Flores backpacking guide. Komodo dragons and giant mantas

komodo
Huge male dragon, Rinca island, Indonesia

Flores has much to offer, you can easily spent couple of weeks there exploring the island and its surroundings. Even if you are limited on time it’s still worth to come here, from sailing adventure on a boat to walking among ancient dragons or diving with magnificent mantas there are plenty of things to do and see on the island. Hope our Flores backpacking guide will help you to plan your trip and enjoy the place!

Absolutely beautiful area, Komodo National park. Flores backpacking guide
Absolutely beautiful area, Komodo National park. Flores backpacking guide

Best time to visit Flores

It depends on what you want to do on Flores. For Komodo dragons it doesn’t make a big difference except during the mating season (May to August) they are more active, walking around in search of females. For mantas the peak season is from September to November when you see up to 20-30 mantas in one dive at Manta Point, not many tourists around but many mantas. Actually you can see them all year around just the amount can reduce to 1-4 in one dive in months of July to August. We were there in August and saw only two, other travelers were more lucky and saw 4-5.

Driving around the island. Flores backpacking guide
Driving around the island. Flores backpacking guide

For good weather the best time is between June to October, though June to August is very busy time, islands are packed with tourists, if you travel these months book your flights in advance. Try to avoid mid Jan to mid March monsoon season rough sea and wind.

Some inhabited islands around Komodo. Flores backpacking guide
Some inhabited islands around Komodo. Flores backpacking guide

Things to do on Flores

See Komodo dragons

Probably the main attraction most people come for, specially non divers. Dragons do look quite impressive and a bit scaring. With average weight 80 kg, body size 2,5 m (male species) they may look slow and lazy but actually can be very fast and unpredictable.

Two main islands where you can see the famous dragons are Rinca and Komodo. On both you can do a trek from 10 min. to 1-1,5h, depends on your group to see dragons and their nests. You can do a day trip from Labuan Bajo to both islands.

Some residents of Rinca island, most of the time sleep around rangers' house. Flores backpacking guide
Some residents of Rinca island, most of the time sleep around rangers’ house. Flores backpacking guide

Rinca is smaller and closer, it’s easier to see dragons there, couple of them (huge males) are always around rangers’ house. During the trek you can see more dragons in the wild. The price for a tour is about IDR 500 000/$38  including lunch+150 000/$11 park fee and IDR 65 000/$5 for a guide.

Komodo island is bigger and further away from Labuan Bajo, the trip will be longer and more expensive, IDR 700 000/$53 (plus park and guide fee), including lunch. Both trips will take a whole day, you leave between 6.00-7.00 am and come back after lunch.

Beautiful view from Rinca island. Flores backpacking guide
Beautiful view from Rinca island. Flores backpacking guide

Some dive centers offer combination diving/snorkeling trip with visiting one of the islands. We did it with Divers Paradise Komodo, after two dives our boat stopped at Rinca island some people went to see the dragons and some (who had seen dragons before) went diving or snorkeling.

Diving

Komodo is one of the top places for diving in the world and definitely in a bucket list of every diver. We dived with Divers Paradise Komodo, at Soekarno Hatta street, next to Gardina hostel, cheapest price we could find. For more info and photos on diving at Komodo click HERE.

Our fun diving boat on the way to Komodo. Flores backpacking guide
Our fun diving boat on the way to Komodo. Flores backpacking guide

Snorkeling

You can do a snorkeling trip with one of the dive centers (e.g. DiversParadiseKomodo), price IDR 500 000/$38 for full day, including lunch and snorkeling equipment. Boat stops at three different dive sites for about 1 hour at each. Snorkelers have their own guide.

Visit one of the nearby islands

A day trip to one of the islands, e.g. Kanawa for snorkeling and chilling on the beach. Depending on a group size a day trip can cost about IDR 500 000/$38 per person. It’s possible to stay on Kanawa island there is a Kanawa island resort with bungalows and a restaurant but be ready to pay a lot, IDR 900 000/$68 for a bungalow. The price includes boat charter from Labuan Bajo and back. There used to be cheaper accommodation option – tents for rent for 10$ per night but not any more.

Kanawa island, expensive little paradise. Flores backpacking guide
Kanawa island, expensive little paradise. Flores backpacking guide

Drive around the island

Popular entertainment in Indonesia, easy to rent, don’t need a license, cheap and fun thing to do.  Motorbike rental  in Labuan Bajo IDR 75 000/$5,6 per day if you rent for longer period it’ll be cheaper per day. You can do a day trip to one of the waterfalls, Cunca Wulang or Cunca Rami, about 1h 30min. from Labuan Bajo if you’re a confident driver, steep ups and downs, sometimes off road. To visit the waterfall you need a guide, they ask IDR 50 000/$3,7 per person for 1 hour hike. The waterfalls are quite big with many pools where you can swim.

If you have more time you can do longer trip to Kelimutu volcan and visit some local villages on the way, 2-3 days drive from Labuan Bajo. The hike to the crater is just 40 min., the entrance fee IDR 100 000/$7,5. If you don’t feel like riding a bike all the way you can do a tour to Kelimutu from Labuan Bajo. Most tourist groups go to the top early in the morning to see the sunrise.

Komodo island, Indonesia
Deer, main dragons’ menu, Komodo island, Indonesia

How to get to Flores

Detailed article about different ways of getting from Bali to Flores.

Labuan Bajo the main gateway to Flores

The gateway to the main activities around Flores. The town is a bit of a dump, don’t expect to see nice beaches and crystal clear water for these go to one of the smaller islands nearby. A good thing about Labuan Bajo is that it’s easy to arrange any activity here from diving to hiking. All town is basically tour agencies, hotels/guest houses, restaurants, dive centers and shops.

Labuan Bajo, main street. Not the most beautiful place.
Labuan Bajo, main street. Not the most beautiful place.

Where to stay in Labuan Bajo

There are plenty of places for different budget you don’t need to book in advanced unless your trip is in months of June –  August (peak season) but even these months you can find a place it just can take more time and walking around.

The most popular budget place is Gardina guest house though not the cheapest one, prices from IDR 240 000/$18 for a double with fan. The place looks nice, has a restaurant and garden. 

Hotel Bajo on the main street, 5 min. walk from Gardina, double from IDR 200 000/$15.

There are cheaper places; hostels and guest houses a bit further away down the street. Komodo Indah hotel from IDR 125 000/$9,5 for double. Couldn’t stay there was always full.

We stayed at Kampung Bule hostel, clean spacious dorms with AC, lockers, free tea/coffee, wifi for IDR 80 000/$6 per person, double with fan for IDR 150 000/$11.

Our dorm at Kampung Bule hostel, Labuan Bajo
Our dorm at Kampung Bule hostel, Labuan Bajo
Cool corner backpacker's hostel. Flores backpacking guide
Cool corner backpacker’s hostel. Flores backpacking guide

On the main street there is one more backpackers hostel Cool Corner, bed in dorm with AC, wifi and breakfast for IDR 70 000/$5. The place was ok but the room was small and dark, with no window.

More expensive Matahari hotel and restaurant, double from IDR 300 000/$23.

Of course there are fancy hotels and resorts in Labuan Bajo and surroundings you can find them on booking.com.

ATMs in Labuan Bajo

There are four on the main street; Mandiri, BRI and two BNI, at least one will work, all have the same limit IDR   1 200 000/$90 per withdrawal. Some dive centers and restaurants accept card with 3% charge.

Food places

There are plenty of options in the town, from cheap local street food to western cuisine restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries. Almost all restaurants as well as hotels and tour agencies are located at Soekarno Hatta street, the main street that runs from the harbor through the town. 

The most popular among tourists Italian restaurant La Cucina, great pizza and breakfast, always full at night time, average bill IDR 60 000-80 000/$4,5-6 for breakfast and IDR 100 000/$7,5 for lunch/dinner.

Two other western cuisine restaurants Le Pirate Bajo and Mediterraneo looked nice from the outside but we never ate there.

Fish market, next to the ferry terminal, opened till 5 pm. You can choose fresh fish and ask to grill or fry it for you right there. From IDR 15 000/$1 to 25 000/$2 per fish with rice.

Blue Corner, traditional Indonesian food, mie and nasi goreng, big portions, prices from IDR 20 000/$1,5 to 30 000/$2,2.

Blue Corner, local food place
Blue Corner, local food place

Labuan Bajo is maybe not the best and nicest town in the world but its location and infrastructure makes it a very convenient base to explore Flores and Komodo islands.

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