A while ago I went to Flores for the first time and I loved the place. I didn’t think anything could sway me from my love affair with Bali but turns out I was wrong. It’s not what I expected but exactly what I wanted it to be. Green, tropical, white sandy beaches, mountainous, and with tiny little islands looking as if they exploded up from the ocean.
Flores was originally named Lipa, after a serpent. However, the Portuguese traders and missionaries that started visiting in the 16th century re-named it Flores. I always thought that was because the island was covered in flowers, however according to a friend from Flores, its name was actually inspired by the ‘flowers’ under the water – the stunning corals.
This friend has also taught me about the Manggarai traditional dance, the beautifully dangerous Komodo dragons that inhabit Komodo and Rinca, and about how the environment is still so untouched you can see wild horses, buffalo, Timor deer and monkeys across the island. Flores also has the three coloured lakes which are a part of a volcano (Kelimutu) and the lakes can range in colour from bright red to almost iridescent green and are known change daily according to the sun.
I think one of the reasons I fell so hard for Flores was that I had a guide who was born and bred there – there was nothing he didn’t know and before I knew it hours had passed of me simply listening to the stories and watching the incredible scenery around us.
I spent a lot of my time in Labuan Bajo which is a perfect mix of a small town and a mecca for fantastic things to see and do. I’m not a diver, so I can’t tell you firsthand what the diving is like however all my diving friends rave about Flores and there are dive shops popping up everywhere. You can snorkel if that’s more your pace…or if your pace is a bit more like mine, just lay on the front of the boat and dangle your legs in the ocean as it glides through the flat waters around the islands. Ideally with a glass of wine …
The thing that words can’t describe is how pristine, clear and blue the water actually is. I was sure we were in shallow water most of the time because you could see straight to the bottom, but I was assured it was actually very deep. The waters can be subject to big tides as well so don’t be alarmed if the you get back to the jetty later in the day to see the water levels have dropped and you have a ladder to climb up off the boat.
A bit of economic history about Flores, primarily industry was based around agriculture, fishing and seaweed production (with the big tides I referred to earlier creating a perfect condition for the seaweed to grow in). The main food crops are rice, maize and cassava with cash crops of coffee, cashews, coconut and candle nut. In fact, the coffee was originally blended with other Indonesian beans however now, the Arabica coffee has been recognised as being better standing alone, with its heavy body and sweet chocolate-y taste. Flores is now becoming a popular coffee producing area for Indonesia.
The influence of the Portuguese is evident in the architecture around Flores, and at times in the language. There are six distinct languages including Ngadha, Nage, Keo, Ende, Lio and Palu’e. The majority of Flores people are Roman Catholics, another nod to the Portuguese visitors.
The Lonely Planet says that Flores has become Indonesia’s ‘next big thing’ and I can see why. The thing I would say about Flores though, there is so much to see, make sure you take your time and plan your trip well. I didn’t have as many days there as I would have liked (you know, work to do and all that!) but I will be back again soon. For more days of exploring…or maybe just laying on a boat watching the islands go past.
Guest Blogger: Clare from The Travellist the-travellist.com