The Indonesian Moby Dick

Trip Start Dec 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
Lamelara Whaling village

Flag of Indonesia  , East Nusa Tenggara,
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Welcome to the whalers of Lamalera!

After traveling from Maumere by 4 X 4 on some super windy roads, we arrived with travel sickness in the small port town of Larantuka where we spent the night fighting off the mosqitos and being pestered for relationship advise from a 50 year old Indonesian who had fallen for a 20 year old Swedish girl!

Like many parts of Indonesia, with religion being central to the locals lives and beliefs -Larantuka was predominantly catholic and our hotel was adorned with Jesus' a plenty and much catholic decoration.

We caught the daily 'ferry' over to the Island of Lembata (munching our way through fried bananas and dodging the waves flying in through the windows!) which took 3 hours. We were safely delivered by a very kind local lady into a sticky pit of young men jostling with each other to take us in their 'transport' to our hotel. We took the hard option and used our own 'transport' and walked in the stifling humidity to our hotel 1 km from the port.

We had decided that as we were so far east in the chain of Islands that makes up Indonesia, we would continue on to the Whaling village of Lamalera to meet some real life whale hunters.

We arrived in Lamalera after a day of respite and checked into a lovely homestay with 3 generations under one roof and plenty of piglets and cockerels for everyone! We seemed to have landed in a home where the family were very well regarded as there were frequent visitors and many handshakes all round to these strange pale skinned visitors from England.

Lamalera is on the south coast with a lovely rocky bay lined with fishing huts and all the villagers live a little distance from the beach in surprisingly nice houses. Lamalera only has access to electricity from 6pm-6am so as soon as 6pm
arrived the fans and tv's and attached mega-sized speakers are all go.

The men of the families head out in wooden boats on an almost daily basis throughout the year fishing for typical kinds of fish but from May-November they head out in larger cross-family groups to hunt sperm whales. We had been invited out fishing with the family we were staying with but it was too hot for a whole day out in the sun.

When the children finish school, they run down to the sea with handmade harpons (with elastic bands!) and paddle in the rockpools for critters and fish. One boy caught a big octopus and proceeded to smash its brains out against the rocks, he turned it inside out to take its yukkybits out then proudly ran it home to his family. Now that'll stick in our minds! We had some lovely moments where we were sitting on the beach and found
ourselves making faces with the local kids as the only English they knew
was 'Hello Mister' and 'Wayne Rooney/David Beckham'.

By now we are used to the constant attention from the locals as almost every person we walk past in a small village like this, calls out 'Hello Mr' (they say Mister to men and women) to which they laugh hysterically then usually rush off before we can reply. The children usually want a high 5 or a handshake and Russell was caught off guard a few days ago when a 3 year old boy followed up the handshake with a delicate kiss on Russells hand as if he was royalty!

During our two days there we hadnt expected to see any whale action. By talking with the locals who were always out on the beach mending their fishing nets and snoozing in their boats whilst their wives thought they were working hard, we found out they'd recently caught dolphins and saw the remains of them hanging up around the eaves of the houses. The beach also had huge piles of whale and dolphin bones as when the whales are harpooned they are killed and shared with all the families in the village. 

We did a little snorkeling in the bay as there was some nice coral and stacks of fish to see. Russell saw 4 lionfish in all their glory so was buzzing on emerging from the water.

We then caught the 4 x 4 for the mountainous slog back to the port town of Lewoleba and prepared for a12 hour sea voyage further east to the island of West Timor.

Hopefully the photos will do this beautiful place justice.

Update by bisha x

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