East Indies Exploration 2017
SeaTrek Sailing Adventures depart from Maumere in Flores on September 22 for a 12 day voyage around the outer islands of the Indonesian archipelago to finish in Ambon on October 3, 2017.
After we visit the whaling village of Lamalera on the island of Lembata, one of the highlights of our voyage will be a visit to the island of Alor and our dawn arrival as we sail up the narrow and beautiful bay towards the town of Kalabahi.
This is a view looking down the beautiful Kalabahi Bay towards the volcano that guards its entrance.
Alor has much cultural diversity as there are eight languages and at least 25 dialects spoken by its different tribes and from the town of Kalabahi we travel across the island to the traditional village of Lembur Barat.
Greeted by the village elders, we will be able to visit their homes, and be introduced to their traditional culture including dance, bronze moko drums and ikat weaving.
At the centre of the village is a circular platform with a stone altar known as a mesbah on which are displayed some of the heirloom bronze moko drums kept by the village. In this photo the community line up behind the altar in preparation for the dance.
In the lego-lego dance the elders hold each other arm in arm as they begin a dancing circle around the central stone altar. They are then slowly joined by each successive generation of younger and younger people, and each group joining the dancing circle represents the unity and togetherness of the community.
The rythm for the dance is created by the rattle of the bangles on the women’s feet as they stamp their feet in unison.
The male warriors perform a traditional war dance
Large bronze drums originally arrived in Indonesia after being manufactured using the ‘lost wax’ method by the Dongson culture of North Vietnam. These drums were manufactured over a period of almost one thousand years from 600 BCE until 300 CE and were traded across South-East Asia. The origins of the Moko drum are less well known but they may have come originally from China and then were manufactured in Java. They are smaller than the Dongson drums, are waisted and obviously could be held and played as an instrument.
They became a very important part of the culture of Alor and have become symbolic of the island where the Moko drums remain an important status symbol. They are particularly important in their ritual value and are still generally required as part of the bridal dowry, though the short supply of moko today means that moko must often be borrowed or mortgaged for this purpose. Here examples of these heirloom drums are displayed on the central stone altar.
Detail of a Moko drum
Traditional woven textiles on display in the village
Training the next generation of warrior dancers.
Details of the voyage can be found on the SeaTrek website at
About Ian Burnet
Ian is the author of several books about Indonesia: Spice Islands, about the history, romance and adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2,000 years; East Indies, which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Indies; and Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia. You can read more about Ian's travels and stories on his blog, which you can go to by clicking here.