Destination Highlight: Alor Archipelago – Part Two
Although some of us may wish we could stay underwater forever, since we’re not fish, we must come up from time to time. Truly, fish are the ones missing out as the surface has a lot of wonders to offer as well, especially in Alor. Let’s discover this archipelago’s highlights from the surface! Read on for the Alor above water wonders.
For the Underwater Wonders of the Alor archipelago, it’s over here!
The Alor Above Water Wonders
The views on your flight from Bali to Maumere are beyond compare. It truly makes one speechless to watch the landscape change so much with each island passed, from atolls to volcanoes. Since you land in Maumere, the dry hills of Flores will be your first impression of the trip. And while sailing off from Maumere provides postcard-perfect views, which you will be happy to return to at the end of your trip, the landscape drastically changes when you arrive to Alor. The islands of Pantar and Alor surrounding the Strait are beautiful with some white sand beaches in the north and black sand in the South. We can also guarantee that you won’t tire from watching the sun set behind the hills every evening. My personal highlight are the picturesque islands in the Strait. The villages are built along the steep hills giving you a lovely view of the cute houses and Christian churches.The roads circle the island and you will often see small silhouettes in uniforms on their way to school. From the Adelaar, you get the best seat to observe the life of a local on a small island in Alor.
Kids on outriggers
It is not uncommon across South East Asia to see children driving motorbikes from a young age, usually without a helmet on. In Alor, the livelihood of the locals strongly relies on the sea and kids learn how to be independent on a boat or swim in strong currents early on. The curious youngsters are drawn by these big boats that come through a few times per year and navigate on a simple outrigger boat to come say hello. Sometimes they ask for some food, since the supermarket isn’t exactly around the corner and imported food is costly for simple fishermen. As kids, they also love presents so you’re welcome to bring some along with you if you wish. We do not recommend anything plastic based or wrapped in plastic but rather pencils, wooden or metal pencil sharpeners, coloring books or modest but colorful clothing.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best Alor above water wonders is the people. They aren’t as accustomed to seeing tourists as on the islands of Bali, or even Flores! Nevertheless, their bright smiles welcome you to their villages and coastlines. Since their livelihood depends greatly on the sea, that is where you usually encounter them. Very often, a fisherman will be out on his small outrigger boat tending to his traps or spearfishing. It is common for them to free dive down to meet divers on their safety stop or will greet them when they surface. The fascinating goggles they use to dive are homemade from wood and glass. It goes without saying that they love exchanging these with your old mask, which makes him the happiest man in Alor that day and gives you a souvenir and a great story to tell. Don’t get offended if some look at your mask with disgust, it has happened that some are so set in their ways that they would rather keep their precious goggles!
A fading tradition is that of the ikats. These incredible pieces are weaved by hand for up to three months at a time by the ladies of the house. They take care of the whole process from the cotton and the dye to the finished product. The weaving is done sitting for hours legs stretched on the floor underneath the ancient apparatus. The result is absolutely beautiful and differs from regency to regency, island to island, village to village, family to family. No piece is ever exactly the same and the price varies greatly on the rank of the family and what the purpose of the design is. Ikats go from as little as 20€ up to hundreds for the rarer pieces. The determination to sell their colorful ikats pushes the ladies of Ternate in Alor to crowd themselves onto a small local boat to meet the liveaboards at sea. They make for great presents or a great plaid on plane rides! (How to care for ikats)
The Western part of Alor is home to the largest ethnic group of the island, the Abui tribe. Feared headhunters until 1984, they nowadays welcome tourists in their traditional villages, the principal one being Takpala. The fierce dance these warriors perform as you enter the village remains unnerving to this day. You enjoy the hypnotic sound of the moko drums as the Abui people dance. For the ceremony, the Abui wear colorful ikats that they have hand-woven in a pattern that is specific to their tribe. As they dance the lego lego, the jingling sound of their metal anklets eerily fills the air with each step. These warm people usually invite tourists to join in this simple but meaningful dance, which they normally use to mark important life events. Who would have thought that headhunters would one day become an important part of the Alor above water wonders?
Super pods of dolphins and cetaceans sightings
The Alor cruise of the Adelaar is conveniently located in the migration path of big cetaceans. Keeping your eyes on the horizon is highly recommended! You might just be rewarded by spotting a sperm whale and her calf or a pod of pilot whales. The Pantar Strait is home to super pods of dolphins which can be seen all year around. When they hunt, the disturbance they create at the surface of the water is truly spectacular. Nowhere else in Indonesia have we seen such pods, reaching easily a hundred individual cetaceans.
The Alor archipelago is a wonderful destination whether or not you enjoy being underwater. These main highlights left out the many picturesque villages to visit as well as the white sand beaches, salt farm and viewpoints for which scuba divers do not have time. However, if you’re looking for a snorkeling and cultural cruise, Alor is the perfect destination for you as a private charter so you can discover all the Alor above water wonders!
Written by Laura, lover of all things water, passionate diver and ocean advocate