Nusa Tenggara ("Southeast Islands"), also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, is a major region of Indonesia.
The Lesser Sundas are administratively divided into two provinces:
- West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat)
- Lombok - for those seeking a peaceful tropical island, it has a much quieter pace than nearby Bali and is gateway to the province eastward
- Bali - Indonesia's best known destination, suffering from poor planning and over development but much loved
- Sumbawa - largely undiscovered except by a few intrepid surfers and trekkers
- East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur)
- Ende - lazy main city on Flores
- Kupang - the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, on the western half of Timor
- Labuanbajo - launching point from Flores to Komodo Island, diving and snorkeling
- Mataram - the capital of West Nusa Tenggara, on Lombok
- Maumere - the main transport hub on Flores
- Sumbawa Besar - the largest city on Sumbawa
- Gili Islands - three gorgeous tiny islands perched off Lombok, already a backpacker mecca and fast going upmarket
- Komodo — home of the Komodo dragon
- Mount Tambora - a seldom visited volcano in the remotest area of Sumbawa
- Mount Rinjani - popular with volcano climbers and visitors to Lombok
Nusa Tenggara is one of the least developed and least visited parts of Indonesia. While the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa are solidly Muslim, the vast majority (90%) of the rest is Christian, with a smattering of animist belief. Partly thanks to this clean division, Nusa Tenggara has been largely spared the religious conflicts of nearby Sulawesi and Maluku.
Being a vast archipelago, the main means of transport are by plane and by ship.
The main airports, with frequent flights from the Javanese mainland and Denpasar (Bali), are Mataram (Lombok), Maumere (Flores) and Kupang (West Timor). The only direct international connection from anywhere outside Indonesia directly to the islands is on SilkAir from Singapore a few times a week to Mataram.
A few flights a week also go from Denpasar, Bali to both Waingapu, Sumba (eastern part of the island) and Waikabubak (western part, near where the Pasolas are held annually).
There are frequent ferry services from Bali to Lombok. Connections between Nusa Tenggara and Indonesia's other islands, though, are limited to the occasional PELNI ferry sailing between Makassar (South Sulawesi) to Flores and, if you really want to get away from it all, from various ports in Papua via Tual and Saumlaki, Maluku to Kalabahi, Alor and onward to Flores.
From Bali in the west to Timor in the east, the classic island-hopping backpacker trail across Nusa Tenggara runs something like this:
- Ferry from Padangbai, Bali to Lembar, Lombok
- Overland across Lombok via Senggigi
- Ferry from Labuhan Lombok to Poto Tano, Sumbawa
- Overland across Sumbawa via Sumbawa Besar and Bima
- Ferry from Sape to Labuanbajo, Flores
- Overland across Flores via Maumere to Ende
- Ferry from Ende to Kupang, West Timor
- Overland across Timor to Dili, East Timor
A night time ferry also runs, sometimes, from Waingapu, Sumba to Ende, Flores, taking about 11 hours.
- Komodo dragon. The Komodo dragon, which lives in Rinca and Flores as well as Komodo islands, is the largest lizard in the world. Tours of are available where dragons can be seen in the wild. Tourists must be accompanied by park rangers who use forked wooden sticks to fend off any approaching dragons, and provide information about the islands and wildlife. The practice of feeding dragons stopped in 1992.
- See the three varying colored lakes at Kelimutu on Flores.
- Pasolas, festivals with ritual battles between warriors, in western Sumba in February or March.
- Swimming in the Flores Sea between Sumbawa and Flores, en route to or from one of the islands in Komodo National Park.
Jus pokat (avocado juice), often including a swirl of chocolate, is generally very good.
Komodo Dragons, at up to 10 feet in length, are more than capable of killing a man with ease, although human predation isn't very common. The main problem is the dragon's diseased-filled bite from the rampant bacteria residing in their mouths. The dragon usually bites a larger animal and then waits for the infection to kill it. So, despite the fact that being actually eaten is unlikely, the bite itself can be deadly. Give them distance and never enter dragon territory alone. If you use basic common sense you should have a wonderful time viewing these magnificent animals. The absence of crocodiles on Komodo Island (due in part to a lack of suitable habitat) leave Komodo Dragons with no natural predators.
Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) also reside in most of this area (not on Komodo) , they are the largest of all living crocodilians and the average size for an adult male is 17 feet (although the largest saltwater crocodile on record was 29 feet in length, from northern Queensland). They are known throughout their range as man-eaters and account for many human deaths every year, but this can all be avoided by using basic common sense. Never swim in the ocean near a river mouth, in swamps or in large rivers. Never clean fish near the water or frequent the same spot at a river over a prolonged period of time (saltwater crocodiles are known to memorize a potential prey item's patterns for days or weeks at a time before attacking).
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