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Lembata Island
       Lembata Ibu kota Provinsi Flores
Whale hunters of Lembata (Lomblen) island

Lembata island, also known as Pulau Lomblen, is the largest island of the Solor Archipelago. The island measures about 80 km from the southwest to the northeast and it is about 30 km in width. It rises to a height of 1533 m.

To the west lie the islands of Solor, Adonara and Flores. To the east is the Alor Strait, and to the south, across the Savu Sea, lies the island of Timor. To the north is the western part of the Banda Sea which separates Lembata from Southeast Sulawesi.

Lembata has several volcanoes, among others the Ililabalekan, Iliwerung, and Lewotolo.

The capital city Lewoleba (also known as Labala) is located on the Western part of the island at a huge bay facing the Ilê Ape volcano in the north. Ships frequently connect the coastal towns and surrounding islands, but the only large harbour is at Lewoleba at the north of the island.


Lembata island can be reached by boat. From Lewoleba there are daily connections to Larantuka, Flores, and Waiwerang on the neighbouring island of Adonara.

Map of Lembata island
(click to enlarge)

Map of Lembata island - click to enlarge

Whale hunting

Lamalera village (population ca. 2,500 people) is located on the southern tip of Lembata Island. Lamelara and Lamakera on the neighbouring island of Solor are the last two remaining Indonesian whaling communities. Here, sperm whales have been hunted for centuries, just with hand made equipment. The spears, ropes and boats, everything is locally made in the village. Also, the boats of the whale hunters of this region don't have engines. All parts of the whale are used and are either consumed or traded for food with other islanders, most of whom are corn and cassava farmers.

Given the facts that the Lamelaras only use primitive equipment when hunting whales and that whale hunting is of vital importance to them, and taking into consideration that whale hunting has been done by them for generations on end, the United Nations do not object to the whale hunting by these communities.

Traditional boat of Lembata island
Traditional Lembata boat

Lembata Island by Motorbike June 2022 Julius from German

Me and my wife traveled to Lembata in June 2022 coming from Kupang. The airport on Lembata is in Lewoleba. From there you can get a taxi (50k pp) into the city. You can also walk out of the airport to maybe find a local to pick you up, but we wouldn’t recommend it. If you walk to the city centre it will take you about 30 min. Upon our arrival we stayed at the Hotel Rejeki, which is in a perfect location if you continue your journey by ferry. If you let Richard - the owner of Hotel Rejeki know of your arrival from beforehand he will pick you up and drop you when you leave (at no extra cost!). He and his wife run the hotel which is mainly used by locals. Although the hotel appears aged, the rooms are just recently renovated and spot clean, have an AC, good Wi-Fi and a rich breakfast. The rate is about 220k/night. Also, whatever you need (scooter, travel tips etc.) you will be helped and both speak good English, so communication is very easy.
On our date of arrival we explored the harbour area, where you’ll find a lot of local restaurants that have a whole variety of foods for a very good price. On our second day we rented a scooter and went west along the coast. On that trip the road condition is really good and there are numerous beautiful beaches either accessible from the villages or in between. There are numerous shops to buy your daily necessities (food, water, petrol). Depending on the weather you may have a current in the water, so just follow the locals who also like to go for a swim here and there. After about 1-2 hours, depending on how many stops you take you will arrive on the south part of the peninsula.
On our third day we took the same road to Lamalera - the infamous traditional whale fishing village. You should only carry one bag, because the scooter will otherwise struggle to take the steep roads about one hour before you reach Lamalera. There is also a road crossing the island through the jungle, but recent rain has taken a toll on the road, so only if you happen to rent an off-road bike it’s possible and enjoyable to take that road. We advise you to take the road following the coast. Don’t run too low in petrol on the last part of the journey, since it may be sold out at some places. Also take enough cash with you, since there a ATMs, but mostly not working. Also preload your road on Google maps or rather you maps-me, since 4G reception is scarce the further south you go. However, a lot of antennas are built at the moment, so in the near future this won’t be a problem. If you do have trouble finding the way the locals are willing to help. Wherever you go on Lembata island you will be an attraction to anyone, because not many foreigners come there. Be open to be approached by anyone and people wanting to take fotos with you. However, be thoughtful not to take fotos of just anyone random, especially the older generation. Always keep a smile on your face and learn just the basic phrases to say good morning etc., thank you and so on in Indonesian - people will appreciate it!
Once you arrive in Lamalera there are numerous options for homestays. It will cost you about 200-250k per day for 2 people, including 3 meals a day. The variation is limited, but the quality of the food is very good. If you haven’t got a contact for a homestay (from Richard or anyone else, just ask around in the village). Some few people speak basic English, also some of the fishermen and also they may offer a homestay. There are no other options, and there are no restaurants. Another limitation is water. To be safe we recommend you only to buy bottled water (10k for a big bottle), bring a bottle with a filter or chlorine. The gallons of water that they drink comes from UV-filter stations, but they are not well maintained (like changing the filters is not done strictly). Once you found yourself a homestay you can explore the coast or ask the fishermen to go out with them. The cost is 250k pp leaving just before 7am and returning around 2pm. Have a breakfast before, especially if your prone to become seasick. If you do the fishermen will be understanding and supporting, however not (!!!) returning, since this is their basic food source and until this time they haven’t been able to catch anything large to supply for the villages. On top of the rate you are expected to bring cookies, coke/sprite and cigarettes (Gudang Garam is their favourite brand). If you are on the water you will get at least some action when dolphins or whales are spotted and all the boats start the hunt. It’s a once in a lifetime experience you don’t want to miss if you have the chance, even when you’re seasick and lose the will to live (that’s normal, but passes once you set foot on the beach again). Also bring long clothes and cover your whole body, as the sun is unforgiving! Another issue to consider is hygiene. There are no shower options. All homestays have basin filled with water and a small bucket to use for „showering“. Also the condition of the mattresses is „used“ and there are coachroaches and other stuff here and there. Take two days if you plan on going fishing and maybe a third or fourth if you want to continue on the road to the following villages.
After our two days in Lamalera we returned to Lewoleba and explored the area west of the volcano towards Nereng. The landscape is mainly grassland with palm trees and the road condition is good enough for a scooter and sometimes you have dirt roads (which are usually in quite good condition if it hasn’t just rained). No matter how remote you go, people are friendly and we never felt unsafe.
Our journey brought us to Larantuka the next day by ferry (100k/p, leaving around 8:30am , arriving around 10:30). To continue your journey many bus drivers will come on the boat to offer their ride (max 70k to maumere pp), if you haven’t organised something before (which we did through Richard).
If you plan more days on Lembata, there is a dive centre in the city, which seems to be good! Also the east part of the island is interesting and has another volcano. The one close to Lewoleba is not accessible at the moment, as it had a smaller eruption last year or the year before. Don’t attempt to make the journey alone!
All in all Lembata is a beatiful island with a lot of hidden gems. You will need a scooter, the people are friendly and the food is good. Spend at least five days to have some time to explore and don’t expect to see any other foreigners.

Lamalera Lembata Island
Lamalera June 2022
Whale hunting village Lamelara, Lembata island
Whale hunting village Lamelara, Lembata island

Ile Werung Lembata Ile werung, one of the prettiest small vulcano on Lembata island. Beautiful view to the ocean. The vulcano is reachable with public transportation from Lewoleba. by Like


Lembata is worth a stop. From main city Lewoleba you can hire a motorbike or ojek to go on day trips and admire the wonderful coast of the island (either west or in direction of Balauring). You will pass small peaceful villages and be alone in stunning large beaches which always offer a very conic volcano in the background. Gunung Lewotolo (or Ile Ape) is a half day hike, one of the best smoking volcanos in NTT. On the way to the top, you will pass through an empty ghost-traditional village where villagers from the coast still do offerings and ceremonies. When you reach the top after a 2-3 hours hike (depending or your starting point), you will feel like on the moon. Walk inside the crater and on the rim to admire the east smoking yellow mountain. You will most certainly be alone on the top, unless you are lucky enough to observe an eagle staring at you, amazed to see some visitors around. From Lewoleba, you can take a truck bus going to Lamalera, a quiet and peaceful remote village on the south coast, surrounded by cliffs and organized around its single beach forming an enclave. Life is easy in the village and you will be invited more than once by friendly villagers for a coffee or tea. Observe groups of women laughing while creating Ikats or kids playing on the beach, using an old piece of a wooden door as a surfboard or men preparing their fishing gear. Stay at Ben guru guesthouse which offers a stunning view on the village and on its beach. After your stay in Lembata,from Lewolobo, you can either go east (Pantar) or west (Adonara or Flores) with ferries or take a plane to further destinations

By Benjamin Sanguinetti.(France)

Lembata ikat

Like those of Rote island, the ikats of Lembata are made from locally grown and hand spun cotton only, and dyed by the weaver with locally gathered dyes such as indigo and morinda citrifola (Mustard fruit tree or Mengkudu). Their art contains ceremonial symbols known as patola and figures of humans as well as those of marine plants and animals.

   Ikat weaving at Lembata

The art of traditional ikat weaving has existed for many generations on the island of Lembata. Most of the ikat textiles of Lembata island are ceremonial pieces, in particular the framed bride wealth cloths. Each piace has its own meaning and carries cultural identity and heritage. Until today these ceremonial pieces are important to the people of Lembata because they are traditionally exchanged for ivory tusks, as wedding presents, between the families of bride and groom.

Places like Atadei, Labala bay and Lamalera are all well known for their ikat weavings which have identical patterns and motifs of human figures, symbolic mantra rays, sharks and boats. The patterns and motifs of the weavings encountered in Ile Api, on the other hand, have more to do with the landscapes.




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