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Labuan Bajo is the capital of the district of Manggarai Barat (West Manggarai) and is located at the westernmost tip of the island. Labuan Bajo is a launching point to explore the island’s interior and visits the giant dragons on Komodo and Rinca Island. It is almost a must-do for visitors to hike to one of the surrounding hills or mountains to enjoy a perfect panoramic view over the harbor and the innumerable coastal islets with their strips of white-sand beaches.
Cunca Rami Waterfall
The impressive Cunca Rami waterfall, with its many pretty pools that offer a refreshing, natural swimming experience, makes a fantastic day trip from Labuan Bajo. Hiking through small villages and agricultural land, this walk is also a lesson in culture and agriculture. The trail leads you across various villages before it stretches out into open farmlands with water buffaloes, pigs, and goats grazing freely in the fields.
You can observe the various stages of rice cultivation and the traditional drying methods throughout the trail. Keep an eye out for banana, cacao, vanilla, and avocado plantations – it is amazing how everything grows and prospers seemingly effortless in this fertile area.
Mount Mbeliling, located in West Manggarai, is the highest mountain in this region. The Mbeliling Forest Reserve, which spans over an area of 15,000 hectares, is the habitat of numerous endemic plant species and birds. Its large variety of flora and fauna make it a perfect trekking destination, especially during the dry season.
Sano Nggoang Crater Lake
Sano Nggoang Crater Lake is located approximately 35km east of Labuan Bajo. With depths of up to 500m, it is said to be among the world’s deepest crater lakes. The lake and an overall surrounding area of 5,500 hectares are proposed to become a protected area due to the remaining forests and endemic bird species such as the native Flores crow and the Flores monarch. Enthusiastic bird watchers and nature lovers should make sure to bring along their binoculars. Besides the birds, there is an abundance of attractive flora and fauna that can be spotted in this area.
Batu Cermin Limestone Cave
Batu Cermin cave is set within an impressive prominent rock formation near Labuan Bajo. Through a hole in the cave, rays of light find their way into the cave’s inside walls where they perform a spectacular show of reflected sunlight. This fascinating effect is caused by some slick, mirror-like rock surfaces that reflect the light. Hence the cave’s name, Batu Cermin, which means ‘mirror rock’ in Indonesian. If you want to experience this visual delight in all its beauty, make sure to be there at the right time: depending on the time of year, the sunrays only hit the hole between 9 and 10am.
The traditional village of Ruteng Pu’u, located 4km from Ruteng, is one of the most popular places to see the traditional compang, a round, stone platform surrounded by a circle of stones and traditional houses. The compang is the center of traditional ceremonies and rituals, e.g. for sacrificial offerings. An impressive waringin tree (Ficus Benjamina), locally known as a ‘ruteng’, once grew in the center of the compang. It is now replaced by a dadap tree. On the east side of the compang, there are two tall traditional houses with spiked roofs.
Tengkulese Waterfall, which is also referred to as Cunca Lega (cunca means ‘waterfall’ in the Manggaraian language) is named after the nearby village. The water drops over two levels with a promising altitude. Surrounded by a lush forest and rice terraces, it can even be spotted from a distance. The waterfall can be reached by way of a nice short hike.
Wae Rebo Village
Wae Rebo is an old Manggaraian village, situated in pleasant, isolated mountain scenery. The village offers visitors a unique opportunity to see authentic Manggarai housing and to experience the everyday life of the local community. In the village of Wae Rebo, visitors can see mbaru niang – traditional, circular cone-shaped houses with very unique architecture. Nowadays, it is still a place to hold meetings, rituals and Sunday-morning prayers together.
Wae Rebo has been supported to become the major culture tourism attraction in West Flores.
With this finding, long-held scientific theories on the evolutionary past of human beings were contested: was there a land connection between mainland Asia or Australia and Flores? Was the isolated island situation responsible for the dwindling size? Did modern human beings cross with the hobbit, or did a volcano eruption end to the hobbit population before modern human beings settled on Flores? Is it really a new kind of human being, or did it suffer from a disease causing dwarfism? 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.
Cancar Spider Rice Fields
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. 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.
Ranamese, a mountainous natural reserve (Taman Wisata Alam), impresses with its dense forests and a 21-meter-deep crater lake at an altitude of 1220m. Ranamese is ideal for those who want to explore the Florinese highlands by trekking. It is also a perfect place for bird watchers.
Ranamese Lake is situated in the middle of the forest, surrounded by a dense vegetation of mosses, scrubs, tropical woods, and water plants. The climate is comfortably fresh. Its calm and clear water makes it easy to spot freshwater fish. Other prominent animals around the lake are the wild macaques.
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. The 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.
Mangeruda Hot Springs
Located in the Soa sub-district, about 23.5km from Bajawa, Mangeruda Hot Springs offer you the Florinese highlands at their warmest. Travelers coming to Ngada often visit Mangeruda Hot Springs to escape chilly Bajawa and enjoy the warm water that flows from a river under the shade of coconut trees. The spring water is believed to have curative effect for those suffering from skin conditions. Howsoever, the experience of taking a warm, soothing bath in a beautiful, natural atmosphere is definitely a true delight for your body and soul. Some pools are especially designed for visitors, including a large, artificial pool that offers space for quite a lot of people.
While in Soa, you may have the chance to enjoy ‘sagi’, a traditional boxing performance which is the pride of the Soa community. Usually held after harvest or during the dry season from May to July, sagi is performed continuously throughout the Soa sub-district, starting from Mangeruda and continuing to other nearby villages. It is performed as one of the local traditional festivals inspired by ancestral migration journeys in centuries over the distant past.
Riung 17 Islands
The sub-district of Riung, located to the north of Bajawa, is famed for its beautiful coral gardens. The coast and the surrounding area of the town of Riung have become a national conservation area, and were even given the status of a national park and named Pulau Tujuhbelas, or ‘Seventeen Islands’. In fact, the national park consists of more than 20 small and larger islands. The local people, though, have named the area ‘Riung Seventeen Islands’, a label that is easy to remember as it refers to the personification of a beautiful 17-year-old girl and also Indonesian Independence Day on the 17th of August.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maumere, the capital city of the Sikka district, is a main entry point for visiting Flores. In contrast to Labuan Bajo, there are still few tourists in Maumere and has kept its charming atmosphere – a mix of a dusty, busy town and a coastal paradise. From Maumere you can explore plenty of exciting places in just a one-day trip. The surrounding areas are full of natural attractions and cultural highlights, hidden in either nearby or remote villages. There are plenty of small islands that are easily reachable from Maumere. The Pemana Islands, a chain of islands, are located about 7km from Port Sadangbui, Maumere. Island hopping combined with snorkeling on a beautiful coral reef, as well as relaxing on fine, sandy beaches are perfect things to do there. Maumere’s Port Sadangbui is one of the biggest harbors in Flores and therefore a central trading point. Boats from all over Indonesia, especially from Java, anchor here and turn the harbor into a busy coming-and-going of people and goods that is exciting to watch.
If you want to get a glimpse of Florinese cultural and natural history, prehistory as well as marvel at some unique and sometimes curious objects of art and daily life, Maumere’s Bikon Blewut Museum is the place visit. It is situated on the campus of Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Katholik in Ledalero, which is a well renowned Roman Catholic seminary. The 6km distance from Maumere to Ledalero can easily be covered either by public or private transportation. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday mornings from 7am – 1pm
Larantuka is the capital of Flores Timur. This coastal town used to be a naval base for trade and a central point for colonialization and clerical activities in Eastern Indonesia. Nowadays, Larantuka is still an important connecting port to the neighboring islands and the center of economic activities in the Flores Timur district, attracting many people from the neighboring villages to make a living in the town. Having a long Catholic history, Larantuka hosts the famous Katedral Reinha Rosari. This cathedral, together with the two well-known chapels Kapela Tua Ana and Kapela Tuan Ma, are centers of activity during the famous Larantuka Easter procession. During Easter, this laid-back city turns into a busy and lively place bursting with pilgrims from all over the world.
Text Sources : www.florestourism.com
Photography : Leonardus Nyoman