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Exploring the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores

The 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung would be really popular if it wasn’t so hard to get to, which means if you brave the terrible roads and overcrowded buses you’ll have an array of island paradises that are begging to be explored.

I learnt, after a quick search online, that Riung is 72 km from Bajawa, in central Flores, Indonesia. I said to myself “That’ll be an easy hour and a half – 2 hours, I’ll arrive in the early afternoon, have some lunch, check out the town and then relax”. I was horribly wrong…

That 72 km journey took just over 5 hours to complete. As if the lack of speed wasn’t bad enough, I sat next to an extremely sick Indonesian woman who made those horrible throat noises/threw up into a bag for at least half of the journey. I had almost no leg room because the bus was so full that there were people sitting all over the floor – I guess I should be thankful I actually got a seat.

A boat trip to the 17 Islands Marine Park

I joined forces with a French couple and a German couple, and after finding possibly the cheapest boat in town we set out onto the water with a driver who spoke almost no English. The first stop was to see some huge bats being harassed by the other boat drivers. We pulled in closer to the island and saw a few bats, but the other boats saw far more – I guess their boat captains were better at annoying them.

The 17 Islands Marine Park boat tour in Riung, Flores, IndonesiaSnorkelling in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

We then continued on to the first snorkelling spot. I had only snorkelled once before, In Palawan, and was still a little apprehensive. We had to make our way from the boat to the beach nearby, which looked a lot further than it actually was. I got over my fears and entered the water, and I’m glad I did, as I saw so many fish and colourful corals. It was in those moments that I became completely hooked on snorkelling, and have since done quite a lot of it in the amazing Komodo National Park (post coming soon!).

After snorkelling for about an hour we reached the beach and were treated to the perfect island hopping lunch – freshly caught fish barbequed whole with some noodles, rice and vegetables.

Seafood lunch on the 17 Islands boat tour in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

The Beaches

The beaches were great and almost completely deserted. These aren’t your carefully swept and manicured beaches; there are no resorts or infrastructure at all on these islands and no one is around to clean away the mess. The sand is still great for lying around on though and the water is that perfect, almost Maldives-like colour. The last beach we stopped at was particularly special, as it was completely deserted and had the best water for swimming I’ve seen in Southeast Asia. It was the perfect depth, not too warm and the colour was amazing. Our captain also cut us open a few coconuts for us to drink from while floating about in the water.

A perfect beach in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, IndonesiaBoats on the beach in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

An island with a view

The last island we visited also had a hill with a track (I’m using that term very loosely) which was home to some mind-blowing views over the area.

The view from the top of a hill in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Everything you need to know about the 17 Islands Marine Park boat tour

There’s a lot of misinformation about prices for the 17 Islands boat tour. The touts who hang around the guesthouses are quite arrogant and will try and overcharge you, but most people deal with them because they usually get into town late and it’s easier than walking to the pier, which is about 10 minutes away. We walked to the pier and talked to a friendly guy named Saleem who quoted us 500,000 rp, which included lunch for all 5 people. The next best offer we got was 650,000 rp, and the guys around the guesthouses were trying to charge people a million rp! It’s also really refreshing when someone comes straight out with a good price, forgoing the whole “I’ll try and rip you off then we’ll bargain and arrive at a price that is still too expensive” routine. We had to pay 25,000 rp each for a mask and 20,000 rp in park fees, which means we paid 145,000 rp each, or around $12 USD. In terms of value for money, it’s hard to imagine a better island hopping deal in Indonesia.

The 17 Islands boat trip in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Riung: A small fishing village

Riung is a small and incredibly quiet town which has hardly been affected by tourism. There are a few guesthouses and restaurants, but you’ll mainly see wide open roads, palm trees and houses on stilts. I ate at Pato Resto a few times and the owner there, Chris, is a really friendly guy who can sort out boat trips, transport or some amazing sweet and sour fish. He helped me top up the internet on my phone, and in turn I helped him list his business on Tripadvisor and also gave him some music to play in the restaurant. If you hear Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, The Doors, Radiohead or anything else that seems out of place in Indonesia you’ll have me to thank (I talked to him the next day and he said someone told him it was the best music he’d ever heard in an Indonesian restaurant!).

The 17 Islands Marine Park makes for a great day out, and spending a few days in sleepy Riung is about as relaxing as travel can get – just beware of the horrible bus ride!

Further reading: Backpacking through Flores? Check out this guide!

Boats on the beach after snorkelling in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Have you been island hopping in the 17 Islands National Park? Would you like to? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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23 Comments

  1. August 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm — Reply

    Getting there sounds really like a horrible experience (talking about the woman).
    Looks like an amazing place. Would like to see it.

    • Jon Algie
      August 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm — Reply

      It was definitely worth it!

  2. August 11, 2014 at 5:55 am — Reply

    Would love love love to go there! Just look at that water and that stunning beach! I can just imagine myself there!

    • Jon Algie
      August 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm — Reply

      Cheers Samantha, hopefully you can make it there one day!

  3. September 14, 2014 at 5:48 am — Reply

    This sounds absolutely amazing and the view!!! The endless blue seas…how difficult it must have been to leave.

    • Jon Algie
      September 15, 2014 at 10:44 pm — Reply

      Yeah it was, wish I could have stayed the night on one of them!

  4. October 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm — Reply

    Thanks for the excellent information about Indonesia. 17 Islands is on the list of places to visit, and I am glad that you mentally prepared me for the horrible bus ride. It looks like it is worth it.

    • Jon Algie
      October 3, 2014 at 1:36 am — Reply

      Haha yeah, 72 km didn’t sound so bad, wish someone had warned me! Enjoy your trip, it’ll be interesting to hear about travelling in Flores in the low season – it was pretty quiet even in high season.

  5. October 7, 2014 at 8:26 am — Reply

    OMG! I’m definitely bookmarking this for our trip to Indo. Those photos are amazing! And the beaches sound gorgeous! I love a good deserted beach. Yay!

    • Jon Algie
      March 24, 2015 at 2:52 am — Reply

      Hope you guys make it there!

  6. October 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm — Reply

    “I guess their boat captains were better at annoying them.” haha love that. Congrats on making it there! But I guess if it were easy the beaches wouldn’t be so pristine and untouched anymore! 😀

    • Jon Algie
      March 24, 2015 at 2:51 am — Reply

      Exactly, these islands are about as untouched as you get!

  7. December 1, 2014 at 11:14 pm — Reply

    Indonesia is just sooo beautiful! There are tons of little nooks this, seems like everyone I talk to that’s travelled there has a different island or set there of to suggest… Next time I go back, I’ll certainly be looking up these ones!

    • Jon Algie
      March 24, 2015 at 2:50 am — Reply

      Definitely, there’s still so many islands in Indonesia that I want to go to!

  8. Asali
    June 24, 2015 at 10:01 am — Reply

    Another great blog post on Indonesia. I’m definitely saving this post for my Flores travels whenever I make it back there, I’ll be sure to start here. That sounds like a deal for 145,000 IDR for boat, snorkel, fees, and lunch. Not too shabby. I wrote down Saleem’s name. Thanks!

    • Jon Algie
      June 26, 2015 at 6:58 am — Reply

      Cheers Asali. I reckon it’s got to be some of the best value island hopping in the world!

  9. jo
    August 30, 2015 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    we travelled across flores from Maumere to Labuang Bajo in July. We adored 17 Islands. We hired a car and driver to take us right across the island. Cost was $100 Australian dollars a day between 4 of us. Well worth the money!

    • Jon Algie
      August 31, 2015 at 1:07 pm — Reply

      Sounds like a good idea, there are lots of places you can’t stop when you’re travelling by bus.

  10. March 24, 2016 at 12:10 am — Reply

    Did you come across anyone who had traveled from Labuan Bajo to Riung by boat?

    • Jon Algie
      March 26, 2016 at 9:08 am — Reply

      I met some people who were just about to do that — it sounded like it was going to be a long, rough and expensive trip though!

  11. Trina
    October 5, 2016 at 11:32 am — Reply

    We’re heading to Flores for a few weeks at the end of November/early December – are there any accomodations on any of the islands or are we strickly looking at a day trip? I realise that it was acoupke of years ago but what is the best way to get a seat on the bus? ie arrive early, get on a certain point? did it fill up immediately or along the way?
    we’ve done long, overpacked bus trips (in nicaragua) but we have 2 kids(6 &9) so like to know what we’re getting into so everyone is adequately prepared 🙂

    • Jon Algie
      October 11, 2016 at 5:57 pm — Reply

      Hi,Trina, as far as I know there aren’t any hotels etc on the islands although I have heard you can camp on some of them — could be a cool experience. The bus trawled around town for ages picking people up, just ask at your hotel where it goes first and get on early, you should get a seat. You can also hire a car / driver — this is the kind of horrible bus journey where it could be worth splashing out a bit on something like that. Enjoy your trip!

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