A GUIDE TO THE BEST DAY TRIP IN FLORES
Planning a trip to Flores, one thing was on the agenda: Relaxation.
Even though I wanted to spend most of my birthday celebration hanging out with no to-do list in sight, I chose Flores for a reason- its astounding natural beauty.
While planning our four day long, low-key trip, we discussed how to see some of Flores best sights without spending huge chunks of each day sightseeing.
Cue the idea of doing a day trip in Flores.
Normally, neither of us are keen on group tours, but after reading reviews of Red Whale’s small group offerings, we decided to give it a go. It seemed like the best way to see picturesque paradise without sacrificing a ton of time.
To say I’m glad we made the decision to do so would be an understatement- it was the best day trip I took in Indonesia, and possibly all of SE Asia.
Everything about the trip made it exceptional- the places we visited, the sheer beauty of Flores, the fantastic crew, and a perfectly curated day.
We booked our tour with Red Whale, and I can’t recommend them enough. They offer a range of services- from small group day tours, to intimate dive experiences, to custom-designed packages, based on your needs.
Their day tours cap the number of people on each boat, and use speedboats to help maximise your time in Flores.
Priced at $100 USD (including several national park fees), they’re also affordable for what you get to see and do over the course of a full day.
Each tour includes: hotel pick-up and drop-off, homemade Indonesian lunch on an island, breakfast (pastries) on the boat, and refreshing drinks throughout the day- sodas and purified water.
We brought breakfast with us (our hotel packed us a to-go box), and lunch wise, they were fine to cater to my preferences (vegetarian) and allergies (allergic to nuts).
The crew is second to none- they’re incredibly helpful throughout the day, share information about each place you visit, and even offer to help take underwater photos at the snorkel sites since they’re pros.
The reason we booked with Red Whale though?
They’re one of the only operators in Labuan Bajo to visit every site I wanted to see. I suspect this’ll change with the tourism boom, but when we visited, many of the providers in Bajo try to get you to buy into a custom-designed day trip, which ends up being pretty expensive for 1-2 people. For this reason, we were interested in a provider who already had a tour created that visited the places we wanted to see.
As equally important, I was impressed with Red Whale’s approach to sustainability – no plastic bottles, cutlery, etc. are utilised on tours. As a guest, you’re given a reusable water bottle to borrow, which they refill throughout the day for you with purified water, and at lunch, you’re served a delicious homemade Indonesian meal in reusable flatware.
Back to what you get to see and do on a day trip in Flores.
Red Whale’s Flores day trip itinerary is ace. During our trip, we noticed we’d arrive a bit earlier or later than other groups, which meant places were quieter for us. One of the crew confirmed these timings were intentional, which is awesome to see a tour provider consider.
On one of their tours to Komodo National Park, you’ll have the chance to-
Hike Padar Island: A tri-colour beach viewpoint made famous by Instagram, hiking Padar is on everyone’s list of things to do in Komodo.
It’s a tough climb to the top, best to start early am, but once there, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of rugged landscape, sparkling sea and colourful beaches.
The way up is mostly steps (hundreds of them), and some rocks at the top. Bring water, and wear sunscreen. Even in the morning sun, it was a blazing hot climb.
Relax at Pink Beach: Some travellers complain this beach isn’t ‘pink enough’, so our expectations were low, which may be why we were so impressed.
The beach is unquestionably pink, especially where the water touches the sand. And, if you tired of lounging on the soft sand, you can go for a swim or snorkel in the clear waters.
The lower part of the beach is full of coral, so watch your step getting on/off boats and walking up onto the shore.
Trek Komodo Island: Ah, the reason most people head to Komodo- for the chance to see the world’s longest lizard, which can reach 3 meters in length and only lives on two islands (Rinca and Komodo) in Indonesia.
As part of the day tour, you’ll trek Komodo island for ~40 minutes, during which time your guide will be on the lookout for dragons. Although we only spotted one baby dragon during this portion of our visit, the trek was still a cool experience- we enjoyed learning about the island’s ecosystem.
When we visited, because it was mid-day, most of the dragons were sleeping near the guard office, which made them easy to find at the end of the trek.
And lest we be disappointed, on our walk back along the beach to our boat, we spotted another, which was awake and walking around. In total, we saw four big dragons, and a baby one, plus a bunch of deer.
You’ll be assigned a guide to take you around the island, be sure to heed their caution and directions- the Komodo Dragons are usually quiet during the day, but remain a predator- their toxic bite can be fatal.
Explore Taka Makasar Sandbar: I never thought a sandbar would take my breath away, but this crescent shaped beach in the middle of the sea is stunning- the perfect spot for relaxing and snorkeling.
If your boat captain allows it, climb up to the top of the boat for stunning panoramic views.
Swim with Mantas: Manta Rays are very common in Komodo National Park. They can be spotted year-round by snorkeling or diving. For the best chance of seeing them, I’ve heard visiting between September and December is optimal. We visited in late-October, and saw three on our snorkel.
Snorkeling with these gentle creatures was nothing short of incredible, a definite trip highlight.
One note here- mantas move quickly, be ready to jump (literally) off the boat when your guide instructs you to so you don’t miss them. This is also deep water snorkelling/swimming, so take a life-vest if that makes you nervous, or you aren’t a strong swimmer.
Snorkel Turtle Bay: A beautiful coral garden, and the opportunity to swim with turtles? Yes and yes, please.
Although we didn’t dive in Bajo (long story), we did spot plenty of sea turtles and fish while snorkelling at ‘turtle bay’.
Komodo National Park is renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful dive sites. Because of a strong current in the park, dynamite fishing is impossible, so many of the coral reefs have remained intact.
All said and done, it was a long, but magical day.
A long day?
For certain, but also the best way to see a lot of Flores in a short amount of time, and an awesome crew to do so with.
A few more logistics to know:
- Start time: Hotel pick-up happens between 6-6:30 am. Once you’re assigned a boat at the harbour, your tour will leave between 7-7:30 am. Pending demand, Red Whale operate several boats daily to ensure groups stay small
- Return time: We docked in the harbour around 5:30 pm, and were back at our hotel before 6 pm. We could’ve walked back from the harbour, with how small Bajo is, but chose to take the offered shuttle, as we were tired and in desperate need of showers
- Booking: You can book when you get to Bajo, just head to Red Whale’s office in town. Want to ensure your spot on a day tour? Email to reserve online- you’ll pay a small deposit (which comes out of the tour fee) in advance, and then the rest when you get to Bajo at their office
- Bring a bit of cash: There’s a small cafe/bar on Komodo Island, where we were delighted to find cold juices and coconuts (plus an assortment of beers and other drinks). You could skip spending money here, but an ice cold drink sounded perfect after a morning of hiking/walking. There’s also a few souvenir stalls on Komodo Island, which we didn’t peruse but looked to be selling the usual fare
- What to wear: Swimsuit, plus airy clothes that’ll be okay for trekking. I wore loose cotton capris, a tank top and trainers
- Other things to bring: Flip flops for the boat/beaches, sun screen, dry bag, book, phone/camera and charger, and snacks if you’d like (granola bar, nuts, apples or oranges- food is served, but most of our group found themselves hungry given the level of activity on the tour and its length)
What’s the best day trip you’ve ever taken? What made it so memorable? Would you go on this day trip in Flores?
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