Flores Experience; Comments, Hopes, and Recommendation from Travelers

Apr 23 2022
Majestic Inerie from Manulalu viewpoint

Yulianus Irwan

#Repost from my personal Blog

I’ve been working as a tour guide in Flores for around five years now. Working as a hotel receptionist, teaching in secondary school, and even as a hotel manager in Labuan Bajo were all part of my life experience, but just a build-up to finding the vocation I’m really passionate about, my current job.

Working as a tourist guide is something that has given me so many great lessons. Meeting many new people, learning many new things and travelling around are so very exciting.

It was very hard to get established and known as a tour guide, but once I got started I was lucky enough to get some great guests who were kind enough to recommend and publicize me, and through word of mouth and social media I have become known and widely recommended, for which I’m immensely grateful.  I can truly say, my relationship with clients is not just of customer and servant, but relationships frequently building deep friendships which have endured over years. Indeed, several of my clients have come back to Flores with us three of four times already, and other discuss plans to do to when circumstances permit.

I remember the first couple of years taking guest around West Flores, basic travel on motorbikes, travel cars, taxis, or commonly called “bemo” wooden trucks, or “oto colt, to see Wae Rebo village and around Manggarai. Those memories have played the biggest part of my life. They have given me lessons to appreciate every single thing in the journey of life.

In 2016 I decided to step out of my comfort zone, and started travelling out to the unfamiliar parts of eastern Flores that were foreign to me, and building up from that, I’ve learned so much more about the beauty of my home island  which I’m so happy to share with my guests. I am so grateful for what Flores has given me up till now.

View at Manulalu Bungalow, Bajawa (courtesy)

Now as time passes, technology spreads the word of Flores’ beauty, but many of my guests see themselves as travelers rather than tourists, and ironically, are reluctant to  talk about it on social media, fearing the island will become touristic if it is better known, and lose its unique unspoiled charm, friendliness and incredible unspoiled natural beauty.

The paucity of information available about Flores has lead me to write and share my blog and travel stories here which I hope can help people know Flores a little better. I will welcome you to reply to this with your own experiences which may help future visitors.

Flores Island has an area of some 14,125 sq km and the terrain is very mountainous. It is one of the biggest islands in Nusa Tenggara. The length of the island is 380km and ranges from 26 to 270 km wide. There is only one major road, known as the Flores Highway, spanning the island and even narrow and winding at some points due to the mountainous terrain. However, it is well maintained by the government due to its importance in linking all the regencies of the island.

The spectacular landscape and waters of the Komodo National Park area with its legendary dragons are the major attraction for international visitors, so tourism and government investment tends to be concentrated on the gateway area of Labuan Bajo, but more and more travelers are realizing that Flores has much more to offer them.

At least twice a year I organize tours “Going Native” where I take guests off the beaten track into the interior to experience the real life of Flores, a great option for those who are enjoying a longer stay on the island.

Piere and his wife while going native to Wakos (courtesy)

Pierre from Belgium  who spent 14 days in Flores with his wife, found the island a fantastic place, and loved sharing stories with the locals, he said “human sharing with people we will always remember as a family “. They also loved the experience of Wae Rebo traditional village and the spectacular views of Kelimutu.

visiting school in Wakos to teach about garbage (courtesy)

He left us messages pleading to keep the island clean and reduce plastic usage. He also expressed a concern after visiting Wakos village.

”Just don’t take too many people on the same tour, to make sure the people, the families, don’t get used and bored with tourists “.

Celine, from the Caribbean who travelled with us in October 2020 said what she loves about Flores. “Definitely the people! Very welcoming and genuinely friendly, it was easy to travel and get help even though we speak so little of Bahasa Indonesian”

Celine, who works as a dive operator in Manado Indonesia, recommended that since there is no option to have starred hotels, travelers should experience guest houses, home stays and hostels, to enjoy the best experience, but cautioned that general cleanliness and attention to detail could be better.

Javier from Spain and his wife who spent a week touring western Flores with us described it as the best tours they had experienced in their lives. They visited Todo traditional village which used to be the capital of the kingdom of Manggarai, where they met the king. They said that they had learned so much about the history, life and architecture of the area, and were amazed by the sunset over the “spider fields”, the unique rice paddies of the area. Just like Pierre, Javier was impressed by the strength of the community ties in social support. For him it was not just an ordinary tour, but lessons to be learnt for life.

Ken and Francisca who live in Indonesia and managed a five day break to Flores despite the pandemic shared their thoughts, warning that the Flores land tours are not for everyone. A reasonable level of fitness and an open exploratory attitude is needed to make the most of the opportunities and spectacular nature.

They warned that weather can also make a big difference, as sudden rainstorms can sometimes wash out mountainous roads, but that’s just part of the adventure.

Visitors are advised to bring adequate reserves of cash as ATMs are rare in the interior, and may only service local banks, without international services.

All eight regencies of Flores have clinics and hospitals offering heath care but visitors are advised to be proactive in preventative measures, bringing all necessary medications, malaria pills, insect spray and sunscreens.

we were enjoying breakfast at Manulalu with a stunning view of Inerie

All visitors agreed that having a good local tourist guide was essential to add value to their tours, to find the hidden places, ease communication with the locals, and even introduce you to family and friends, to really get to know the incredible beauty, warm friendliness and deep culture of the lesser known areas of one of Indonesia’s most amazing islands.

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