It’s a beautiful mid-week day and I’m reminiscing – let me take you off the beaten track in Indonesia; an easy trip to make from neighbouring Malaysia!
Beyond the obvious holiday spots of Bali and Lombok, lies Flores; home of the infamous Komodo dragons, stunning blue waters for boat trips, lush green valleys with waterfalls and traditional villages, and family-friendly hotels & restaurants to enjoy for a few days away from the city.
This is a trip down memory lane for me as we took this holiday a few years back, but we had a fabulous time which even saw our adventurous 5 year old twins climb a volcano by torch light to see the sunrise!
Flying over Flores, to Labuan Bajo, is a sight to be seen. The waters below are just perfect. Labuan Bajo is on the west coast of the island and makes for a great base. There are flights daily from Bali and flight time is just over an hour!
We stayed at the Bintang Flores Hotel, a nice resort with a fabulous pool and direct access to a small beach, perfect when travelling with children. Food was simple, but included a buffet breakfast and they offer a free mini bus service into the seaside town where there is a great choice of restaurants and cafes.
One of the main reasons for our visit was to see the Komodo Dragons, which can be spotted in certain areas on Flores itself, or on the nearby islands of Rinca and Komodo. We booked a tour with a local agency in the town where there was a big choice of options; from half day, full day, combined trips to several islands, or over-night trips. We ended up booking a full day tour for the four of us that included our meals and snacks for the day, snorkeling, visits to a couple of islands, a guided tour in the National Park to spot the ‘Komodo Dragons’ and sailing back at sunset with beautiful views.
The waters here are beyond stunning and there were only a scattering of other boats on a beautifully clear day which meant that views were uninterrupted and picture-perfect.
Visiting the Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat of the National Park is an amazing experience. For your own safety you will be accompanied on your tour by a guide who knows how best to find the creatures, and ensures you don’t get too close. While I had a certain amount of apprehension about some stories I’d heard, I can guarantee you that everything was run extremely professionally and you never leave the sight of your guide, all while feeling you are just out on another nature trail stroll!
On arriving at the island, you can decide the length of tour you would like to do. From memory, you can do anything from 90 minutes to 4 hours (needless to say, the latter increases the ground you cover and the possibility of a ‘dragon’ sighting!!). With the searing heat and two children, we opted for a two-hour circuit (although in all honesty we could have managed more!).
Needless to say, this is no zoo, and therefore there is no guarantee you will spot Komodo Dragons! Having said that, we must have seen at least 5 while walking around the island thanks to the guide knowing their hangout places. When we approached the rest area in the park there were another three Komodo Dragons hanging around, knowing very well it was an area with food so I’m guessing you’ll always find a couple in the visitor area too!! Taking photos is absolutely allowed, but you do have to keep to a sensible distant from the creatures and not make much noise or any sudden movements!!
Back on the boat after our adventure with the Komodo Dragons and we got to take in a beautiful sunset from the deck.
While you could use Labuan Bajo for your base for exploring the whole island, it would mean a lot of road time, and sometimes on some pretty ‘interesting’ roads, which we decided wasn’t for us while travelling with the little people! However, you can get internal flights (from both Labuan Bajo and Bali) to Ende which will give you easy access to Mount Kelimutu, black sand beaches, waterfalls, and the Saga Traditional Village.
Mount Kelimutu is one of the main attractions on the island and rightly so. The volcano is known for its three crater lakes which differ in colour. The best time of day to enjoy the volcano, lakes and the views, is with an early morning start before sunrise. We did this climb with our 5-year old twins and it was simply amazing….
It meant an early start to the day with our driver/guide knocking at our door at 4.30am! But with torch lights and snacks at hand, we drive the 45 minutes to the parking area at the mid-point of Kelimutu before starting our climb. The cool morning air was crisp and added to the adventure of making our way up the winding pathway of the volcano. It isn’t a difficult climb and our 5-year olds managed it well. At the top, you get to sit and wait on a teared-seating area, take in 360 degree views, and watch the sunrise. The three lake craters are stunning, as are the colours and the views. We weren’t the only ones who had woken up early but it didn’t detract from the experience and we still got loads of photos!
On the way back down, there were a few steps but it would be fine if you have adventurous little explorers with you who are good walkers! There is very little around in terms of eateries, so take bottles of water with you and something slightly warmer to wear as it’s chilly waiting for the sun to put in an appearance!
Once we had recovered from the lack of sleep, we went on to visit the Traditional Village of Saga which is perfectly located in the hillside giving amazing views over the island. This was free to enter and we were even escorted around by some lovely locals, eager on us learning about how they live.
A trip that combined a family-friendly resort with pool time for the little ones, to sailing turquoise waters, searching for KomodoDragons, climbing a volcano, and visiting some truly beautiful local spots around the island, made this a truly enriching holiday for us all. Just a hop across the waters from Malaysia to Indonesia, this is a trip to add to your bucket list, with or without children! S x