INDONESIA: Timor, Flores & Sumbawa
Updated: Jun 23, 2019
Camping with a view in Labuan Bajo.
Visa: If you’re planning to stay in Indonesia for longer than 30 days you will need to apply for the 60 day tourist visa via an embassy which can be extended 4 times for 30 days each giving you a total of 180 days. We applied at the embassy in Darwin and paid 70 AUD each. You should download the form from your chosen embassy’s website.
Car Documents Required: Vehicle registration papers and Carnet de Passage
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) - 10,000 rupees = $1 AUD
Diesel: You’ve only really got one option for filling up in Indonesia (except for out of recycled roadside bottles), a government owned company called Pertamina. The price is the same for the whole country. Until we reached Java only bio-diesel was available at 5,400 rupees/litre ($0.54 AUD). It was only on Java that standard diesel was available for 10,300 rupees/litre ($1.30 AUD).
Best time to visit: April - September
Ferries: See shipping info here
We've now crossed our first "official" land border into Indonesia! The border crossing itself was very straight forward; immigration was fast as we already had our 60 day visa and the customs check in involved filling out the Carnet and just a couple of quick questions to ask if we were carrying any guns or illegal drugs, which of course we do not!
Our first destination was Kupang, the capital of the provence of East Nusa Tenggara and the island of Timor's biggest city. There is not a lot happening in the city though and subsequently is mainly used as a transit point between Timor, Flores, Rote and to the islands further north.
Night markets in Kupang.
At the time we were there (November 2017) it was coming into the rainy season when it’s common for the ferries to be cancelled or delayed due to increased wind and swell. Thankfully we had good weather and the ferry left on time for our overnight crossing to Larantuka, Flores. The ferry leaves around midday so we arrived at the port at 9am to buy our ticket. When purchasing a ticket for a car you don’t have to buy passenger tickets, which you can read all about it here. This particular ferry was probably in the worst condition of all the ferries we used in Indonesia and had the largest variety of random things on it including about 1000 baby chickens and a deceased person in a coffin.
The ferry pulled into Larantuka at about 2:30AM, so we found a spot in the ferry carpark to catch a couple more hours sleep. We went out to find some local breaky and met a lovely local guy Sandy, who offered to show us around his home town including the markets and the jetty where the fisherman unload their boats.
After our tour of Larantuka we started the 230km drive to Kelimutu, a volcano with tri-coloured crater lakes sitting at 1639m. We found a camp spot just down from the volcano so that we could get up nice and early the next morning to go up to the summit in time for the sunrise. The hike up to the lookout point is very easy and is mostly paved with stairs so it only took around 20 minutes from the carpark. The view of the lakes was incredible as we watched the clouds lift and the lakes change shades of green as the sun came up.
Kelimutu crater lakes.
From Kelimutu we spent the day driving to a small fishing town called Riung on the north coast. We called into a guesthouse, Café Del Mar, to ask about getting a boat to the 17 Islands National Park. Here we met the owner Itchan who invited us to camp on his property and also join them for an afternoon of drinks. How could we say no!
Through Itchan we organised to take a boat out for a day of free diving on the reef which cost us 800k rupees ($80 AUD). We had a great day in the water though it was definitely noticeable that there was some damage to the coral.
From Riung we drove to Bajawa, about 75km directly south. As is the same in the rest of this beautiful island, it takes a lot of time to get between places as the roads are very windy and you go up and down a lot in elevation. The drive to Bajawa took us around 3 hours, then we drove a little further south to some hot springs in the mountains.
In this area (Ngada Region), there are a few traditional villages to visit. Not too far from the hot springs is one called Gurisina, which we visited on our way down to the coast.
Once reaching the coast we had a big day of driving ahead of us as we were heading for Labuan Bajo, the town in the far west of the island which we’d be organizing to go diving in Komodo National Park. The park is home to some world class diving and is also one of the best places in the world to swim with Manta Rays!
Free diving with the Manta Rays.
We went for two trips out to the marine park, once as a scuba diving trip and the second time as a day trip which included hiking up the very photogenic Padar Island, seeing the Komodo Dragons, snorkelling at Pink Beach and then finishing it off with freediving with the Mantas! We were so excited to swim with them again, this time free diving instead of scuba. As soon as the boat got there we could see a big group of them in the water so we jumped in as fast as we could get out gear on! Seriously such an amazing experience swimming with them without all of your scuba gear on. They’re extremely gentle and curious creatures and stuck around swimming with us for about an hour.
Hiking up Padang Pasar.
Aside from an extremely rich underwater world, Flores is also home to a plethora hidden treasures on land like caves and waterfalls.
From Labuan Bajo we went to check out Rangko Cave and Air Terjun (waterfall) Cunca Rami. The drive out to Rangko Cave was certainly a muddy one! The cave is only accessible by boat, so we drove as far as we could and hired a local boat to go that last little (10mins) leg. The cave has a salt water pool which glows a very vibrant blue, especially at about 3pm when the sun beams in through the cave entrance.
Floating about in Rangko Cave.
Then to Air Terjun Cunca Rami, 43km out of Labuan Bajo and then another hour or so walk to the falls. Well, it was supposed to be 43km! We ended up getting lost and 3 hours later we thought we’d gone down the wrong track and as we turned around to reverse, we could see the waterfall! With no other tourists around, we really enjoyed a few hours here climbing up behind the falls, swimming around and taking some photos.
Air Terjun Cunca Rami.
The end of our time on Flores coincided with New Years Eve. We’d met an Aussie guy Will in the main street of Labuan Bajo a couple of weeks earlier and he’d invited us to go out to his resort The Seraya, on a neighbouring island to celebrate with him and a group of expats from town. We didn’t have anything else planned, so why not?! It took about 1 hour on the boat to get out there, though it felt like we were worlds away from the busy town of Labuan Bajo. We spent a couple of days there celebrating, relaxing and diving. What a treat!
New Years at The Seraya.
Feeling completely recharged after an amazing couple of days out at The Seraya, we caught the ferry to Sumbawa, the next island to the west.
First on the agenda is Lakey Peak on the south coast. It’s a relaxed surfing village where pretty much all there is to do is just that, surf! A bit of a contrast to Flores where it was pretty action packed, it was a nice change of pace! There’s a few great breaks here including; Nangadora, Cobblestone, Lakey Pipe, Lakey Peak, Nungas and Periscopes.
Tropical camping at Lakey Peak.
After a week or so just hanging out here next to Fat Mah’s café, we headed west to another surf spot, Sekongkang aka Yoyo’s. We found a nice little spot in a random park area next to the beach to camp. Unfortunately the area was pretty messy with lots of rubbish that had been washed up from the ocean, so a quick clean up of the area was in order! The weather wasn’t really on our side for our time in Sekongkang though we managed to get a few hours of sunshine in.
A short 45 minutes drive from Sekongkang is the ferry terminal to Lombok!
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