Can’t We Just Take a Tour?
It’s a long running joke in my family, an oft-reused line once uttered by my exhausted mom while she was backpacking with me through China: Can’t we just take a tour? The answer to that simple question is a solid YES – under certain conditions, of course.
Even for backpackers and budget travelers, tours can, on occasion, prove to be the best option. In some situations, they might actually be the only option. From our journey into Western Tibet to our cruise through the backwaters of Kerala to our recent overnight visit to Komodo, we have often opted for organized trips. The key is to understand what you are getting as well as what you are giving up when you join such an excursion.
Faced with a deadline imposed by our soon to expire Indonesian visa, the time-consuming process of working our way independently across Flores while taking in the spectacular island’s natural and cultural attractions had us a bit worried. The more we researched the route, the more we realized we might benefit from something a little more “organized”.
Again our goal was not to step blindly into a tour, but rather sit down with someone and work out a route that met our goals. We researched various options until we had the extraordinary luck to happen upon Frans, a knowledgeable and professional Flores guide who we booked through Komodo Mega Tours Indonesia.
Working together with Frans, we agreed upon a six-day tour from Labuanbajo to Ankermi Happy Dive Resort (located 30 km past Maumere) via Ruteng, Bajawa, Riung, and Kelimutu. Splitting costs with friends Marnix and Elma, whom we met in Kanawa, the transport and guide costs will come to about $85 US per person. That’s not too shabby for six days on the road in an air-conditioned SUV with an experienced English-speaking guide/driver. Actually, when you take into considerations the cost of public transportation as well as the need to hire local cars or ojeks to drive you out to rural attractions, that $85 might just be cheaper than doing it on your own, not to mention the sheer luxury of a private, air-conditioned car with the option to stop anywhere along the way.
Itinerary highlights include:
* Cunca Rami (waterfall)
* Golo Cara spiderweb rice terraces
* Ruteng town
* Liang Bua cave – The Flores Hobbit Cave
* Mano village rice terraces
* Ranamese crater Lake
* Arak making villages near Aimere
* Bajawa town
* Luba and Bena villages (Ngada tribe)
* Hot water springs near Soa
* Riung town (2 nights)
* Cruise to visit 17 Islands Marine Park including the flying foxes at Pulau Ontoloe, snorkeling and seafood BBQ at Pulau Tiga as well as snorkeling at other locations
* Blue stone beach
* Wologai village (Lio tribe)
* Moni town
* Kelimutu at sunrise
* Lunch on Paga beach
* Visit old church in Sika
NOTE: Tour costs are for transportation and guide only. Hotel costs, entry fees, and Riung cruise costs are separate. Frans will help us bargain out the costs along the way, which is nice because the people in Flores don’t seem to like to bargain.