There are close to 1000 permanently inhabited islands to explore in Indonesia yet the vast majority of Kiwis travel to one, and one only. Bali. I’m constantly amazed when I hear of friends who are content with spending a week in a resort in Seminyak followed by another week in a resort in Nusa Dua, occasionally venturing out to one of the Australian-owned Taquerias or Coffee Shops.

I’m not going to pretend I haven’t been one of those Australians in Bali. I’ve had a cocktail at Potato Head and bought $11NZD Gin and Tonics in the early hours of the morning from La Favela, but when a friend invited me to the Island of Flores, a 1.5 hour flight direct from Denpasar, I jumped at the opportunity. I was hoping to experience a more authentic version of Indonesia, one where the food prices were as low as the tourist numbers.

Getting there

Flying between Indonesian Islands these days is a piece of cake. Garuda is far from the airline it was 10 years ago. Today it boasts a brand new fleet and flies daily on Gurada’s ‘Explore’ sub brand to two cities on Flores; Labuan Bajo, the home of the Komodo Dragon and Ende, famous for Mt Kelimutu, an active volcano with three different coloured lakes. The flight costs around $110NZD each way and provide an amazing aerial view of the island network and Labuan Bajo as you descend (best enjoyed from the right side of the plane).

Labuan Bajo airport is surprisingly modern and although it looks a little unfinished, it suits the city to a tee. A cab trip into town will set you back around 50,000 IDP (roughly $6NZD), with plenty of drivers on hand when you exit the airport. The centre of town is accessible via a single one way road that circumnavigates the town and greets you with a glorious panoramic shot of the port against a backdrop of endless islands. You’ll see locals riding against the traffic but I’d highly recommend against it as the police are often about and have no interest listening to your excuses in English.