Nusa Tenggara more than carries its weight in “The Ultimate in Diversity,” the tourism slogan of Indonesia. Lonely Planet describes Nusa Tenggara as: “Indonesia’s dazzling arc of eastern islands that stretches toward northern Australia is perhaps the most varied and rewarding part of the nation to explore.”
The Lesser Sunda Islands, as Nusa Tenggara is also known, are divided into the two Indonesian provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara.
Lombok and Sumbawa are the two largest islands in West Nusa Tenggara. Mataram, on Lombok, is the capital of the province. Scenery and surf are the best of what Sumbawa has to offer. Sumbawa’s rugged, scenic landscape is only enjoyed by the most hard core trekkers while surfers find their bliss at the surf camps in Sekongkang and Hu’u.
Of the roughly 550 islands in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Flores, Sumba, Komodo, Rinca, and West Timor have the bulk of the population and receive the lion’s share of visitors.
Flores is a jewel of vibrantly beautiful scenery, culture, ample diving, snorkeling, and white sand beaches. The three colored lakes nestled in the crater at the summit of Kelimutu volcano are easily the highlight of Flores. Now days the three lakes colors are turquoise, green, and brown, but the colors have changed over the years due to minerals from the volcano dissolving into the water.
Sumba is the place to go to experience a tribal culture that is unmatched anywhere else in Nusa Tenggara. There are many traditional villages with traditional high roofed houses, beautifully carved megalithic stone tombs, and the finest Ikat weavings to be found anywhere. February and March bring the Pasola - horsemen armed with spears charging each other in a contest to spill human blood, thus ensuring a good harvest.
Komodo and Rinca are part of the World Heritage site, Komodo National Park – home the 100kg, three meter long, Komodo dragon. Known as Ora by the locals, the Komodo dragon was once a legend in the West until explorers confirmed their existence just over 100 years ago. Having no natural predators puts these giant lizards at the top of the food chain. They regularly dine on creatures such as water buffalo and wild pig.
West Timor shares its island with the independent nation of East Timor. The city of Kupang is the capital of East Nusa Tenggara, the center of business, and the busiest air hub in Nusa Tenggara, providing connections throughout Indonesia. West Timor has good trekking, snorkeling, and beach options, as well as traditional villages that readily welcome visitors. Lacking a well developed tourism infrastructure, it’s best suited to independent travelers who are used to making their own way.