We had overnighted in Bajawa the 2nd night and Alvin took us to see their brand new market before we left town. Huge facility … not very full or busy, so lacked the vitality of the Ruteng market. But we were still struck by the beautiful vibrant colours.
After a 15 minute hike to and from Ohgi waterfall, we headed straight north to get to the north shore town of Riung.
Alvin warned us that the drive to Riung would be rough and slow. But the road had even further deteriorated since his last visit 3 months earlier so indeed it was long and rough.
The vegetation clearing crew had not been through for months, anyway – about half the road disappeared from encroaching trees and bushes, and all turns were completely blind.
But none of this really put us off because we knew we had a fantastic afternoon ahead of us. We would be heading out in a boat to visit “17 Island National Park” for a fish bbq and snorkeling.
Riung is a lovely, very laid back town. Palms line and hang over the roads and nothing moves fast. We met our boat owner/guide and his son Eddie on the wharf and headed out to island stop #1.
We snorkeled while they prepared lunch. There were some fantastic parts to the reef, with huge schools of colourful fish, but we saw something here we hadn’t seen in any of our other snorkeling thus far …. garbage on the reef 😦 Plastic bags, tin foil wrappers, bottles, other plastic. It certainly takes the shine off the experience.
We hit a second island for more snorkeling which was thankfully clean of garbage. Again, the coral was in great shape. We weren’t sure what to expect because we’d heard various reports of the local fishermen’s practice of using dynamite and cyanide fishing. With dynamite fishing they set off a small charge on the reef and all fish nearby are shocked or killed and float to the surface. With cyanide fishing, they pump some cyanide into the area of desired fish, and the fish become rather paralyzed and are easily caught. It doesn’t take a marine biologist to figure out how harmful both of these practices are to coral reefs. Our guide said that these were practices of the past, but others we talked to indicated otherwise.
We did make a point of talking to our guide (through Alvin, because he spoke no English) about the garbage on the reef. Maybe the fishermen could get together one day? Maybe tourists could be given a discount and a garbage bag if they agree to do some cleaning? Income from these fish bbq/snorkeling trips make up a significant portion (more than half) of the fishermen’s livelihood, so much is at stake. We explained that with such almost universal use of Trip Advisor, word would get out as garbage accumulates and tourist traffic in this rather hard to get to place would probably drop off. Alvin said we weren’t the first to discuss this with local guides.
The final part of the 17 Islands tour is a trip to see their flying foxes. We first encountered these creatures in Vanuatu. Then in Cairns, Australia. But this was far and away the best gathering we’d seen, and up close too. Phenomenal.
Alvin was waiting for us at the wharf and we all went back to the guide’s home for coffee and fried bananas and to meet his two daughters and wife. This hospitality practice seems common in Flores.
We got out side as the light was fading and looked up to see those hundreds of flying foxes high in the sky, heading (we were told) deep into the island in search of fruit trees. They would return by morning.
Some great local food for dinner in a quiet little “warung” (restaurant) put a nice final touch on another good (and easy, for us) day on Flores island.