Flores and Komodo Island travel guide
Not just a natural spa, but a whole river with steaming hot water flowing through the jungle in the shade of volcano Inerie. The water is hot, as in around 47 degrees, and not suitable to swim in, but downstream, several cold side-rivers flow in and make the temperature more tub-warm. To find the spot, travel on the road from Bena to Naga outside Bajawa. Cross the bridge over the steaming river and follow the trail behind the houses to the right. It is a totally tranquil settings with bamboos and trees hanging over the green bottom river. Locals come down to bathe and do not seem to mind the numbing heat in the unmixed hot water upstream.
Just one hour away from Labuanbajo by boat, sits the island of Kanawa. It is the ideal place to disappear for a few days. The island is small and only takes about an hour to walk around. The beauty lies in the large hill in the middle and the surrounding mangroves around the backside of the island. The true greatness of the island is that the only sign of humans is 12 oceanfront bungalows and a restaurant (both very cheap). The island has great big patches of white sand to relax on and you never have to worry about noise disturbances. Take a walk out the jetty and jump in the water for a snorkel, and you will find world class reefs and an abundance of fish. It is the perfect getaway to forget about the rest of the world for as long as you want.
At the summit of volcano Kelimutu (1640 m) are three different coloured crater lakes. The colours are slowly changing and are caused by the dissolving of minerals. One of the lakes is apparently always turquoise, while the two others can be anything from black, emerald green to chocolate brown or even red - together or separately. Seeing the sunrise from the summit is often hyped as a "must see"-thing and while the first rays of light certainly will bring some warmth to the freezing cold, the lakes can be equally enjoyed later in the day when the rays of sun actually reach the surface of the lakes.
The world's biggest lizard is the Komodo Dragon that can grow to over three meters long. It is aggressive, fast, and its bite can be deadly due to the impressive range of bacterias in its mouth. The Komodo dragon lives not only on Komodo Island, but also on Rinca Island which is closer to Flores. On Rinca you actually have a better chance to see the dragons, since the island is smaller and there is less food available - meaning they hang out around the ranger station. To catch sight of a fully grown monster in its natural environment, go to Komodo, but you might risk not seeing any at all. The best option is, of course, to visit both islands.
In the highlands at the foot of volcano Inerie, around Bajawa town, the people of Ngada lives. Though some Ngada villages are fairly modern, traditional ones still exist. The wooden houses are high roofed facing each other in two rows along an open courtyard with several ancestral structures. The ngadhu, a carved pole with an umbrella-like thatched roof, and the bhaga, a small spirit house, always come in pairs. The good spirited Ngadas are betel nut chewing and machete wearing, and very welcoming. The pretty village of Bena is probably the most famous, but also the one that sometimes receives busloads of tourists. Other villages, like Bea, hardly see anyone and can be more rewarding regarding traditional life. If you are lucky, you might bump into a ceremony with a traditional pig or buffalo sacrificing. It is best to bring a guide from Bajawa to translate and make sure you don't commit some cultural suicide.
© Johnny Haglund
On the island of Flores, lies a small village named Waturaka. A lot of travellers have been here - or, more correctly - have passed through it. When people visit the famous volcanoes at Kelimuti, they usually stay in the village of Moni. From Moni they travel to the volcanoes - and between lies Waturaka. But very few stop here. Too bad, because the village has a rich history and a special closeness to the volcanoes. A legend tells that the people of Waturaka once did something to upset the gods... and what they did, made the mountain explode. And so Kelimutu was created. But the incident also put a curse on this village. For a traveller however, the story just adds up to the mysterious atmosphere that rules this part of Flores. And while you're here, why not join the locals in their hot springs.
On the photo, they are burning a tree in the village. It has gotten old, and they are afraid it can fall down one day, so instead they burn it and eventually, when the tree has gotten weak enough, they will cut it down.
The small fishing community at Lamalera still practices traditional whale hunting. From small boats, they hunt with harpoons thrown by hand from the stern. The usual prey are manta rays, dolphins and the occasional hammerhead shark, but a couple of times a year the big game comes by, the sperm whale. Being many times bigger than the boats, it is not unusual for an angry whale to flip over a boat, or even smash it with its tail. The black sand beach at Lamalera is dotted with wooden pieces from splintered boats along with whale bones. The few fishermen with missing limbs just add to the evidence that this kind of whale hunting is insanely dangerous. Since the number of caught animals is small, the village is excluded from any hunting ban, letting them continue their truly unique hunting tradition. You can join the whalers on a hunt. If a whale is in sight, you will be kept in safe distance, but with smaller preys you will get in on the action.