spots in Indonesia.

Sharks, manta rays and turtles can easily be spotted at several sites including Batu Bolong – an aquarium-like reef that's popular with divers and snorkelers.

Getting There

Flights to Labuan Bajo from nearby islands in Indonesia are frequent. Operators also run multi-day boat trips from Lombok to Labuan Bajo, so you can stop at different islands on the way. 

The diversity of Flores makes it an excellent destination, not only for adventure-seekers and marine enthusiasts, but also for those looking to explore Indonesia’s many cultures.

Tourists accessing the wharf at Labuan Bajo. Photo Credit: iStock.com/Photoimagesnz

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