Arriving in Labuan Bajo at the end of my Flores adventure, I was ready for a spot of relaxation. Seraya Island Bungalows, operated by Labuan Bajo-based Gardena Hotel was just what I needed. Walking to the pier and boarding our boat for the one hour journey, I met other guests travelling to Seraya – the island has only one set of bungalows so we would be neighbours for the night.
Journey into Paradise
The loud roar of the boat’s engines drowned out conversation as the one hour journey took us zipping across the turquoise waters, passing many islands or all shapes and sizes, some rocky, others covered in grass with trees sticking up on their hills, which reminded me of a child’s drawing. Arriving in Seraya the boat pulled up on the white sand and we leapt off, on to paradise island.
Visitors from Germany, Australia, the US, Belgium and domestic Indonesian tourists, of all ages, in couples, groups of friends and solo travellers like me, had chosen to spend a night or a few on idyllic Seraya island, and we were greeted by the current guests in a friendly way, knowing that we were all having a shared experience of this beautiful place.
Looking at my phone I realised that there was no phone signal. Finally, the first place in Flores free from mobile phones! I would be forced to get away from Twitter and Facebook for a night. Later I found out that you can find a weak phone signal by standing in a particular spot or climbing to the top of a hill, but it’s not strong enough for using the internet.
On the Island
This white sand beach backed by rolling grassy hills, set in a calm bay, would be my home for the night. With just a few wooden bungalows on the beach and a single restaurant building, this was basic accommodation at its best. Settling into my bungalow with its perfect view from the veranda out to sea, I chilled out in the shade while the sun was at its hottest, and caught up on my holiday reading.
As the brightest part of the day drew to an end I headed out for a swim. The crystal clear water was nice and warm and swimming directly in front of my bungalow, I saw two giant red starfish, as well as shoals of fish in the shallow waters. A little further out to sea, but still in very shallow waters, the seabed was lined with seaweed and an even greater abundance of sea life.
Back on the beach and I saw tiny crabs scuttling back and forth, and many shells. Enormous shells have been found in the past and collected up on the beach.
Since I was only staying one night on Seraya, I was content with chilling out on the beach and in the sea. However, there are other possible activities. There is a single fishing village on Seraya about a 20 minute walk from the bungalows, and a number of hills to ascend and admire the view.
Seraya Island Bungalows Facilities
Seraya Island Bungalows hires out snorkels, canoes and even a boat to guests who want to further explore the coral reef around the island. Prices are very reasonable, for example hiring a snorkel costs only Rp. 10,000 or around US$1. For those in search of total relaxation, hammocks are also available for rent and they have a library of books for guests to borrow or swap.
Since fresh water and electricity are both only available for several hours of the day, I learnt to value these resources, taking a traditional-style shower from a bucket, but using much less water than usual. The island itself has no fresh water so it is brought in from Labuan Bajo, and in the village rain water is collected. A generator provides electricity between 6pm and 10pm only. Fresh water is available 6pm to 8pm and 6am to 8am.
The only restaurant on the island is part of Seraya Bungalows, and there is really no other option for eating. I tried the grilled fish and it was delicious, very fresh of course. Other dishes were enjoyed by guests, including those who staying for two nights or more. Service is famously slow at the restaurant, taking at least an hour.
A Beautiful Night
Since the beach at Seraya faces northeast, sunset is unremarkable; to see a spectacular sunset you’d have to walk to another part of the island. However, I have never seen so many stars as I saw on Seraya island that night. Large and small, bright and dull, the sky was full of them.
There is nobody nearby apart from the bungalow residents and staff, and no roads, so the island is totally quiet at night. The waves are very small and a gentle lapping sound lulled me to sleep. However, due to the lack of wind, it was very hot, even at night.
Dawn was a treat. Fortunately I was up early and watched the sun slowly rising over the sea, as hues of orange and red lit up the hills behind me. After dipping my toes in the sea and a little stroll along the beach, it was breakfast time. Banana pancakes were the only option today, with tea or coffee.
Return to the Mainland
A leisurely departure time meant that our 8am boat finally left at 8.45am. Don’t make this journey if you have a plane to catch later in the day! It’s wiser to return to Labuan Bajo a day earlier just to be safe. Whizzing past many islands again, we saw flying fish jumping across the water’s surface, as if to bid us good bye.
Visit Seraya Island Now
With accommodation on Seraya costing Rp. 160,000 per night including the return boat ride from Labuan Bajo, this was a great way to get out to the islands without spending lots of money on a day boat tour. The restaurant served tasty food that was not much more expensive than at tourist places on the mainland. The friendly atmosphere among fellow guests, as we shared our tropical white sand beach, was second to none, and the seclusion and tranquillity of the beautiful island made me feel like I was in a simple paradise.
If you want to visit Seraya island before it becomes overrun with tourists, check out www.serayaisland.com.