Maumere is a small city that was the former seat of power for the local Raja. The descendents of the last Raja still live here and have got into the hotel business (see below).
Although there isn't terribly much to see in the way of tourist attractions here Maumere is a good place to relax after the Pelni trip. Maumere also has, without a doubt, the best and cheapest seafood you are likely to find in Indonesia .
We stayed at the Gardena Hotel, a clean relaxed place on Jl. Patirangga. The Gardena has 10 rooms starting at 60,000RP.The bathrooms aren't great but the superior rooms have air-con and the place is cool and quiet. Breakfast is included in the room rate and there is a pleasant porch to relax on.
Another good option is the Hotel Maiwali (Jl. Raja Don Thomas), which is owned and run by the descendants of the Raja. None too surprisingly, Jl. Raja Don Thomas is the widest, best kept street in Maumere.
The Comtel internet shop provides a quick connection in air-con comfort at 12,000RP/hr. The Lonely Planet map of Maumere has it located on the corner of Jl. Raja Don Tomas and Jl. Pasar Baru Timor, which is incorrect. It is located on Jl. Hasanuddin.
The post office is located on Jl.Pos across from the soccer field.
Ignore what your guidebook has to say regarding restaurants. The Cafe Borobodur on Jl. Soetomo is overpriced and dingy and the places along Jl. Pasar Baru Barat aren't anything special either.
The best and cheapest seafood in town can be found at Ikan Bakar Jakarta in the port compound. Walk along Jl. Salmet Riyadi over the bridge then take the first right and walk down past the park and the Jesus statue. Turn left and the harbour gate is about 50m on your left. Ikan Bakar Jakarta is about 100m along the road towards the ferry pier on your left. Here you can get a large (approx. 1.25-1.5kg) fish cooked anyway you like for about 20,000RP. They have an excellent selection of squid and prawns and the Sumi Sumi Rica is excellent. They don't sell beer but you are quite welcome to bring your own.
The Golden Fish Restaurant (Jl. Hasanuddin) doesn't have the atmosphere of Ikan Bakar Jakarta, and is a bit more expensive, but their live (you choose your victims from the large aquariums under the restaurant) seafood selection is excellent and reasonably priced for what you get.We ordered a large crab (about 1.8kg), 2 large lobsters, a large fish, rice, noodles, vegetables and about 6 large beers (enough for four people) for about 340,000RP
There is good snorkeling off the beach at Waiara, which is about 12km east of Maumere. Get a moto out there for 5,000RP each way, or offer the guy a bit more (say 12 or 13,000RP) to pick you up for the return journey at an agreed time.
We headed out to Sea World Club and had lunch in their restaurant before lazing around on the beach. The good snorkeling is at the right hand of the beach just before Flores Sao Resort. There are lots of colourful fish and small patches of rejuvenating coloured coral.
There are two standard ways to do this trip, again depending on your budget and how much time you have available to you.
Public bemos to Moni leave from the Ende bus terminal on Jl. Gajah Madah, about 1km south of the city. Bemos take about 4 hours to make the run through to Moni at a cost of about 25,000RP. As with other long distance bemos the drivers have a habit of circling through town endlessly until they have a full load, so if you want to avoid the hassle try and get on a bemo that is nearly full.
The second option is to buy a seat in a travel car. Lots of drivers come into hotels offering their services and you should be able to negotiate a price of 40 - 50,000RP for the trip. The travel car will take two hours and you can arrange to leave reasonably early. This gives you two advantages. Firstly it gives you most of the day free to explore Moni and the surrounds which are quite scenic. Secondly, you as you will beat the public busses you will have first pick of the accommodation in Moni, which is reasonably limited in both choice and quality.
Moni is a small mountain town whose major drawing card is Mount Kelimutu and the coloured crater lakes. Moni is also quite scenic in its own right and there are a number of smaller attractions scattered around the village.
Pretty much all of the accommodation in Moni is on the main road through the village on the Kelimutu side of the market. We stayed at Arwanti homestay where we got a large bungalow with two rooms for 75,000RP. Although Arwanti restaurant is billed as the smartest place to stay in town we were less than impressed.
For 75,000RP the rooms aren't exactly very well cleaned (or cleaned at all.....the staff point blank refused to change the bedding when we arrived after the previous occupants left), the restaurant service is slow and the staff are generally unhelpful.
The duty manager is also very keen to 'help' you arrange transport at ridiculously inflated prices and spent a good part of an afternoon continually chasing us around town trying to convince us that 400,000RP really was a fair price for two people to get a ride to Ende the next day.
The selection is pretty limited in Moni. We had the best meals at Bintang which is located on the hill above the road about 300m back up the hill from the market. The manager is really friendly and helpful, and although we didn't stay there they have homestay type rooms. If there accommodation is as good as their food and service then it would be a great place to stay. The restaurant has excellent views over the valley and is a good place to relax over a beer and watch the sun set.
None of the above are available in Moni, and your credit card is pretty much useless. Bring cash from Maumere.
Mount Kelimutu is the big drawing card for Moni and the basis of the tourism industry here. You can get a bemo from Moni to the top of Mount Kelimutu . Ensuring that you are at the top of Kelimutu before sunrise is a good idea as a blanket of cloud often rolls in mid-morning obscuring the view.
To get to the top early in the morning wait on the side of the road at about 3.50am and a bemo will cruise along and pick you up. After a short stop at the market to pick up and stragglers you drive the 14km up the the mountain to the car park. You then walk about 1km around the craters to the top of the mountain in the dark. The trail is reasonably well laid, but quite rocky in places so bring a torch and decent shoes. A bemo costs 15,000RP each way and there is a stupidly low 1,000RP admission fee to the mountain.
Most people appear to hang around the top until the sun has risen properly, and then head for home at about 8.30. Due to the depth of the crater lakes the sun doesn't get onto them properly until about 10am and it is well worth sitting around enjoying a coffee at the top watching the colours of lakes change as the sunlight moves across them.
Depending on how energetic you are feeling you can take a bemo back down to Moni or you can walk the paved road back, which is what we did. The road is quite scenic with lots of bird life, tall trees and colourful flowers. About 10km down the hill the road opens up to valley where it does a large loop around some rice paddies before meeting up with the main road.
There is a small shrine to the Virgin Mary on the left hand side of the road and the entrance to a village on the right.
To take a shortcut with the option of a refreshing swim and massage in a warm, waterfall-fed pool, walk through the village down the hill and follow the track through the vegetable gardens. Once you come to the river, cross over and walk along the side of the concrete irrigation channel until you come to a path that runs up to the main road.
From here you can either turn left and go up the track to the road and Moni which is about 400m away. If you feel like a swim follow the track down the hill, go across the dodgy looking bridge and over to the waterfall. After being up since 3am and walking down the mountain its one of the best swims i've ever had, and if you swim behind the waterfall and back your shoulders into the flow you can get an excellent head and shoulder massage.
One of slightly more 'oddball' (and certainly unwelcome) attractions in Moni is the mad policeman. You will see him (if they haven't locked him up for killing someone else that is....), he's the idiot in the floppy hat, police t-shirt and pants with the loud hailer, clipboard and note book.
The 'story' goes that a while back the local witchdoctor attacked someone and the police decided to 'take him down'. Try as they might the cops apparently couldn't beat him into submission (which means he must have been quite the hard bastard as your average Indonesian copper is pretty handy with his 'smack smack stick') and they decided that they would have to shoot him.
It seems that the mad copper in Moni was the one that killed him and apparently was cursed in the process. Whatever happened he sure as hell isn't what you would call mentally stable. Strangely the police haven't actually fired him or taken him to get some help, just taken his gun off him and cut him loose.
Quite a few of the locals are pretty scared of him and he is rather good at ruining a perfectly good meal with his ramblings about Hitler, the Antichrist, and how much ganja he likes to smoke each day. Avoid him if you can and if he gets surly then leaving your meal and heading back to your guesthouse is probably quite a good idea.
The hot springs are located by a stand of palm trees in the large section of rice paddies that you see coming down Kelimutu before you turn off to take the shortcut through the village to the waterfall. The quickest way there is to go back down to the waterfall and retrace your steps back to the village and the go cross country across the rice paddies, although you might like to ask permission from the farmers first. They will also be able to show you the quickest and least muddy route. Going in the middle of the day is a good idea as the springs double as the village mandi and apparently get quite crowded later in the afternoon.
Due to a shortage of time we did this trip in one day, and so missed out on trekking and exploring mountain villages around Bajawa and Ruteng which, from the road look especially scenic.
Despite what some people in you guesthouse may tell you, you do not need to make a reservation to get on transport heading further west (i.e. you do not need to pay them a 20% commission to arrange something that you are perfectly capable of sorting out yourself).
There is only one main road to Ende and beyond and it runs straight through the middle of Moni. Basically you should get up at about 10am, have a leisurely breakfast, check out of your accommodation and then park up in a shady spot with your luggage on the side of the road and wait for the public buses to start coming through, which usually happens from 11am onwards. You should be able to get a seat on a public bus to Ende for about 25,000RP although the price of petrol is skyrocketing in Indonesia, resulting in big increases in transport costs, especially in reasonably remote places like Flores .
The other option (which was the one we took) was to ask around if anyone has a friend (and in Indonesia everyone has a friend who just happens to be driving though town the next day, conveniently in the same direction that you are going in) driving to Ende the next day.
As with our case the price starts stupidly high, but with a little calculated casual disinterest and a couple of ragu-ragus we got the price for two people down from 400,000 to 150,000 which for a two hour trip is still very expensive. However we didn't want to go to Ende, and we guessed (quite correctly) that the driver was going to head back to the Labuanbajo (which is really where we wanted to go) to pick up more tourists to take back across Flores on a 6-day tour.
So what you do is this. Wait until you are underway (and away from the helpful guy at the guesthouse who gets a 1/3 cut of your fare to Ende) and casually ask the driver where he is off too. These guys get paid a pittance (about 350,000RP per month) to drive up and down the island for their bosses. The way they make their money is to take passengers on the sly.
We told the driver that if he took us through to Labuanbajo with him we would give him 350,000RP for two people (bearing in mind that it is a 13-hour drive in a car with no breaks, and the trip is practically impossible to do in a single day in a public bus). A public bus trip over two days will cost you about 140,000RP per person and you'll want to spend the next 48 hours recovering.
Basically I told the driver that we would tell the people at the hotel in Labuanbajo (and anyone else that asked) that he picked us up in Ruteng and that we paid 50,000RP each for the trip.
That way not only does he avoid paying a bigger commission to the guy at the guesthouse who helps you arrange the trip, he only has to give the boss the greater part of 100,000RP, leaving him a tidy profit of more than 200,000RP. I think it's a pretty good deal all round. He gets a large payday, you get quick cheap travel in comfort and don't spend the next two days resting up.
The drive took us 13 hours (including a lunch stop in Bajawa at the Camellia Restaurant which does pretty good food), although there was a lot of screeching tyres on the hill corners and many moments when I wished we weren't doing 80km/hr on the wrong side of the road as we approached a hairpin bend.
Labuanbajo is a small fishing village nestled into the hillside at the far western end of Flores .
We stayed in two hotels in Labuanbajo, both of which were in the centre of town and pretty good value for money.
The Bajo Beach Hotel (Jl. Yos Sudarso) has airy rooms with fan, flush toilets and mandi starting from 60,000RP. It is quiet at night and has a generator to cover power outages that often happen in this part of Indonesia .
The Gardena Hotel is further down Jl.Yos Sudarso towards the ferry terminal. It has large but pretty basic bungalows set amongst a garden starting at 60,000RP. Its hillside location and open air restaurant make it the best place in town to watch the sun set over a beer. The restaurant also does pretty good fish and beef hotplates at a reasonable price.
We didn't find any standout restaurants in Labuanbajo. The fact that most of this fish caught in this area are air shipped to the big resorts in Bali has resulted in local restaurants serving frozen fish or fish fillets.
The best meal I had was arranged by a guy that took us out to Rinca for a day trip. There are a couple of Fish Markets on Jl. Yos Sudarso along the waterfront past the soccer field. With a little local help we had a 3kg grouper fresh off the boat and a litre of Arak for dinner on the side of the road by the water for 30,000RP.
As far as we could tell there was no internet available in Labuanbajo. BRI Bank is located on the main street (Jl. Yos Sudarso). The Post Office is located beside BRI Bank.
Labuanbajo is a good place to do dive trips around the area, and by repute there are excellent coral formations and lots of fish, turtles etc to see.
For those wanting a little R-n-R after coming across Flores, Palau Serayu Kecil is an excellent place to spend a few days relaxing. Gardena Hotel has 10 thoughtfully designed bungalows on the island and a restaurant with good food at very reasonable prices.
Boats leave from Gardena Hotel at about 10.40am each morning, but get there early to confirm there is a room available. Bungalows are 85,000RP per night and have power and running water (hopefully) between 6pm and 9pm .
The snorkeling off the reef in front of the bungalows, despite the bleached coral, is excellent. There are quite a few turtles, rays and numerous large fish. If you swim around the point at the left hand end of the bay you might even be able to catch a lobster or two for dinner.
The beach is excellent at high tide, but a little limited at low tide and if you want to go snorkeling you will need to go out and in via the shallow channel directly to the right in front of the restaurant (it is marked by a white tipped stick).
We managed to hitch a ride with a couple of locals for a night out on one of the large fishing boats with double outriggers. Although we were supposed to see them fishing with nets they decided to flag the commercial fishing and just bill us 200,000RP for the evening, which was a bit more than we had initially negotiated. However it was worth every rupiah being a couple of hours out at sea, watching the sun set and catching your own fish for dinner while getting soundly beaten by the crew at chess. We left at 4pm and returned at 7am the next morning.
This is a good option if you don't want to pony up 750,000RP for a 2 night Perama trip through Komodo National Park and onwards to Lombok.
We rented a boat for the day for 200,000RP and set off for Rinca at 8am. Rinca (much like the neighbouring Komodo) is home to a large number of Monitor lizards. Park entry costs 20,000RP, and another 4,000 for a boat docking fee. Reassuringly your ticket also provides you with insurance should you be mauled or eaten by a Monitor lizard.
There are a large number of lizards on the island and it appears that they like to congregate by the backdoor to the camp kitchen. Although they may appear to be a large, sloth-like version of a gecko, they are surprisingly quick and being 90-100kg of legally protected lizard they aren't exactly scared of humans either. Buffalo and deer are their favourite snacks and the general rule appears to be if the lizard wants to have a nap across the path its best to wait until one of the rangers warily moves it along with a lizard prodding stick.
There is a walking tour that takes about 90 minutes with a guide that is included in the park admission price. If you are going on to Komodo hang on to your ticket as it is valid for entry there as well.
On the way back of Labuanbajo you can stop at one of the small islands for a couple of hours snorkeling or lazing about on the beach.
There are two ways of getting to Lombok without flying, take a cruise boat through the Komodo National Park or take the daily ferry (which leaves at 8.30am ) to Sape on Sumbawa and then go across the island and take a ferry to Labuan Lombok.
Prices for the Komodo cruise generally start at around 650,000RP for 'deck class' sleeping, and at least 750,000RP for a cabin. The length of the cruise depends on the company you go with. The smaller operators offer 4 day / 3 night cruises (and some provide a connecting bus to Mataram).
Perama, the most reputable company, offers a 2 day / 2 night cruise for about the same cost.
Generally you get 3 meals a day and 3 bottles of water per person per day included in the ticket price.
Tourism is in a bit of a lull in Labuanbajo at the moment, and it can be difficult to work out exactly when the boats are leaving, as they require a minimum of 6 - 8 people to make the trip. Additionally there are many stories about the smaller operators regarding rip offs, stolen gear and 'all inclusive trips' that really included bugger all. They apparently also have a habit of 'inventing' other tourists who have also signed up for the trip (to get you to do the same) and promising a departure date that may not eventuate.
To make a booking the ticket offices require a reasonable large deposit. We decided for the following reasons to get to Lombok via Sumbawa :
1) 2 nights / 2 days with the apparently reputable Perama company was pretty expensive at 1,300,000RP for two people, especially considering that for the first night you board the boat at 6pm in Labuanbajo and spend the night motoring in the dark.
2) The local operators couldn't guarantee a departure date, wouldn't show us the boat we would be going on, and wanted a hefty deposit up front. Their prices didn't include entry costs for the park and the other side trips were a couple of hours snorkeling each day.
Because of the cost, the uncertainty and fact that you can do a day trip to Rinca, see all the dragons and other assorted wildlife (monkeys, deer, buffalo etc) you like, do some snorkeling and get a comfortable nights sleep and a good meal at the end we decided to head to Sumbawa .
The ferry to Sape (Sumbawa ) leaves at 8am (really at 9am, but get there early on the off chance that they actually get underway on time. Tickets for first class cost 22,000RP and are well worth the extra 5,000RP to avoid the scummy economy class cabin. The trip takes about 6 hours and there is a small canteen aboard where you can buy the usual selection of snacks and drinks.
The ferry arrives in Sape, which is actually two towns, the scummy bit by the ferry landing, and the nicer looking part about 500m up the road.
The port side of Sape is a hole. The guys scalping bus tickets are a pain in the ass to say the least and basically consider that if they find you first you are their property for the rest of your time there.
Our plan was to catch a bemo up to Bima and then break up the island crossing into legs; Bima to Sumbawa Besar and Sumbawa Besar to Mataram (Lombok). In retrospect this wasn't the smartest or most time efficient move, as although the guide books say that the interior of the island was well worth seeing (which is one of the reasons we staggered the trip) we found the place to be pretty uninteresting (possibly due to the arid conditions at the end of the dry season).
A bemo from Sape to Bima should cost around 7-8,000RP and will take about 3 hours including the obligatory messing about. We were lucky enough to score a ride in a rented car with a couple of German guys. The scenery between Sape and Bima is the best on the island, the rest of which is pretty dry and barren in September.
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