- Bajawa, The Spiritual Heartland of Flores
Bajawa may be the capital city of the Ngada Regency but this cool little hill town is also known as the spiritual heartland of Flores. It is also one of the most popular tourists’ destinations in Flores, aside to Labuan Bajo.
Here in Bajawa, you could visit traditional houses in ancient villages, megalithic stones, and totemic structures. Bajawa is also the gateway to Mount Inerie, one of the highest mountains in Flores. A few popular traditional villages that are popular with tourists here include Bena village, Wogo village and Gurusina village. Bena village, which is located at the foot of Mount Inerie, is slowly rising to fame as the epicentre of the Ngada culture and tradition. It’s distinct and unique houses, which are built in two parallel lines are centred around a ceremonial square while Gurusina is located 25km away from Bajawa – it is the perfect alternative to Bena as it is less touristy and easier to get to.
Do not miss the Soa Hot Springs, and while you’re there, do make time for Wawo Muda, one of Indonesia’s newest volcanoes. Throughout your travels, you might be offered the traditional alcohol called “Moke” which are also served during ceremonies, weddings and other important functions. A bit of shopping is a must – do visit the local markets to buy yourself some authentic Ikat fabric, which are usually handmade by the local women using a loom. *Photo courtesy of Lim Chin Huang via Flickr
- Reba Festival
Reba is one of the most important ceremonies in the Ngada district – it is a thanksgiving celebration held annually to thank God and to honour their ancestors for blessing the villagers with good harvest and wealth. This ceremony is held over several days and is packed with rituals, food crops and livestock and focuses on the legend of the ancestors and how they travelled far and wide to find a better place to live.
The are many different stages to the ceremony; preparations and rituals begin one week ahead of the actual day and is followed by the collecting of offerings, receiving guests, dancing, reciting original myths, and praising the yam root as yam used to be the most important and staple food in the past. The ceremonies are varied and many and some take place in the outskirts of the village, the kisanatha or around the ancestral shrines. As the village Bena is considered the mother of all Ngada villages, this ceremony will take place here first, usually in December, followed by other villages in January including Langa, Nage and Wogo and Ruto, Deru or Turekisa in February.
The ceremony is peppered with cultural symbolism, such as Ngadhu – a tall wooden trunk with carvings and a conical, thatched roof that represents each clan’s first male ancestor. Bhaga, which looks like a miniature of a Ngada house, represents a clan’s first female ancestor. The festival ends with the villagers throwing all the yam peels outside of the village. The ceremony lasts for several days in each village with music, dance and rituals. In the past, the Ngada people would predict the future during these ceremonies by reading the intestines of sacrificed animals, however today they start the Reba festival with a holy Catholic mass instead. A cheerful social event, people will usually return to their family homes during the Reba festival to celebrate. *Photo courtesy of Florestourism.com
- Bena Traditional Village
Take a trip to Bena village where you can go ‘time travelling’ into the Megalithic era as the village dates back to the stone age and is well-known for its ancient traditions and rituals. Located in Ngada regency, it’s only 30 minutes from Bajawa, the capital of Ngada and is nestled at the foot of Inerie Mountain, the highest mountain in Flores. Surrounded by bamboo trees, the village is home to 9 different tribes, including Ago, Dizi, Dizi Azi, Deru Lalulewa, Deru Solamae, Khopa, Wahto, and Ngada. All the people there live harmoniously with each other.
The traditional houses of Bena village were built from wood with leaves as the roofs. In the corner of the village, there is a small hill which is used for praying and conducting rituals. To enter Bena village, you must pay the entrance fee of IDR 25K per person. You will be given a traditional headband which you must put on before you enter. Take your time to explore the local way of life and watch the ladies making the Ikat and the men work in the fields or hunt.
Bena is the most visited village in this district; some might even call it the “signboard of Ngada culture”. Located 16km outside of Bajawa, the village is home to impressive stone formations, ancestral shrines and traditional houses. In the centre of the village are the Nghadu and Bhaga shrines representing ach clan of the village and the clan’s ancestors. The houses in Bena are decorated with skulls and horns of water buffaloes and pig jaws, all sacrificed at different ceremonies and stored to remember the past feasts.
Entry fee to enter Bena village is a small donation of 25,000 Rupiah after which there are almost no limits in taking photos etc. Bena can be reached using the Transflores highway using public or private transport. You could also visit Wogo, a traditional Ngada village with all the richness of the Ngada culture. There are no weaving in Wogo like there are in Bena, with the women focusing more on basket weaving and the men on blacksmithing. *Photo courtesy of travel.tempo.co
- Etu Traditional Boxing
Traditional Boxing or locally known as Etu or Sagi is one of the most famed cultural festivals of the Ngada and Nagekeo district. If you’re in Flores in the months of April through July, then take a visit to the Soa or Tadho Village to view this fascinating local tradition.
In the past, this activity was a form of exercise for the warriors, and today it is a celebration of thanksgiving and hopes for good harvests. It is also symbolic of good communication, friendship and kinship among villagers. In traditional boxing, there are no winners or losers and members of the same family are not allowed to fight. Instead of gloves, fighters wear woven palm leaves as boxing gloves, sometimes with bits of broken glass attached. Each boxer has his own coach who directs him on his next actions during the fight.
Ngada and Nagekeo is one of the oldest regencies in Flores. Formed in 1958, it was later split into two in 2007, forming the Nagekeo regency. There are a few megalithic sites in this region, which are tentatively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The capital city of Ngada and Nagekeo is Bajawa, with a total population of about 44,000. Bajawa is also home to some natural hot springs that are suitable for bathing and breathtaking views of the valley and the Inierie Volcano. Bajawa has two minor airports that connect it to the rest of the island; the Bajawa Soa Airport and the Bajawa Pahdamaleda Airport.
Traditional boxing or “tinju adat” are usually held in the dry season in many parts of Ngada and Nagakeo. Instead of gloves, fighters wear woven palm leaves as boxing gloves, sometimes with bits of broken glass attached. Each boxer has his own coach who directs him on his next actions during the fight. Not typically called “boxing” in these regions, this sport is called a different name in every region; Etu in Boawae, Sagi in Soa, or Mbela in Riung. *Photo courtesy of Florestourism.com
- Bajawa’s Malanage Hot Springs
The Malanage Hot Springs or locally known as Wae Bana Malanage is a unique spot in the Ngada district of Flores. Here at Malanage, you could experience hot, cold and warm waters all at the same place and at the same time thanks to the hot waters from the springs meeting with the cold waters from Wae Roa Waterfall that is nearby.
Located in Dariwali Village about 40 minutes away by car or bike from Bajawa, the hot springs are accessible by an easy trek. Relax in this natural spa that will soothe all your tired muscles where water temperatures can reach 96 degrees Celcius. Enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and don’t forget to try the local snacks when you’re hungry; you could find some being sold in the area by local vendors.
The entrance to the hot springs is managed by the local community. There’s an entrance fee of 10.000 RP per person. Please remember to keep the area clean and pick up your own rubbish to dispose of in the proper place allocated. *Photo courtesy of Roamindonesia.com