Going to Flores was the best experience I have ever had and probably will be for quite a while. Having the opportunity to go to a foreign country at my age of 13. Not many people I know have had that opportunity. I now know how lucky I am, to have multiple pieces of clothing or access to water out of the tap. All the things that we take for granted are the things that these people don’t have, and don’t need, to be able to survive. The three young boys I met in the local village, Tololela, might have been some of the happiest people I have ever met.
Recently I started learning Indonesia in Year 7 at school. I was only half way through the second term when I went to Indonesia for the first time. I was immediately able to talk to people at the airport, even if it was just things like thankyou and hello. Knowing even just a little of Bahasa Indonesia, helped me to ask the price of things and have a small conversation. I was able to make friends in the local villages because I could speak their language. The people there had their own language and Bahasa was their second language. After learning Bahasa they start to learn English. I thought that most people in Indonesia learned English as a second language, but no, the local villagers spoke their own language before Bahasa, making English their third language.
Where I was staying at the start of the trip was not much different to Australia. It was just busy roads lots of buildings, but to really understand the culture you had to go further than cities. In my last three days on Flores, I spent it walking off the track with my dad and our guide Arnold Jo. We walked through 8 traditional villages one of them being Bena, which is a well-known town where all the tourists go to visit. We then went from Bena to Tololela, where we spent the night. I was able to make friends and play games with boys and girls of this town and communicate with them in Bahasa. My dad and I were lucky enough to be able to see one of their traditional thatch roof houses being built. All the men spent the whole day on the roof making the frame for the thatch, while the ladies of all ages were preparing the thatch in bundles to go on the roof. The diversity of culture on Flores is what I think made this trip so amazing. You can be driving through the island and one place they can speak Bahasa and the next they speak a completely different language and their cultures reflect this.
This was not my first time travelling by air but the experience in Indonesia was completely different. Traveling through these tiny little airports only the size of my lounge room was quite uncomfortable at start but eventually I was able to do that kind of travel on my own. Because I took so many plane trips for this journey I got used to being in an airport and was okay with all the check-ins and customs. At the end of this trip I think that I could travel at any airport on my own. This is the kind of thing you get out of these trips. And that is why it was so great for me, a thirteen year old boy to go on this adventure.
During most of this trip I was with a group of birders. Trying to see some of Flores’ rarest birds such as the Flores Sops Owl and the Flores Monarch, which are both endemic to Flores. There were many other amazing birds that we saw, too many to list. People say the diversity of wildlife on Flores is boring and unspectacular. That is completely wrong. Flores holds some of the most amazing birds and animals in all of Indonesia. The Komodo Dragons are the most popular wildlife in Flores. Komodo Dragons are one of the largest lizards to walk this earth. They are only found on Komodo and Rinca Island just off Flores. Komodo dragons are basically the only reason tourists come to Flores, not realizing there are all the birds and a few strange mammals on Flores like the Flores Porcupine. Flores is an extremely volcanic island with seventeen active and inactive volcanoes, meaning the island is full hot springs and huge mountains. Flores is a very special island, seeing as it is a volcanic island surrounded by six lime stone islands making Flores strange and beautiful.
All the things I have seen and done on this amazing trip have changed the way I think about everyone and everything around me. I have never been overseas to a place quite as remote and spectacular. Being able to swim in the fresh water of a huge waterfall and snorkel with manta rays just off the coast of Komodo Island the home of the amazing Komodo Dragon. This experience has changed my life forever and I hope that this story can help influence others to go and enjoy this amazing place, just like I did.