East of the popular Indonesian tourist islands of Bali and Lombok is the island of Flores, which is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Flores is right off the beaten track for most people except surfers and divers, as the waters around the island boast some good reefs and great surf breaks.
Flores means “flowers” in Portuguese and its biggest town is Maumere which lies on the north coast of the island. The town has a population of about 70,000 and was almost totally destroyed when a large earthquake hit in 1992. That was a natural disaster, but the reefs around the town are now recovering from the ecologically irresponsible habit of fishing using chemical bombs which not only almost killed the reefs off, but also poisoned the fish.
Attitudes have changed, and the local people have embraced tourism and are treating their island more kindly. It is well that they should, as one of the highlights of any trip to Flores is the Kelimutu Three Colour Lakes.
Kelimutu is an active volcano that is close to the town of Moni. Kelimutu has three lakes, which are of differing yet extraordinary colours, and a truly amazing sight. These lakes are actually part of the same crater, and scientists are at a loss to explain the tremendous variation of the lakes’ colours, although one explanation could be that the change is caused by volcanic activity changing the mineral compounds, thus affecting the lakes.
The lakes are normally green, black and blue, with the hues being both vibrant and very distinct.
It is possible to drive almost to the summit, where visitors begin a 1.5 kilometre walk to a good vantage point where all lakes can be seen simultaneously. The lakes do change colour, and have been known to be red and white at times, as well.
Anthropologists have a presence on Flores too, as a completely new species of human was discovered here in 2004. With the scientific name Homo Floresiensis, they are more commonly called `Hobbits’ because they were fully formed humans, who lived until about 18,000 years ago, but were only about one metre in height.
Another unusual place on Flores is Snake Palace Cave, which is located about seven kilometres from the town of Lembor.
This cave is the shared home to reticulated pythons and bats. Many pythons and thousands of bats are resident in the cave, with the bats being a handy food source for the snakes. Visitors have a great opportunity to observe snakes in the river valley and around the cave entrance, and it is highly recommended that you visit only in the company of an experienced guide as it can be very dangerous.