Riung was the part of our Flores adventure that I was looking forward to the most: a whole day to be spent exploring the tropical islands of Pulau Tujuhbelas (or 17 Islands National Park - actually there are 24 islands!), sailing through crystal-clear waters and putting my snorkeling gear to good use.
After a night in the picturesque seaside town of Riung, we headed out on a full-day boat tour of the islands.
If there's one thing I've learned after trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and climbing Mt Batur in Bali, it's that I'm more comfortable at sea level. As soon as I glimpse a large body of water I instantly feel myself relax. Maybe it's the Cancerian in me or maybe it's having grown up with a swimming pool and close to rivers and oceans, but being by the sea is definitely my happy place.
White sandy beaches, postcard-perfect clear waters and an incredible array of underwater life abound. It's hard not to feel relaxed here, away from the hustle-and-bustle of busier island destinations like Gili Trawangan. And relax we did, spending half the day snoozing, reading and exploring Pulau Tiga. Miti made us amazing necklaces out of shells, coral and some natural fibres she found. Our transformation from weary trekkers to blissed-out beach bums was complete!
Lunch was freshly-caught Trevally, barbequed to perfection over an open fire by our captain. As usual I stuffed my face with prawn crackers, which I could probably live off if required.
Eventually we dragged ourselves from our island paradise and motored off to Pulau Rutong for more exploring. The others found a hill to climb, as they usually do, but I left them to it and instead spent some quality time with my feet in the sand, enjoying the view and hunting for keepsakes among the shells and coral that had washed ashore. I've got some pretty cute pieces now - just have to hope customs in Australia let me take them back!
After this, our captain (Captain Hook when sailing; Captain Cook when grilling) took us off to explore the mangroves. Or so we thought! Suddenly Ivan, our driver/guide and Captain Hook were screaming and yelling and moments later thousands of bats were awoken from their slumber. Poor Sal, who has survived many a bat trapped in her bedroom, didn't know what to think. As the bats circled overhead, we prayed their echolocation was working and we wouldn't be subjected to a bat in the face. Then Captain Hook decided to turn into Captain Batsh!t Crazy (pardon the French) and directed the boat INTO the mangroves. We were INSIDE THE BAT SWARM. It was like being on set in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Horrifying but also incredible.
After that terrifying encounter, we were ready to bid adieu to our tropical island paradise and head back to Riung for sunset views, showers and dinner. Our time in Riung and 17 Islands National Park was fantastic and well-worth the effort in getting there.
Full-day boat tours to the islands can easily be arranged in Riung, just ask your accommodation or head down to the pier the afternoon before. Boat hire with captain and lunch for the day will cost approx. Rp1.5-2million. Our boat comfortably seated 6 people but could have easily accommodated more.
Unfortunately there are no dive schools operating in this area at this stage, but you will have plenty to see just snorkeling.
We stayed at Nirwana Bungalows for 2 nights (approx Rp250,000/room during high season). The beds were comfortable and after a few days of no showers, the semi-outdoor shower was a welcome relief. Towels are provided, but are about the size of a tea towel so make sure to bring your own. Breakfast (including your own fresh-baked mini loaf of bread!) is included.
There are few choices for food in Riung and ordering ahead is a MUST (see previous post!). Speak to your accommodation or driver/guide for advice.