What to do in Alor Island

Things to do at Alor Island
For anyone heading to this part of Indonesia, I have come up with a list of what to do in Alor Island based purely on my experience here in September 2017. Well, Alor Island is not your regular tourism destination, so the information is quite crucial for anyone heading here. 

Alor Island is actually well known for scuba diving but after my visit here, I managed to compile a list of things to do in Alor Island for just about any other traveler. You must know that there is only one main town on the island called Kalabahi and probably 90% of the people here do not speak English.

There are no modern buildings, cafes, malls, Starbucks or what you usually find at popular tourism destinations. This is the real kind of Indonesia that some travelers want to experience.

Alor Island
One of the iconic structures at Alor Island, East Nusa Tenggara
What to do in Alor Island?

I will be very honest as during my four days on Alor Island in East Nusa Tenggara, I managed to do some other things besides scuba diving. I wish I had more time to explore this beautiful island too.

For those who love to explore the unexplored, Alor Island is a great place for this, considering this is one of the least visited places around this region. I have compiled a list of things to do in Alor Island is in no order below.

Kampung Takpala
Takpala Village, one of the highlights of Alor Island
1. Visit Takpala Village

Takpala Village is a traditional Alornese tribe that lives on a hill. They are probably the only tourist friendly attraction on the island where you can visit with a tour. You most definitely need a tour guide as no one in the village speaks any English, hence the translation is needed. 

To visit Takpala Village, it is about 30 minutes drive from Kalabahi and arrangements need to be made by the tour company. Here, you will witness the traditional lifestyle of the Abui tribe of Alor Island.

Alor Scuba Diving
The beautiful clear waters for scuba diving in Alor Island
2. Scuba Diving at Alor Island

Most of you will be visiting Alor for scuba diving as it is probably the main and only attraction here. Scuba diving at Alor Island will allow you to see one of Indonesia's best dive spots.

The underwater landscape is rich with marine life and comes with crystal clear visibility. For macro and leisure divers, you will be in for a treat of your life when you dive here at Alor.

Alor Island Diving
A photo taken with a GoPro during one of my dives at Alor Island
Diving at Alor can be done by staying on land or with a live on board. However, for my trip, we used a live on board boat for our daily diving, but stayed at the only hotel on the island which is Pulo Alor Hotel. You can find out about the dive sites in Alor Island for those interested.

For those of you who want to experience cold water diving and with crystal clear visibility, I highly recommend this place. I have a Alor Island scuba diving trip report based on the few days of diving here. It has photos taken underwater and an overall review of the place.

Alor Island Bubu Fishermen
The local Bubu Fishermen of Alor Island with their huge bamboo fish traps
3. See the Alor 'Bubu' Fishermen

One of the uniqueness of the Alor fishermen is the fact that they can dive deep underwater with only their handmade wooden goggles. These are called the Bubu Fishermen of Alor, where Bubu means bamboo fish trap.

These Bubu fish traps are massive, ranging around one to two meters in length. They are brought down underwater by the diving fishermen and placed there to catch whatever goes in. The fish caught are consumed by the locals and not commercially sold.

Seeing the Bubu Fishermen of Alor in action is one of the highlights when you go scuba diving around here. If you are lucky, chances are that you may come across them at one of the dive sites of Alor.

Alor Island Bird Watching
A sea bird with its catch spotted at Alor Island
4. Bird Watching in Alor Island

This is for those who are into bird watching as Alor is home to quite a number of island birds, sea birds and land birds. As an amateur bird watcher, I must have spotted at least 20-30 species of birds during my trip here.

I think there are probably no bird guides available on Alor Island, therefore you need to engage one from Labuan Bajo or Kupang. Birding here is relatively new, as there are no proper guide books on this. I use the general Indonesia birds guide book.

Alor Island Home Stay Hotel
The Cantik Homestay at Alor Island
5. Experience an Alornese Homestay

For the culture lover, you can book a homestay on the island in Kalabahi and there are a few of them around. This will allow you to get to know the local Alornese people, their cultures and eat local food.

Most of the homestays in Alor cater to tourist and also local travelers, and they speak decent English. The rooms are basic and decent while the local home cooked meals are worth the experience. I had the pleasure of visiting a homestay and having dinner there, twice too.

Kadelang Market Alor Island
Locals at Pasar Kadelang Market in Alor Island
6. Explore the Local Alor Market

This wet and dry market in Kalabahi known as Pasar Kadelang (Kadelang Market) is pretty raw and original. Therefore, if you are the type that enjoys a proper market, give this a miss. At the local 'Pasar Kalabahi' or Kalabahi market, you will see how daily life revolves among the Alornese people.

The market sells a variety of local home grown produce, dry goods, fish and meats and some of the local Alor snacks and cakes. These are the ones to try, especially the local Alor pop corn. People are friendly and smile when you smile at them here.

Alor Island Betel Nut Chewing
Mike, Nick and Olly try betel nut chewing at the Pasar Kadelang market in Alor Island
7. Try Chewing Betel Nut in Alor Island

One thing that is on your must-try list at Pasar Kadelang is the Betel Nut or Areca Nut, which is a popular habit among the locals. The Betel Nut is chewed with the leaf and is one of the very unique strange food or customs in this part of the world.

The taste can be exhilarating and out of this world, but it is an experience of a lifetime. If you are a food lover, this is hands down a mist-try thing. To do this, you need to engage a local guide to bring you around here.

Inside the Museum Seribu Moko in Kalabahi. Photo by https://backpackerjakarta.com
8. Visit the Museum 1000 Moko

I wanted to see this place but time did not permit me, hence I will still list it down here. Located in Kalabahi, this Alor Island museum showcases the diverse culture of the Alor people and their old traditions.

The museum is also called Museum Seribu Moko or 1000 Moko Museum and gets its name from the Moko jar which represents an important Alornese cultural object. Among the items on display, you will find traditional looms, woven fabrics, pottery, fishing equipment on display here.

The museum is pretty informative and you can easily spend an hour here. It is open from Monday to Friday only and from 8.00 AM till 2.00 PM, and till 3.00 PM on Fridays.

Alor Island Dolphin Watching Tours
Sarah from Girls That Scuba spots some dolphins
9. Go Dolphin Watching

The fact that the waters around here are untouched almost guarantees you that you can spot dolphins easily. On my trip in September, I was an entire school of dolphins, numbering into the hundreds which included a pilot whale.

This can be arranged by the dive operators as they would know where the best places to spot dolphins in Alor Island. You should know that to charter the boat, it is best done in groups, as there are no dolphin tours here at the moment.

10. Learn an Alor Language

With so many different tribes found in Alor Island, the languages are said to be from Papuan or non-Austronesian descend. However, from one village to another, the locals do not communicate in their mother tongue but in Bahasa Indonesia, which is widely spoken throughout Indonesia.

For the linguistic traveler, you could probably learn a language from the Abui, Adang, Hamap, Kabola, Kafoa, Woisika, Kelo, and Kui tribes here. Unfortunately, I tried to learn a few words but it was quite hard.

Beach at Alor Island
One of the amazing beaches at Alor Island. Photo by https://www.pesonaindo.com
11. Explore the Alor Beaches

There are quite a few beautiful beaches found all over Alor Island, and some of them in pristine condition. This means, it is generally untouched and only by the locals here. You can only imagine what you will discover on some of the wonderful beaches at Alor Island.

Ling'al Beach - Found on the south west of Alor Island and is known as probably the most beautiful beach on the island. Traveling from Kalabahi overland will take around five hours, while there are boat charters that take around three to four hours. The closest village to the beach is called Halerman Village.

Pantai Ling'al
A beautiful photo of Ling'al Beach by https://travel.tempo.co
Dola Koya Koya Beach - This beautiful spot is found on the eastern part of Alor Island and is known for their scenic views. People come here to take beautiful postcard perfect photos. Imagine no crowds or people in your photos.

Batu Putih Beach - Known in English as White Stone Beach, it is in the north of Alor Island. This beach gets its name from the white corals that dominate the beach here. The turquoise tone waters and white beach make this a perfect place to just relax.

Sakura Kalabahi Beach - Found on the north west of Alor Island, Sakura Kalabahi Beach is a popular beach among the locals. No actual Japanese Sakura trees are found here, but you can find the local cherry blossom species grown along the main road of the beach here.

Sakura Kalabahi beach is quite popular among the locals, especially during sunset hour, where you can get some beautiful photos of the Alor sunset here.

Sakura Kalabahi Beach Alor Island
The Sakura Kalabahi Beach in Alor Island. Photo from https://aroundguides.com
What else to do in Alor Island? 

Generally, the above kind of sums it up. Alor is considered a very new destination to many, and still in the infancy stage for tourism. A lot needs to be done in order to cater for mass tourism, but I honestly hope it stays the way it is.

Indonesia already has many places that cater to mass tourism, with places like Bali, Lombok, Gili Trawangan and now Komodo Island. However, for those wanting to see the natural side of Indonesia, then Alor Island is the place to visit.

Bandar Udara Mali Alor
The Alor Island Airport known as Bandar Udara Mali Alor
How to get to Alor Island? 

The best way to get to Alor Island is via flight, if you want to save time. There is only one flight that lands at the Alor Island airport which is via Kupang in Flores. There are no direct flights from Bali or Jakarta, so please note that you have to connect from the larger cities.

Even if you are in Labuan Bajo or Komodo, you still need to connect via Kupang. Flights that code share and connect to Alor Island are Garuda Airlines, Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air, TransNusa Airlines and Wings Abadi Airlines. Only TransNusa and Wings Abadi fly in from Kupang.

Wings Abadi Airline Kupang Alor Flight
The Wings Abadi Airline plane which I took from Kupang to Alor Island
The other way to get here is via ferry, and there are a few companies that operate the Alor island service. You should know that ferries take long and timings are quite tricky. You have the option to take the Pelni Ferry from Kupang to Kalabahi, Alor Island.

Another good choice is to check Indonesia Ferry for the timings and schedules, and you can also book your ferry tickets there. There is a car ferry that runs daily from Kupang to Kalabahi which takes about 12 hours journey.

Photo of Alornese Women
Me and the women of the Takpala Village
For those planning to visit Alor Island, I recommend you do your research well before heading here. Your choice of stay would either be one of the homestays, local resort or at the Pulo Alor Hotel. You need a proper registered tour company and also a local guide.

If you book an Alor Island dive package, all of your arrangements will be provided by the dive operator there. Only your flights or ferry service will be done by you. Additional tours are optional, therefore you need to inform your operator if you want to explore Alor Island.

This guide on what to do in Alor Island is written based on my trip here in September 2017. It was a campaign with the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia to promote scuba diving and adventure for this part of Indonesia. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. 

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