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Flores Tour – Komodo Dragons, Bena Village and Hobbits in Indonesia

by Team Hazard
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When we set off to travel around the world, Indonesia was our first stop, and Flores Island was the second island we visited in Indonesia.

Back then, I made a number of short videos posts chronicling our adventures. However, as my blogging wisdom has grown, I realize they’re probably better compiled into a single post. So that’s what I’ve done here. This post is the omnibus of all our Flores Island Adventure posts.

This was where we started the New Year by witnessing a fight between some BIG Komodo Dragons. It was quite a way to start off our grand world tour. Since then, the adventures haven’t stopped.

Enjoy!

Flores Island, Indonesia – Highlights from Team Hazard’s Road Trip in Paradise

Komodo Dragons – FIGHT!

Be sure to have the volume up before the 1:15 point. That’s when the big smack happens.

Nasty.

Menacing.

Dangerous.

The Komodo Dragon.

On New Year’s Day in 2018, we were fortunate enough to see 8 Dragons at the watering hole on Komodo Island in Indonesia. The tension was thick as half a dozen rangers stood by holding thick, Y-shaped sticks to stop any dragon that tried to attack visitors. These were not animals that had grown comfortable with humans being around, ignoring them in some nonchalant manner. No.

Show me a Komodo Dragon

They watched us with the eyes of hungry predators. Calculating.

If the rangers hadn’t been there protecting us, we would have been lunch.

The only thing that distracted them from wanting to eat us, was them fighting with each other.

When Komodo Dragons are born, there is no familial care. They young scurry up the nearest tree trying not to be eaten by their own parents. Survival is all they know, or care about. As we watched this group of 8 interact, I wondered if they had allies within the group, or whether each served only its own needs. They seemed to walk around looking for a fight.

The big ones average 6-10′ (2-3m) long at about 150-180lbs. (70+kg) – and as you can see in this video, that’s pure muscle. There’s no getting fat and lazy here. Komodo National Park is not a glorified zoo. It’s a place to go to watch truly wild animals exist in their natural habitat. Despite the human presence, I think these Dragons are doing exactly what they would be doing whether the humans were there, or not.

This video shows a fight between a couple of the big ones. The back and forth is a little slow, but it is powerful.

When one Komodo Dragon takes a tail smash to the jaw from its rival you can hear the smack, and the resulting howl of pain.

That had to hurt. I don’t think a Dragon would risk displaying weakness otherwise.

This was easily the highlight of our Komodo Island boat tour. You can watch a video of our boat tour highlights here.

Komodo Island Boat Tour Adventure

The Komodo Island boat tour is practically a must-do for anyone going to Indonesia. If you’re young and fit, then almost any boat is probably okay. The usual tour covers Komodo Island, Padar Island, Pink Beach and a search to go snorkeling with manta rays. There are variations that go to see Komodo Dragons on both Komodo and Rinca, or where you sleep in the boat overnight and do more snorkeling, but these are the basics.

The most basic of these boats, however, are not designed for out-of-shape people, or partially blind travelers. I believe there were more comfortable boats, but we were not aware that the one we would be on would be so challenging. In fact, we were rather ill-informed about the whole day thanks to the hotel staff that set it up. We learned our lesson. Ask a lot of questions and don’t let them dodge answers. Shop around.

First, we boarded the boat from the top, and then had to climb down a ladder that had huge gaps between the rungs. A definite challenge for the blind guy. This was also early in our travels and our level of fitness was still quite low. After Indonesia, we had both lost weight and were in much better shape – due to adventures like this.

Padar Island

After several hours, we got to Padar Island, where from the top you can see three bays at one time. However, the end of the pier is utterly destroyed. Imagine having to guide a blind guy through a badly managed de-construction zone. Big chunky, rocky terrain and difficult footing. By the time as we got as far up as we did, there was no time except to get back down. One member of the crew helped us reluctantly. The other guy helped pending a tip – but he was much nicer so we didn’t mind.

Pink Beach

Then there was Pink Beach, which wasn’t very pink – but it was quite nice. Except we only had 30 minutes there, and while we’d brought out swimsuits, no one told us to wear them under our clothes. So, no time to suit up and get in for a swim. (Guiding a blind guy around a boat to change clothes in the tiny bathroom takes more time than you’d think.)

Komodo Island

On Komodo they didn’t want to wait for Tim. Knowing he’d be slower, they tried to talk him out of going to the watering hole. We insisted. This was the whole reason for the trip. We are so glad we didn’t give in. We got to see 8 Komodo Dragons – and we got to see them fight! This was easily the highlight of the day and made the whole trip worthwhile. Check out our Komodo Dragon Fight! video to see the whole thing.

Manta Point

Then they went looking for manta rays. The sea was too rough and I’m not an experienced enough snorkeler/swimmer to go into water like that. I did get to see a few fins break the surface. I don’t think Tim could see much of anything. The other people on the boat all jumped in and went swimming with them.

Getting Back to Labuan Bajo

The boat ride back to Flores was long and excruciating. We should have been back by 5pm, but it was 9pm by the time we pulled in. When the crew realized they were going to have to feed us for dinner, they tossed together a big plate of ramen noodles and set it out. But that big plate doesn’t go far when you’ve got ten very hungry people. To top it off, the boat had no lights of any kind except for the guy standing on the bow, holding a flashlight looking for the markers that would lead us home.

Honestly, the boat tour was pretty awful. If we hadn’t seen the awesome fight between the Komodo Dragons, we would have been pretty unhappy at the way it went down. I’m sure there are better ones, but this was our experience. Learn from our mistakes and do your research.

Still, the places were very pretty, and interesting. If you’re in Indonesia – do the tour. Just be better prepared than we were.

Flores Island – Road Trip!

Flores Island, Indonesia is the epitome of beautiful tropical living. Lush greenery, gorgeous mountain views on winding roads, huge stands of bamboo and traditional villages here and there around the island. There were rice paddies and we had fresh coconut by the roadside. More than once we saw kids walking to school and I wondered if they realized how lucky they were to be going to school in paradise. Of course, they probably would have preferred not having to walk so far to school.

We had a great driver and guide, Liberty and Apri, that made this trip around the island tons more fun. They had great music (the soundtrack to the video is what was playing in the car) and were always ready to have a good time. Tim and the guys goofed around, a lot. We all sang along with the tunes, when we knew the words and did a lot of fun things along the way.

While we were on Flores, we visited Bena Village, Todo Village and Liang Bua, the Hobbit Cave, and we have videos covering those portions of the trip (click on the links to watch). But there’s a lot that didn’t happen at these particular places. This video covers the coolest stuff that happened in-between. As with any road trip, the journey is at least as important as the destination.

I will mention that when you set up a Flores tour, you should bargain hard. While this island is beautiful, there are a lot of tour operators that are ready to take your money. Of the four islands we visited in Indonesia, this was the only one that made us feel like some people were ready to take advantage. This includes our Komodo Island tour out of Labuan Bajo as well. Flores is definitely worth visiting, but be smart and get a range of prices.  

Faces of Bena Village

Bena Village was our favorite stop on our Flores tour in Indonesia. It’s a weaving village and the people are actually working. More importantly, there’s a good vibe here. It’s representative of the Ngada culture.

At the entrance to the village, there’s a long stairway with really tall steps that made us question the wisdom of the ancients. We say this because Indonesians are not of tall stature, so we wonder at so many of their monuments and temples that have very high steps.

Of course, this was also a challenge for Tim and his limited eyesight as the steps were uneven. Fortunately our guide and driver were awesome and they got him down the stairs safely.

The village is made up of two rows of traditional houses.  In the center of the village, are the ngadhu and bhaga shrines – one pair of umbrella-like structures for each clan of the village. I loved the guardian figures up on the roofs of the houses.

Not only were the stairs down into Bena Village very tall and irregular, so were the ones within the village itself. Tim ended up at times with an entourage helping him navigate the terrain. The thing is, the whole village became interested in this big stranger who came to visit.

At one point, Tim slipped down a couple of steps and everyone gasped. When he stood up and let everyone know he was okay, they cheered. The woman with the beetle-nut stained teeth that is the cover for this video was the most enthusiastic about cheering him on.

A little later, this woman, Maria, and I exchanged some sign language where she let me know that she thought he, and I, were both strong and brave for traveling like we were – and that I should look out for Tim. Sometimes a lot can be exchanged in a few gestures.

Near the back of the village, a blind man played the flute, the one thing he had to offer us as visitors to the village. It’s his music that plays throughout the video.

While everyone here had fabrics to sell, three was no pressure. The friendly people and laid-back vibe make this an excellent stop on any Flores tour and well worth your time and energy. The place and the people are interesting. Just look at those faces.

Liang Bua – The Hobbit Cave

Liang Bua, aka The Hobbit Cave, is a limestone cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia, slightly north of Ruteng. The cave was the site of the 2003 discovery of a potentially new species of Homo genus, known as Homo floresiensis.

This is the only site where these remains have been identified, and it’s a significant debate as to whether the diminutive skeleton truly belongs to a different species, or is simply a pygmy version of Homo sapien, or some other one-off explanation.

Until more evidence is found, the claims remain inconclusive. Despite the lack of real hobbits, it’s a fun place to spend an afternoon.

The day we went to the Hobbit Cave, it was raining. By the time we were leaving, it wasn’t just a little bit of rain, but an Indonesian deluge. We were highly impressed with our driver’s skill at handling the twisty, muddy roads as we departed. Flores was beautiful and the rain didn’t diminish our enjoyment. Though it was probably wise that we left when we did.

As you can see in the video, we had a lot of fun with our guide and driver. This was one of the first limestone caves we visited and I loved the gnarly rock formations. We had no idea this kernel of experience in Indonesia would be the start of my love affair with limestone caves. Not that I’m going spelunking, or anything, at least not yet. But as Tim will testify, I dragged him to plenty of limestone caves throughout Thailand; many had temples inside of them, some did not.

We can absolutely recommend this as a stop on your tour of Flores Island in Indonesia. It’s not a huge must-see, but the setting, the museum and the cave itself are interesting and worth your time if you’re in the area.  

Tourradar

Todo Village

Todo Village, on the island of Flores, Indonesia. It’s one of the few opportunities to see the traditional ceremonial houses of the Manggarai region; in the past, Todo was also the center of the Manggaraian kingdom and the home of the royal clan.

This was the most commercial and most expensive village we visited on Flores and the few villagers present weren’t interested in interacting. The guy in charge was great about taking pictures for us. In fact, the whole visit felt like one big photo op. He was also very interested in selling us their woven goods. Mind you, we never saw anyone actually weaving. While we got some nice pictures, we can’t recommend going out of your way for this stop.

That’s a Wrap

We hope you’ve enjoyed our look back at our early adventures on Flores Island in Indonesia. This was a great way to start our world travels and we hope to return soon.

If you’re looking for a beautiful adventure destination, don’t miss Indonesia.


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