The diverse Lesser Sunda Islands, stretching eastwards from Bali, offer the most amazing landscapes and a glorious cornucopia of weaving for textile lovers. Here women not only continue to make their traditional cloth on back-tension looms but continue to wear it as well. There is kaleidoscopic variety of patterns and designs – every region of every island has its own unique textile culture, its own style of dress, and its own motifs. Together we will explore the extraordinary ancestral traditions of these islands where textiles are the predominant form of artistic expression, still playing a central role in every significant stage of life, especially marriage and death. Some islanders tell us, “Without cloth we cannot marry.”
However, change is underway in even the remotest villages, and weavers are no longer passing on their skills to the next generation. With this cruise, we will be given a unique opportunity to witness a dying art form before it is gone forever.
We will enjoy the luxury of cruising effortlessly from island to island, crossing a rugged, isolated region where travel by land can be difficult. Our graceful pinisi schooner, the Ombak Putih, offers us access to villages and beaches that would otherwise be almost impossible to reach. Along the way there will be time to enjoy the amazing volcanic scenery, meet the villagers, visit traditional markets, buy local textiles, swim and snorkel over psychedelic coral reefs, relax and have fun. This is a fantastic, adventurous way to travel, providing memories that guests will treasure for the rest of their lives.
Our British expert textile guides, David and Sue Richardson, look forward to introducing guests to each island, its people and its culture, while sharing their knowledge on the day-to-day excursions as well as through a series of evening talks.
Note: This cruise embarks from Maumere, Flores and ends at Labuan Bajo, Flores. Airfares to and from Flores are not included in the tour. We will be happy to assist you with any information and flight reservations.
In conjunction with this cruise, we are offering an exclusive, optional, three-day, pre-cruise tour, which travels by land through remote parts of Flores to visit Lio weavers and the three, colour-changing volcanic crater lakes of Mount Kelimutu. This includes a stay at the lovely Kelimutu EcoLodge. Please enquire for details.
After arriving on the morning flight from Denpasar to Maumere via Waingapu, you will be met at the airport and transferred to Maumere Harbour to board the Ombak Putih in time for a delicious welcome lunch on deck. After everyone has settled into their cabins, we will cruise out into the beautiful Bay of Maumere against the backdrop of the extinct volcano of Ile Kimang. We will dock at a nearby fishing village, built over the water on stilts, where we will witness the lifestyles of the local Bugis and Bajao sea gypsies. In the evening we will relax over cocktails while David and Sue give an introductory talk about the culture and textiles of the local Sikka region before enjoying dinner on deck.
We will disembark close to Maumere for a short drive to the busy Wairkoja Friday market, where the vendors sell local ikat and a variety of weaving supplies. We will then drive up into the scenic Iwang Geté highlands to visit a small village where we will be welcomed with music and dancing. After gaining our first insights into the local techniques of spinning, binding, dyeing and weaving, we will have the opportunity to purchase some of the finished textiles. The adventurous among us will be able to try betel nut, tobacco and locally distilled liquor. After lunch onboard, we will head out to Ledalero for a brief visit to the oldest museum on Flores, the Blikon Blewut Museum, to see the small collection of textiles from the Lesser Sunda Islands accumulated by Catholic missionaries in the 1950s and 60s. Our final stop will be at a second Sikka village where we will see a different style of ikat, typical of the central Krowé region.
This morning we will pass Larantuka, situated at the foot of the imposing Ile Mandiri volcano, before mooring in a quiet bay for breakfast. As we go ashore, we will be welcomed by local Lamaholot villagers who will show us in detail how they produce their fantastic earthy-brown ikats decorated with small white seashells. After lunch we will have a relaxing afternoon moored close to a beach on the northern coast of Adonara Island for swimming, snorkelling and beachcombing.
Today we will arrive in Lembata and drop anchor on the north coast below the towering active volcano of Ile Api. We will then go ashore to see some of the superb ikat textiles produced in this region, while meeting weavers from at least three neighbouring villages. Later, during lunch, the boat will cruise towards Jontona, where we will be welcomed by dancers before climbing into trucks for the exhilarating drive up to the ancestral village, dramatically located on the side of the volcano. Here, we will visit the various clan houses containing heirloom treasures such as elephant tusks and moko drums. Back down in the modern village, a selling exhibition of textiles will give you the chance to add a fabulous bridewealth cloth to your collection.
After arriving into Kalabahi Bay on Alor Island we will make an early start and head off through the island’s rugged landscape to the remarkably situated village of Takpala, occupied by Papuan people belonging to the local Abui tribe. Dressed in colourful local textiles, the villagers will entertain us with their delightful ‘lego-lego’ circle dance, used to celebrate weddings and other lifecycle events. Afterwards we will explore the village market for textiles, baskets and jewellery, and take a look inside the villagers’ two-storey thatched houses, which showcase an interesting architecture. Alor is ethnically diverse, so we will make a short stop at Kalabahi Museum to see the fine display of textiles and moko drums from across the island. After a reviving lunch on board, we will drive up into the hills behind Kalabahi to the hamlet of Monbang, occupied by the Kabola people who have revived the previously widespread craft of making barkcloth. Dressed entirely in barkcloth, the villagers will welcome us before showing us how they turn tree bark into cloth. Samples of barkcloth will be available for purchase along with other textiles and baskets.
This morning we will cruise into Labala Bay on the southern side of Lembata and go ashore at one of our favourite places, the unique whaling village of Lamalera, with its row of thatched boathouses lining the beach. The resident weavers will be waiting for us in the village square to show us how they produce their stunning kewatek ikat sarongs, dyed with multiple immersions in indigo and morinda to produce an outstanding depth of colour. Later we will walk up the hill to the upper half of the village to see the church and the view over the lower village. Back on board the Ombak Putih, the whale hunters will demonstrate the hazardous techniques they use to harpoon the sperm whales from their small outriggers. After making our farewells we cruise due south across the Savu Sea towards Kupang in West Timor.
We will disembark at the colourful old harbour where Captain Bligh landed in 1789, after navigating 3600 nautical miles in a small open boat following the Mutiny on the Bounty. We will then drive a short distance to the Museum of Nusa Tenggara Timur, which has a fine collection of textiles and other artefacts from across the Lesser Sunda Islands. After this, we will head south through stunning scenery into the territory of the Amarasi tribe, to be escorted to a reception by the King and Queen of the Amarasi in their Royal Pavilion. An accomplished artist himself, the King is justifiably proud of the culture and textiles of his people, and after a dance performance we will be shown examples of local weavings which will be available for purchase. There should also be time to visit a small weaving cooperative before returning to the boat for lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit a nearby village occupied by members of the Helong tribe who will give us an excellent demonstration of indigo and morinda dyeing before offering us a selection of their ikats to buy. In the evening we will cruise towards the tiny remote island of Savu.
This morning we will go ashore at Napae Bay where Captain Cook moored HMS Endeavour on his way home after his expedition to Australia. A very scenic drive in trucks will bring us to our next group of weavers who live in a small hilltop village with wonderful views down to the coast. These master dyers and weavers will demonstrate how they spin, bind and dye their cotton before weaving their distinctive ikat tube-skirts, referred to locally as ‘ei.’ Designs differ depending on the tribal affiliation of the weaver. After exploring the village, including the ritual clan house where the heirloom baskets for textiles are kept, there will be time to select from a colourful selling exhibition of textiles. The men will show us how they climb the tall lontar palms to tap their delicious juice. After lunch on board, we will go ashore again – this time to be welcomed on the beach by local dancers and ikat-clad horsemen. This afternoon’s destination will be the ritual village of Namata, where priests of the ancestral ‘Jingi Tiu’ religion use megalithic stone platforms to conduct rituals and sacrifices. After a performance of traditional dancing we will return to the boat for our second overnight crossing of the Savu Sea to reach the southern coast of Flores.
Back in the land of volcanoes! Moored in a bay at the foot of Gunung Inierie, we will go ashore for a spectacular drive up a steep gorge to visit two isolated villages occupied by the Ngada tribe, which in this region live in a matrilineal society. Our first stop is the fascinating village of Gurusina, with thatched houses decorated with buffalo horns surrounding an open square containing male and female shrines and megalithic altars. We will then continue to Bena where we will see women weaving on their front porches as well as displays of textiles hung out for sale. After lunch in the bay, we will enjoy a refreshing swim before we return back across the Savu Sea for the first of our two days in East Sumba, one of the most important weaving regions in the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Arriving on the eastern coast of Sumba, we will land on the sandy beach at Melolo where local buses will take us to the village of Umabara, with its tall thatched houses and megalithic carved tombs, and the nearby Royal hamlet of Pau. This area is famous for its exquisite supplementary warp weaving, known locally as ‘pahikung.’ Some of the finest practitioners are two local princesses who will show us examples of their work. Our next destination is the Royal village of Parai Yawangu, renowned for the quality of its warp ikat. With its traditional houses and a magnificent line of tombs, it remains the seat of the Raja of Rindi. Back on board we enjoy lunch while the Ombak Putih cruises north to Waingapu. On the way we will moor close to a beach where we can enjoy an afternoon swim or snorkel.
We will leave the harbour to visit a small workshop which produces some of the highest quality ikat hinggi to be found on the island. Here we will see how the designs are created and transferred onto the warps and we will begin to comprehend the laborious process of binding that is necessary to produce such complex and intricately patterned cloths. A superb collection of ikat will be available to buy before we explore the neighbouring royal village of Prailiu on foot. We will, no doubt, be accosted by eager textile sellers at every turn. Our buses will drive us out of town through paddy fields to a rarely visited weaving village where we will be greeted by ikat-clad warriors on horseback. Sitting in the shade on the veranda of a traditional house we will be entertained by a selection of traditional dances before attempting to make our selection from a magnificent display of ikat, baskets and beads. On our way back to the harbour, we will stop at the cathedral to see the statue of Christ dressed in Sumbanese ikat. As we relax over a late lunch, our boat will cruise towards Rinca. Guests are invited to dress lavishly in their finest ikat cloths for tonight’s farewell party and dinner with the captain and crew, who will entertain us on deck with traditional Indonesian songs and dances.
On our final morning we will moor close to the starkly beautiful island of Rinca for an early breakfast followed by a short trek in the Komodo National Park led by a park ranger. No textiles here, just amazing three-metre-long Komodo Dragons – Indonesia’s living dinosaurs! Back on board we will cruise to our final port of Labuan Bajo where we will have lunch before transferring to the nearby airport for our afternoon flight to Denpasar, Bali.
An additional pre-cruise option is also available, visiting Lio weavers and the volcanic lakes of Mount Kelimutu. For further details see:
Meet the experts – David and Sue Richardson
David and Sue are passionate researchers and collectors of Asian textiles and have spent the past twenty-five years travelling to remote weaving villages across Island and Mainland South-east Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and Central Asia. Their fieldwork has involved research in Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and of course Indonesia.
Since first visiting Indonesia in 1980, David and Sue have systematically visited every part of the archipelago, ranging from Sumatra in the west to Western Papua in the east, from North Maluku in the north to Timor in the south, journeying both overland and by sea using a variety of local vessels. One of their favourite destinations is Nusa Tenggara Timur, NTT, (the ‘East South-eastern Islands’, more romantically called the Lesser Sundas), encompassing Flores, Lembata, Alor, West Timor, Savu and Sumba, an amazing cluster of islands renowned for producing an extraordinary variety of hand-dyed and hand-woven warp ikat cloth.
David and Sue have lectured about their textile researches to Rug and Textile Societies across the USA and in Europe and have presented papers to the Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America in Washington DC and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Their articles have frequently appeared in journals such as HALI, Asian Textiles, Textiles Asia, and Steppe. Their richly-illustrated book on the culture and textiles of the Qaraqalpaqs of Central Asia, Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta, was released by the high-end art publisher Prestel in July 2012 and has received excellent reviews.
Over the years David and Sue have assembled one of the finest and most comprehensive private collections of Indonesian and other Asian textiles, many of museum quality. They are members of the Textile Society of America as well as the Oxford Asian Textile Group, which is affiliated to the Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers Museums of the University of Oxford. The Oxford Asian Textile Group was until recently chaired by Dr Ruth Barnes, a leading academic expert on the textiles of Eastern Indonesia.