Flores in Indonesia is one of the original Spice Islands with a long tribal and colonial history. In the 15th century Bugis seafarers from Southern Sulawesi came to Flores for trading and slave raiding, and took control of some of the coastal areas that resemble pirate ports. The Portuguese reached the island in the early 16th century and named it ‘Cabo das Flores’, which means ‘Cape of Flowers’. The island became a strategic point for the economic activities of Portuguese traders. Flores produces huge quantities of cocoa, coffee, candlenuts, cloves, cinnamon, bananas and tropical fruits.
The island is home to the poorest inhabitants of Indonesia but these people are also some of the friendliest I have met in my travels.
Tourism is a new concept here and encounters with travellers is very much a novelty. It is amazing to watch the reaction of who are seeing a photo of themselves for the very first time!
Most families on Flores still struggle with an educational system they cannot afford. The lack of education doesn’t allow the younger generation to look beyond the family farm, making self-subsistence farming the mainstay of the majority of the population.
We visited a local primary school in the village of Wolegai and gave the children gifts of exercise books, pens, rulers and erasers. We were treated to an impromptu performance of traditional songs which was a very humbling experience.
The scenery throughout the island is spectacular, from fuming volcanoes, rugged river valleys, bamboo forests, black sand beaches to uninhabited islands fringed with coral reefs offering world class snorkeling and diving. We hiked the mountainous region of Kelimutu with its coloured lakes and rice terraces and were rewarded with an incredible sunrise and panoramic view above the cloud line.
The highlight of a Flores journey is sailing aboard the traditional boat, Samata. This typical Indonesian phinisi allows you to explore the Komodo National Park in the lap of luxury. For the intrepid traveller seeking a fresh, undiscovered destination filled with cultural interactions, Flores is hard to beat.