Komodo and Lesser Sunda Islands Destination Guide
The Indonesian islands are like a beautiful string of beads held together by the equator. The clear waters of the seas wash gently over the perfect beaches while hiding the underwater riches; the air is heavy with the scent of flowers and spices; and striking ranges of volcanoes stand tall over the verdant rainforests and terraced hillsides.
The fantastic marine life, along with the prospect of sighting a Komodo dragon draws people to explore the islands that make up The Lesser Sunda Islands.
Take a look through our Komodo and Lesser Sunda Islands Destination Guide below to find out the many exciting highlights in Komodo and Lesser Sunda Islands. Our Komodo and Lesser Sunda Islands tours page provides more suggestions, and includes Flores Island tours, Sumba Island tours, Komodo Island tours and Komodo National Park tours. whilst our Indonesia Destination Guide provides useful information for your Indonesia holiday.
Things to See and Do in Komodo and Lesser Sunda Islands
The Komodo Dragon
The Komodo Dragon is a giant cold-blooded reptile and is the only surviving species of monitor lizard that can reproduce. The Komodo dragon was discovered in 1911 by Dutchman JKH Van Steyn. In 1912, biologist and researcher Mayor PA Ouwens wrote about the lizard in his article entitled “On a Large Varanus Species from the Island of Komodo” and gave it the scientific name of Varanus komodoensis. The lizard became famous in the scientific world after this.
Komodo National Park
The Komodo Island has a lot more to offer in addition to the Komodo dragon. The island’s culture and the Komodo National Park (TNK) are major attractions. Other interesting spots are Mt. Satalibo, Mt. Ara, Poreng-Sabieta, Merah Beach and Banu Nggulung. If you do spot a Komodo dragon, keep your distance as its bite can kill.
The Komodo National Park is spread across 1817 square km, 603 square km of it being on land. It lies close to the border of East and West Nusa Tenggara and near the Lesser Sunda Islands. Komodo, Padar, Rinca and several smaller islands are part of the park and all the islands are volcanic in origin. Founded in 1980 for the sole purpose of protecting the Komodo dragon, the park was later dedicated to protect marine and other species as well. The park is also home to about 4000 people. In 1991, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scuba Diving in Komodo
The great diversity of marine life in the park makes it an attractive scuba diving destination. Some of the marine species seen here are the blue-ringed octopus, clown frogfish, coral, eagle rays, false pipefish, manta rays, nudibranches, ocean sunfish, pygmy seahorses, sponges, tunicates and whale sharks.
Off-the-beaten path and extremely beautiful, this exotic island has a strong ethnic influence and a stunning natural setting. Soaring volcanoes, colored lakes, white sand beaches, vibrant marine life, and lush mangrove forests all feature on this rugged island. Locals live in traditional villages scattered throughout the island, and these various ethnic groups are welcoming, friendly and keen to interact and converse with foreigners.
In 2003, Flores Island was the site for the discovery of Homo Floresiensis, a possible species of early dwarf human. Discovered at the Liang Bua cave, the female adult skeleton which was found dates to around 18000 years ago. Due to the bone structure of Homo Floresiensis' shoulders, arms and wrists, which are actually closer to an early hominid or chimpanzee than a human, scientists believe it is a separate species of early human rather than a modern human with a physical disorder.
Kelimutu Coloured Lakes
Possibly the most famous tourist attraction on Flores is the Kelimutu Coloured Lakes. Kelimutu is actually a small volcano with the three summit crater lakes of varying colors inside it. The lakes change colors on a regular basis and are a beautiful sight. The most western lake, Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is most commonly dark colored tend to black, whilst Tiwu Nua Muri Kooh Tai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) in the middle are mostly turquoise blue and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched, or Enchanted Lake), commonly green and red-colored, respectively.
Culture and Traditional Villages
The indigenous inhabitants of Flores Island have managed to maintain their traditional values, beliefs and rules, despite contact with Western Civilization from the 16th century. Traditional villages with traditional houses are scattered throughout the island such as the Lango Belen in east Flores, Sao Ria in the area around Kelimutu colored lakes and Sao in the Bajawa area and Mbaru Gendang in Manggarai - West Flores. The locals are welcoming, friendly, and eager to meet visitors to their island. There are several languages spoken on the island, but the common religion is catholic, a product of earlier Portuguese and Dutch settlement.
Using traditional manual techniques, the locals produce wonderful sarongs which reflect the local culture and art. These can be found throughout Flores Island in both the villages and weekly markets. One of the best weekly markets on the island is in Maumere on Friday mornings, and it's one of the few markets that still accepts the barter system.
Flores Island is located in one of the world's most geologically unstable zones, and its turbulent past has created a landscape of valleys, ridges, and a number of active and extinct volcanoes. Kelimutu, located in central Flores is one of the finest and most popular volcanoes, with the main attraction being its three colored lakes. There are still fourteen active volcanoes on the island and only Java and Sumatera have more.
Flores offers great opportunities for those looking for adventure. Eco tours, trekking, hiking, visiting traditional villages, bird watching, snorkeling, and diving are all available in several locations throughout the island.
Sumba is an off-the-beaten-track and relatively untouched island south of Flores. The island is particularly famous for its arts and handicrafts, especially the textile "ikat" weaving, as well as horses, impressive megalithic tombs, and gorgeous beaches. Due to its remote and untouched nature, it is not for everyone, with food and accommodation very basic, but for those wishing to discover an authentic ancient culture and have stunning beaches all to themselves then this is the place to visit.
The island has a dry tropical climate and receives more hours of sunshine than any other place in Indonesia. The beaches are beautiful and clean and offer abundant marine life and offer good surfing opportunities. The hotels throughout the island are simple and cater to intrepid travelers, and local transport and roads are used infrequently.
Sumba Island has world-class surfing and sits on the Indian Ocean. Tarimbang is one of the most known spot for Surfing on the island. It is located between Waingapu and Waikabubak about 43 km south of the main road. Tarimbang is also known for its 2.600 m long true white sand beach. The bad road condition filters foreign visitors from visiting Tarimbang Beach.
Lembator and Alor Islands offer some of the most spectacular scenery of the region. They are also the least visited and therefore the most unspoilt islands.
The diving on Alor island is arguably the best in the world, and with crystal clear waters fringed with pristine coral reefs, stunning sandy beaches and traditional villages built amongst the mountains, the scenery above the water is just as spectacular. The rich culture of Alor is also interesting with a dozen traditional villages within one hours drive from the islands capital Kalabahi.
Lembata or Lomblen is an island East of Flores neighbor to the islands of Adonara, Solor, Pantar and Alor. It is the home of the Lamalera people who for centuries rely on traditional whale hunting. The harvesting of whales is done according to a very selective method. The Island contains breathtaking scenery, from palm fringed bays to the imposing "Ile Ape" volcano. There are also colourful markets which offer a great opportunity to observe the rich local culture.