Escape / July 2017

The Seven Wonders of Eastern Indonesia

By Yanto Soegiarto

They say that travel is life’s university. Some add that you have not seen the world unless you have visited the wonders of eastern Indonesia, which include the epic Komodo National Park, the multi-colored Kelimutu crater lakes, and some of the world’s finest island-hopping and underwater adventures.

In this edition GlobeAsia lists seven tourism wonders of eastern Indonesia and takes you to Labuan Bajo, one of today’s most favored tourism destinations beyond Bali. Located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Labuan Bajo used to be a quiet fishermen’s village but is now a boom town and gateway to the province’s tourism delights.

With its modern new airport, commissioned by President Joko Widodo last year, Labuan Bajo is easily accessible with direct flights from Jakarta and Bali. Infrastructure is continuously being developed to connect the whole of the province to be on par with more developed regions.

The Portuguese were not wrong when they first discovered the beauty of Flores in the 16th century. Not just pristine beaches, islands dotted with sandy bays and the natural beauty but also the unique Manggarai culture.

The rare Komodo dragons can be found on Komodo Island and Rinca Island, with the former the most visited while the latter offers longer trekking opportunities and more challenges exploring the forests and hills to see the dragons up close.

If you are a beach bum, island hopper or diver, Flores offers a variety of sites. There is Pink Beach, known by the local people as Pantai Merah. The view is magnificent and the sandy beach has a pink sheen, while its waters are heavenly for snorkeling.

Then there’s Manta Point, a diving spot where you can swim with or even touch the manta rays that sail majestically through the waters. This diving spot is among the most sought-after and talked about by underwater adventurers.

Then there’s Padar Island, famous for its steep hills where you can view the islands and the blue sea from above. A great site for photography, newly-wed couples will surely want to visit to capture some romantic moments.

Angel Island, close to Labuan Bajo, is another beautiful island, known as Pulau Bidadari by the local people. According to legend, angels descended on this island and gave it its beauty.

On Konawa Island, visitors will find natural wonders both at sea and on land which should never be missed. The island also offers resort facilities for the discriminating traveler.

There are still more amazing islands such as Kalong Island or Island of the Bats. Thousands of bats take to the air at sunset, making an extraordinary sight.

Nano Pink Beach boats exotic reddish sand. Compared to Pink Beach, Nano was discovered later but outstrips Pink Beach with the color of its sand. Those who have visited the island say that it is less developed but offers spectacular view, excellent sailing and underwater experiences.

 

 

Land-based tourism

If the maritime delights of the region are spectacular, there are also various land tourism sites near Labuan Bajo such as Gili Laba. in the hills with a clear view of the islands.  The Mirror Cave or Gua Batu Cermin is easily reached by motor bike or car, offering magnificent stalactite and stalagmite caves.

Above all, it is the culture of Manggarai that makes a visit to Labuan Bajo and East Nusa Tenggara memorable. As a cultural entity it is spread across three regencies, offering an enormous wealth of cultural heritage and making it one of the country’s most favored eco-cultural tourism destinations.

The people of Manggarai have several traditional dances and ceremonies including Caci, a warrior dance that is a major element of the Manggarai cultural identity and is performed on traditional feast days and national days.

Other dances are Danding, Ndududake, Sanda and Mbata, the last performed by a group of people singing and dancing together as an expression of joy and thanksgiving for God’s blessing. Architectural cultural richness is found in Manggarai’s ancient housing style at Wae Rebo and Kampung Todo, which have been listed by UNESCO as international heritage sites.

Ruteng is the hub for land travel into the wider region. Located 1,200 meters above sea level, Ruteng is four hours drive from Labuan Bajo and was the original base of Catholic missionaries who went on to convert many of the islanders and build many missionary schools.

The international cycling race Tour de Flores 2017 is scheduled for July 24-29 starting from Larantuka and ending in Labuan Bajo. More than 100 participants have registered to take part in the annual event which has gained prominence since its inception in 2016. The organizers say cyclists from the Middle East, Russia and the US are expected to take part.

Transportation

National flag–carrier Garuda flies directly to Labuan Bajo. Private airlines such as Wings Air and Transnusa also serve the town. Various boat services are available to transport visitors from Labuan Bajo to the islands. They range from ordinary charter boat services to luxurious phinisi boats. Land transportation is easy by bus, car or motorbike.

Flores today offers the international tourist a high level of safety. The government has upgraded the East Nusa Tenggara police status from type B to type A, meaning security on par with other regions.