Dragons do exist, and so does a volcano with three-coloured crater lakes – and they can be found on Flores island, located in East Nusa Tenggara province in Indonesia. While Indonesia is more famous for Bali and Yogyakarta, Flores should unquestionably be on your #1 list if you are looking for a destination full of adventure.
How to get there?
There are two major towns you can fly into to reach Komodo National Park. Take a flight to Labuan Bajo or a flight to Ende. There isn’t any direct international flight at the time of writing, so most flights will have to transit in either Bali or Jakarta.
Labuan Bajo is a fisherman town located on the westernmost coast of Flores island. It is the nearest port to Komodo National Park, Indonesia’s very own The Lost Word. Ende is the biggest town in Flores, and the closest town to reach Kelimutu, the mythical volcano with three crater lakes of differing colours.
I visited Labuan Bajo first before flying to Ende, and it was a great start to my magical journey in Flores. Nonetheless, there shouldn’t be any problem with whichever order you choose.
P.S: If you are looking for tons of Insta-worthy photos, you should visit Flores before it gets swarmed with travellers!
Komodo National Park
From this bustling town, we have to use a boat to reach Komodo National Park. Although it’s recommended to spend 2D1N or 3D2N living on board, a day-long boat trip is also possible. In fact, I would suggest to keep it short if you do not have much time on your hands because there are plenty of things ahead in Komodo National Park.
View from the hill nearby
The white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs make Kanawa Island a sweet spot for snorkelling. Get to the top of the hills to get a lovely panorama shot of the sunset.
Snorkeling at Manta Point
The underwater world of Komodo National Park is very famous among the scuba divers for its rich marine biodiversity and the almost-guaranteed sighting of the majestic Manta Ray. Not a diver yet? Fret not as the Mantas can also be seen just by snorkeling!
From the top of the hill, you can marvel at the soft hues of pink of the sandy particles, slowly getting washed away by the clear turquoise water. The pink coloration is caused by the red coral which gets weathered over time.
“Kalong” means “bats” in English and as the name suggests, you would come across bats in every corner of the island. The moment I loved the most from this island was watching the beautiful sunset at Kalong Island. The clear magenta sky was made lively by a large flock of bats searching for fruits. If only I could witness this every day!
Finally, the dragons’ den! Komodo Island is the biggest island within the National Park, and it is also inhabited by the local population too! The natives live alongside the Komodo dragons – and even legend has it that human and Komodo are actually twins of a beautiful Dragon Princess.
Hanging around kitchen area
Having been to both islands, I found Rinca Island to be a better spot than the iconic Komodo Island to watch Komodo dragons playing around. The island’s smaller size helps us to find the dragons more easily. Also, I was not surprised to find lots of them hanging out near the kitchen area. Well, they probably get hungry as often as we do!
Welcome to the real Jurassic Park!
While Komodo Island might amaze you with the magical Komodo dragons, Padar Island will likely blow you away with its view. You should prepare a good pair of trekking shoes because some parts of the journey might get pretty steep!
Padar Island panorama!
Though I did not have the luxury of time to try, Labuan Bajo itself offers quite a number of adventures. You can do caving in Batu Cermin, or get stunned by an underground lake in Rangko cave or even venture for another trekking session to Cunca Rami Waterfall. If you feel like winding down after a long day full of activities, the sunset at Labuan Bajo is a gorgeous sight to enjoy!
Beyond the vast blue ocean and enchanting dragons, it’s time to conquer the mythical volcano Kelimutu! There are several ways to reach there from Labuan Bajo, but it’s recommended to take a 40-minute flight to Ende, especially if you are pressed for time. Travelling by land transport could easily take 14 hours!
Kelimutu National Park
Most people visiting Kelimutu National Park stay in a small village called Moni,which is 2.5 hours away from Ende. For convenience, try to arrange the transportation for the entire trip of Ende – Moni – Kelimutu in Ende because it would be more difficult once you leave Ende.
Waiting for the gorgeous sunrise while enjoying my cup noodles
Moni itself would be rather quiet if not for Kelimutu. To enjoy the sunrise at Kelimutu, you would need to get an ojek (motorbike taxi) or a car transport and leave Moni by 4 am the latest. Most people stick to that out of convenience, but thrill-seekers can always opt for a more challenging task of hiking to Kelimutu from Moni. An independent hike without a tour guide is definitely possible, but you would have to leave Moni as early as 1 am.
Ende town seen from the airplane
Kelimutu is a small volcano and is famous for its three peculiar craters, which each has a different colour. Not only that, the colours change significantly over time. The best time to visit Kelimutu would be just before the sunrise. I had never seen a sunrise so beautiful and complete: a sea of clouds, the warm ray of the sun and colourful lakes.
The mystical sunrise at Kelimutu National Park
Each of the three craters of Kelimutu has its own name:
- Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People): the westernmost lake is typically blue.
- Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens): it is normally green in colour.
- Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Spirits or Enchanted Lake): it is located just next to Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai and is usually red.
The naming of the lakes comes from the belief of the local people who consider it as a sacred resting place for the departed souls. They believed that those who died would go to a particular lake according to their merits in life, while the changing colours reflect the changing mood of these spirits.
However, the scientific community suggests entirely different reasons. The factors to blame for the changing colours are the discoloration by sunlight, different amount of rainfall and the various mineral contents of the water from the volcanic activity. It’s really up to you which side you want to pick!
The best part of Kelimutu is the relatively easy hiking. The trek, which takes around 30 minutes from the parking lots, is well-paved and can be easily hiked with stairs and railings. Even if you decide to hike all the way from Moni, it will take you less than 4 hours to reach the summit!
After witnessing the majestic sunrise over Kelimutu, you can go back to Moni or if still very much alive and adventurous, go trekking to Pemo and Woloara village or swimming at Murandao Waterfall instead. You can never run out of adventures while staying in Flores, although running out of money and time is clearly possible — yes, it did happen to me.
From Moni, the nearest airport would be in Ende, but remember that most flights will transit in Bali before changing to a bigger plane for international flight.
Komodo Island Accommodation
Labuan Bajo, Ende, and Moni are all swarmed with accommodations of all type and price range. During the high season (April-August), it is recommended to book hotels in advance, especially if you are travelling in a big group.
Yes, we know that you come to Flores in search of adventures, but it is worth to pamper yourself by staying in a great hotel after the tiring day! I would recommend Jayakarta Suite Komodo Flores for your stay in Labuan Bajo, and Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge while in Moni.