Tourist Spots in Sikka Flores
Sikka is a district in central-eastern Flores renowned for ikat: a handicraft deeply rooted in the Sikkanese community. Watublapi is a village that boasts fine ikat that still use traditional, handspun cotton yarn made from natural dyes. Geliting is a lively weekly market well worth exploring, which looks back on more than 100 years of trading history. The long history of Catholicism in Flores has produced many legends: Wair Nokerua is a natural spring named after the charismatic St Francis Xavier. Active travellers must try the world’s most interesting diving spot: Maumere Bay; and while on the highland enjoy a hike to Mount Egon, as well as treks to Murusobe Twin Falls or Liwu Legur Falls. If the sea’s on your mind, you can beach-hop along the chain of islands surrounding Maumere Bay, or unwind on Koka Beach.
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 this is not bustling enough for you yet, 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.
The Bay of Maumere is not only one of the world’s most interesting diving spots. The western part of the shoreline with its beautiful beaches and idyllic villages also offers numerous pristine places for complete rest and relaxation. Some of the villages, such as Nangahure and Magepanda, give you the option to glance at the daily life of the local fishermen and get a taste of best fresh fish at local fish stalls where the villagers sell their catch of the day.
Wuring, a small fishing village, with impressive Mt Egon volcano in the background, is located on the main road about four kilometers west of Maumere. It is home to Bugis and Bajo people who live in traditionally constructed stilt houses. As Wuring was massively hit by the tsunami in 1992, many people moved to the neighboring village of Nangahure. However, Wuring is still their homeland where they carry on their tradition as tenacious Bugis fishermen.
Some of the villagers build boats, but not the big phinisi-schooners which the Buginese people are famed for. Women from nearby inland villages often come to Wuring to sell their agricultural produce for local fresh fish or salted fish which is a popular product in Sikkanese markets.
The Wuring people are friendly and open to visitors. Taking pictures usually is not a problem to them. The local children are especially fond of guests and are happy to accompany you in high numbers on your stroll through their village.
Cascading in freefall from about 100 meters, the Murusobe Twin Waterfalls will cause splashing in the surrounding water ponds. Murusobe in the local Lio dialect translates as ‘straight plunge’, with muru meaning ‘plunge’ and sobe meaning ‘straight like a bamboo pole’. Whichever route you take, these impressive twin water falls are worth some beads of perspiration. Depending on your time, delight and physical condition, you can choose between three hiking trips from Maumere to Murusobe.
By taking the route toward Ende from Maumere, you will reach an area called Lekebai, where you can find a long bridge as a landmark. Drive straight ahead for 10 meters and turn right. Ahead is the three-road intersection, where you can choose between two routes that bring you to Murusobe. This intersection is 36km from Maumere.
If you prefer the shorter route, take the right turn at the intersection and follow the road to Feondari. If you have plenty of time for hiking, just stay on the main road at the intersection and drive straight ahead towards Wolofeo.
Going via Feondari your car/motorbike journey will end at Wolonira Village (a total of 56km from Maumere). Find a secure parking place at one of the local villager’s houses (see more recommendations below) as you will travel on foot from here for a one-hour hike to reach Detukato Village. From there, continue hiking for about an hour, following the winding path of the river, steadying your balance while leaping from one big river rock to the next, carefully crossing bamboo bridges, to finally reach Murusobe.
Choosing the Wolofeo route, your car/motorbike journey will end at Loke Village. Always lock your vehicle and leave it next to one of the local resident’s houses. Tell them who you are and where you are heading to, making friends with the local villagers before heading into the woods, just to be on the safe side. A two-hour walk from Loke will take you to Poma Village. If you feel tired after all the hiking, revitalize yourself in this village, where the people will eagerly serve you coffee and a snack for a small contribution. The neat village is in the midst of rain-fed rice fields and lush clusters of coffee, cocoa, and candlenut trees. From Poma Village you will reach Murusobe after another 30-minute trek.
The third option of trekking to the impressive twin waterfalls is only for those who you like long hiking. After having enjoyed a local breakfast with your host family in Deturia, you can start on the four-hour hike. Then take a break and relax a bit in Poma Village before you hike the last 30 minutes to Murusobe.
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.
Pasar Geliting is a lively weekly market, which looks back on more than 100 years of trading history. Every Friday, people from the surrounding villages gather to buy, sell, and barter their goods and livestock.
In the past, there used to be a well in the area of Geliting Market, which was a meeting point for sailors to get drinking water. With the influence of the Sultanates of Goa and Bima on many parts of the Florinese coastline starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, the seafaring Bajo and Bugis people reached the Geliting area. They started to trade with the local residents and finally settled permanently in Ban Bihan. Time after time, this place, which in the meantime was renamed to Natar Bajo (Bajo village) turned into an important meeting point for trade. The farmers brought their corn, tubers, and fruit to trade with the coastal communities for fish, salt, and lime. At the beginning of the 20th century under the Dutch colonial government, the market was expanded with permanent market stalls and shops – to be rented out to traders, that now also included Chinese merchants. After the Bajo people had moved from Bajo Natar to Wuring, a fishing village further west on the coastline, the market changed its name to Geliting. As this word does not exist, neither in the local Sikka language nor in Indonesian, one can only guess about the origin of its name. One assumption is that it derives from Go Lie Ting, who was the first Chinese merchant to rent a shop in the market and it changed to Geliting as time past.
Geliting market offers a vivid, colorful experience that will catch the attention of all your senses. Start your stroll at the fish stalls, which will reveal the whole richness of submarine life brought to the surface, either in fresh or dried form. The biggest of the dried fish are sometimes used as a part of bride wealth. The fruit and vegetable stalls, as well as those which specialize in ingredients for the sirih pinang, the popular betel nut chew, will give you a burst of colorful impressions. Besides food, you can also find all kinds of everyday goods, and, of course, ikat. In the animal market the local farmers sell all kinds of livestock: different colored chickens, small and large pigs, horses, goats, and also dogs. Be aware though that your perception of animal rights may not be the same as the locals.
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.
As all the islands are very close to each other, it is a perfect place for island hopping. The best way to do this is to charter your own boat. By negotiating with the local fishermen, you can rent the boat and simultaneously hire a captain as well. This allows you to explore the islands of your liking before arriving on Pemana Besar for an overnight stay.
Pemana Besar is the main island. Docking at Gunungsari Village’s port on Pemana Besar, you can start exploring the island. 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. Your return boat to Maumere will dock at the port in Pemana Village, the neighboring village to Gunungsari.
If you are awe struck by Pemana’s island atmosphere, you can also stay there the night. The calmness will grant you a restorative sleep. It is advisable to bring your own provisions, and sharing them with the local host will surely bring you enhanced interaction with the local residents. Do not forget to bring your sleeping bag or blankets for your overnight stay.
In Nele Village, located around 7km from Maumere, titi parang (the local expression for the craftsmanship of machete making) is an important source of income for the local men.
The parang (machete) plays an important role in the daily life of the Florinese people. It serves not only as a useful tool especially for men both in the farm and the woods, but also as a traditional weapon. Culturally, the parang is an indispensable accessory in the local men’s attire as a part of their personal identity. Even in many traditional Florinese dances, the parang is used as a male dance accessory.
Parang makers usually inherit the art from their ancestors. This knowledge has been passed down over generations. They used the bodies of cannons as a base material for the blade. As there are no distinctive marks of identification on these weapons, nobody knows exactly where these four-meter cannons came from and how they came to be in the village. The elderly villagers only remember that they were bought from the neighboring village of Koting.
While walking through Nele, you can enjoy the beauty of a Florinese village while listening to the sounds of clanking iron, that creates a rhythm that almost sounds like a wordless song performed by the ironsmiths. Being an ironsmith has been a reliable way of earning an income, besides farming, for a majority of the male villagers of Nele and its neighboring village, Kaduwair. Four to five parang can be finished in a day and sold in the markets around Maumere.
Parang craftsmanship is just one of the attractions offered in Nele. Ikat weaving is also an important activity. The Nele women, who prefer to work on their masterpieces in the front yard of their houses, give you the opportunity to peek at the different steps of ikat production. Nele ikat, adorned with artistic local motifs, is hand-woven and dyed traditionally with natural colors.
When talking about East Flores, Kelimutu National Park with its tri-colored crater lakes is definitely the first thing to cross one’s mind. Beyond Kelimutu, there are actually more than twelve volcanoes throughout Flores that are suitable for trekking. Mount Egon is one of them: sitting astride the narrow waist of East Flores, its 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.
Liwu Legur, an impressive waterfall located in a forest near Hale Village, is a perfect spot for young-spirited, active travelers in search of thrilling challenges. The hike to the waterfall through amazing scenery as well as the option of rock climbing make Liwu Legur the perfect combination for enjoying nature and getting your adventure kicks. Hanging onto ropes; holding onto roots while climbing the rocks; walking up and down the hills and big-sized stones; and getting wet in the river is part of the Liwu Legur experience. Thus a minimum of physical readiness is a prerequisite for these activities.
As you may want to start the two-hour hike from Hale Village early in the morning, it is best to stay there overnight and enjoy some relaxing hours of sleep in a villager’s home.
The hike starts with a walk down the village path past the farms. At the end of the walkable path, where you can already get a glimpse of the beautiful waterfall, you will have to climb down a rock face with a rope which you should already have prepared for the trip. This challenge is worth taking on because of the stunning view of distant Liwu Legur, charmingly nestled in nature, is waiting for you. Even from here, you can already feel its majestic, magnetic energy.
After one hour of walking past savannah landscapes and descending into the forest, you will come across a river filled with big rocks and freshwater shrimps swimming through the clear, cool water. Following the river, you will finally arrive at the base of Liwu Legur Waterfall. After the arduous walking, climbing and rock hopping, it feels like heaven to jump into one of the pools. With Liwu Legur in the backdrop and a vivid flora and fauna surrounding you, a picnic lunch can hardly get any better.
You may choose to relax a little longer in the freshness of the water, or proceed to the next challenge of rock climbing. This done, the return trip to Hale is even more exciting if you choose a different route.
The long history of Catholicism in Flores has produced many legends. One of these charismatic figures is St Francis Xavier – Wair Nokerua is a natural spring named after him. Wair means ‘water’ in the local language, and nokerua is derived from ‘he who lives celibate’, or ‘pastor’. The local people believe that this spring is a trace of St Francis Xavier’s worked miracles.
The spring is located on the beach of Kolisia Village, only about 20km away from Maumere. Visitors can enjoy Florinese nature and rural life at its best here. Before you enter the village, lush green scenery unfolds in front of your eyes. During the planting season, the land along the path turns into a large green carpet filled with corn plants. If you go further, the corn fields change into vast rice fields replacing the thick bushes of corn fields.
To make the excursion more informative, it is a good idea to engage a guide who is familiar with the local plants and their use: biduri (Calotropis gigantea), for example, is a wild coastal plant used by the locals for herbal medicine; lamtoro or petai Cina (Leucaena leucocephala) is useful for composting, while the seed is not only delicious cooked in dishes but also provides relief from symptoms of flatulence if eaten fresh. There is also jarak seed (Jatropha Ricinus communis) that makes a potent bio-fuel. Local fruits such as the passion fruit (Capparis spinosa subsp. Nummularia), wild fig (Ficus sp), kesambi (Schleichera oleosa) or tamarind (Tamarindus indica) grow wild along the road and you can pick them to quench your thirst. One of the well-known herbal plants is mengkudu (Morinda sp), which, unlike those commonly found, has smaller fruit with skin that even resembles a Javanese batik pattern. Wair Nokerua is also home to interesting birds such as the tekukur (spotted dove or Streptopelia chinensis).
During the 3km hike, you may also see water buffalos enjoying cool fresh water; cows and goats grazing in the fields and hills surrounding Wair Nokerua; and farmers plowing the land or planting and weeding rice fields – daily, agrarian life of which the local people are proud of. Early morning is the best time to soak up the peace and quiet of Wair Nokerua.
If you feel like relaxing and unwinding at the beach, Wair Nokerua’s gentle waves will sway you into tranquility. Situated in a lagoon arching the coast, the beach is very far from the town’s hustle and bustle. Take your time climbing up the highest hill for breathtaking scenery of paddy fields that look like a green ocean. With tall coconut trees on one side and the endless horizon of the deep, blue sea on the other, you will agree that St Francis Xavier really worked miracles on Wair Nokerua.
The village of Sikka (natar means ‘village’ in the local language), with its pleasant sea view on the south coast, is one of the first places of Portuguese influence and Catholic missionary activity in Flores. Therefore this is a place to take a leap into the past and learn about Sikkanese history, such as the colonial era.
The former center of the Kingdom of Sikka features a big church, which was built with the support of Jesuit priests in 1899. Its inside walls are nicely decorated with local ikat motifs. During the rule of the Sikkanese royal palace, the church was not only a place to hold Holy Communion, but was also used for the inauguration of new kings.
If by any chance you happen to be in Sikka Village at Christmas, you may witness a lasting example of Portuguese influence in the church: Toja Bobu, a dance-drama which was brought to Sikka by the Portuguese, and that is traditionally performed on the 26th of December. In brief, the story is about a beautiful, young princess being courted by many men with all kinds of occupational backgrounds who all eagerly want to marry her. For the luxury loving, spoiled princess, however, these wooers are not wealthy enough; so she finally marries a rich nobleman. Unfortunately, the performances are rarely held nowadays. The Sikkanese Sanggar Gere Bue, a cultural workshop group, tries to fight the loss of this old cultural tradition by reviving Toja Bobu and interpreting the performance in a modern way, without losing its originality.
Sikka Village has been, and still is, one of East Flores’ most important and famous weaving centers. Be prepared to be beleaguered by women who, of course, would like you to acquire a piece of their artwork. As in other villages, visitors to Sikka also have the opportunity to see – by pre-arrangement and for a fee – the complete steps of ikat-weaving, including the dyeing of the threads with natural colors.