Destination Highlight: Alor Archipelago – Part Two
Sometimes, we divers wish we could stay underwater forever, but since we’re not fish, we must come up to the surface from time to time. However, when it comes to being on the surface in Alor, fish are the ones who will miss out! Let’s discover the highlights of Alor Archipelago’s above water wonders. 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
Be prepared for some incredible views below, as we travel from Bali to Maumere by plane. The landscape changes from atolls to volcanoes. However, upon landing in Maumere, the first impression will be the dry hills of Flores. Sailing out from Maumere there are almost postcard-perfect views.
As we make our way to Alor, the landscape drastically changes. The islands of Pantar and Alor offer gleaming white sand beaches in the north and dramatic black sand beaches in the South.
My personal favorites are the small picturesque islands in the Strait. There are villages built along the steep hills. From the sea, there is a lovely view of their houses and Christian churches. Roads circle the island and you often see small silhouettes of children in uniforms, on their way to school.
From the Adelaar, we have the best seat to observe the local life on these small islands. We never tire from watching the sun set behind the hills each evening.
Children of the sea
It is not uncommon across South East Asia to see young children driving motorbikes. In Alor, the livelihood of the locals strongly relies on the sea. As a result, the children learn to swim and be independent on a boat, in strong currents, very early in life.
The curious youngsters are drawn to the big boats that come through a few times per year. They navigate their simple outrigger canoes over to have a look and say hello. Sometimes they just have a look, sometimes they ask for something to eat. As children, they also love presents! You are welcome to bring some things along to hand out as presents. We do not recommend anything plastic, or wrapped in plastic. Alternately, you can give them pencils, wooden or metal pencil sharpeners, coloring books or modest but colorful clothing.
Rich in natural history, one of the best Alor above water wonders, is the people. Seldom do they see tourists on this far eastern island. Nevertheless, with their bright smiles they welcome you into their villages.
Their livelihood depends greatly on the sea, so this is where you likely encounter them. Daily, the fisherman goes out with his small outrigger boat to tend to his traps, or to spearfish. If you happen to be diving beneath, he will sometimes free dive down to meet you on your safety stop. Alternately, he waits patiently in his canoe to greet you as you surface.
The unique goggles they use for diving, are handmade from wood and glass. It goes without saying that they love exchanging these with you for your mask. A good trade makes him the happiest man in Alor! You are minus a mask, but have a souvenir and a great story to tell. Don’t be offended if they refuse to trade, looking at your mask with disgust! Some are so set in their ways that they would rather keep their precious custom goggles!
A fading tradition is that of the ikats. These incredible pieces are hand woven by the ladies of the village, each taking for up to three months to complete. The cotton is spun, the dye is prepared, the threads are died and dried, and then the weaving can begin.
They weave, sitting for hours, with their 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.
The weaving ladies of Ternate, Alor are always on the watch for a potential buyer. Once they spot a liveaboard in the harbor, they quickly gather their work, crowd into a small local boat, and make their way out. Approaching, they hold up their best pieces, determined to make a sale. The price varies greatly, and depends on the rank of the family, and the purpose of the design. Ikats sell from as little as 20€ upwards to hundreds of Euro for more rare pieces. They are a unique souvenir of the area and make great presents. Also good for bundling up on drafty 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. Enjoy the hypnotic sounds 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 hunting, the disturbance they create at the surface of the water is truly spectacular. Nowhere else in Indonesia do we see such pods, reaching easily a hundred individual cetaceans.
The Alor archipelago is an amazing destination both above and below the water. I have highlighted only some of what Alor has to offer for our diving guests. There are also picturesque villages, salt farms, and numerous white sand beaches. It is hard for us to get divers out of the water and onto the land, even in this culturally rich area. But, if you are interested in a snorkeling and cultural cruise, Alor is the perfect destination! Let us customize a trip as a private charter so you can discover all of the Alor above water wonders!
Written by Laura, lover of all things water, passionate diver and ocean advocate.