The chain of islands east of Bali is named Nusa Tenggara in modern Indonesia: the Southeastern Islands. Among geographers the archipelago is known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, as a separation from the Big Sunda Islands; Sumatera, Jawa and Borneo. For what tourist places concerned, there is nothing 'small' about Nusa Tenggara. In contrary: a region of this size with a rich cultural and natural diversity can't be found elsewhere in the world.
From Lombok in the west to Timor in the east the group of islands is blessed with white sand beaches, clear water and beautifull coral reefs. The three crater lakes of Keli Mutu on Flores, which have different colors because of vulcanic minerals, offer an almost surreal view. On the small island of Komodo, you can find the rarest spiecies of reptile.
In cultural way the islands are about as important. In the eastern part of the archipelago, women produce the most beautiful ikats of Indonesia. On Sumba, jockeys endanger themselves in the very old and dangerous Pasola-ritual. The fishermen on Lembata catch sperm whales by jumping on them from their small boats.
Far from mass tourism
The Lesser Sunda Islands are located between 8 and 11 degrees Southern lattitude. They stretch over a distance of 1300 km and form a central chain in the 5600 km long Indonesian archipelago. Nusa Tenggara has no less than 566 islands; 320 of them are so small, they even don't have a name. On the map, five of the 42 inhabited islands are clear: Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores and Timor. Besides these 'giants' there are a number of smaller islands, which are worth while visiting as well.
With exeption of Flores, the bigger islands are good to travel on the entire year. The best time for a visit is the dry season: from April until the end of October or November. In the period April until June, the islands are very green; towards September they are dull and brown.
Mass tourism hasn't yet reached Nusa Tenggara. The provisions on the islands are decent. The travelling, especially to the more remote islands, demands initiative, an open travel scheme and a common sense of humor to compete with the unavoidable problems. But there are also other reasons to keep your travel scheme flexible; you never know what you will see: a whip-fight on Flores, a boat to the hardly known Ndao, a circumstantion on Bima.
On several places you can rent English speaking guides, but little knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia is very handy. Concervative dressing also makes the journey more enjoyable. Don't forget that tourism is something new and that the islanders are not all used to almost naked foreigners.
The traveller should be prepared to be in the center of attention. Every time you should answer the same questions: Where areyou from? How old are you? Are you married? Where are you going? Which religion do you have? You also have to take into account that eating, bathing ans sleaping outside the big cities takes place under the most elemental conditions and that the beaches - when there are no toilets - also serve as public restroom. Who can live with this is rewarded with a meeting with one of the richest areas in the world for what culture concerned.