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. The surrounding areas are full of natural attractions and cultural highlights, hidden in either nearby or remote villages.
Make a visit to the traditional Alok Market. Pasar Alok (pasar means ‘market’ in Indonesian) is open every day. Tuesdays are special, though, because the market transforms from a place of transactions into a hub for social gatherings – crowded with sellers and buyers from throughout Sikka, and with products ranging from everyday items to unusual goods that are not on display on regular days. The market usually lasts for only a few hours, starting from the break of dawn to midday at the latest. If you are keen on seeing traditional bartering make sure that you are at the market no later than 7am. Please do not expect a hustle bustle on a Sunday there, because this is the day when the majority of the people go to church.
There are plenty of beautiful islands reachable within 1 1/2 hours from Port L. Say. in Maumere. This chain of islands includes Pulau Besar (‘big’ in Indonesian), Pulau Babi (‘pig’ in Indonesian), Pulau Pangabatang, Sukun, Palu’e, Pemana Besar, and Pemana Kecil – also known as Kambing (‘goat’) Island.
The Pemana islanders mostly originated from Sulawesi (formerly Celebes). Thus the majority of the islands’ inhabitants are Muslims. As descendants of the proud seafaring Bugis ancestral line, the islanders still live an ocean-focused life. You will most likely witness their wooden boat-building skills, or you may even get a chance to join them exploring the surroundings and far-flung islands in a Bugis style of traveling. It is a great place for diving, snorkeling or just relaxing in an idyllic setting. Without even setting one foot in the water, you can enjoy observing large schools of colorful tropical fish from the dock. Everywhere, the water gazes back at you in crystal clarity. An exploration of the island’s lake, its caves, and cheerful mingling with the Pemana Besar people are other fun activities that wait for you on this versatile island.
Sitting astride the narrow waist of East Flores, Egon summit reveals a crater 350m wide and 200m deep. Depending on the season, there is also a lake in the crater. Other small crater lakes can be found on the flanks of Mount Egon. Its 1671m high summit is formed by a lava dome from which billow puffs of smoke emerge.
The hike to the summit takes 3–4 hours, and is well worth the effort considering the absolutely amazing views from the crater rim into the volcano and over the island. Starting out through dry grasslands, you will soon hike through savannah scrubs interspersed with eucalyptus trees. After about two hours you will get a first glimpse of wide-open landscapes. Another hour of hiking brings you to the summit, where you can walk around the rim or even go down towards the seasonally dried out crater lake.
WATUBLAPI IKAT WEAVING
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.