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Home » Local Experiences » ABOUT FLORES ISLAND
ABOUT FLORES ISLAND

ABOUT FLORES ISLAND

Flores is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, a group of islands in the eastern half of Indonesia. The population was 2,039,373 in the 2020 Census (including various offshore islands) and the largest towns are Maumere and Ende. The name Flores is the Portuguese word for “Flowers”.

Flores is located east of Sumbawa and the Komodo islands, and west of Lembata Island and the Alor Archipelago. To the southeast is Timor. To the south, across the Sumba Strait, is Sumba Island and to the north, beyond the Flores Sea, is Sulawesi.

Among all islands containing Indonesian territory, Flores is the 10th most populous after Java, Sumatra, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, New Guinea, Bali, Madura, Lombok, and Timor, and also the 10th biggest island of Indonesia.

Until the arrival of modern humans, Flores was inhabited by Homo floresiensis, a pygmy archaic human.

Unlike most islands in the Indonesian archipelago, the modern name Flores was given by the Portuguese, from Cabo das Flores (Cape of Flowers), the Portuguese term for the eastern part of the island. This part of the island, originally called Kopondai, was so named by the Portuguese because of the flowering Delonix regia trees found there. The original name of Flores was Nipa, referring to the serpent.

FLORA AND FAUNA

The west coast of Flores is one of the few places, aside from the island of Komodo itself, where the Komodo dragon can be found in the wild and is part of Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kelimutu National Park is the second national park designated on Flores to protect endangered species. The Flores giant rat is also endemic to the island, and Verhoeven’s giant tree rat was formerly present. These giant rodents are considered examples of island gigantism.

Flores was also the habitat of several extinct dwarf forms of the proboscidean Stegodon, the most recent (Stegodon Florensis insularis) disappearing approximately 12,000 years ago. The presence of Trigonoceps vultures indicates that the island bore mammalian carnivores at some point.

CULTURE

There are many languages spoken on the island of Flores, all of them belonging to the Austronesian family. In the west Manggarai is spoken; Riung, often classified as a dialect of Manggarai, is spoken in the north-central part of the island. In the center of the island in the districts of Ngada, Nagekeo, and Ende there is what is variously called the Central Flores dialect chain or linkage. Within this area, there are slight linguistic differences in almost every village. At least six separate languages are identifiable. These are from west to east: Ngadha, Nage, Keo, Ende, Lio, and Palu’e, which are spoken on the island with the same name off the north coast of Flores. Locals would probably also add So’a and Bajawa to this list, which anthropologists have labeled dialects of Ngadha. To the east, Sika and Lamaholot can be found.

Jesus Statue in Maumere

The native peoples of Flores are mostly Roman Catholic Christians, whereas most other Indonesians are Muslim. As a consequence, Flores may be regarded as surrounded by a religious border. The prominence of Catholicism on the island results from its colonization by Portugal in the east and early 20th-century support by the Dutch in the west. In other parts of Indonesia with significant Christian populations, such as the Maluku Islands and Sulawesi, the geographical divide is less rigid and Muslims and Christians sometimes live side by side. Flores thereby also has less religious violence than that which has sporadically occurred in other parts of Indonesia. There are several churches on the island. On 26 May 2019, Flores’ St. Paul Catholic University of Indonesia was formally inaugurated by Indonesian Education Minister Mohamad Nasir, becoming the first Catholic University in Flores. Aside from Catholicism, Islam also has a presence on the island, especially in some coastal communities.

TOURISM

The most famous tourist attraction in Flores is the 1,639-metre-high (5,377-foot) Kelimutu volcano, containing three colored lakes, located in the district of Ende close to the town of Moni, although there is also the Inierie volcano near Bajawa. These crater lakes are in the caldera of a volcano, and fed by a volcanic gas source, resulting in highly acidic water. The colored lakes change colors on an irregular basis, depending on the oxidation state of the lake from bright red to green and blue.

There are snorkeling and diving locations along the north coast of Flores, most notably Maumere and Riung. However, due to the destructive practice of local fishermen using bombs to fish, and locals selling shells to tourists, combined with the after-effects of a devastating tsunami in 1992, the reefs have slowly been destroyed.

Labuan Bajo, located on the western tip is often used by tourists as a base to visit Komodo and Rinca islands. Labuan Bajo also attracts scuba divers, as whale sharks inhabit the waters around Labuan Bajo.

The Luba and Bena villages include traditional houses in Flores. Bena is also noted for its Stone Age megaliths.

Larantuka, on the isle’s eastern end, is known for its Holy Week festivals.

In recent years, local tourist firms around Kelimutu have begun promoting cycling tours around Flores, some of which take up to five or six days depending on the particular program.

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