The Disappearing Beauty of Flores Island

You must be wondering, where’s Flores Island? Well, to be honest, that was the same question that went through my mind when I saw that Flores Island was a new interim trip. That’s when I decided to do some research and found some interesting information.

The main reason visitors come to the tiny island of Labuan Bajo is to utilize this island as the nearest layover to the notorious Komodo National Park.

To help you understand where Flores Island is located in Indonesia, below is an image of the island circled in red with the plane on top of it. Especially, for this interim trip we stayed in a small port city which is situated at the edge of Flores Island called Labuan Bajo, circled in purple.

Location of (1) Flores Island in Indonesia and (2) Labuan Bajo in Flores Island. Source: Komodo Indonesia Tourism

This small sea city is filled with multiple dive shops, a beautiful landscape, and thousands of tourists. The magical beauty of Labuan Bajo with its magnificent beaches, breathtaking sunsets and crystal blue oceans, makes it the perfect relaxing scenery.

These images above show how beautiful Labuan Bajo island is, but sadly to say, the island has been in better condition. Over the years of excess tourism, the original beauty of Labuan Bajo is slowly disappearing. There are many factors affecting this, especially the excessive amount of trash that tourists leave behind all over the beaches. During a week stay at the island, we had multiple beach clean ups where we found many plastic bottles and bags, broken glass bottles, micro-sized styrofoam, and many more. As the number of visitors rise each year, it has also initiated new environmental issues such as illegal fishing and coral vulnerability.

The main reason visitors come to the tiny island of Labuan Bajo is to utilize this island as the nearest layover to the notorious Komodo National Park. The Komodo National Park is a well-known World Heritage Site that conserves the unique Komodo dragons and their habitat, and protects biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, that surrounds the island. The park is located on its own island called Komodo Island, which includes two other major islands called Rinca and Padar. According, to Jensi Sartin, the Master of Public Administration Coordinator of Komodo, said that Komodo National Park and its surrounding areas compile an average of 11,800 kilograms of trash in one day. Additionally, 35 to 40% of this inorganic waste contains plastic. Dwi Putro Suguiarto, the Administration Head of Komodo National Park, explained that waste accumulating on the island comes from visitors’, local residents, and collected litter from the ocean.

Komodo Dragons at Komodo National Parks. Source: The Straits Times

Since watching Komodo Dragons and exploring underwater creatures such as Manta-Rays and Sharks have become widely popular, this has increased the amount of tourists visiting this part of Indonesia. The rise of foreign and domestic tourists in Flores Island has led to environmental issues such as illegal fishing and coral vulnerability. As stated by a 2017 WWF survey, around 750 baby sharks were being sold in Labuan Bajo, which contributed to the issue of illegal fishing. When tourists take boat trips to visit sea creatures located under the sea of Komodo National Park area, this has an impact of corals being at risk of being damaged since boats throw their anchors onto the vulnerable coral during their resting period of one to two hours.

As the number of visitors rise each year, it has also initiated new environmental issues such as illegal fishing and coral vulnerability.

There have been environmentally friendly measurements assembled by the Indonesia Transportation Ministry in 2018 such as solving the garbage problem in islands within Komodo National Park by being the waste ship assistance. Komodo National Park Administration Head, Dwi Putro Suguiarto said, “We continue to conduct surveillance and protection in the Komodo National Park area in order to maintain the biodiversity wealth well.”

During my interim trip, we collaborated with organizations such as Ecofield Trips and Trash Hero to educate students and schools on ways to keep our environment safe. Ecofield Trips started in 1997 and has become one of South East Asia’s premier environmental education providers. The goal of the organization is to protect global issues through local environmental, cultural initiatives and expose students to the natural world around them. Trash Hero’s mission is to bring communities together to clean and reduce waste. They achieve this through bringing action and awareness to our communities, educating the younger generation and even the locals, creating sustainable projects to help communities remove and better manage their waste, and inspiring people to become Trash Heroes in their everyday lives.

Ecofield Trips helped us experience and observe stunning tropical ecosystems such as the Batu Cermin Cave, Flying Fox Island at Rinca Bay, and many more wonderful places. We are able to experience activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling. The team in Ecofield Trips is filled with biologists, geographers, and outdoor educators who helped us create artificial coral reefs. These artificial coral reefs are man-made underwater structures that promotes marine line by placing them on top of the damaged ones. While that was happening, we had a chance to clean up a polluted beach with “Trash Hero”. The beach cleanup promoted the use of less plastic products since we mostly collected plastic, styrofoam and even glass products. It was eye-opening to see how much trash collected on a tiny island located near Flores Island. It made me aware that single use plastic is a major problem when it comes to the pollution on our Earth.

In conclusion, my interim trip to Flores Island made me aware that the beautiful tiny island located in Indonesia is starting to build up with pollution. The trash that builds on the island is mainly plastic, single use plastic produced by tourists and locals. With the help of organizations such as Ecofield Trips and Trash Hero, we can help the Flores Island Community to cleanup the excessive trash that sits on this island’s beaches. This taught me that I should be aware of the single use plastic I use in my life, and changing these practices by using reusable products such as metal straws to replace plastic straws.

Author: Mitali Singh

Mitali Singh is currently a junior and this is her first time working for The Eye. She has lived all 16 years of her life in Singapore. She spends most of her time debating whether to watch YouTube videos or the next episode of American Horror Story on Netflix. She loves music, drawing very abstract art, as well as watching lots of past vines (rip vine). Also, she loves to write and tell stories, and listen about them too. And journalism seems to be a great outlet to write these stories. So, if you have any interesting stories or even vines you would like to share with her, she can be contacted at singh772234@sas.edu.sg.

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