Island Hopping in Flores, Indonesia on a Liveaboard

Flores is famous for being surrounded by breathtaking islands, carnivorous Komodo Dragons, the gorgeous Pink Beach, and incredible underwater life. If it’s not on your Travel Bucket List yet, make sure to add it!

We’re not exaggerating when we say that it was one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, trip we’ve ever been on. Get ready to read all about our experience of holidaying and exploring on a liveaboard, with some great insider tips for your next trip to paradise.

Paradise on earth
Paradise on earth
komodo boat trip 1

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Where is Flores

Flores is an island in Indonesia that is becoming the next tourist hotspot. You only need to take a 1h15min direct flight from Bali’s domestic airport, into Labuan Bajo to get there. Easy peasy. Flight prices range from 500k IDR (35$ USD) to 1 million IDR (70$ USD) each way, depending on the season.

Insider tip: Try to get a seat on “F” as you’ll have the most breathtaking view flying into Flores from that side of the plane.

The best time to visit Flores and its surrounding islands is when the wet season has just ended, meaning in April. Why? Well, everything will still be green, but you won’t have to endure the heavy rain showers.

View outside the plane window
View outside the plane window

Where to Stay in Flores

There are multiple options for every budget. If you’re going on a liveaboard for a few days, we recommend arriving a day before the boat leaves and leaving the day after you return back to Flores so that you are not rushing one and off your boat.

If you’re on a budget, we’ve got you covered too. The hostel called “La Boheme Bajo” is a great option for those of you who want to be close to the port while staying in a cute hostel that even has table tennis and a billiard table.

If you want to enjoy the perks of the first-ever five-star resort in Labuan Bajo, we recommend AYANA Komodo. It’s a resort where holiday dreams come true and as a cherry on top: It’s only a 10-minute car ride from the airport.

Ayana Komodo Lobby
View from the lobby of Ayana Komodo

Exploring the surroundings of Flores on a liveaboard

What is a liveaboard and what are your options

A liveaboard is what you call a boat that’s suitable for people to live on. It has bedrooms, a shower, a toilet, a kitchen, comfortable chilling areas, and a dining area. Just like hotels, liveaboards range in star rating levels, from basic amenities to all of the luxuries you’d expect from any five-star resort. You can choose one that suits your budget!

Our boat
Our boat

Things to consider when choosing your liveaboard…

First, you have to decide whether you want to go on a day trip to visit the Islands, or if you’d rather go on a multiple-day trip. There’s really something for everybody. We opted for the 3-day/2-night option to not be rushed and to really get to enjoy all the different islands and activities.

Second, you have to decide whether you want to go on a private boat or a shared boat. If you choose a private boat, you have the advantage of being alone with your group without any other guests, this also means your group can customise your itinerary too! You will have a more intimate experience with your friends/family, and most importantly you can choose the days you want to go on the trip.

If possible we recommend choosing the middle of the week as the weekends are extremely busy. The downside to a private boat is it’s more expensive. A shared boat on the other hand is cheaper but you have to share the boat with others (which can also be a great way to meet new friends) and some of them only operate on the weekends, meaning it’s going to get quite busy. It’s however a great option for all the solo and budget conscious travelers.

Thirdly , make sure to ask for the itinerary beforehand to know which islands are included on your trip.

Last but not least, once you’ve made the first two decisions, you have to decide on the boat itself. Some things to consider: Does it have a working AC in the bedrooms, does it have a western-style toilet, is the shower big enough, does it offer 3 meals a day (+ snacks), is the snorkeling and/or diving equipment included, and does it have a deck where you can chill after your days of adventuring.

What is it like living on a boat

If you’re worried about safety, rest assured you will be safe. All boats come with life vests, have an extra small boat, and are checked by the crew before the start of the trip. You always spend the night close to the shore, never in the middle of the ocean.

If you go during the dry season, you won’t have to endure crazy thunderstorms either. The waters are quite still and not many waves. However, please do watch out for the currents as they can be quite strong – we don’t recommend randomly jumping into the water while on the boat. But the snorkeling spots you’ll visit will be safe, just always follow your crew’s advice.

Living on a boat for 3 days was an incredible experience. In between visiting the islands, you get to enjoy tasty meals, get to sunbathe on the deck, and relax. At night you see the most beautiful night sky as there’s no light pollution – maybe you’ll see some shooting stars.

Sky full of stars
Sky full of stars
View from our boat
View from our boat

The attractions

Alright, let’s get to the juicy part: The attractions. Let us tell you, if you think Bali is paradise then Flores and its surroundings must be straight up heaven! We saw about 9 islands, and one island outdid the next.

If you also opted for the 3-day/2-night tour, here is what you’ll most likely see.

Insider tip: Make sure to bring enough money for the entrance fees. Padar island and Komodo island cost money. For 4 people, we paid around 350k per person for both islands together. You will also have to pay a boat parking fee at Kanawa island of 100k total. Some boats include this in their package price and others don’t.

Day 1

We left Labuan Bajo at around 10 am to make our way to our first stop at Kelor island. You’ll have to hike up a short trail to get to the top viewpoint of the island. Don’t worry, it’s only about 15 minutes and you’ll have the most amazing view from the top.

Kelor island
Kelor island

Next, you will make your way to Manjarite island to go snorkeling. Get ready to see colorful corals and hundreds of huge sea stars.

For sunset, you will visit Kalong island. You won’t actually get off the boat, but you don’t have to experience the amazing spectacle that happens every sunset: Thousands of big flying foxes will leave the Island right at sunset.

Flying foxes at Kalong island for sunset
Flying foxes at Kalong island for sunset

Flying foxes at Kalong island for sunset

Once the sun disappears, you will make your way to Padar island. It’s about 1.5-2 hours and you’ll spend the night there. That way you get to see the sunrise from the top of Padar island the next morning.

Insider tip: Make sure the itinerary of your boat has Padar island for sunrise. It was spectacular

Day 2

Day 2 was our favourite day!

At around 5:00 am, we started hiking up Padar island to see the sunrise from the top. Honestly, the scenery was just out of this world – you can see the black sand beach, the pink sand beach, and the white sand beach! There are two viewpoints at the very top of the island, but they are both quite similar. However, if you want no people in your pictures, hiking up to viewpoint 2 is recommended.

Insider tip: Even if you’re not an early bird, we still highly recommend getting up early and starting the hike at 5:15 am at the latest. We were the first ones and got to enjoy the beautiful view in peace before all the tourists arrived about 30 minutes later. The hike took us about 20-25 minutes and it’s mainly stairs.

Padar island
Padar island

Next, Pink beach was on the list. You’re probably wondering if Pink beach is really pink. Well, it depends. It was quite pink when we arrived but about half an hour later the pink colour kind of disappeared.

So why is the beach pink? The stunning colour is caused by the Foraminifera that produces pink/red colour pigments on the coral reefs. When tiny fragments of the corals break off and wash ashore, they mix with the white sand producing a pink colour.

Insider tip: Arrive when the sun is just about to hit the pink beach in the morning and when there are no strong waves to have the highest chance of seeing the pink colours.

Even if the sand isn’t super pink, the stop will still be worth it! You can take a dip in the crystal-clear turquoise water! It is a great way to cool down and relax after hiking up Padar island.

Pink beach
Pink beach

Pink Beach

Next, you’ll visit the famous Komodo island to spot the last dragons alive: Komodo dragons. When you arrive on the island you get to choose between three different tracks varying in length. We opted for the middle one and it was more than enough. Don’t worry, you will not be alone. A guide will accompany you telling you interesting facts about the animals of the island.

Komodo Dragon on Komodo island
Komodo Dragon on Komodo island
Afterwards, we went to Taka Makassar which is a beautiful little sand bar that also has a bit of a rose sand color to it. The sand bar was one of the highlights for us – it was so gorgeous. Since it’s literally a small sandbar, we didn’t stay too long but left for Manta point after about 30 minutes.
Taka Makkasar
Taka Makkasar

Taka Makkasar

Manta point really does justice to its name! You will for sure see and also get to snorkel with huge manta rays. We saw about 6 manta rays that actually got kind of close to us. It was an amazing experience being so close to such stunning animals.
Snorkeling with Manta rays at Manta point
Snorkeling with Manta rays at Manta point
That’s it for Day 2 – what an incredible day. For sunset, we made our way to Siaba island where we would snorkel with turtles the next morning.
Our neighbors

Day 3

This was the last day of our boat trip. And we ended it with a banger! We got to snorkel with turtles, and we even saw a shark. Sharks in Indonesia are the harmless variety, so it wasn’t as scary as it may sound!
Snorkeling with turtles at Siaba island
Snorkeling with turtles at Siaba island
Our very last stop was Kanawa island where we got to snorkel with thousands of colorful fish and beautiful coral. It was a great ending to our trip! Kanawa island was also safe for jumping into the water from the boat. So that’s exactly what we did – gotta take advantage of living on a boat right?
Enjoying boat life near Kanawa island
Enjoying boat life near Kanawa island

Enjoying boat life near Kanawa island

We arrived back in Labuan Bajo at around 1 pm.

Back to Flores for the day

We decided to fly back to Bali the day after we would return from the boat trip so we had an extra day in Flores to do some exploring. We recommend checking out Ranko cave where you can take a dip in the beautiful turquoise water. If you’re looking for a great dinner spot with an amazing sunset view, we can recommend Seastar. They have very delicious and affordable food options as well as a pool for you to enjoy.

Insider tip: combine a visit to the Ranko Cave with a hike up the Love Hill

Final Words

Our trip to paradise was just breathtaking: So many new impressions, amazing scenery, and the experience of living on a boat made it just perfect. A trip we will never forget and forever cherish. If you’re planning on visiting Bali or Indonesia, love the water and some adventure, adding this to your Travel Bucket List is an absolute must.

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