Flores: From Maumere to Komodo

66 comments
Asia, Indonesia
Maumere at Dusk

Maumere at Dusk

As the propeller plane flew over the eastern part of the island of Sumbawa – Flores’ big neighbor to the west – Mount Sangeang Api emerged from the Flores Sea, puffing grey smoke from its lava dome. Two weeks earlier the volcano erupted and spewed volcanic ash to the sky which then traveled eastward, forcing the closure of the Komodo National Park in the western fringes of Flores and canceling flights to and from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Minutes later the plane made its last sharp turn towards Maumere with the view of rugged mountain ridges hugging the blue Maumere Gulf, while the towering hills and mountains of Pulau Besar – literally ‘big island’ – across the gulf slowly disappeared from sight. The airport was small and later we learned from our local guide and driver that our flight was the last one arriving to Maumere that day. It was only 4 pm.

With 75,000 residents Maumere was the biggest town on Flores. However despite its meager size compared to the towns in Java, the residents proudly boasted Pope John Paul II’s visit to Maumere in 1992 – the smallest town ever visited by a pope, purportedly. Not surprisingly the majority of Florenese are Roman Catholics, a remnant from the long Portuguese rule on the island from the 16th century until 1854 when the Dutch effectively took control of Flores. But it was only five years later that Lisbon officially ceded the island to the Dutch when the Treaty of Lisbon was signed by both governments.

It was José Joaquim Lopes Lima, the governor of Flores and Timor who sold the island to the Dutch along with other smaller islands amidst financial difficulties his administration grappled with, an act he did without the consent of Lisbon. The Dutch, in return, ceded their control of Maubara, Ambeno and the island of Atauro to the Portuguese – a small exchange from the Dutch side compared to what they obtained.

Sikka's Wooden Church

Sikka’s Wooden Church

Rugged Eastern Flores

Rugged Eastern Flores

Rice Terraces, Detusoko

Rice Terraces, Detusoko

Macadamia on A Road Side

Macadamia (or Candlenut?) on A Road Side

Florenese Coffee

Florenese Coffee

After driving us from the airport to our beachfront hotel, past beautiful old Portuguese churches, Dino Lopez, our resourceful guide and driver, suggested us to have grilled fish for dinner.

“I’ve already fallen in love with Flores,” James spontaneously expressed his feeling to us.

“Slowly,” Dino said and chuckled.

Back in 2012 images of Flores, an island in the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara, first caught my attention. Contrary to what most people thought of it as a deserted far-flung corner of Indonesia, covered in anything but endless arid steppes, the images confirmed otherwise. A friend introduced me to his uncle, a native Florenese, over Facebook to whom I asked about the island’s most recommended places to visit. However it took another two years for me to finally make the trip.

Over the next seven days Flores constantly amazed and enthralled us in so many ways. For an island with only 2 million inhabitants who speak five different languages with more than 60 dialects, whose fertile soils where almost everything can grow – from coffee, orange, cocoa, macadamia, cashew, vanilla to clove – are a gift from the island’s 14 active volcanoes, where rice is grown at terraces more majestic and breathtaking than the ones in Bali and tastes better than those grown in Java, where the whimsical nature of the ever-changing colors of the three mountain lakes of Kelimutu is complemented by the strange natural phenomenon of beaches littered with blue pebbles near Ende, Flores is truly one magical place among the endless chain of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands.

In the following weeks join me in a journey through words and images covering everything from the historical village of Sikka Natar, the unique natural phenomenon of Kelimutu, the eclectic traditional villages of Wogo and Bena, the vast expanse of Manggarai rice terraces, the fast-changing fishing village of Labuan Bajo, to the islands of Komodo and Rinca where the notorious Komodo dragons roamed freely surrounded by seas endowed with underwater wonders. Flores has wildly and genuinely exceeded our expectations.

Buffalo Horns, Bena Village

Buffalo Horns, Bena

Traditional Houses, Wogo Village

Traditional Houses, Wogo

Mount Ebulobo at Sunrise

Mount Ebulobo at Sunrise

Mist-Covered Crater of Mount Wawomudha

Mist-Covered Crater of Wawomudha

The Near-Perfect Cone of Mount Inerie

The Near-Perfect Cone of Mount Inerie

The Southern Beaches, Near Ende

The Southern Beaches, Near Ende

Lontar (Sugar Palm) Tree, from Which Comes Tuak, An Alcoholic Drink Essential for Florenese

Lontar (Sugar Palm) Tree, from Which Comes Tuak, An Alcoholic Drink Essential for Florenese

Rana Mese Crater Lake

Ranamese Crater Lake

Undulating Verdant Hills and Mountains of Manggarai

Undulating Verdant Hills and Mountains of Manggarai

A Lone Boat at Sunset, Labuan Bajo

A Lone Boat at Sunset, Labuan Bajo

The Magical Sunset at Labuan Bajo

Surreal Sunset, Labuan Bajo

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

66 thoughts on “Flores: From Maumere to Komodo”

    • Thank you, Sue. It’s one of the most breathtaking views of Flores. You should consider visiting this island too when you go to Indonesia one day. It’s perfect for those who love culture and adventure.

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    • Sunset is also one of my favorite times of a day as everything changes color into shades of gold. Of all places in Indonesia that I’ve been to western Flores has one of the most magnificent sunsets.

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  1. This is so amazing ……I lived and worked in Flores in 2003 as part of an oz aide project. I woke up to ebulobo every morning for nearly 2 months. That was 10 years ago now. I did fall I love with Flores …it is a beautiful place with generous friendly people : ))

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    • Wow, you’re very lucky to wake up to that amazing view everyday for almost 2 months. I can imagine what an experience it must be living and working amid those beautiful landscape with friendly Florenese, an experience you will never forget, I believe. Have you returned to the island since then? I wonder if nothing has changed at all.

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      • I’ve been back a couple of times and you’re right, mostly there has been very little that has changed. : )

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  2. Great article again Bama. I wish I had seen as much of Flores as you. Your pics are astounding, as always! 🙂 The churches in this part of the world always surprise me, it takes me back a bit until I remember the colonial days and how they got there. 🙂

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    • Well thank you, Lee. 🙂 Looking at the wooden church made me think of the long journey the Portuguese took to reach this remote place at the other side of the world. Everything was driven by spices. You can always find yourself a reason to go back to Indonesia, Lee. And when you do, make sure Flores is on your list! 🙂

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  3. Halim Santoso says:

    Amazing journey, Bama. Alam keren Flores memang nggak pernah bikin bosan. Sayang cuaca Ranamese nya berkabut, kalau cerah danaunya nampak seperti cermin 🙂
    Sempat mampir ke Riung juga kah?

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    • It was truly an amazing journey, Halim. Bener-bener melebih ekspektasi saya. Sayangnya pas saya di sana cuaca selalu berubah setiap hari, dan ketika ada di dekat Ranamese pas cuacanya mendung. Riung terpaksa disimpan untuk trip selanjutnya, entah kapan. 🙂

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      • Halim Santoso says:

        Banyak objek menarik di Manggarai Barat sendiri, seperti Cunca Wulang Canyon, sawah yang bentuknya seperti spider bilt. Duh jadi kepingin balik ke sana lagi setelah sebut beberapa objek hehehe

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      • Cunca Wulang Canyon itu termasuk Cancar di dalamnya ya? Saya sempat ke sana sih. Next time kalau saya ke Flores lagi saya pengen banget mulai dari Larantuka, soalnya kemarin mulainya dari Maumere.

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    • Terima kasih banyak, Keke. Saya selalu encourage orang-orang untuk traveling ke luar dan dalam negeri. Mengapa ke luar, supaya bisa belajar cara pengelolaan pariwisata secara berkelanjutan dari negara-negara yang sudah sukses menjalankannya, atau justru belajar dari kesalahan negara lain supaya tidak terulang di Indonesia. Dan mengapa ke dalam negeri? Itu sih alasan yang sudah tidak perlu dijelaskan ya. Indonesia memang dikarunai alam yang sangat indah. Sayang, selama saya traveling saya menemukan bahwa tidak semua orang Indonesia bertanggung jawab untuk menjaga hal tersebut.

      Salam kenal juga Keke. 🙂

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  4. A wonderful write-up and introduction to your Flores series, Bama. 🙂 What never fails to surprise me is how our photos often come out quite different on our joint trips – even if they are taken from similar angles. Your sunset shots are simply gorgeous!

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    • Makasih banyak, James! Despite our common interests, we use two different cameras with different lenses, and at the end of each day on our trips your photos always impressed me, and it’s also the other way around I guess. 🙂 But in a place like Flores it’s almost impossible to take bad photos, I believe, as it is endowed with such amazing landscape where different people live with their own unique cultures.

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    • Indonesia has only recently made it to the spotlight of global tourism thanks to the coverage of parts of the country by major media outlets and best-selling books. I remember in the past people didn’t even know that Bali was a part of Indonesia. So this blog is also a collection of less-known, but no less attractive, tourism spots in Indonesia. Thanks for reading, Patricia!

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    • Betul! Bikin pusing, atau kalo pas lagi ketiduran bikin kepala mengayun ke sana sini tanpa kendali. 🙂
      View Flores memang luar biasa bagusnya. Setelah lelah di perjalanan, pemandangan Flores selalu jadi penyegar buat mata.

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  5. What a feast for the senses…these shots are all framed so well, gives a feeling of ‘being there’ and the desire to go see it for myself. Maumere, at dusk is a great photo to start this adventure and of course the surreal sunset at Labuan Bajo ends it with natural fireworks. Thanks for giving us a bit of this Flores magic 🙂

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    • Magical is another word I would say to describe Flores. Majestic volcanoes, whimsical lakes, and the amazing sunset are only a few the island has to offer. Thanks for your kind words, Randall.

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  6. fleurrisse says:

    Reblogged this on fleurrisse and commented:
    Always like your articles, you show me the world that i have never been before, thank you.

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  7. Awesome pics! Flores is one of my favorite places on earth and you capture it really really well. Look forward to seeing more from your travels there.

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    • Thanks Alison! With such dramatic landscape and unique culture, it’s easy to understand why people fall in love with Flores. Thanks for reading!

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    • Thank you, Mirjam. A few days before I went to Flores I stumbled upon a blog with beautiful images of the island, and that only added to the excitement I already felt. Hopefully the images in this post give you a glimpse of what to expect on the island. Wish you a very nice weather too!

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  8. yusaklie says:

    I’ve never thought of traveling to Flores before, but the way you narrated the story and captured the wonderful nature it preserves has inspired me to go there someday! Thanks for sharing, Bama!

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    • My pleasure, Yusak. Despite its beauty, Flores has only recently picked up most Indonesian travelers’ curiosity. As my driver told me, it’s partly because people can’t shop in Flores, unlike in Bali. 🙂 Thank you for reading, Yusak.

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  9. What stunning pictures! And an equally lovely write-up. It gave me a feel of the place, and I’ll come back for more Flores in the weeks to follow.

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    • Thank you! That’s really kind of you. Hopefully my stories and photos of Flores will inspire you to come in the future! 🙂

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  10. packingagain says:

    Hi! I’m new on wordpress! Your pictures are incredible! I love your blog! But have you ever been in Italy? I don’t see any post about it… As you know is an amazing country! I hope to see a next post about Rome, Florence and Venice 🙂 Good luck!

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    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my photos. I haven’t been to Italy yet, but it’s definitely high on my wishlist. Rome, Florence and Venice are some of the places that I really want to visit the most in Italy, alongside with Naples, Sicily, Bologna, Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Hopefully I get the opportunity to go back to Europe sooner than later. 🙂

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  11. Your photos just transported me to distant lands! Your photography has seriously made strides within the three years that I’ve been following you. Keep up the great work! I hope to visit that traditional village one day soon… it definitely grabbed my interest! I’ve never heard of Mount Inerie, as Mount Bromo is usually the volcano which most bloggers speak about. I will do my research. Thanks for the lovely post as always, Bama!

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    • Wow, you’re too kind, Jodi. 🙂 But thank you for your encouraging words. I, too, had never heard of Mount Inerie before planning the trip to Flores. But when I was traveling across the island I found out that Inerie was not the only impressive mountain Flores had to offer. Hopefully you’ll make it to Indonesia sooner than later, Jodi!

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  12. I’ve heard that Flores is beautiful with it’s distinctive culture from the book and from one of my NTT friend. I like the photo about traditional house in Wogo. Are those style of the house only in Wogo? Have u had a chance to enter one of the house? If yes, what is it like in the house? Are those house been built by local without funded by local government to preserve it? I suppose the 6 huts in the middle of the photo for storing the rice. Wish u captured the interior of the house.
    I agree with your opinion about contrary to most people thought that the island is desert corner of Indonesia.
    About rice field in Cunca Wulang which like spider-web, did you know that the farmers made the shape of the rice field like that in purpose so the fertility of the rice field soil are distributed evenly to each of the owner? Very brilliant.
    And the fruit of the photo, I’m afraid that is not macademia, but ‘kemiri’ or candlenut.

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    • The houses in Wogo were built in traditional Ngadanese style, which means other villages in the region also have houses with similar architecture, including the ones in Bena. I was lucky to be invited to enter one of the houses in Bena (I will describe about this more in my upcoming post), but generally Ngadanese houses’ interior is very modest. There is a small room right at the center of the house where a family would gather. The ‘kitchen’ is just around the corner. I think the locals funded the houses themselves, because those who can’t afford to build a big one can build a small rectangular house instead. Ah yes, there’s a philosophy on the spider web rice terraces. I will explain about this more in my post on Manggarai.
      Uh oh, really? That’s candlenut? I wonder why our guide told us that it was macadamia. He’s a native so I assumed he knew better than us.

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      • I’m pretty sure that fruit is candlenut, because I collected this fruit when I was a kid in the village that I collected to be sold to supplement my ‘uang jajan’ when I was in elementary school and become a ‘job’ among kids in our village. This fruit will lose its stalk from the twigs of its tree when ripen and we are kids such a wild boar who eagerly collect it as much, as fast as we could. Perhaps, you can come over to my ex-village and write some nice article about it :-). But, maybe your guide is right that is macadamia.

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      • Ah, okay then. Maybe it was candlenut after all. By the way, where’s your village?

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  13. evitadewi says:

    Salam kenal.
    I fall in love with flores too, the moment I arrived. Saya juga baru visit flores akhir juli kemarin. Tapi start dari ende ke labuan bajo, lanjut liveaboard ke lombok.Amazing scenery, amazing people. Foto-fotonya breathtaking ya. Bagus sekali.
    Pergi ke desa wae rebo tidak?

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    • Halo, salam kenal juga. Betul, Flores memang salah satu pulau paling indah di Indonesia yang pernah saya kunjungi. Kalau ada kesempatan lagi ke Flores saya mau start dari ujung timur di Larantuka. Sayangnya kemarin saya tidak punya cukup waktu untuk ke Wae Rebo. Mungking lain kali. 🙂
      Terima kasih ya sudah menyempatkan waktu untuk membaca.

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  14. My ex-village located in west slope of mountain Penanggungan in Trawas district, Mojokerto region. This mountain are home for lots of temples during the age of Majapahit kingdom. Lots of temples there (Penanggungan’s slope) and such Tirta Empul where lots of tourists and locals going there for vacation or for bathing in the place named Jolotundo, near PPLH (Pusat Pemeliharaan Lingkungan Hidup). They believe this water that coming from the spring near the Jolotundo is a holy water that could make them look younger.

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    • Wow, sounds like a very interesting village to visit! Hopefully when I’m around Mojokerto I have enough time to go to your ex-village.

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  15. Since I am reading backwards, that is a wonderful recap of your adventures in Flores! 🙂 I hope I can experience all of this some day.

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    • I still have three more posts to come on the island, Madhu. Hopefully those three will encourage you even more to plan a trip to Indonesia. 🙂 James and I really can’t wait to share our travel stories in person with you. 🙂

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    • Thank you! I’m glad to know that you not only enjoyed my posts on Asia, but were also inspired to travel to this corner of the world. Happy traveling!

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  16. Phil says:

    Hi we are flying into maumere ,can anyone recommend a driver to take us to Labuan over 10 days

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