Pristine reefs and colorful cultures of Alor, Indonesia!
Alor is located in the virtually unexplored islands of Eastern Nusa Tenngara (Flores Island and the eastern archipelagoes of Alor and Solor). Both Eastern and Western Nusa Tenngara (Lombok and Sumbawa) and the province of Bali, make up the chain of volcanic islands called the Lesser Sundas. Located about 8º south of the Equator and oriented on a east-west axis, the Lesser Sundas are a relatively young chain of islands that formed as a result of the interaction between the Indo-Australian and Sunda plates. Politically, they define part of the southern boundary of Indonesia and are most famous for tourist destinations such as Bali and Komodo National Park.
Seldom visited and largely unaffected by tourism, the Alor archipelago possesses rugged landscapes with several active volcanoes nearby and an unspoiled underwater wilderness that contains an astounding diversity of marine life. Located squarely in the Coral Triangle, a geographical term used to describe the region that possesses the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity, the reefs in the area generally showcase thousands of tropical fish that make their homes amongst fields of colorful corals. Furthermore, the area boasts a wide variety of habitats including exposed reef flats, dramatic drop-offs, coral gardens, secluded bays, protected shallow reefs, current-swept passes, and black sand where an amazing number of rare and bizarre critters can be found!
Each day we will explore the area’s best snorkel sites, visiting places like Ribbon Eel Reef, Clown Alley, and Feather Star City where, you guessed it, thousands of dazzling feather stars cling to colorful corals and boulders and stretch their arms into the water column to feed upon plankton that floats by. Along with the small critters, the area also is frequented by dolphins and whales including the blue whale, the largest of them all! In addition to snorkeling we will have the chance to visit the vibrant market place of Kalabahi, the largest of the network of villages that occupy the islands around Alor, and watch one of the hill tribes, ancient descendants from Papua New Guinea, perform their greeting and war dances. We will also have the chance to see ancient Moko drums thought to have originated in ancient Vietnam! There will also be time for beach walks to explore the spectacular surroundings. This 14-day/13-night expedition to this special part of the world is one that should not be missed!
Click on the tour date below to read about trip details including accommodations, pricing, and how you can join us!
Our snorkeling adventure in Alor begins and ends in Bali, Indonesia. We have one short, internal flight (Bali-Maumere-Bali). Our journey on the boat generally follows a westward route, stopping to visit several islands and island groups along our way to the Alor archipelago. After spending a few days in Alor, we will begin our journey back to Maumere, again stopping off to snorkel along the way. The following is a general itinerary based on a combination of our own experiences in the area and that of the crew onboard our expedition vessel. Please note that this is a general itinerary and that weather, tides, and other unforeseen or unavoidable circumstances may affect the schedule at any time.
Day 1: Sanur, Bali
Meals provided: D
Arrive in Sanur, Bali check in at the group resort Puri Santrian*. Welcome dinner and trip orientation at the resort. Overnight Puri Santrian*.
Day 2: Maumere / Mermaid I
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our morning flight takes us to Maumere, Flores and upon our arrival, we will transfer to our boat, the Mermaid I. After our boat orientation and lunch we depart for the Alor archipelago. In the late afternoon, we will snorkel Ribbon Eel Reef, named for the abundance of blue ribbon eels that can be found along the shallow reef margin. Overnight Mermaid I.
Day 3 – 4: Adunara / Solor
Meals provided: B,L,D
Our snorkeling sites for today are found around the islands of Adunara and Solor, in the Solor archipelago. Feather Star City is located along the southwestern edge of Adunara Island and along with the hundreds, if not thousands, of feather stars that shine like jewels against the backdrop of black sand, nudibranchs, corals, and sponges of just about every color also reside here. We will also snorkel along an extensive reef flat that radiates from the tiny islet called Pulau Serbete. Overnight Mermaid I.
Day 5: Lembata Island
Meals provided: B,L,D
As we continue eastward towards Alor, we visit the island of Lembata, home to several active volcanoes and a wealth of marine habitats. The largest and most active volcano, Lewotolo, looms over our snorkeling sites that include shallow reef flats, exposed drop-offs, mangroves, and black sand. We will have the chance to explore all of these area, giving us the opportunity to see larger seaward reef fishes like sharks, unicornfishes, snappers, and groupers, as well as some of the rare and unusual critters like pipefishes, scorpionfishes, and juvenile angelfishes and sweetlips. Overnight Mermaid I.
Day 6 – 10: Alor
Meals provided: B,L,D
Alor archipelago! There are dozens of fantastic reefs in the area including Crocodile Is., Ternate Is., Babylon, Clown Alley, and Pulau Kumba to name a few. Reef habitats vary from black sand to incredibly colorful and diverse shallow coral gardens. Many of the abundant, healthy reefs we will snorkel upon possess thousands of reef fishes and hundreds of species of hard corals. This area is also known for its amazing underwater visibility, at times exceeding 30 meters! We will also visit an amazing little bay called Beangabang. This little bay was created by ancient lava flows from the nearby, still active volcano. The cool water from the Savu Sea mixes with hot thermals to create a surreal snorkeling experience. The black sand beaches possess some of the richest assortment of unusual critters like garden eels, seahorses, pipefishes, scorpionfishes, nudibranchs, and octopuses. There are few places in the world where we have the chance to see such a diversity of marine life in such a small area. We will also incorporate a visit to the hill tribes of Alor as well as the market places of Kalabahi, the capital city of Alor. Overnight Mermaid I.
Day 11 – 12: Lembata Island / Maumere
Meals provided: B,L,D
As we turn westward and head back to Maumere, we will stop off at several places to snorkel, including another visit to the bay in Lembata to snorkel the huge section of reef located deeper in the bay. This reef has an extensive shallow area that gently slopes to much deeper depths. The corals and sponges along the reef margin are unreal, many that are not often seen on most other reefs. We will also snorkel along the northeastern tip of Adunara where fringing reefs begin a mere one meter from shore and stretch out into the blue as far as the eye can see. We may even stop to explore a reef or two, as there are hundreds of kilometers of unexplored reef between Adunara and Maumere. On our last departure, we were fortunate enough to find a special site that boasted large stands of cobalt blue staghorn coral and the red-spotted blenniella, an uncommon, colorful little fish that lives on shallow, wave-exposed reefs. Overnight Mermaid I.
Day 13: Maumere / Bali
Meals provided: B,D
Disembark in Maumere and transfer to the airport for the flight back to Bali. Transfer to Puri Santrian*. Afternoon on your own. Group dinner in Sanur. Overnight Puri Santrian*.
Day 14: International flights or extensions
Meals provided: B
*Puri Santrian is our usual group resort. We chose this resort for its location (beach access, proximity to local food and shopping areas, proximity to Benoa harbor), beautiful rooms and property, excellent food venues, value, and service. In the event we cannot book this resort, we will use a resort with similar or higher standards.
What to Expect
Water temperatures vary between 20º – 30º C (68º – 86º F). The large range in water temperature reflects the influence of oceanic upwellings that affect the south side of the archipelago. The northern parts of the islands are surrounded by warm, equatorial seas (Flores Sea), while the southern parts are exposed to the deep Savu Sea. The combination of the southern Tradewinds blowing in a northwesterly direction and the Coriolis Effect export the waters of the Savu Sea away from the islands. Consequently, cool water from the depths upwell to the surface resulting in much cooler sea surface temperatures.
While most of our snorkel sessions will take place in warm water, there are several sites around Alor where we may experience cooler water. As such, our recommendation for this departure is to have, at a minimum, a 3 mm full wetsuit and hood. Please note that this suggestion is the minimum and if you plan to spend the maximum amount of time in the water, you should consider extra laying like a 2-3mm vest or perhaps even a thicker wetsuit. Skins are great to protect you from the sun or even the random little no-see-ums that can sting, but may not be much of a help with regards to thermal protection. Many of the reefs we will snorkel upon are subjected to currents associated with the large tide cycles that prevail in the area. While we often schedule our session during a time when the currents are minimal, there will be planned drift snorkels. These types of snorkels take advantage of the water movement and allow us to float over the reef without having to actively swim. This activity usually becomes an instant favorite among our guests as it is very exciting and yet very passive at the same time! In some cases, however, the unpredictability of the tides may expose us to strong water movement. This may require a bit of effort though we will always have our dinghies standing by to help if needed.
Our planned walk to visit the hill tribes and the market places in Kalabahi are on pavement or well established trails (dirt/rocky), both that have no significant elevation or exposure.
Please click on our page About our Tours to read about what a typical day of snorkeling looks like on most of our tour programs.