The Most Fascinating Island in the East Nusa Tenggara


The Most Fascinating Island in the East Nusa Tenggara

Flores is the most fascinating and beautiful island. Long hidden in the shadows of its more famous neighbor Bali, the island of Flores is finally emerging as a unique destination of its own. So, after visiting the lair of the Komodo dragons, take time to marvel at some of the wonders of Flores. Here, you can swim in pristine lakes and waterfalls, dive at one of the 50 spectacular dive sites, go kayaking among craggy coasts and mangrove shores, explore mysterious caves and be warmly welcomed by the island’s people in their rituals, dances and daily life.

Flores spells adventure, diving, eco-tours, and mountain climbing interspersed with visits to prehistoric heritage sites, traditional villages and cultural events. Find some of the world’s most exotic underwater life, dive in the pristine seas of Komodo, or swim along with huge manta rays, dolphins and dugongs in the island of Flores!

Get There

The flight from Denpasar or Labuan bajo to Flores takes about 1 hour. Meanwhile, Garuda Indonesia flies only Jakarta-Kupang (on the island of Timor) from there you can connect on local airlines to Flores.

Places To Visit

The Traditional Village of Wae Rebo on the Island of Flores

The traditional village of Wae Rebo in the district of Manggarai on the island of Flores, East Nusatenggara, has received the Top Award of Excellence from UNESCO in the 2012 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards, announced in Bangkok on 27 August 2012.

This small and isolated village was recognized for its rebuilding of the traditional Mbaru Niang traditional house based on the spirit of community cooperation towards a sustainable tradition, while at the same time improving its village welfare.

Wae Rebo is a small, very out of the way village. Located some 1,100 meters above sea level, where the air is cool and the village completely surrounded by panoramic mountains and the dense Todo forest. This tropical forest is rich in vegetation, where you will find orchids, different types of ferns and hear the chirping of many songbirds.

Founder of the village and, therefore, their main ancestor who built the village some 100 years ago, was a man called Empu Maro. Today, the inhabitants are his 18th generation descendents.

Wae Rebo’s main characteristics are their unique houses, which they call Mbaru Niang that are tall and conical in shape and are completely covered in lontar thatch from its rooftop down to the ground. It appears that at one time such kind of houses were quite common to the region. But today, it is only this village that continues to maintain the typical Manggarai traditional house, without which these unique houses would have been completely fazed out.

The house has five levels, each level designated for a specific purpose. The first level , called lutur or tent, are the living quarters of the extended family. The second level, called lobo, or attic, is set aside to store food and goods, the third level called lentar is to store seeds for the next harvest, the fourth level called lempa rae is reserved for food stocks in case of draught, and the fifth and top level, called hekang kode, which is held most sacred, is to place offerings for the ancestors.

One special ceremonial house is the community building where members of the entire clan gather for ceremonies and rituals. They are predominantly Catholic but still adhere to old beliefs. In this house are stored the sacred heirloom of drums and gongs.

With a small population of around 1,200 inhabitants only, the village comprises 7 houses, with half of these falling into disrepair. Thestaple diet of villagers is cassava and maize, but around the village they plant coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon which they sell in the market, located some 15 km. away from the village. Lately, however, Wae Rebo has grown in popularity as a touirst destination for international eco-tourism enthusiasts, and this has added to the economic welfare of the village. The people of Wae Rebo warmly welome visitors who wish to see their village and experience their simple traditional life.

MAUMERE : Dive, Climb Mt. Kelimutu and celebrate Easter at Larantuka

Capital of Sikka Regency on the north eastern coast of Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara Province, the city of Maumere is the perfect staging place to embark on your unforgettable adventure to explore the exciting beauty of Flores. The town itself is blessed with a picturesque landscape of hills and mountain and crystal clear aquamarine colored ocean.

Maumere is the largest city in Flores, even larger than Labuan Bajo at the west coast of the island. Maumere used to serve as an alternative entry gate for tourists to travel to the Komodo National Park, A side from Labuan Bajo. While, those wishing to attend Easter celebrations in Larantuka, They would also start off from Maumere, which was more easily connected by air to other parts of Indonesia.
Maumere being located at the narrowest section of this long island, when one stands at Koting village near the town of Nita, One will have a vantage view to as far as the Flores Sea to the north and the Savu Sea by the Indian Ocean in its southern horizon.

Today, Maumere is also the hopping off point to climb to the Tri-Coloured Lakes on Mt. Kelimutu located on the route to Ende.

You must not miss a visit the village of Sikka, some 30 km from Maumere, center of the legendary Flores hand-woven clothes. On request, visitors can watch, the complete intricate process of ikat-weaving, including dying the threats with natural colors. Another village known for its weaving is Watublapi, which distinguishes itself by the use of symbolic motifs of animals such as lizards, horses, birds, and geometrical patterns.

Maumere used to be the favorite snorkeling and diving spot for tourists, made famous by the Sao Wisata Resort built by Flores’ own hero, Frans Seda. Unfortunately, the 1992 tsunami devastated parts of the coral reefs and the city. Before that, Maumere was considered by many as the true illustration of “Flores” or Flower of the East Nusa Tenggara Archipelago. After nearly two decades, the town is finally reviving back to its former beauty through the newly renovated Frans Seda Airport (formerly called Wai Oti Airport).

Before the Dutch merchant ships arrived here in the 16th century, Maumere was known as Sikka Alok or Sikka Kesik. Here, traders from China, Bugis, and Makassar came to trade with the locals. These traders often stayed for days near the seaport called Waidoko. With the arrival of the Dutch, however, the Dutch eventually built government offices in Sikka and gave new names to the area such as Maunori, Mautenda, Mauwaru, Maurole, Mauponggo, and obviously Maumere in Sikka.

Since the majority of its people are Catholic, the town’s existence cannot be separated from the church of Larantuka. Catholicism was first introduced here in 1566 by two missionaries from Dominica named P.Joao Bautista da Fortalezza and Simao da Madre de Deos. They first started their mission in Paga, a small town about 45Km west of Maumere, sent by P.Antonio Cruz from the town of Larantuka. Today, every year congregations from Maumere head to Larantuka to join in the Semana Santa Easter Holy Week Ritual.

What to See and Do in Maumere

While you are in town, you may want to explore the beautiful countryside of Maumere around Waiara Beach and the Kambing Island and Pangabatang Island. Waiterang Beach is definitely a must if you are in Maumere. Located only 31 Km from the heart of the town, the beach is renowned among divers, which has also the certified PADI diving course.

Koka Beach, 45Km west of Maumere has the legendary white sand which is as soft as powder. Not too far from the beach, you can find the traditional village of Mau Lo’o with its unique traditional houses.

You can also visit the Old Catholic Church of Sikka which was built by St Francis Assisi followers from Europe. The church features classic European architecture which is still well reserved to this very day. Maumere also offers beguiling sunrise at Nilo Hill. Here, you can watch the sun rising over the city with all its enchanting surrounding. Radiating a distinct serene ambience, Nilo Hill is also known as the park for prayers where Catholics can conduct prayers solemnly. There is also the Bukit Salib or the Hill of the Cross near Kajuwulu Beach which also offers spiritual tranquility.

At Kewapante sub-district, there is the Geliting Traditional Market where sellers from all over Sikka and other regencies offer various freshly picked crops as well as other products.

Donot forget to visit the uniqe Bikon Blewut Museum located in the campus of Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Katholik (The Catholic Philosophy School) of Ledalero, a Catholic seminary, some 6 km. south of Maumere. Here you can find a large assortment of the history of Flores in artifacts collected by the priests. Here are rare ikat cloths, Stone Age tools, musical instruments, Ceramics from China, traditional weapons, and fossil bones from the Mastodon, an extinct huge elephant like a mammoth which inhabited this island between 400,000 – 10,000 BC.

The Museum opens Mondays to Saturdays in the mornings from 07.00 to 13.00 hrs.

How to Get There

Flights to Maumere are available from Bali and Kupang, the capital city of east Nusa Tenggara Province. Airlines that serve flights to Maumere are Garuda Indonesia, Wings Air, NamAir, Kalstar, TransNusa, and Susi Air.

During World War II, the city of Kupang, formerly known as Koepang, on the island of Timor, was the hub for refueling and landing for long-haul flights from Europe to Australia. The historical El Tari airstrip that was first landed by an American pilot, Lamij Johnson, in 1928 holds many stories, more than being a mere transit lounge and fuel depot for the few fliers back then. Today, when visitors step on to the modernizing city, one can still find traces of Dutch occupation as well as a Portuguese inherited aura. For since long before Indonesia’s Independence, Timor’s western part had been colonized by the Dutch while the islands eastern part by the Portuguese. This division originated from the time when these two powers fought for hegemony in the lucrative spice trade.

Today, Kupang is the capital city of the province of East Nusa Tenggara, perched in the southwestern part of Timor Island. As one of the three largest islands in East Nusa Tenggara (comprising Sumba, Flores and Timor), Timor island is now shared by two independent countries. The island’s eastern part being the newly independent East Timor – or Timor Leste, while the island’s western part is Indonesian territory. Its favorable position in the south-eastern most part of Indonesia, has made the city of Kupang into the first port of entry in Indonesian waters from Australia, if not yet as a tourist destination in its own right.

The Nusa Tenggara is a string of islands to the east of Bali, while Timor is its easternmost island in that string. Topographically, Timor differs from the rest of the East Nusa Tenggara islands. For the line of volcanoes that runs from Sumatra, Java, and on to other Nusa Tenggara islands, skips Timor and continues north to Maluku or the Moluccas. The cause of this is that unlike other Nusa Tenggara islands, Timor is in fact geologically related to Australia, and therefore has no volcanoes. While it geographical location and long history and tradition make it culturally Indonesian.

Being closest than any Indonesian cities to the marinas of Australian yachts in Darwin, the lighthouse at the seaport of Kupang stands as the first milepost for participating yachtsmen in the annual Sail Indonesia event. Each year, hundreds of yachts cross the open seas from Darwin, Australia sailing to Kupang, and from here to visit many known as well as remote Indonesian islands, to finally dock in Singapore. The annual Sail Indonesia has brought the name of Koepang to the fore, recalling its fame in the early twentieth century.

“Indonesians laugh a lot”, said Prooke of Marlborough, UK. It’s the land of laughs and smiles.

People in Timor are friendly. They love to laugh as do most Indonesians on the whole. Traditionally, people in Kupang and West Timor were distinguished by their social positions. The nobility here used to be called Amaf, the rulers Atupas, the commons Too, and slaves Ata. Today, ata no longer exist. Each of the social class had its own role to play in society. Yet, these classes share a mutual sentiment when it comes to tradition. The root of its heritage is so deep, making it difficult to trace. These deep rooted traditions even persisted through centuries of teachings of newer religions that were brought by traders or colonial rulers.

Look at the motives and patterns of their woven cloths called tenun ikat, and one can sense its age old heritage. Tenun ikat is the local craftsmanship in producing beautifully and sometimes mysteriously formed patterns on traditionally woven fabrics. Not only are the people proud of these cloths, but all Indonesians share the pride that these cloths are one of Indonesia’s most precious tangible national heritage.

Get There

Kupang is accessible by plane or ferries. Its historical airport, El Tari was formerly known as Penfui airstrip, having first served an American pilot, Lamij Johnson, in 1928. Penfui literally means ‘bush of cornfields’, since the airstrip’s surroundings were heavily covered with cornfields. El Tari connects western Timor Island with other large cities in Indonesia.

Lake Kelimutu, A Perfect Place for Exploring the Extraordinary

Mt Kelimutu National Park is the smallest among six national parks in the stretch between Bali and the Nusa Tenggara islands. Its size obviously does not matter much when it offers one of the most spectacular wonders that nature has to offer. There are three lakes on the mountain sharing the same name, Kelimutu, meaning ‘the boiling lake’. Each has its own colors and a local name. But all are believed to be the resting place of departed souls.

Kelimutu lakes are unpredictable as to when and what color they will change into. Sometimes, the colors are blue, green, and black, and some other times they turn to white, red, and blue. The last time a traveler saw them, one was dark brown, just like a pond of chocolate. Previously, the east lake was red and the middle lake was blue.

Lake Kelimutu is part of the Kelimutu National Park, presenting a highly aesthetic value and surreal experience. The national park’s highest point is 5,679 feet at Mt Kelibara (1,731 meters), and 5,544 feet high (1,690 meters) at Mt Kelimutu. It is a national park that protects 19 endemic and endangered animals, among which, the Floresian punai (Treron floris), Wallacea owl (Otus silvicola), Floresian kancilan (Pachycephala nudigula), Floresian eagle (Spizeatus floris), and Timorese tesia (Tesia everetti).

Get Around

Kelimutu area is surrounded with forest containing floras that are scarcely found in Flores area. Other than pines, there are also casuarinas, red wood and edelweiss. Pine forest grows well in this side of Kelimutu Mountain. The other side of the mountain is dried land with highly unstable sand and soil. Local community believes that Kelimutu Mountain is sacred and donates fertility to the nature nearby.

Visitors can only walk around Lake Kelimutu but not all areas can be explored because some are dangerous and therefore restricted. From Moni to Kelimutu, if you like to go trekking, there is a path which is shorter than the car access route.

Distance from Moni to the top is about 12 km. The distance to the parking lot by motor vehicle is 11 km, and then visitors will climb on foot through the pathway for 30 minutes.

Get There

Koanara village, in the Wolowaru sub-district is closest to Mt Kelimutu, and is about 66 km from the town of Ende, or 83 km from Maumere. Moni is the closest small town, lying at the foot of Mt Kelimutu. It is the gate to Lake Kelimutu. The distance between Moni and Kelimutu is 15 km.

You can take an ojek, a motorbike taxi, car or public transportation to take you to a parking lot before Kelimutu’s peak. Buses to Ende from Maumere will pass Moni. They call it BIS KAYU or oto kol, the wooden pick-up truck. From there, you must walk 30 minutes along the mountain side. There are daily flights from Denpasar and Kupang to Maumere. Please refer to information on how to get there when in Labuan Bajo.