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Nusa Tenggara,
Lesser Sunda Islands of East Indonesia


Nusa Tenggara or Lesser Sunda Islands is part of Indonesia. What is called Nusa Tenggara starts in Lombok and contains all the islands east of Lombok. For the website I will only talk about the islands I have personally visited: Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores and Sumba.

My memories of these islands are fantastic. Scenery, culture, people, it seemed to change from village to village. Lomboks' population is primarily Muslim, but at Flores you will find only Muslims on the coastline while land inwards, you will find many Christians.

Sumbawa's population is primarily Muslim but at Sumba there is a mix of local beliefs, Islam and Christianity. These mixes have created an enormous variety in culture. You can not say that you have visited Nusa Tenggara by visiting only one or two islands.

The section about Nusa Tenggara includes:

It does not include Sumbawa as I didn't really visit it. All I did was to take an overnight bus from Bima direct to Lombok. As Bali is not considered to be part of Nusa Tenggara there will be another section about Bali.

boats in Labuan Bajo Flores
Everywhere in Nusa Tenggara you will find water transport, fishing boats, ferries and in some places even tourist sailing boats, like here in Labuan Bajo

Getting there and away

The main entry to Nusa Tenggara is Denpasar, Bali, Ngurah Rai Airport (Bali International Airport). From here you can either fly to further islands.

Here is a list of airports at the Lesser Sunda Islands

  • Bima, Sumbawa, Bima Airport (Muhammad Salahuddin Airport)
  • Ende, Flores, Ende Airport (Hasan Aroeboesman Airport)
  • Kupang, Timor, Tari Airport (Eltari Airport)
  • Labuan Bajo, Flores, Komodo Airport (Mutiara II Airport)
  • Mataram, Lombok, Selaparang Airport [17]
  • Maumere, Flores, Maumere Airport (Wai Oti Airport)
  • Waingapu, Sumba, Waingapu Airport

There are flights to almost all the bigger islands. Flights are usually easy to arrange when arriving at an airport or in a city. However, the lines, especially in between lesser used airports can be unreliable and delays can take hours.

Ferry to Bali

The Pelni - the ferry system of Indonesia

A very interesting alternative is to use the Indonesian ferry: the pelni. The network of pelnis is enormous. It is certainly advised to take at least once a pelni, just for the sake of the experience. It's a mini society in itself. Although for time reasons you may prefer flying from island to island, it can be interesting enough to make the shorter journeys, for example Lombok - Sumbawa and Sumbawa - Flores by Pelni.

The extensive network of the Pelni in Indonesia (source Wikipedia)
The extensive network of the Pelni in Indonesia (source Wikipedia)

Routes of the Pelni in Lesser Sunda Islands
Routes of the Pelni in Lesser Sunda Islands

Bus

Nusa Tenggara has no railway system, all overland transport goes by bus. Private transport can arranged. Buses are cheap. If you decide to cover a larger distance, use the express buses instead of the cheaper but much slower local bus. For example, the bus from Ende to Labuan Bajo at Flores takes 3 times more time by local bus then by express bus (including changing 2 times). There are for example express buses between islands. You can take a bus from Denpasar to Java including a ferry ticket. Or a bus from Bima to Lombok.

For shorter distances you can use the mini buses although they tend to be overcrowded won't take your bicycle. It's not uncommon to see mini buses hanging over to one site because of people hanging outside. They're certainly not the safest way of transport.

Waiting for the bus in Maumere
Waiting for the bus in Maumere

Bicycle

Although bicycles are widely used, it's not considered to be a form of transport for longer distances. This will give you the opportunity to get very easy in contact with locals who will be curious to find out what you are doing. Many will find it hard to believe that cycling is even an option let alone can be fun.

nusa tenggara

Bicycle shops are very hard to find in Nusa Tenggara. Bali, especially Denpasar, is your best option to get materials. As I didn't need any materials and I didn't like Denpasar much, I left quickly.

If you come for a short time, make sure your bicycle is in top notch condition as good spare materials are hard to find. Tires are not difficult but are usually 2 inch wide and heavy. Tubes are no problem. All other spares I recommend to bring yourself.

Accommodation and hotels in Nusa Tenggara

Finding a hotel in Nusa Tenggara can be a little difficult. The bigger cities like Maumere, Ende, Mataram and Waingapu have accommodation although not always at western high standards.

To me, it is one of the things you have to accept when traveling in this part of the world. Accommodation can be very cheap. For a few dollars you can have a reasonable room with toilet, shower and air-conditioning.

For more up-market hotels we have set up a few pages to help you out.

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Cycling in Bali, Lombok, Flores and Sumba

Cycling in Indonesia

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