The 17 Islands Riung Marine Park sits just off Flores’s mid-north coast. Despite the name, the park actually comprises of 24 small islands, largely uninhabited save for the odd fishermen’s camp, marine birds and flying fox colony’s that call the islands home. Timor deer, monkey’s, hedgehogs and Mbou, a less fearsome, smaller cousin of the Komodo dragon are also found on a few of the islands. Lazing back on white sandy beaches or snorkelling over fringing coral reefs in clear, sheltered waters of the tiny archipelago is a delight. If that gets too much to handle, climb to one of the island peaks for great views over the islands or take a stroll around the shoreline at low tide where you’re sure to spot hundreds of starfish, sea urchins and sand dollars.
Unless you’re sailing in aboard one of the many liveaboard dive vessels that frequent the area, the park is accessed via the quiet coastal village of Riung where you can charter a local fisherman’s boat for a day to ferry you around the islands. Just ask your guide or guesthouse to organise it for you. The local boat owners appreciate the chance to earn a few extra dollars and will on request, provide snorkelling gear and a barbeque lunch – fresh fish cooked over a camp fire right there on the beach. Robinson Crusoe eat your heart out!
Back on the mainland, a poke around Riung village and the surrounding area is well worth it. Although a few intrepid travellers are trickling through, Riung is still well off the beaten track and maintains a delightfully laid-back, peaceful ambience. Picture bamboo and timber huts nestled under swaying palm trees and smiling locals, mostly descended from the Oting Bajo sea gypies.
The best way to get to Riung is via private hire car. If you’re coming from the west, turn off the Transflores Highway at Mbay (allow 2 hours) or at Bajawa if you’re coming from the east (allow 4 hours) via Ende (allow 3 hours). Either way, expect a long winding drive on roads that become increasingly narrow and more potholed the closer you get to Riung. A public bus runs between Bajawa and Riung twice a day but with numerous stops, expect the trip to take considerably longer.
As you’d expect from a small, relatively remote community, facilities are limited. There are a handful of small guesthouses offering basic accommodation. Don’t expect luxuries like wi-fi or a swimming pool but do expect to pay additional for a hot shower and air-conditioning. If you prefer the homestay option, there’s a couple to choose from down by the wharf area.
Breakfast is generally included with your accommodation and there’s a couple of warungs serving surprisingly good food for lunch and dinner. Snacks and basic supplies can be purchased from the market or a handful of small toko’s along the main street.