Located on the north coast of Flores island in the Ngada district lies an archipelago that forms a unique, paradisical sea garden, called the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park. This cluster consists of islets whose waters are rich in biodiversity, sandy white beaches and crystal clear blue waters where you can dive in and swim among the colorful and varied coral beds.
One of the most popular attractions, for which these islands are famous is the 'Rose of the Sea', a renowned underwater phenomenon, which can be seen around several of the islands. Below the oceans surface you will find clusters ofsea roses waving mesmerizingly in the current. These are in fact a collection of giant sea hare eggs that, bound by membranes, together form red petals like giant red roses waving in the sea.
The 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, which extends from Toro Padang in the west to Pulau Pangsar in the east, range in size, but all are virtually uninhabited.
The major islands are: Pulau Ontoloe (the largest), Pulau Pau, Pulau Borong, Pulau Dua, Pulau Kolong, Pulau Lainjawa, Pulau Besar, Pulau Halima (Pulau Nani), Pulau Patta, Pulau Rutong, Pulau Meja, Pulau Bampa (Pulau Pulau Tampa or Tembang), Pulau Tiga (Long Island), Pulua Tembaga, Pulau Taor, Pulau Sui and Pulau Wire.
The Park itself is located just behind the quiet pier in the small town of Riung, where a dozen Bajo fishing boats are tied, Although named the 17 Islands Riung Marine Park, the Park is in fact a chain of 24 small, beautiful islands. However, the name "seventeen" was given to this cluster as a sacred reminder to Indonesia’s Independence Day, which fell on 17 August 1945.
The Riung Park, located in the Riung District, spans the five villages of Sambinasi, Nangamese, Benteng Tengah, Tadho and Lengkosambi.
Aside from marine adventures to be had, on land are also forests to explore, inhabited by exotic species like the Timor deer, the Biawak Mbou – a smaller type of Komodo -, marsupials, to name a few. There are also a large variety of rare birds, which make this a great spot for bird-watching. Here you will see eagles, bluwok, white storks, parrots, cuckoos, black stork and bats, and yellow chested parakeets.
In 1995, Ngada in the Ngada District, was on UNESCO's list as a tentative world cultural heritage because of its unique and distinctive community. Here you will not cease to be 'wowed' by the slew of natural attractions to be seen among the islands. One of which is the exceptional 17 Islands Riung Marine Park.
To reach this destination one must ride overhills and along narrow, winding roads; a journey which may be somewhat daunting for some.But a number of visitors have actually commented, that these narrow and winding roads along the edge of the abyss in just getting to Riung, was half the adventure. However, what is waiting at the end of the journey is a beauty that will amaze anyone, and makes the trip well worth the challenging ride to get there. In one section of the journey to Riung, around the town of Bajawa, you will see a large expanse of green, tundra-covered hills, where are scattered single palm trees appearing like candles on a birthday cake.
For the most part, Riung is still quite hidden from the crowds of tourists, partly due to its remote location and the challenging journey to reach this destination. You will frequently see tourists walking shirtless through this small town, enjoying the sun and the tranquility of it all. It's a far cry from their seasonal hometowns, which they may have left to escape the freezing winter.
Aside from having one of the best Marine Parks in Flores, it has a very laid back, no-rush ambience. But the friendliness of its people help to create the peaceful, neighborhood-like atmosphere which makes for a quiet getaway, very different from the more well-known and more frequented tourist destinations like Jakarta, Surabaya, or even Bali.
Riung coastal settlements are inhabited mostly by the Oting Bajo known as 'the sea gypsies” of Indonesia. Some members of this community are involved in dryland farming, while others have also opened homestays for visiting tourists.