The Fascinating Alor Islands Of Flores

Despite its short name, the Alor islands hide a long list of splendors, from fascinating underwater wonders up to the unique culture of the highland people. Here, one will be indulged with spectacles ranging from spellbinding marine life, the unique Moko kettledrums, the oldest Al Qur’an in Southeast Asia, and the traditional villages of the highlands.

Extending at the east-most tip of Flores Island, still in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Alor is a name pinned to the regency, the archipelago, as well as the main island of the archipelago.

The Alor Archipelago comprises 20 islands and 17 sub-districts. Among these, only 9 islands are inhabited: Alor, Pantar, Pura, Terewang, Ternate (not to be confused with Ternate in Maluku), Kepa, Buaya, Kangge, and Kura. The other 11 uninhabited islands are: Sikka, Kapas, Batang, Lapang, Rusa, Kambing, Watu Manu, Batu Bawa, Batu Ille, Ikan Ruing, and Nubu.

The Alor islands
The Alor islands (Source : triphemat.com)

Although not yet as popular as Raja Ampat or neighboring Komodo Island, the waters around the archipelago offer equally fascinating spectacles –if not better. There are at least 50 dive spots stretching from Alor Island to Pantar Island, and several islets around them. Among these, 20 are considered in prime condition and among the world’s best. Some of the best sites are found along the Pantar Strait.

Those who are fortunate enough to have experienced diving in these waters have said that the underwater splendors of Alor outclass those in the Caribbean. In his book “East of Bali”, Photographer Kal Muller described the waters around Alor as pristine, filled with a variety of fascinating creatures, and highlighted with night-dive spots. He considered Alor as a world class underwater paradise.

Kepa island, Alor archipelago
Kepa island, Alor archipelago (Source : backpackerindonesia.com)

The island of Alor itself is inhabited by a number of Flores sub-ethnic groups who still preserve their traditional ways of life. One of these still produces clothing from tree bark known as the Ka Clothing. The unique culture of the Alorese are best observed among the Takpala indigenous group who dwell in the village of Lembur Barat, North-Central Alor. The Takpala still preserve the traditional housing construction that resembles a pyramid, covered with coconut leaves, bamboo plaited walls, and four main wooden pillars.

The island of Alor is also known as the island of a Thousand Moko’s. Moko is a small bronze kettledrum which is believed to have originated from the Dong Son culture of Vietnam. However, it remains a mystery as to how these prehistoric Dong Son drums arrived in Alor. Local legend says that the moko’s were discovered  buried in the ground, and indeed until today it is still common for these mokos to be similarly uncovered.

The Alorese with moko drums
The Alorese with moko drums (Source : goodnewsfromindonesia.id)

To observe these unique artifacts, one can visit the Museum of A Thousand Mokos located in the main town of Kalabahi, on Alor Island. The Museum also showcases a collection of distinct Alor hand-woven clothing called Kawate.

The island also holds the oldest Al Qur’an (Islamic holy book) ever to be discovered in Indonesia and in South East Asia. The Al Qur’an which is estimated to be over 800 years old is made of tree bark and uses natural substances for ink. The special Al Qur’an was once shown to the public in April 2011, during the Legu Gam Festival of the Ternate Sultanate.

ACTIVITIES

Kalabahi is the main city, and the capital of the Alor Regency. This is where all the facilities and accommodation are centered.

As an extension from the seas of Flores and Komodo Island, the Alor Archipelago is blessed with equally fascinating marine spectacles. Diving here is bliss, for you will encounter pristine coral reefs and fascinating creatures of the deep. Here divers will be indulged with the appearance of whales, sharks, mola-mola or sunfish, manta rays, and various other underwater creatures.

Kalabahi harbor, Alor
Kalabahi harbor, Alor (Source : indonesiatravelingguide.com)

A number of  dive spots in Alor include Baruna’s Point, Never-Never wall, Cave Point, Barrel Sponge Wall, Mola-Mola Point, Night Snacks, Alor Expree, Rocky Point, Three Coconuts, Moving Pictures, Eagle Ray Point, Rahim’s Point, Tuna Channel, Anemone Country, Sharks Reeway, Octopus Garden, Captain’s Choice, The Refrigerator, Half Moon Bay, Peter’s Prize, Crocodile Rook, The Edge, Coral Clitts, Baeylon, The Arch, Fallt Line, The Pacth, Nite Delht, Kal’s Dream, The Ball, Trip Top, The Mlai Hall, No Man’s Land, The Chatedral, School’s Ut, dan Shark Close.

On land, Alor Island is a perfect place to explore the fascinating culture of the country. Aside from the thousand Mokos and the 800 years old Al Qur’an, you can explore the indigenous way of life that has been well preserved for generations.

GET THERE

To get to Alor, you can take a flight from Kupang, capital of East Nusa Tenggara. From Kupang there are several airlines that serve flights to Mali Airport in Kalabahi, the main town of Alor. Trans Nusa serves daily flights between Kupang-Alor which takes about an hour. Reservation can be made at:

Trans Nusa: Jl. Jenderal Sudirman No.68, Kupang

The other option is by ferry which will take approximately 12 hours from Kupang to Larantuka, and followed by wooden boats to Kalabahi Seaport, which take about one hour.

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