My recent trip to this enchanting island was filled with back roads exploration, jaunts to pristine swimming islands and eye appealing scenery popping up everywhere. From the time our plane arrived into Labuan Bajo from Bali, I had a sense that this, my second trip to Flores, would be special.
So let me back up all the way to 1998 when I first visited Indonesia. A small group of friends and I decided to take up the invitation of a friend in the jewellery making business and accompany her on a six-week buying trip to Indonesia. She was well acquainted with the flavour of the islands because she had been making annual pilgrimages to Indonesia, primarily Ubud in Bali for many years.
Halfway through that first trip, we all decided to rent a small boat and go island hopping. Eventually, we got to Komodo, back when it was still just a park. We stayed overnight at the ranger station and had free reign to roam all over the island. Dragons running around in the wild were a sight to behold. This was a Jurassic Park experience long before the movie came out! After this amazing encounter, we managed to squeeze in a day on Flores. Our leader wanted some cloth only woven in a certain small region found deep in the interior. So off we went for hours and hours over lush terrain in a minivan just to purchase this finely woven cloth.
On that ride, I was awestruck by the diverse landscape, lush tropical valleys, and hills. Off in the distance was the continual presence of gorgeous mountains creating the perfect backdrop for this magical ride. As we drove through village after village the same scene repeated itself, and villagers young and old would smile gleefully and enthusiastically wave at us, as though our van was a presidential motorcade coming down the highway.
On my recent visit after a 20-year absence, I experienced the same phenomena all over again. Even though it was the dry season, the jungle areas were lusciously verdant and greenery was everywhere at sea level. The dry higher elevations were just waiting for the first big rainfall to turn them from spectacular yellows, browns, and ambers to majestic green. The contrast between the areas made for stunning panoramas when standing on big hills where green met dry and both met the crystal clear multi-coloured South Pacific Ocean. That first hill top glance was a jaw-dropping experience for me. A great big "thank you" to The Voice of Flores Team for organizing an outstanding trip to such beautiful spots. Being up here on this special piece of property just made me want to stay forever.
Twenty years ago during my first Flores experience, Labuan Bajo was just a dot on the map. Now with the new airport, good roads and a developing waterfront it is the gem of the island and the gateway to this island paradise. Of course, I recognized nothing of its earlier look. On this most recent visit, I was amazed at the number of outstanding accommodations, coffee shops specializing in Flores coffee which has become a major export item, and excellent restaurants. My favourite coffee hangout overlooked the harbour. Looking down I could see just about any kind of boat a person would desire for their own island-hopping extravaganza. On your own exploration of the islands surrounding Flores, be sure to include a trip to Komodo for it is like no other place on the planet.
As you can see Flores is a jewel. There is plenty of room for peace and quiet, lots of adventure for the nature enthusiasts, world-class diving and snorkelling, fun day trips, lovely local cuisine as well as fine dining, great roads for exploring remote villages on a bicycle or motorbike, pristine beaches, and ultra-crystal clear water. Besides all this, Flores also hasn't lost its friendliness and laid-back charm. The locals really know how to make a visitor feel welcome.
When I retired over ten years I decided that I would spend my remaining years, not as one who would work in the garden, take ballroom dancing lessons or become a do-nothing couch potato glued to the TV, but instead enter the world of full time travel and visit as many "parts unknown" as I could during my remaining years on this fine earth.
A seed was planted in my mind 1998 on my first Flores trip and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to come back and explore more in-depth this outstanding island of many wonders.