Topography of Flores
LocationSoutheast Asia
Coordinates8°40′29″S 121°23′04″E / 8.67472°S 121.38444°E / -8.67472; 121.38444
ArchipelagoLesser Sunda Islands
Area14,731.67 km2 (5,687.93 sq mi)[1]
Area rank60th
Length354 km (220 mi)
Width66 km (41 mi)
Highest elevation2,370 m (7780 ft)
Highest pointPoco Mandasawu
ProvinceEast Nusa Tenggara
Largest settlementMaumere (pop. 91,550)
Population1,962,405 (mid 2023)
Pop. density133.2/km2 (345/sq mi)

Flores is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, a group of islands in the eastern half of Indonesia. Administratively, it forms the largest island in the East Nusa Tenggara Province. Including Komodo and Rinca islands off its west coast (but excluding the Solor Archipelago to the east of Flores), the land area is 14,731.67 km2, and the population was 1,878,875 in the 2020 Census (including various offshore islands); the official estimate as of mid-2023 was 1,962,405.[2] The largest towns are Maumere and Ende. The name Flores is of Portuguese origin, meaning "Flowers".

Flores is located east of Sumbawa and the Komodo Islands, and west of the Solor Islands and the Alor Archipelago. To the southeast is Timor. To the south, across the Sumba Strait, is Sumba Island, and to the north, beyond the Flores Sea, is Sulawesi.

Among all islands containing Indonesian territory, Flores is the 10th most populous after Java, Sumatra, Borneo (Kalimantan), Sulawesi, New Guinea, Bali, Madura, Lombok, and Timor and also the 10th biggest island of Indonesia.

Until the arrival of modern humans, Flores was inhabited by Homo floresiensis, a small archaic human.


Unlike most islands in the Indonesian archipelago, the modern name Flores was given by the Portuguese, from Cabo das Flores (Cape of Flowers), the Portuguese term for the eastern part of the island. This part of the island, originally called Kopondai, was so named by the Portuguese because of the flowering Delonix regia trees found there.[3] The original name of Flores was Nipa, referring to the serpent.



Main article: Homo floresiensis

H. floresiensis skull, Cantonal Museum of Geology, Switzerland
Liang Bua Cave, where the specimens were discovered

Before the arrival of modern humans, Flores was occupied by Homo floresiensis, a small archaic human.[4] The ancestors of Homo floresiensis arrived on the island between 1.3 and 1 million years ago.[5]

Remains of nine individuals have been found,[6][7] and the dominant consensus is that these remains do represent a distinct species due to anatomical differences from modern humans.[8] The most recent evidence shows that Homo floresiensis likely became extinct 50,000 years ago, around the time of modern human arrival to the archipelago.[9]

Modern history

Indigenous warrior from Ende, Flores.

Flores was most likely first inhabited by Melanesians at least since 30,000 BC. This is shown in their DNA results which mirror those of Maluku and East Timor which are around half Melanesian and half Austronesian.

Portuguese traders and missionaries came to Flores in the 16th century, mainly to Larantuka and Sikka. Their influence is still discernible in Sikka's language, culture, and religion. The first Portuguese visit took place in 1511, through the expedition of António de Abreu and his vice-captain Francisco Serrão, en route through the Sunda islands.

The Dominican order played an important role on this island, as well as on the neighbouring islands of Timor and Solor. When the Dutch attacked the Fortress of Solor in 1613, the population of the fort, led by the Dominicans, moved to the harbor town of Larantuka on the eastern coast of Flores. This population was mixed, of Portuguese and local islander descent and Larantuqueiros, Topasses, or, as the Dutch knew them, the 'Black Portuguese' (Zwarte Portugezen).

The Larantuqueiros or Topasses became the dominant sandalwood trading people of the region for the next 200 years. This group was observed by William Dampier, an English privateer visiting the Island in 1699:

These [the Topasses] have no Forts, but depend on their Alliance with the Natives: And indeed they are already so mixt, that it is hard to distinguish whether they are Portuguese or Indians. Their Language is Portuguese; and the religion they have, is Romish. They seem in Words to acknowledge the King of Portugal for their Sovereign yet they will not accept any Officers sent by him. They speak indifferently the Malayan and their native Languages, as well as Portuguese.[10]

In the western part of Flores, the Manggarai came under the control of the Sultanate of Bima, in eastern Sumbawa; the Dutch effectively established their administration over western Flores in 1907 while in 1929, the Bimanese sultanate ceded any control over Manggarai.

In 1846, the Dutch and Portuguese initiated negotiations towards delimiting the territories but these negotiations led nowhere. In 1851 Lima Lopes, the new governor of Timor, Solor and Flores, agreed to sell eastern Flores and the nearby islands to the Dutch in return for a payment of 200,000 Florins to support his impoverished administration. Lima Lopes did so without the consent of Lisbon and was dismissed in disgrace, but his agreement was not rescinded and in 1854 Portugal ceded all its historical claims on Flores. After this, Flores became part of the territory of the Dutch East Indies.

During World War II a Japanese invasion force landed at Reo on 14 May 1942 and occupied Flores.[11] After the war, Flores became part of independent Indonesia.[10]

On 12 December 1992, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale killed 2,500 people in and around Maumere, including islands off the north coast.

In 2017 two men were killed in Flores due to land disputes between warrior clans; the Mbehel, a West Manggarai mountain tribe, and the Rangko from Sulawesi island who helped build Manggarai and were given land near Labuan Bajo by the Manggarai king.[12]


Some fishing boats on Flores

Flores is part of the East Nusa Tenggara province. The island along with smaller minor islands is split into eight regencies (local government divisions); from west to east these are Manggarai Barat (West Manggarai),[13] Manggarai (Central Manggarai), Manggarai Timur (East Manggarai), Ngada, Nagekeo, Ende, Sikka and part of Flores Timur (East Flores).[14] Flores has 35.24% of the East Nusa Tenggara provincial population as of 2023, and is the largest of all islands in the province, with the second-largest population (Timor has slightly more people).

The eight regencies are listed below from east to west, with their areas and their populations at the 2010 Census[15] and the 2020 Census,[16] together with the official estimates as at mid 2023.[2]

Name of
City or
(including year
when established)
mid 2023
Capital HDI[17]
2022 estimate
53.06 East Flores Regency
(Flores Timur)
(part of)(a)
UU 69/1958 1,056.49 101,060 116,398 120,200 Larantuka 0.6493 (Medium)
53.07 Sikka Regency UU 69/1958 1,675.36 300,328 321,953 335,360 Maumere 0.6606 (Medium)
53.08 Ende Regency UU 69/1958 2,085.19 260,605 270,763 278,581 Ende 0.6797 (Medium)
53.16 Nagekeo Regency UU 2/2007 1,416.96 130,120 159,732 166,063 Mbay 0.6622 (Medium)
53.09 Ngada Regency UU 69/1958 1,620.92 142,393 165,254 171,736 Bajawa 0.6826 (Medium)
53.19 East Manggarai Regency
(Manggarai Timur)
UU 36/2007 2,391.45 252,744 275,603 290,790 Borong 0.623 (Medium)
53.10 Manggarai Regency
(Manggarai Tengah)
UU 69/1958 1,343.83 292,451 312,855 328,758 Ruteng 0.6583 (Medium)
53.15 West Manggarai Regency (b)
(Manggarai Barat)
UU 8/2003 3,141.47 221,703 256,317 270,917 Labuan Bajo 0.6492 (Medium)
Totals 14,731.67 1,701,404 1,878,875 1,962,405

Notes: (a) only the eight districts of this regency actually on Flores Island are included in these figures; the three districts comprising Solor Island and the eight districts on Adonara Island are excluded.
(b) West Manggarai Regency includes Komodo and Rinca islands off the west coast of Flores; these islands are part of a National Park and thus poorly inhabited.

The main towns on Flores are Maumere, Ende, Ruteng, Larantuka, and Bajawa, listed with their populations as of mid-2023.[2]

Flora and fauna

See also: Lesser Sundas deciduous forests

Komodo National Park

The Komodo dragon is endemic to Flores and surrounding islands and has been continuously present on Flores for at least 1.4 million years.[5] Today, it is confined to a handful of small areas on Flores itself.[18]

The endemic fauna of Flores includes some rats (Murinae), some of which are now extinct, ranging from small-sized forms such as Rattus hainaldi, Paulamys, and the Polynesian rat (which possibly originated on the island), medium-sized such as Komodomys, and Hooijeromys, and giant such as Spelaeomys and Papagomys, the largest species of which, the still living Papagomys armandvillei (Flores giant rat) is approximately the size of a rabbit, with a weight of up to 2.5 kilograms.[19]

Flores was also the habitat of several extinct dwarf forms of the proboscidean (elephant-relative) Stegodon, the most recent (Stegodon florensis insularis) disappearing approximately 50,000 years ago.[5] The island before modern human arrival was also inhabited by the giant stork Leptoptilos robustus and the vulture Trigonoceps.[20]


Flores Island is bounded by active tectonic regions, with the Sunda Trench to the south and the Flores back-arc thrust fault to the north. As a result, the island experiences many earthquakes each year and on occasion, tsunamis. The largest recorded earthquake in the region was the 1992 Flores earthquake and tsunami, a magnitude 7.8 event that caused Severe shaking on the Mercalli intensity scale. The Flores back-arc thrust is of particular interest to researchers as it is believed to accommodate the transition between the Sunda Trench in the west and the subduction of the Australian Plate in the east. The Flores Thrust is approximately 450 km long and consists of a deep rooted basal fault and many overlying imbricate thrust faults. The system is highly active, with more than 25 earthquakes of a magnitude 6 or above since 1960. In 2018, a large sequence of earthquakes (such as on the 5th of August and in July) in Lombok ruptured sections of the Flores Thrust. The dip of the main thrust fault of approximately 2-3° compared to the 3-4° dip of the subducting plate on the Sunda Trench leads some to believe that the fault could someday be the site of a subduction polarity reversal and begin subducting.[21]


Saint Angela Church in Labuan Bajo

There are many languages spoken on the island of Flores, all of them belonging to the Austronesian family. In the west Manggarai is spoken; Riung, often classified as a dialect of Manggarai, is spoken in the north-central part of the island. In the centre of the island in the districts of Ngada, Nagekeo, and Ende there is what is variously called the Central Flores dialect chain or linkage. Within this area, there are slight linguistic differences in almost every village. At least six separate languages are identifiable. These are from west to east: Ngadha, Nage, Keo, Ende, Lio, and Palu'e, which is spoken on the island with the same name off the north coast of Flores. Locals would probably also add So'a and Bajawa to this list, which anthropologists have labeled dialects of Ngadha. To the east, Sika and Lamaholot can be found.


Jesus Statue in Maumere

The native peoples of Flores are mostly Roman Catholic Christians, whereas most other Indonesians are Muslim. As a consequence, Flores may be regarded as surrounded by a religious border. The prominence of Catholicism on the island resulted from its colonisation by Portugal in the east and early 20th-century support by the Dutch in the west.[22] In other parts of Indonesia with significant Christian populations, such as the Maluku Islands and Sulawesi, the geographical divide is less rigid and Muslims and Christians sometimes live side by side. Flores thereby also has less religious violence than that which has sporadically occurred in other parts of Indonesia. There are several churches on the island. On 26 May 2019, Flores' St. Paul Catholic University of Indonesia was formally inaugurated by Indonesian Education Minister Mohamad Nasir, becoming the first Catholic University in Flores.[23] Aside from Catholicism, Islam also has a presence on the island, especially in some coastal communities.


The most famous tourist attraction in Flores is the 1,639-metre-high (5,377-foot) Kelimutu volcano, containing three colored lakes, located in the district of Ende close to the town of Moni, although there is also the Inierie volcano near Bajawa. These crater lakes are in the caldera of a volcano, and fed by a volcanic gas source, resulting in highly acidic water. The colored lakes change colors on an irregular basis, depending on the oxidation state of the lake[24] from bright red to green and blue.

There are snorkeling and diving locations along the north coast of Flores, most notably Maumere and Riung. However, due to the destructive practice of local fishermen using bombs to fish, and locals selling shells to tourists, combined with the after-effects of a devastating tsunami in 1992, the reefs have slowly been destroyed.

Labuan Bajo, located on the western tip is often used by tourists as a base to visit Komodo and Rinca islands. Labuan Bajo also attracts scuba divers, as whale sharks inhabit the waters around Labuan Bajo.

The Luba and Bena villages include traditional houses in Flores. Bena is also noted for its Stone Age megaliths.

Larantuka, on the isle's eastern end, is known for its Holy Week festivals.

In recent years, local tourist firms around Kelimutu have begun promoting cycling tours around Flores, some of which take up to five or six days depending on the particular program.[25]


In addition to tourism, the main economic activities on Flores are agriculture, fishing and seaweed production. The primary food crops being grown on Flores are rice, maize, sweet potato and cassava, while the main cash crops are coffee, coconut, candle nut and cashew.[26] Flores is one of the newest origins for Indonesian coffee. Previously, most Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) from Flores was blended with other origins. Now, demand is growing for this coffee because of its heavy body and sweet chocolate, floral and woody notes.[27]



There are at least six airports in Flores distributed along the island, ordered from west to east:

See also


  1. ^ Monk, K.A.; Fretes, Y.; Reksodiharjo-Lilley, G. (1996). The Ecology of Nusa Tenggara and Maluku. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 962-593-076-0.
  2. ^ a b c Badan Pusat Statistik, Jakarta, 28 February 2024, Provinsi Nusa Tenggara Timur Dalam Angka 2024 (Katalog-BPS 1102001.53)
  3. ^ Flores, Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Baab, Karen L.; McNulty, Kieran P.; Harvati, Katerina (2013). "Homo floresiensis Contextualized: A Geometric Morphometric Comparative Analysis of Fossil and Pathological Human Samples". PLOS ONE. 8 (7): e69119. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...869119B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069119. PMC 3707875. PMID 23874886.
  5. ^ a b c van den Bergh, Gerrit D.; Alloway, Brent V.; Storey, Michael; Setiawan, Ruly; Yurnaldi, Dida; Kurniawan, Iwan; Moore, Mark W.; Jatmiko; Brumm, Adam; Flude, Stephanie; Sutikna, Thomas; Setiyabudi, Erick; Prasetyo, Unggul W.; Puspaningrum, Mika R.; Yoga, Ifan (October 2022). "An integrative geochronological framework for the Pleistocene So'a basin (Flores, Indonesia), and its implications for faunal turnover and hominin arrival". Quaternary Science Reviews. 294: 107721. Bibcode:2022QSRv..29407721V. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2022.107721. hdl:10072/418777. S2CID 252290750.
  6. ^ Brown, P.; et al. (27 October 2004). "A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia" (PDF). Nature. 431 (7012): 1055–1061. Bibcode:2004Natur.431.1055B. doi:10.1038/nature02999. PMID 15514638. S2CID 26441.
  7. ^ Morwood, M. J.; et al. (13 October 2005). "Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia". Nature. 437 (7061): 1012–1017. Bibcode:2005Natur.437.1012M. doi:10.1038/nature04022. PMID 16229067. S2CID 4302539.
  8. ^ Argue, Debbie; Groves, Colin P. (21 April 2017). "The affinities of Homo floresiensis based on phylogenetic analyses of cranial, dental, and postcranial characters". Journal of Human Evolution. 107: 107–133. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.02.006. PMID 28438318.
  9. ^ Sutikna, Thomas; Tocheri, Matthew W.; Morwood, Michael J.; et al. (2016). "Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia". Nature. 532 (7599): 366–369. Bibcode:2016Natur.532..366S. doi:10.1038/nature17179. hdl:1885/109256. PMID 27027286. S2CID 4469009.
  10. ^ a b Fox, James J. (2003). "Tracing the path, recounting the past: historical perspectives on Timor". In Fox, James J.; Soares, Dionisio Babo (eds.). Out of the Ashes: Destruction and Reconstruction of East Timor. ANU E Press. doi:10.22459/oa.11.2003.01. ISBN 978-0-9751229-1-4.
  11. ^ L, Klemen (1999–2000). "The Lesser Sunda Islands 1941–1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942.
  12. ^ "Deadly trouble for surf pioneer in Indonesia's new paradise". The Australian. 28 January 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  13. ^ Manggarai Barat District includes islands like Komodo and Rinca to the west of Flores
  14. ^ Flores Timur District includes islands like Adonara and Solor to the east of Flores, for which the figures are excluded.
  15. ^ Biro Pusat Statistik, Jakarta, 2011.
  16. ^ Badan Pusat Statistik, Jakarta, 2021.
  17. ^ "[New Method] Human Development Index by Regency/City 2020-2022" (in Indonesian). Statistics Indonesia. 2022. Retrieved 13 February 2023.
  18. ^ Ariefiandy, Achmad; Purwandana, Deni; Azmi, Muhammad; Nasu, Sanggar Abdil; Mardani, Juna; Ciofi, Claudio; Jessop, Tim S. (February 2021). "Human activities associated with reduced Komodo dragon habitat use and range loss on Flores". Biodiversity and Conservation. 30 (2): 461–479. Bibcode:2021BiCon..30..461A. doi:10.1007/s10531-020-02100-8. ISSN 0960-3115. S2CID 254279437.
  19. ^ Veatch, E. Grace; Tocheri, Matthew W.; Sutikna, Thomas; McGrath, Kate; Wahyu Saptomo, E.; Jatmiko; Helgen, Kristofer M. (May 2019). "Temporal shifts in the distribution of murine rodent body size classes at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia) reveal new insights into the paleoecology of Homo floresiensis and associated fauna". Journal of Human Evolution. 130: 45–60. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.02.002. hdl:2440/121139. PMID 31010543. S2CID 91562355.
  20. ^ Meijer, Hanneke J.M.; Tocheri, Matthew W.; Due, Rokus Awe; et al. (2015). "Continental-style avian extinctions on an oceanic island" (PDF). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 429: 163–170. Bibcode:2015PPP...429..163M. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.03.041. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 October 2018 – via repository.si.edu.
  21. ^ Xiaodong Yang; Satish C Singh; Anand Tripathi (25 February 2020). "Did the Flores backarc thrust rupture offshore during the 2018 Lombok earthquake sequence in Indonesia?". Geophysical Journal International. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  22. ^ Steenbrink (2013)
  23. ^ Dagur, Ryan (28 May 2019). "Indonesia inaugurates first Catholic university in Flores". La Croix International.
  24. ^ Pasternack. Keli Mutu Volcanic Lakes Archived 2 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, University of California Davis.
  25. ^ Makur, Markus (13 March 2016). "Bicycle tours of Kelimutu boost local economy". The Jakarta Post.
  26. ^ East Nusa Tenggara Archived 10 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  27. ^ Arabica Producing Regions of Indonesia, Specialty Coffee Association of Indonesia. Retrieved 8 August 2008.