The Alor Archipelago
The Alor Archipelago comprises of 20 islands in the furthest reaches of the Lesser Sunda Islands and is Indonesia at its rawest and most beautiful. Set more or less north of West Timor and east of Pantar, Lembata, and Flores this small scrap of land will delight even the most hardened of travellers.
The Alor islands are populated by a rich diversity of people with more than a dozen languages. Most Alorites, especially in the island’s interior, are Protestants, while the sea-facing villages have significant Muslim populations. One of the most notorious tribe of indigenous people here is located about 13 kilometres east of the main town of Kalabahi. These people have a rich culture and are famed for their skill at Ikat weaving.
Visiting their village pulls you right back in time, and they love to regale visitors with ancient songs and chants, including the infamous Lego-Lego dance. This is performed in the spirit of brotherhood and they love to get visitors to join them.
Their authentic village consists of around 12 houses with four levels arranged in a row reached by a steep set of steps. If you are lucky, the village chief will show you around his house and his collection of moko drums, which are big brass drums, believed to be more than 2,000 years old and today is often used as a part of a wedding dowry.
Flores means flower in the local tongue; however, you are not going to find fields of tulips or daffodils here. You will discover ethereal and ever-changing crater lakes that alter their hue depending on their mineral content, a heavily forested interior, and deserted beaches.
To the west of Flores is the famous Komodo National Park and to the north, across the Flores Sea, is the island of Sulawesi. The main town on Flores is Maumere and the total population on Flores is approximately 1,000,000 people.
The multi-colored crater lakes of Kelimutu are the money shot for most visitors to Flores. These iconic bodies of water change colour from blue to red and green, depending on the gases and mineral content bubbling below the surface. One of the best ways to enjoy this star attraction is to rise early and hike up the nearby volcano to watch the sunrise over the lakes.
Another captivating sight are the unusual lingko rice fields that are laid out in patterns resembling spider’s webs. Each part of the formation is assigned to a family and the size of the patch correlates to their wealth. Take a trip inland to search out some of these amazing feats of design.
The Manggarai people live in the western part of Flores and engage in a wealth of unique traditions and celebrations, unlike those anywhere else in Indonesia. One of the most energetic of these is the Caci dance which entails two men dressed as animals trying to hit each other with whips. Wild drumbeats accompany their escapades, and while this appears lawless and possessed, it is nothing more than a ceremonial spectacle. These rituals tend to happen in an unscheduled and haphazard fashion, so it is best to find a local guide.
The Manggarai live in Wae Rebo in Western Flores, which is a good 10-kilometre trek from Denge through some spectacular countryside including waterfalls, jagged cliffs, and lush mountainous country. It is also possible to overnight here in one of the distinctive roundhouses inhabited by the tribe.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in Flores
Spectacular opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving exist throughout the region. Off Maumere, the main town of Flores, the reefs have a good coverage of soft corals and colourful crinoids. Other than an abundance of reef fish, look out for ribbon eels, moray eels, squat lobsters and crabs. Gorgonian sea fans splay out across the ocean floor and you could find some with pygmy seahorses. Many sites could reveal an Ambon scorpionfish, waspfish, flamboyant cuttlefish, colourful nudibranch, octopus and other strange critters.