From Lembata to Flores, the Sunda Islands…

Published on 23 march 2018 at 0h00

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Nusa Tenggara… In Bahasa Indonesia, the country’s official language, this expression refers to the province of the ‘Lesser’ Sunda Islands. ‘Lesser’ only as opposed to the much bigger ‘Greater’ islands, such as Sumatra, Java or Kalimantan (formerly Borneo). Nusa Tenggara includes West Timor, the Solor and Alor archipelagos, the islands of Flores, Rinca, Komodo, Sumbawa and Lombok. Indonesia is the biggest archipelago in the world, with just over 17,000 islands! A country whose area stretches over 5,000 km from east to west and 1,700 km from north to south. 240 million inhabitants, the majority of whom are Muslim, speak 250 different dialects, apart from Bahasa Indonesia.

After a night at sea, sailing north, day broke over the south coast of the island of Lembata, to the east of Flores. We approached the small haven of Lamalera, a surprising whaling village, where the sperm whales and pilot whales are still hunted, from May to October. With simple bamboo harpoons, equipped with an iron point, from wooden whalers around ten meters long, propelled by oars and equipped with an auxiliary sail. Catches are limited to around twenty per year, and taking into account the traditional means used, the village escapes the ban relating to this form of fishing, decreed by the International Whaling Commission. In Lamalera, the whole village is involved with whale fishing, and has been since the 15th century. The south coast of the Sunda Islands is on the migratory route of the ...

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