Relaxing on Kanawa Island

A couple of weeks in Flores, Indonesia

So we went to Flores a few weeks back to check out this mountainous Indonesian island and some of the great attractions around it such as Komodo Island – home of Komodo Dragons.

Komodo Dragons are huge ugly beasts
Komodo Dragons are huge ugly beasts

We flew directly from Bali into Labuan Bajo at the western end of Flores. Labuan Bajo is a ramshackle old port town and is a popular jumping off point for people wanting to dive the islands in this part of the world and also to visit the famous Komodo Island. We headed straight for Kanawa Island, an idyllic tropical island fringed by a stunning coral reef.

Relaxing on Kanawa Island
Relaxing on Kanawa Island

Accommodation on the island is basic with electricity only available for a few hours per day and only cold water for showering. Prices are quite high for what you get, but one thing that really makes this place worthwhile is the reef right in front of the bungalows. It’s a healthy patch of sea filled with massive fish, colourful sea creatures and the odd shark. The other thing that sets this place apart from many places is that it gets magnificent, almost unrealistic sunsets.

Kanawa Island puts on a light show
Kanawa Island puts on a light show

During our stay on Kanawa Island we did a day trip which included snorkelling with 4m wide manta rays, observing Komodo dragons up close and see some amazing coral at Batu Bolong. That day trip was one of the best I have ever done and I highly recommend it to anyone coming to Indonesia.

Next stop on our trip was Seraya Island which  is essentially a simplified version of Kanawa Island. Great reef, fantastic sunrise and sunset, basic accommodation and a fantastic fishing village around the other side.

Sunrise on Seraya Island is worth getting up early for
Sunrise on Seraya Island is worth getting up early for
The sunrises on Seraya Island are stunning
The sunrises on Seraya Island are stunning

After 5 days on the islands, we headed back to Labuan Bajo to commence our Flores overland trip. It’s possible to get across the island on public transport and we’d normally want to do that, but we had my mum and her friend with us so we decided to hire a car and driver for $60 per day which included everything. Across Flores there are so many things to see ranging from a ricefield shaped like a spiderweb to Kelimutu, a famous volcano with three differently coloured lakes.

The first day took us to Ruteng where the highlight is a spiderweb ricefield. Nice to see, but quick to enjoy. All along the road to Ruteng are people selling oranges — for me, buying oranges from these kids was one of the highlights of the day rather than the ricefield. I guess that’s a sign of my shift to preferring experiences when travelling rather than simply seeing stuff.

Buying juicy oranges off the children -- an absolute highlight!
Buying juicy oranges off the children — an absolute highlight!

The next day we headed to Bajawa where there are a few cool things such as some traditional villages and some hot springs. We visited the traditional village of Bena and had a great time walking around, talking to the local people and trying to learn about their lives. In particular, one old man we spoke to told us all about his life, how much he pays for electricity ($5 for 3 months), what he likes to eat etc. The hot springs were also a cool thing to do. The water seeps out of the ground into a large pool and is extremely hot. Once you get used to the heat, it’s not too bad in the water, but you do find yourself feeling not so good after a while as you start to overheat. At that time we found it best to go to a part of the stream where the hot water mixes with cold water. A perfect luke warm bath!

Man chewing betelnut in Bena
Man chewing betelnut in Bena
Bena village with its traditional thatched roofs
Bena village with its traditional thatched roofs

Next on the agenda was the village of Moni. This day of driving involved an enormous landslide which blocked the road, some roadside stops and the highlight itself, Moni. Well, Moni isn’t a highlight but the town is home to the famous Kelimutu. The next morning we woke up EARLY. Hiked up the mountain through clouds of sulfurous gas and saw the sunrise over Kelimutu. We later found out that the lakes had recently completely changed colour and that the increased gas was dangerous. The alert level had been raised on the mountain and it was officially closed, but no one on the mountain actually knew about that (or cared!). So we hiked up oblivious to the danger. I actually felt my airways closing over on the way up and was a bit worried. In the end all was fine and we saw a great sunrise.

Cute girl hoola hoops as we stop at a warung
Cute girl hoola hoops as we stop at a warung

We ended our time in Flores in the town of Maumere which isn’t fantastic.

Overall, though, Flores proved to be a fantastic adventure. Highly recommended for those wanting to get out of Bali and see the rest of Indonesia.

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