Nusa Tenggara

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Nusa Tenggara ("Southeast Islands"), also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands, is a region of eastern Indonesia.

Formerly little more than afterthought for most Bali-bound travellers, this region is now attracting more and more visitors, with Komodo National Park and Lombok leading the way.


Nusa Tenggarra is administratively divided into two provinces:

West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat)[edit]

for those seeking a peaceful tropical island, it has a much quieter pace than nearby Bali, and is the gateway to eastern Indonesia
largely undiscovered except by a few intrepid surfers and trekkers

East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur)[edit]

Nusa Tenggara regions - Color-coded map
Komodo National Park, the mysterious three-colored lakes of Kelimutu, and fantastic diving
Solor Archipelago
little visited islands between Flores and Alor
Alor Archipelago
very off-the-beaten-track island group with world-class diving and fishing against a backdrop of steaming volcanoes
West Timor
administrative capital of the region
Sawu Islands
remote, seldom-visited island group between Sumba and Timor
rugged, remote and peculiarly beautiful

While Bali is geographically a part of the archipelago, it is covered in a separate article.


  • Ende — lazy main city in Flores
  • Kupang — the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, in the western half of Timor
  • Labuanbajo — launching point from Flores to Komodo Island, diving and snorkeling
  • Mataram — the capital of West Nusa Tenggara, in Lombok
  • Maumere — the main transport hub in Flores
  • Senggigi — the main tourist town in Lombok
  • Sumbawa Besar — the largest city in Sumbawa
  • Waingapu — the main city of Sumba and gateway to this most mysterious of islands
  • Waikabubak — home of the pasolas and some truly stunning beaches in west Sumba.

Other destinations[edit]

The remarkably coloured lakes at Mount Kelimutu, Flores
  • Gili Islands — three gorgeous tiny islands perched off Lombok, formerly a backpacker mecca and now fast going up-market
  • Komodo National Park — home of the Komodo dragon, a very rich marine fauna, magnificent remote landscapes and much more
  • Mount Tambora — a seldom visited volcano in the remotest area of Sumbawa
  • Mount Rinjani — popular with volcano climbers and visitors to Lombok
  • Moyo — national marine park with superb diving and home to a remarkable Aman resort


Nusa Tenggara is one of the least developed and least visited parts of Indonesia. While the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa have a majority of Muslim inhabitants, the vast majority (90%) of the rest is Christian, with a strong Hindu presence on Lombok and a good number of remnant aspects of animist belief. Nusa Tenggara has been largely spared the religious conflicts of nearby Sulawesi and Maluku.


Bahasa Indonesia is spoken throughout the region, along with a host of regional languages. English is understood in some of the larger towns and cities, in particular those with significant tourist infrastructure. Outside of those places, do not expect English to be either spoken or understood. Dutch may be spoken by some seniors.

Get in[edit]

Being a vast archipelago, the main means of transport are by plane and by ship.

By plane[edit]

The main airports, with frequent flights from Java and Denpasar (Bali), are Lombok, Maumere (Flores) and Kupang (West Timor). 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).

The only direct international connection from anywhere outside Indonesia directly to the islands is on SilkAir from Singapore 3 times a week to Lombok's International Airport, (Bandara Internasional Lombok), (BIL), (IATA: LOP) in central southern Lombok near the city of Praya.

By boat[edit]

There are frequent ferry services from Bali to Lombok. There is a ferry from Padang Bai, whilst there is a fast boat to GilI Islands and Senggigi from Sanur, Benoa, Kuta, Padang Bai and Amed. Connections between Nusa Tenggara and Indonesia's other islands 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.

Get around[edit]

By plane[edit]

TranNusa Air Services [1] offers a number of short distance inter-island flights.

By bus and ferry[edit]

From Bali in the west to Timor in the east, the classic island-hopping backpacker trail across Nusa Tenggara runs something like this:

  • Overland across Timor to Dili, East Timor

Popular detours include visiting the 3 Gili Islands lying a few km of the western coast of Lombok and Komodo north of Flores. Less popular options include going via Sumba instead of Flores.

A night time ferry also runs, sometimes, from Waingapu, Sumba to Ende, Flores, taking about 11 hours.


...there be dragons..
  • 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.



  • 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.


With a drier climate, there is less rice and more sago, corn, cassava, and taro compared to central and western Indonesia. Fish is popular including sepat, which is shredded fish in coconut and young-mango sauce.


Jus pokat (avocado juice), often including a swirl of chocolate, is generally very good.

Stay safe[edit]

Komodo Dragons, at up to 3 m (10 ft) in length, are more than capable of killing a human with ease, although human predation is rare. Zoologists formerly believed that the main problem was the dragon's diseased-filled bite from the rampant bacteria residing in their mouth. More recently theories have been put forward that the Komodo Dragon is actually venomous, and that the biggest problem when bitten is shock and massive blood loss due to the ferocity of the bite. Whichever, getting bitten is not a good thing.

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. Keep at a considerable 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 the Komodo Dragons with no natural predators.

Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) also reside in most of this area, however they are not found on Komodo. The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all living crocodilians and the average size for an adult male is 5.2 m (17 ft) (although the largest saltwater crocodile on record was 8.8 m (29 ft) in length, from northern Queensland). They are known throughout their range as man-eaters and account for many human deaths every year. 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 memorise a potential prey item's patterns for days or weeks at a time before attacking.

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