In a continuation of our epic adventure island-hopping across Indonesia, we left behind our fifth island of Lombok and headed eastwards to reach Flores, home to wild nature and known as the gateway to the world-renowned Komodo National Park.
How to Get from Lombok to Flores
There are a couple different options for making this trek, depending on your time limit and budget:
FLY: You can choose to fly from Mataram on Lombok (or Denpasar if you're in Bali) to Labuan Bajo in Flores. This is the fastest but most expensive option. Check out local airlines for updated flight times and costs.
BOAT: You can join a 4 day, 3 night experience on a boat where you will liveaboard the vessel as you travel from Lombok to Flores. This adventure typically stops at tourist highlights along the way such as Moyo Island and Komodo National Park. These trips were advertised for approximately 2.3 million IDR at the time of writing, excluding Komodo National Park entrance fees; you can book in either the Gili Islands or Lombok.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: This was the method that we chose to take since it was the cheapest and offered a glimpse into local transport. The entire route took us 31 hours door-to-door including hitch-hiking from our hostel in Kuta Lombok to the bus terminal in Mataram.
Public Transport from Lombok to Flores
The approximate times for our journey are listed below. I explain each step in detail underneath.
3pm - 6pm: bus from Mataram to Kayangan
6:30pm - 8:30pm: ferry from Kayanan to Poto Tano
8:30pm - 10:30pm: bus from Poto Tano to Besar
11pm - 4:30am: bus from Besar to Bima
5am - 7am: shuttle from Bima to Sape
9am - 4:30pm: ferry from Sape to Labuan Bajo
You can book your entire journey in one go at Mandalika from Mataram to Labuan Bajo, however they will charge a higher price than if you book each individually.
I recommend buying just the ticket from Mataram to Bima for 225,000 IDR ($21 CAD). Then, when you board the shuttle in Bima to get to Sape, pay them 30,000 IDR ($2.80 CAD) directly. Finally, when you arrive in Sape, buy your ferry ticket to Labuan Bajo for 60,000 IDR ($5.60 CAD).
Bus from Mataram to Kayangan
You will need to get yourself to the Mandalika Bus Terminal in Mataram to begin your trek. We 'hitchhiked' here from Kuta Lombok by standing on the side of the street and haggling with drivers to take us part way! We did one trek Kuta-Praya and then another one Praya-Mataram for 50,000 IDR ($4.70 CAD) each time.
Once you arrive at Mandalika, street hagglers will very likely harass you into spending money on fake tickets and buses that aren't even located inside the terminal; ignore them all and walk inside the office building to the Loket/Ticket Office.
The bus from Mataram, Lombok to Bima, Sumbawa will cost you 225,000 IDR ($21 CAD). This includes the approximately 8 hours of bus driving, your ferry ticket from Lombok to Sumbawa and a local dinner in a cafeteria in Sumbawa.
Buses depart from the Mandalika Bus Terminal each day at 3pm. There is an air-conditioned waiting room at the terminal with charging ports and free wifi.
The bus was actually surprisingly comfortable: the seats reclined far back and were soft. The only downside was they oversold seats and a couple people sat in the aisles on plastic stools and, when they fell asleep, kept knocking into me! You can keep your backpack stored at the back of the bus so as to avoid any chance of it getting taken off the bus along the way from the luggage compartment below.
Ferry from Kayangan to Poto Tano
At the ferry terminal in Kayangan, you will need to get off the bus and walk on board as the holding level for vehicles is quite narrow. There is seating available indoors and outdoors on the ferry as well as a small place to buy snacks and drinks if you need something for the journey. This part of the trip takes about 2 hours and we enjoyed it sitting on the top deck with groups of local teenagers under the stars.
Bus from Poto Tano to Bima
The ferry arrives in Poto Tano on the western coast of Sumbawa where you have to climb back on board your bus. The drive then continues for about 2 hours and then stops at a local cafeteria where you will be served dinner - we had rice, vegetables and tempeh and it was delicious! We fell asleep shortly after getting back on the bus and woke up at 4:30am in Bima, the largest city on Sumbawa.
Shuttle from Bima to Sape
At 5am, a smaller shuttle will take passengers from the bus terminal in Bima further to the eastern coast to Sape which is where the ferry departs. The seats are much more rickety, but by the time you're driving, the sun will rise and you can enjoy the gorgeous views outside the windows of rice fields and brightly painted villages rushing past.
Ferry from Sape to Labuan Bajo
In Sape, the bus will drop you off right outside the ferry terminal where you buy tickets to Labuan Bajo for 60,000 IDR ($5.60 CAD) per person. They'll ask you for your first name, age and nationality and then will rip off a paper ticket for you. The ferry is scheduled to leave at 9am but by the time we finally got going, it was 9:30am. The journey takes 7 hours and passes by Komodo National Park. The ferry is far from comfortable - I spent my hours wafting in and out of sleep on a metal bench that was made softer only by my sweaters and bags I tried to strew myself across. It's an experience to say the least!
We pulled into Labuan Bajo just before 4:30pm and disembarked straight into town. There's a Starbucks at the port where you can get some wifi to find your accommodations.
We stayed at the Ataflores Hostel in Labuan Bajo, a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal, home to comfy beds and semi-decent wifi plus a great sunset viewing terrace. We paid 110,000 IDR ($10.25 CAD) per person for a bunk bed.
How to Get from Flores to Lombok
We completed this same journey in reverse to return from Flores to Lombok, and then on to Bali. Here are the times for the reverse trip using the same methods of transportation:
9am - 6pm: ferry from Labuan Bajo to Sape
6:15pm - 7:30pm: shuttle from Sape to Bima
8pm - 1:45am: bus from Bima to Besar for dinner (so late!)
2:15am - 8am: bus and ferry from Besar to Mataram
8:30am - 9:15am: public bus to Lembar ferry terminal (47,500 IDR or $4.45 CAD)
10:30am - 3pm: ferry from Lembar to Padangbai, Bali (46,000 IDR or $4.30 CAD)