Maumere is the tourism hotspot of Flores, it's the biggest transportation center of the island, there is a big variety of accommodation and many of the attractions on Flores can be visited during one-day trips from Maumere. In the direct environment of the city you will find great places for snorkeling and diving, a traditional weaver, beautiful nature and old relics from the Portuguese time and the only museum of the island.
It's also possible to visit the lakes of Keli Mutu from Maumere directly. However Ende is a bigger city, we advice you to take Maumere as a starting point, especially when you decide to stay in one of the bigger and better hotels outside the city. The mountainous landscape and the traditional villages in the district Ngada around Bajawa are the most beautiful of the island, but the public transport around Bajawa, high in the mountains and far inland, isn't very reliable and comfortable like in and around Maumere.
Who gets ill can better stay in and around Maumere: the catholic hospital in Lela with it's westerly educated staff is probably the best of eastern Indonesia.
Watublapi: weaving village
Maumere is located along the northern coast, close to the most narrow part of the island. Through the air Flores is only 12 kilometers wide here, 18 when you follow the road. Starting point for a visit to this spectacular mountainous area is the village of Geliting, which lies about 10 kilometers east of Maumere along the main road to Larantuka. The best time to catch a bus or bemo to Geliting is at Friday mornings, when the market in Geliting is about to end.
This market is the biggest weekly market in the sub district Kewapante; there are a lot of people from the hinterlands. The women wear beautiful handmade sarong. Behind a row of shops along the road in the center the merchandize is displayed. There is a big livelihood; no one has a problem if you want to make a picture, but be on the watch for laughing people and strange acts. The fish market is along the other side of the road which runs right through the city, near the coast.
Ten kilometers towards the south of Geliting is the village of Watublapi. Meanwhile you have a view over Teluk Maumere (Maumere Bay) - when you look behind you - in the north, and on the steep slopes of the man-made terraces where corn and vegetables grow. In the west several remarkable, eroded summits rise, while in the east you will see higher, but less interesting active Gunung Egon. During the wet season the road ban change into a mud pool just before Watublapi, but normally the road is pretty good accessible.
The village, known for it's ikat-fabrics, offers a nice view over the environment. Ask someone the path towards Blarinsina, an open field less than 100 meters from the road, where you can sometimes see weaving demonstration, held for the tourists. From Blarinsina, you have an unobstructed view over the Savu Sea in the south and the Flores Sea in the north, with green mountains in the east and west.
From Watublapi you can travel towards the southern coast along the road. Everywhere around the village, as well as on the slopes on the eastern and western side, cacao-trees grow, which produce the main trading crop of the area. You can also see coffee and clove yards; the small trees are protected by the shade of the kenari-trees, which produce a precious oil-containing nut.
During the harvesting season of the cacao, from April through August, masses of beans are dried. Further south these trading crops are replaced by plantations of coconut trees, just as on the wide coastal planes in the north. You will also see a lot of cashew trees. Cashew nuts are the second important trading crop in the coastal area.
Ipir: traditional coastal village
About six kilometers south of Watublapi is Bola, a big village, dominated by an impressive church. The road then descends for two kilometers towards Ipir, a village at the southern coast. The paved road is extended until the coastal village of Habibola, 15 kilometers east of Ipir. About a kilometer before Habibola is Pantai Doreng, a nice, four kilometer long beach with sand with the color of gold.
Ipir used to own a big wooden cross at the beach, of which it is said to be made during the Portuguese period. It disappeared in 1947 and is replaced by a more simple model on the same location.
The residents of Ipir are all catholic. The village still looks traditional. Almost all houses, the bigger and smaller, still have their traditional roofing of alang-alang. The walls are made of split bamboo. Most women wear sarongs with a characteristic pattern, which can only be found in this area. The local weaver supplies to the need of fabrics and brings in money as well.
When the weather is calm, men in canoe's with small sails sail onto the sea to fish. The local economy is heavily depending on the trade of copra, however the small coastal plains hardly offer any space for big coconut tree forests. Cashew trees form an addition to their income.
The villagers also tap palm trees for tuak, a drink which becomes slightly alcoholic during natural fermentation. Don't take the 'slightly' too light: who drinks enough tuak will get as drunk as possible.
In Ipir you can see the women working with threats for their ikats. All fabrics are made on traditional machines and made from hand-woven cotton; the dye is made from tree bark, roots and leaves.
A kilometer past Ipir you can find coral formations and other fabulous underwater attractions just off the coast. Inform about the circumstances for a snorkeling adventure; the sea can be rough and dangerous around here.
Who wants to stay the night in the village can ask the village head kepala desa for a place to stay; there is no hotel or losmen. His house is at the beach, just behind the wooden cross. It's a cheap place to stay. Who wants to have a little variation in the daily menu, you can order a chicken from the village for a small amount of money. But it's also possible to bring your own food.
The village is not connected to the water supply. Washing takes place near wells, which are equipped with buckets. The local rules demand that woman wash themselves with their sarong still on, while the men wear short trousers. Several times a day there are trucks between Ipir and Geliting, very cheap transport.
The Northern coast
To return to the northern coast from Ipir you can take the same road or a track that starts near Bola and runs through the western mountains. The first three kilometers of the road are bad, but accessible throughout the entire year; the next 17 kilometers is paved. The road runs through several villages before the main road along the coast is reached, about two kilometers to the west of the turn to Watublapi. The Savu Sea can only be seen every once in a while, but the view on the Flores Sea and Teluk Maumere with the island Besar is very nice over this route.
The village of Dobo is not far from this place, but along another road. Take the paved road just west of Geliting and drive towards the south; you will reach Dobo after seven kilometers. The village is directly on the border of north and south and offers a view on the Flores Sea as well as the Savu Sea.
In the forests near Dobo you can find a mini-canoe complete with mini-rowers. It is said that they belong to the Dongson style, as many bronze drums which are found in this part of Indonesia. We couldn't find the canoe. Local sources told that the bronze canoe was brought here during the high tide of the East-Javanese Majapahit empire in the 14th century. Sacrifices have to be made to the canoe, pinang nuts and other little gifts, before it can be taken out of it's hiding place for display to the visitors. When the right sacrifices aren't made, this can result in floods. At special events, warrior dances are performed in Dobo.
Northwest of Maumere
The 42 kilometer long coastal road from Maumere to Kota Baru, which was paved in 1989, offers a nice view on the golden hills and turquoise sea. The valleys besides the road are home to irrigated sawah (rice paddies) and small plantations of coconut- and lontar-palm trees and banana trees. This are is little visited by foreigners. Own transport is smart on this route, because there are only a few bemo and trucks to help you out. This road is often used as a detour for public transport when the main road between Maumere and Ende is not accessible because of landslides. A 75 kilometer long, partially paved road connects Kota Baru with Detusoko in the hinterland, about 37 kilometer from Ende.
Wuring: Buginese and Bajo village
Wuring, almost entirely inhabited by Islamic Buginese and Bajo's, is located four kilometers west of Maumere, just along the road. All houses are built on pillars in the traditional style, above the line of high tide. Here, some construction of ships takes place, but not the big pinisi-schooners where the Buginese got their good name from.
From the hills behind Wuring groups of women visit the village, dressed in their characteristic sarongs, to buy small amounts of fish and to sell their vegetables. The people are friendly, and taking pictures is no problem, but the traveler may be guided by a group of children which want some attention all at the same time.
West of Wuring the road runs along a governmental cotton purifying plant and rows of ugly, colored houses, built by the government. They were built as bait for the people from the remote mountain villages; by settling here, they could make use of the educational and health care facilities. The male part of the population still returns to the old living areas regularly for a hunt for deer and wild pigs, the traditional way.
Fourteen kilometers west of Maumere you can see the sea. In the middle of mangrove forests you will find Waturia, a small Buginese enclave at the seaside. On a hill are several governmental houses, built for the mountain people. A few kilometers ahead the road runs over a couple of hills and it offers a very nice view over the beautifull bays and the first of a series of fertile valleys. On the fields waterbuffalos are used to plow the soil, before the rice is planted on the constantly irrigated fields.
Fishing village Ndete
About 30 kilometers from Maumere you find the coastal village of Ndete. Numerous fishing boats disclose the most important economical factor. All kinds of fish, small fish to tuna, are drying in the sun to be sold in Maumere later on. A fresh snapper costs you virtually nothing.
Near Magepanda the road crosses the Tanjung Watumanu peninsula on the border of the district Sikka (capital Maumere) and the district of Ende. After Kota Baru the paved road changes into a sandy dust trail.
Every once in a while merchants from Maumere come here to buy rice, which is about 30 percent cheaper than in the city. The people along the last stretch of road, which can't afford the ugly tin roofs, live in nice bamboo huts with roofs of grass, which stay cool in the intense tropical heat.
South of Maumere
The villages south and west of Maumere offer a wide range of attractions: a royal treasure of elephant teeth from the 17th century, the only 'real' museum in the province, nice views on the Flores Sea and Savu Sea, a weaver, and a holy place, reserved for ancestral honor. You can travel to this area with the cheap and crowded public transport, but a rental car saves you a lot of time and energy.
Starting point for a trip through the area is the main road to Ende. About six kilometers from Maumere there is a recreational park at the right side of the road. You will find a swimming pool there, together with accommodations in bungalows on top of a hill.
Museum Bikon Blewut
Four kilometers ahead is the Catholic Theological High school of Ledalero, lead by the international order of SVD-priests. This is one of the second theological high schools on the island; about 300 Indonesians are prepared for priest as a member of the SVD, but some students only make use of the very good facilities and switch careers later on. The high school has a small but very full museum, named Bikon Blewut. The displayed objects are collected by father Piet Petu, born in the nearby village of Nita, which started the museum in the 1960's.
This museum has an assortment of nice ikat-fabrics, tools from the stone-age, fossil bones of a stegodont - an exterminated kind of elephants which once lived on Flores -, Chinese ceramics and local pottery, shells, weapons, gemstones, inscriptions and much more. Fascinating are the albums with pictures which are made in the 1910's by the missionaries.
Too bad that such an amount of stuff is placed in a far too small location. The museum is opened daily, but opening times chance throughout the week. You pay a small entrance fee.
Two kilometers past Ledalero, at the edge of the village of Nita, you will see the other catholic Theological High school in Ritapiret. The students follow their lessons in Ledalero. The Thursday market is located at the end of a 50 meter path, which runs to the right of the main road. After ten in the morning there is not much to see anymore, and at about noon, most people have left already.
Other interesting places
West of Maumere, near the Kilon-Blewut Museum is the village of Nita, known because of it's ikat. Travel further to the south and have a look at the pressing of tuak, the local palm wine, and take a fresh dive and lunch on the lovely Paga beach. There are interesting megalithic stone graves to be seen in Nua Bari, a traditional village near Paga.
Too bad an earthquake took it's toll on the coral reefs of Maumere. Unless this, it's still a very good spot for snorkeling and the beaches of Teluk Maumere near Palue, Pama, Besar and Permaam are very nice. Diving can be done from one of the many diving centers along the road east of Maumere, near Wairterang. There should be a Japanese shipwreck here, but it's located at some depth and is hard to find. You can also participate in several trekkings in the environment: to the hot sources in Blidit; a climb into Gunung Egon (1700 meters, not during the wet season) from where you can see the northern and southern coasts of Flores; and several caves near Patia Mission, of which one of them is a taboo among the local population.
Koting: beautifull nature
Who is interested in several of the best views on the northern as well as the southern sea, should drive straight on towards Koting, when leaving Nita, instead of following the main road to Ende. Koting is nothing more than several settlements. Unless the driver of the rented car knows the environment well, you should ask him the route to Koting-Diler.
How far you can drive depends on the condition of the road and the skill of the driver. There is a chance that you have to walk the last two kilometers.
Near the school of Kampung Wutik the road ends; the place for a very nice view, locally known as Gajut, is close to that place. The mornings are the best time to make pictures. Who likes it can take the path to Hokor, about three kilometers ahead along the road to Bolao, which has even better views according to the residents of Koting. The footpath is good, with a few ascends. Between Koting and Maumere is a good road, but it's regularly blocked because of falling trees and public transport on this route is hard to find.
Seven kilometers past Nita (19 kilometers from Maumere) is Hapang. From here, a turn off the main road towards the south runs towards Lela and Sikka. It's four kilometer downhill towards Lela, which is located at the shore of a picturesque bay at the southern coast. From Lela the road follows a black sandy beach, scattered with big rocks, and it reaches Sikka four kilometers ahead.
Sikka: center of weaving
Due to the weavers and the comfortable location at the coast, Sikka is the most visited village in the region. The arrival of a traveler will not pass in anonymity; within the shortest possible time dozens of women have gathered to display their ikat weavings. You can get a weaving demonstration from here; the several different stadiums each have their own price. You can see the spinning of the local cotton, the making of the pattern, the complicated painting process with different colors of paint (made from roots, leafs and tree bark). You can see most of it for free in Bola, where there are more women working than in Sikka.
In Sikka is a nice church from the end of the 19th century. The wall behind the altar and a stretch along both sides of the long church are painted with ikat-motives. The church was built under the lead of Jesuit father Armand Lecoq d'Aramandville, which became known later on as a missionary and a surveyor in Papua. The visitor is supposed to donate a small amount to the church.
The building replaced a church which was built during the Portuguese time. On Christmas day a play in Portuguese style is still performed. You can also let them play for you, but that won't be very cheap.
The play, named bobu, is a Portuguese love story in which candidates for marriage try to get the princes. The men came from all levels of the population: farmer, sailor, gold worker and gambler. She rejects them all, because they aren't rich enough for her. Eventually a rich guy shows up for her.
In front of the (Dutch) priest, besides the church, is a Portuguese cannon. It's interesting to talk with the priest. He has been in Indonesia for a very long time and he has gone through a lot of changes.
Sixteen kilometers west of Hapang, along the main road to Ende, is Lekebai, 35 kilometers from Maumere. The villagers and some guides seem to think that the visitors are interested in a square with alang-alang covered roofs. In fact it's little exciting. Just outside the village there is a bunch of stones on your right side. These are no megaliths, but they are a part of the megalithic culture. Sacrifices of pinang-nuts and the blood of animals (chickens, pigs and waterbuffalos) are placed on mini-dolmens and menhirs, to get in favor with the spirits. A short walk leads to Keuluju, a holy complex on top of a hill.
Keuluju is dedicated to the ancestors of Frans Seda, the most well-known local of Flores, which has been a minister in three different posts and was ambassador for Indonesia in Belgium. The buildings, all made from wood from Kalimantan, are new, but they are built following the traditional rules.
A small open building holds the bones of several ancestors of the clan of Seda, which are kept in ceramic jars since a while, waiting for their addition to their final resting place. A small house shows new, interesting sculpting related to the ancestral myths of the family: women entangled with dragons, a dog-like animal that feeds a baby and an eagle. The third open house houses a wooden box that is named peti jara. Inside the heirlooms of the family will be kept when the complex is being inaugurated on a still unknown date.
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