In Manggarai you will certainly notice the impressive lingko fields. The most amazing view over a number of these fields is offered at Cara Village situated on a small hill 17km west of Ruteng in Cancar. With their round, spider-web structure, these pieces of land are unique eye-catchers in Manggarai.
Long before wet-rice cultivation, the ancestors of the Manggaraian people grew dry rice, corn, and tubers in the lingko fields. Every village used to own several fields. During planting and harvesting time, ceremonies and ritual offerings were held at the lodok, the ritual center of the lingko. The lodok features a wooden pole and a rock. These two objects symbolize the reunion of the male and female, the heaven and earth, and the creation of mankind. If a new lingko was developed, the sacrifice of a water buffalo was required. The division of a new lingko was guided by the tu’a teno, the Lord of the Land.
This traditional leader had the authority over the land and the rituals and ceremonies related to the agricultural cycle. The distribution of the fields to different families was carried out at the lodok. Every family of a community had the right to work a certain piece of land. Depending on the family’s size, the head of the family held a certain number of fingers to the pole in the lodok. The distance between the fingers was marked on this pole. From these two points, lines were drawn to the outer circle of the lingko, defining the size of a family’s land. These pie segments were called moso, which means ‘hand’ in the Manggarai language.
The moso were not conceived as the private property of a single person or household. Traditionally the lingko was farmed with a system of shifting cultivation, thus claims of constant land tenure were not yet common. After a two-year utilization period, the old fields were given up, and virgin forest – which in the past was abundant – or former fallow land, was cleared for new fields. Even though these fields still exist today, their agricultural and ritual context has changed drastically.
Nowadays the lingko fields are primarily used for wet-rice cultivation. With the dominance of this new form of farming, the significance of the traditional agricultural calendar with its rituals and ceremonies, embedded in the planting and harvesting of dry rice and corn, has also faded.
In Cara Village you will not find any tourist facilities. Ruteng, located 16km from Cara Village, offers some accommodation and restaurants.
How to get there
Located only 17km from Ruteng, Cancar is easily reachable from Ruteng by motorbike or car. Bemo also frequently head to Cancar from themarket in Ruteng. From the terminal in Cancar it is about a 1km walk to the viewing point in Cara Village. While passing through the village, you are expected to stop at the adat house to sign the guestbook and leave a small donation.
Komodo National Park, located between Sumbawa and Flores, was founded in 1980 with the aim of protecting the endangered Komodo dragon. As the park is not only the last sanctuary for the Komodo dragon but also a unique area of marine biodiversity, it became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and entered the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1991. With its outstanding submarine richness, it is not surprising that the park is one of the world’s finest destinations for scuba divers. With an area of 1,817 km², the park consists of Komodo Island, Rinca Island, Padar Island, and numerous smaller islands. The famous giant lizards, who are unique to Komodo National Park, are not only of great interest to tourists, but also to scientists studying the theory of evolution.
Komodo National Park is home to about 3,500 people who live in four villages. The largest settlement is Komodo Village on Komodo Island; the other settlements are Rinca Village and Kerora Village on Rinca Island; and Paparagan Village on Paparagan Island. Most of the people in Komodo National Park make their living out of fishing. Some people earn extra income by carving wooden Komodo dragons to sell to visitors on Komodo Island, or at the airport and in hotels of Labuan Bajo.
When Komodo became a national park in 1980, these villages have already been in existence for about 70 years. The people’s origins can be drawn back to the Sultanate of Bima on Sumbawa Island. Life is not easy for them: as the population has grown massively over the years, they face serious shortages of water and firewood. Besides, pollution and over-fishing, using destructive methods such as dynamite fishing, has endangered marine life – the main source of livelihood and income of the Komodo inhabitants.
The Komodo dragon
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the world’s largest and also one of the oldest living lizards. As already mentioned, it can only be found in the wild in Komodo National Park (more precisely on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode, and Gili Motang) and to a minor extent on Flores’ west and north coasts. Adult dragons can reach a length of up to three meters, with an average weight of around 90kg.
Living mainly on carrion, the dragons also hunt deer and wild pigs, using their strong tail to bring the prey to the ground. Even though they appear rather inert, the dragons can accelerate up to 18 kilometers per hour while hunting. As they have an excellent sense of smell, they can locate their prey from a distance of several kilometers. Prey that is not killed immediately will die of blood poisoning because of the dragons’ septic saliva.
The Komodo dragon is a loner, living solitarily except at times of mating which usually takes place in the dry season between June and August. The female dragons bury their eggs and watch over them for a short time before leaving them to their fate. After nine months, the newly hatched baby dragons immediately climb up a tree to avoid the threat of being devoured by older dragons and other enemies. They live on small lizards and mammals, birds and their eggs, as well as insects. As soon as they get too heavy for tree dwelling, they have to go back to the ground to reach their final stage of adulthood.
An endangered species
The mystery of how the huge dragons found their way to Komodo and why they can only be found there is still not clear, herewith creating a fertile ground for unproven theories and assumptions. A popular theory suggests that periods of low sea levels enabled the dragons to reach Flores by land. As an assumed relic of extinct giant lizards, they only survived because of a lack of natural enemies in these islands’ isolated environment. With less than 2,500 lizards left, the Komodo dragon has now entered the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of endangered species. The most threatening factor to survival is poachers who constantly minimize the population of the Timor deer, the Komodo dragon’s staple food.
Visiting the dragons
Komodo Island is the most-visited attraction of Flores. Rinca, a smaller island where the Komodo dragons can also be found, is a good alternative to crowded Komodo Island. There are innumerous tour operators both within and outside of Flores offering Komodo or Rinca tour packages. Many local guides and boat captains wait to take visitors there from Labuan Bajo.
Komodo National Park on the world stage
The Komodo National Park became one of the 28 official finalists in the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’ global campaign which was launched in 2007. ‘Vote Komodo’ was also taken on the international rally front by implementing creative activities around Europe to create awareness and to entice people to vote.
One day after the voting on November 12, 2011 it was announced that the Komodo National Park is one of the Seven New Wonders of Nature. Now, New7Wonders (www.new7wonders.com) plans to working with the Indonesian authorities and Komodo supporters to evolve a sustainable development strategy. The objective lays in balancing the needs of the Komodo habitat and its people with the vital task of defending the park’s ecological integrity.
Watublapi is a small community in the Sikka district well known for its fine traditional ikat weaving. Whereas many other local weaving communities switched to industrially spun yarn and chemical dyes for the sake of saving time and money, the weavers of Watublapi still use the traditional, handspun yarn made out of local cotton, as well as local natural dyes.
In the 1980s, the villagers – along with the assistance of the German priest, Pater Bollen – established a cultural cooperative called Sanggar Bliran Sina with the goal of preserving and promoting local dance, music, ikat weaving, and other handicrafts.
Under the enthusiastic leadership of Daniel David, a young man from Watublapi, Bliran Sina has turned into a well-established cooperative of more than 40 members, who support each other in financial, educational, and health issues. Furthermore, Bliran Sina’s outside orientation and collaboration with Fair Trade organizations, such as Threads of Life, make it possible for Watublapi ikat to find their way to collectors all over the world.
Visitors to Watublapi who register in advance can be sure of a warm welcome by the members of Bliran Sina with traditional dance and music performances. If you dare, you can even taste the famous sirih pinang (betel nut chew) which is part of the Sikkanese tradition for welcoming guests. Believed to strengthen the teeth and have a stimulative effect, it is very popular among elderly women. Do not worry though – the red stain on your teeth disappears within a few hours.
Bliran Sina also gives you the opportunity to observe all different steps of the traditional ikat weaving process, from dyeing the threads through to the final product. As well as the cotton, all the dyes used in Watublapi are handmade and come from plants in the villagers’ own gardens – giving the ikat its distinctive local touch of blue, yellow, red, brown, and green.
Visitors with a profound interest in ikat weaving will have the opportunity to join an ikat workshop in Watublapi. The Bliran Sina weavers will teach you to the skills of this fascinating handicraft.
If you contact Daniel David (+62 81339463561) before your visit, Bliran Sina members can organize a weaving demonstration, lunch, as well as dance and music performances for you.
How to get there
Watublapi Village is located east of Maumere. You can reach the village easily by car or motorbike, since the road is in a good condition. About 7km from Maumere, pass Geliting Market. About 100m from the market on the right, there is a sign to St Gabriel Hospital. Follow the road, which passes through several villages. After about 13km you will arrive in Watublapi, with its bamboo entrance gate on the left.
Father Verhoeven, a Catholic missionary of the SVD order, was the first to undertake archaeological excavation in Liang Bua. After Verhoeven, further research by Indonesian archaeologists was undertaken, confirming the assumption of human occupation. Archaeological excavation is still going on, with further discoveries of the bony remains of stegodons, varans, rats, birds, and stone artefacts. Old Manggaraian myths and tales about small people living in caves are still doing the rounds.
How to get there
Liang Bua is about 13km from Ruteng and the drive takes less than 40 minutes. There is also frequent public transport to Liang Bua. You can either take a bis kayu from the Kota Ruteng terminal or take abemo in the direction of Ruteng-Ranggi/Akel. The trip by public transport costs about RP 7,000 and takes a little longer than car or motorbike.
Mount Kelimutu, with its tri-colored crater lakes, is probably the most amazing natural phenomenon in Flores. Beyond that, the ‘steaming mountain’ is also the island’s most famous tempat angker, or mystical, haunted place.
Scientific explanations aside, there are many myths about the origin of Kelimutu. This is one of the reasons why Mount Kelimutu was, and still is a sacred place for the local people. Over the years, the three crater lakes have often changed color. At present, one of the lakes is black-brown, one is green, and one is currently changing from green to a reddish color. A reason may be the varying mineral contents of the water. Another explanation suggests that the changing colors are caused by the neglected ancestral souls.
The first lake is named Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of the ancestors’ souls ); the second is named Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (lake of young people’s souls); and the third is called Tiwu Ata Polo (lake of evil spirits). The first and second lakes are situated close together; while the third lake is about 1.5km to the west. Kelimutu is a beautiful place at any time of the day. However, the best time to enjoy this magical place is in the early morning when the clouds haven’t yet covered the view. Many visitors prefer to see the sunrise.
The most popular and convenient starting point to visit Kelimutu is Moni, a village close to the Transflores ‘highway’. Whereas until not too long ago visitors had to hike all the way up to Kelimutu, there is now a paved road to a parking lot where you can enjoy a 30-minute walk through a lush forest full of birdsong, before entering the lake area.
Moni, too, is worth a stay. You can do many nice treks in the fertile surroundings of rice fields, forests, and hills. Relax in the hot springs nearby, look at some fine Lio ikat in the market, or enjoy a performance of local dance and music. Another starting point to Kelimutu, and a good alternative to Moni, is Detusoko village, which is about 33km from Kelimutu.
Kelimutu National Park
The Kelimutu crater lakes are only a small part of the Kelimutu National Park. This fascinating area belongs to the worldwide protected areas and is internationally recognized by the United Nations Environment Program. Due to its unique natural features, its high biodiversity, and cultural heritage, Kelimutu National Park attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Numerous hills and mountains (Mount Kelibara is the highest peak at 1,731 m) give this region its characteristic touch and provide a habitat for at least 19 rare, endemic bird species. As in so many places in Flores, traditional architecture, dances, and ikat weaving are still deeply rooted among the local people.
If you choose Detusoko Village as your starting point, you can spend the night in the guesthouse called Wisma Santu Fransiskus (+62 81314350522 ), which is managed by the Sisters of the Saint Francis Order. The nuns use the income of the guesthouse for their social work to help orphaned children in Detusoko.
If you prefer to start from Moni, you can choose one of the many basic to mid-range cottages or hotels. Get ready for your hiking tour with an energetic meal from a local restaurant or warung. In Moni you can find some small shops with a basic range of products, and a market where you can buy agricultural products, food, clothes, and much more for the daily life. The market opens every Monday, Tuesday and Sunday, whereas Monday is the happening day.
How to go there
From Maumere to Moni it takes about 62km, from Ende to Moni 51km (1 hour). Daily public transport connects Bajawa and Ende with Moni. From Bajawa to Moni, it takes about 4 hours. Detusoko, the alternative starting point, is located between Moni and Ende.
The village can only be reached by way of a three-hour hike (depending on your physical condition) from the lowlands. The hike is definitely worth the effort: the dense rain forest along the narrow path to Wae Rebo is one of a stunning biological diversity. Not only does it host interesting vegetation, including orchids, palms, and different ferns, but also an impressive population of singing birds.
Wae Rebo has been supported to become the major culture tourism attraction in West Flores. Together with a team of Jakarta-based architects and the Indonesian government, the local community renovated four of their mbaru niang – or ‘drum houses’ in the Manggaraian language.
The circular, cone-shaped buildings were all rebuilt in a traditional way. In contrast today’s rectangular buildings, the hearth is situated in the center of the house. The massive roof, made out of palm fiber, is supported by a central wooden pole. The ceremonial house – differing in size from the other buildings – is the place where sacred heirloom drums and gongs are stored, and where different ceremonies and rituals are held. This house is a communal building, gathering eight families who are descended from a common ancestor under its huge roof. Its structure symbolizes the unity of the clan, with the sacred drums considered the clan’s medium to communicate with the ancestors.
When you visit Wae Rebo, you will not only see the authentic Manggaraian housing, but also get an opportunity to experience the daily life of the local people. Most of the people work in their gardens from early morning until dawn, busy with harvesting coffee and processing the beans. Even though weaving is not a major activity in Wae Rebo, you may encounter some women weaving traditional songket cloth. Visitors are welcome to spend the night in the mbaru niang, and to socialize and dine with the Wae Rebo community. You will sleep on a tikar, a woven mat made out of pandanus leaf, in the mbaru niang, and get a taste of how life used to be when the extended families still lived their lives under one roof.
If you would like to stay in Wae Rebo for a night, there are several local guides as well as tour operators who can organize trekking and overnight stay for you, e.g. Leonardus Nyoman on +62 8123662110 orwww.floresexotictours.com, Yeremias Uril on +62 81380709223 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Martinus Anggo on +62 85239344046 or email@example.com. Blasius Monta (+62 381339350775) can organize a local homestay in Denge. As the community offers you to experience their daily life, you will dine together with them and they will also take care of your well-being. Nevertheless, it is recommended to bring your own water supply with you.
How to get there
There are several options for getting to Wae Rebo:
Car or motorbike from Ruteng:
Start the 2.5 – 3 hour drive by heading south towards Golo Lusang. After having passed Pong Nggeok village, you will cross Wae Mese bridge. Go ahead to Narang village, followed by Nanga Ramut village, and you will end up in Dintor. From this small fishing village you can see the beautiful Mules Island. The road to the north brings you to Kombo – Wae Rebo’s twin village – and finally to Denge village, which is the starting point for the hike to Wae Rebo.
Truck (oto kayu) from Ruteng:
From the Mena Bus Terminal, the truck route will take you across the villages of Cancar, Pela, Todo, and Dintor before you finally reach Denge Village.
The oto kayu usually departs from the terminal in the afternoon. The trip takes about 3 – 3 1/2 hours. If you want to go back from Denge to Ruteng, you will have to wake up early as the bis kayu departs from Denge at 5.30am.
The boat trip is a good option if you start the trip from Labuan Bajo. Head south to the coastal village of Nangalili. Once there, you have to rent a boat (about Rp 400,000) to take you to Dintor. As there is no regular boat schedule, it is highly recommended to charter the boat in advance (contact Pak Irwan, +62 812366 89171). The boat trip takes about two hours and leads you across to Mules Island. After having arrived in Dintor, continue your trip to Denge by ojek (about Rp 10,000) for about 20 minutes.
In Denge, start the hike by taking the path between a local homestay and village SDK (elementary school). The hike will lead you across three rest spots. The first one is at Wae Lomba River, which is less than an hour from Denge. After another hour of trekking, you will find the second one, Pocoroko. This is an important place for villagers (and visitors) who want to make phone calls and send text messages from their mobile phones, as there is no mobile signal in Wae Rebo. From Pocoroko you will reach the third post, Nampe Bakok, which takes about 40 minutes. From here, enjoy the beautiful hill scenery before you reach Wae Rebo.
The national park area is inhabited by various exotic species, e.g. the Timor deer, hedgehogs, monkeys, ferrets, the Timor monitor lizard, marsupials, and partridges. The large variety of birds, such as eagles, white herons, black storks, partridges etc, make the area a great spot for bird watching.
Even a moderate-sized species of a Komodo dragon named Mbou is said to exist in some regions such as Torong Padang, where it has been spotted in particular seasons only. It has hardly ever been encountered by either the conservation management or tourists.
The marine park status has been established to preserve the area’s underwater world. The Seventeen Islands area encompasses a rich coral-reef ecosystem where you can count up to 27 different species of coral. The Riung waters are home to plenty of exciting animals, ranging from marine mammals such as dolphins and whales to various colorful fish. The crystal-clear water makes it a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and underwater photography.
The biggest island is the hilly Ontoloe, which is covered with short grass and a few trees, as well as fringed with mangroves. On the north coast of Ontoloe, you can observe the famous large fruit bats, called ‘flying foxes’, flying over the mangrove trees.
A visit to Kalong, the ‘Flying Fox Island’, gives you the opportunity to see these fascinating animals as they fly into the sunset. The island of Bampa Barat is a temporary home to several fishermen, who sometimes sell their catch of the day directly from the boat.
If you plan to see the national park, you should also take some time for visiting Riung Village, as it offers you the possibility of unique cultural encounters. Lively celebrations of the Ngada people’s traditional hunting and boxing is just one part of their manifold cultural life.
Boat tours to the islands can be arranged from every hotel in town. There are plenty of water activities you can enjoy, like snorkeling, fishing or swimming in the crystal clear waters. The best areas for snorkeling can be found in Pulau Bukit Tiga, and near Pulau Mborong. You can rent the equipment in the representative office of Dinas Pariwisata Ngada (Muhammad Awing 081230189727) or in hotels such as Pondok SVD Riung or Nirwana bungalows.
However, despite the great potential of diving, there are no dive masters operating in this area yet. By using a speed boat or another vessel you can also enjoy a panorama of artistically formed island silhouettes.
In Riung you can find a small number of accommodation options ranging from simple guesthouses to nice, mid-range cottages. There are some small restaurants, warung, and shops as well.
How to get there
Riung is located approximately 72km from Bajawa. Along the Transflores ‘highway’, Riung can be either reached from Mbay (about 2 hours) or Bajawa (4 hours). The drive from Ende takes about 3–4 hours.
If you are coming from Bajawa, you can choose the bus operator (called Gemini) which operates twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon. But be aware, that the drive can last quite long as the bus picks up and brings back each passenger to their respective destination. A little patience might be required!
Renting a car can be another option, although the bad condition of the roads might discourage the less adventurous and one should not drive on their own. From Bajawa, take the road in direction to Soa (there is a signpost at the junction next to the BRI bank) and then keep going straight on the winding road which will bring you to Riung.
Bena, a community that is situated about 16km from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie, is the most famous and also most visited village in the Ngada district. With its impressive stone formations and ancestral shrines, as well as traditional houses, Bena has turned into a signpost for Ngada culture.
he village consists of two parallel rows of traditional, high thatch-roofed houses. Highly visible in the center of the village are ngadhu and bhaga, pairs of shrines – one for each clan of the village – representing the clan’s ancestors. The ngadhu is an anthropomorphic umbrella-like pole embodying the male ancestor of a clan. The trunk is decorated with carvings and is topped with a warrior-like figure. The ngadhu symbolizes fierceness and virility. After a new ngadhu has been carved out of a special tree, the men of the village carry the pole in a ceremonial way into the village.
The bhaga, a female ancestral clan shrine, is a small hut with a thatched roof that resembles a miniature of a traditional house. It symbolizes the sanctuary of the house and the female body. The bhaga offers enough space for one to two persons to hold rituals for female ancestors.
Another distinct feature of Ngada culture, of which Bena offers an awesome sight, are the megalithic formations in the village center. Megaliths are a means to connect with the supernatural realm and to communicate with the ancestors, often by animal sacrifice. As with the ngadhu and bhaga shrines, there is also a stone altar to every village clan. Additionally, a massive pile of flat stones, called lenggi, represents a court where the different clans of the village settle their legal disputes. If you look closer at the houses in Bena, you often find them decorated with skulls and horns of water buffaloes and pig jaws which were sacrificed at different ceremonies.
Visitors can buy locally crafted ikat, or tie-dyed woven cloth, in Bena. The sarong, which is a large tube of woven cloth, is often worn wrapped around the waist, both by men and women. The ikat weaving motifs range from animal patterns like horses, chickens, elephants, and the sacred ngadhu and bagha symbols.
At the end of the village, elevated on a small hill, a viewpoint with a Virgin Mary shrine gives you the opportunity to have a bird eye’s view over Bena and a wider view of the beautiful surrounding landscape, including Mount Inerie and the Savu Sea. The visit to Bena can also be combined with a hike that passes the villages of Tololela and Gurusina before ending at the Malanage Hot Springs.
The closest city is Bajawa. There, you can find various kinds of accommodation, restaurants, and shops.
How to get there
Bena can be reached easily from Bajawa by public or private transport. If you take your own car or motorbike, drive southwards on the Transflores ‘highway’. When you reach the WatujajiBus Station, take the road on the right to Langa Village. You will pass Borani, Mari, Langagedha, and other villages. Keep driving straight southwards, and you will pass the Kolokoa Primary School (SD Inpres Kolokoa). When you reach the junction, keep going straight and you will pass POLINDAS Desa Tiworiwu on the right side; just behind this is Luba Village. Then just drive straight for at least 300 meters to reach the popular village. The distance from the Watujaji Bus Station to Bena is approximately 11km.