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Japanese Caves in Mbay

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In the surroundings of Mbay, the capital city of the Nagekeo district, you can find some hidden treasures off the beaten tourist track. The Japanese Caves are an interesting testimony of recent Indonesian and local history that you should not miss while visiting Nagekeo.

During World War II, the Japanese army built 33 artificial caves in the highlands of Lape Village near Mbay in 1942–1945. Constructed by a local resident named Romusha, they served as bunkers for protection and logistic storage during the war. Many of these caves are pitch dark and inhabited by bats. Even though the caves lie on dry land, the Japanese managed to build a small cave where clear, fresh water flows continuously all year around.  Long after the war, local villagers used them as shelters from the sun while grazing their cattle. So do not be surprised if you see kids playing hide and seek in the caves that are so familiar to them.

As the caves are secluded behind pretty green hills blanketed with hedge shrubs, wild trees like kesambi (Schleichera oleosa) and bidara Cina (Ziziphus mauritiana), a cross-country trek to the caves reveals admirable natural sceneries from the hill of Lape: over Port Marapokot surrounded by green rice fields in the north; the little town of Mbay that curves on the low plains covered with impressive green trees and savannahs in the east; and Mount Ebulobo (an active volcano) that stands like a highland guardian in the south. You also have excellent opportunities to spot some wildlife there. The hill of Lape is a safe home for eagles, quails, and other bird species; therefore a recommended spot for bird watching enthusiasts. The trek takes a bit of an effort, and it is definitely recommended to seek the support of a well-versed local guide.  

For more information, call or text Willy Brodus Lasa (Disbudpar Nagekeo) on his mobile phone (+62 85237917753).

Facilities

If you want turn your Japanese Caves excursion into a Nagekeo overnight experience, you can choose one of the few basic accommodation option in Mbay. A limited range of restaurants and warung provide Indonesian dishes.  

How to get there

From Bajawa, take a turn left to join the road to Riung, and keep driving for about 2 hours (80km). When you arrive at an intersection, turn right and continue on the Translok road to reach Mbay, which should take you an additional one hour (17 km).

If you are coming from Ende and wish to visit Mbay, take the road to Boawae for about 3 hours (114 km) until you arrive in Mbay. From Maumere, you can drive along the north coast for about 6 hours (262km) until you reach Mbay. There are many public transportation from Maumere to Mbay (usually via the north coast), between Mbay and Riung, and between Mbay and Bajawa.

Nangadhawe Salt Processing

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Nangadhawe Village, located in the Aesesa sub-district, used to be famed for its sea salt processing, which gave the area a touch of wild west scenery.

As far as the eye could see, a plain expanse of ground covered in sun-drying sea water taken from Lake Nanga (which is actually a part of the open sea) once stretched out in front of you. Even though the salt was of a fine quality, the salt processing project, which was supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Labor, stopped in 2005. The farm was left unattended until it was turned into a place for shellfish and fish aquaculture.

The beauty of Nangadhawe is in its simplicity. Take a leisurely walk along the borders of the saline land, and let yourself inspire by scenery that reminds one of the olden days when the salt farmers triumphed with their white crystallized salt over the dark sand.

Once in a year, the local community of Dhawe harvests the fish in Lake Nanga. Until now, a unique traditional ritual is held to initiate these harvest activities.

Lake Nanga is not only a fish pool, but also functions as a gate for the fishermen with their boats. Besides fishing, soft trekking, or simply relaxing are also recommended at this historical watery spot. The lake’s surrounding black-sand beach with its two landmark-like rocks is of outstanding appearance.

Facilities

There are no facilities in Nangadhawe. The nearest town is Mbay, which offers some accommodation, catering, and shops.

How to get there

From Mbay, head in the direction of Boawae (via the north road). When you arrive at Translok Road (Jalan Translok Mbay-Riung), you should ask the local people for further directions as there is no signpost for Nangadhawe village. It is recommended to go with a local guide.

Rii Taa Isle

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Rii Taa, a white sand island, is definitely one of the most beautiful parts of the Nagekeo district.

You can reach Rii Taa within one hour by chartering a traditional boat operated by locals from the port of Marapokot, the gathering place of the local fishermen with their traditional boats.

Sitting on the wooden deck of the boat, breathtaking sea views indulge the senses with blue aquamarine painted on the sea. Nature’s charm welcomes you to this small, pristine stretch of pure, white sand beach that resembles a narrow semi-circle of no more than fifteen meters in width.

Silence truly dominates in Rii Taa. Only the sounds of waves colliding with the wooden boat and the cries of seagulls accompany you while the soft, white sand caresses your bare feet. The seagulls in a contrasting background of ocean blue and bright white sand, as well as the different sized sea urchin shells, make very aesthetic motifs for photos.

If this is all getting too quiet and minimalist for you, grab your snorkel and goggles and dip into the lively underwater world of Rii Taa.

Facilities

If you would like to stay overnight near Rii Taa, you can choose one of the few basic accommodation options in Mbay. To explore the island’s underwater world via snorkeling, you should rent your snorkeling gear first in Labuan Bajo or Maumere.

How to get there

Marapokot is located 13km from Mbay. It is recommended to go there by private transportation.

Puta Hot Springs

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Puta Hot Springs are one of the natural highlights that you should not miss if you are in or around Mbay.

Located in the middle of a mangrove forest, Puta offers many natural hot pools spread over beautiful surroundings. It is hardly surprising that the local people come here to relax. Some of the springs are definitely too hot to jump in; others are less hot and deep enough for an energizing bath. The depth of the springs depends on the tide. If you visit Puta Hot Springs during high tide, the bath will probably be more relaxing.

A recommended hiking route

Besides this natural spa experience, the surrounding area is also great for soft trekking and bird watching. Starting your trek in Mbay, you will first pass Tonggurambang. In Tonggurambang you will walk through a nice mangrove forest before you reach Puta Hot Springs where you can relax your muscles in the warm water. To enhance your hike, you may continue to walk to Marapokot, an idyllic fishing village. The route, which is beautifully seamed with rice fields, mangrove forests, and soft hills, is perfectly suitable for people who prefer a relaxed, non-strenuous hike.

Facilities

In Mbay, you have a limited choice of accommodation but a sufficient selection of warung and small restaurants.

How to get there

Mbay is located along the north coast’s main road. From Mbay, it takes about 11km to reach Puta Village. There is no signpost for the hot springs, but it is a popular location for the local community. Just ask the villagers for detailed directions. The hot springs are located about two kilometers away off the village road.

Sutami Irrigation Dam

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Sutami Dam represents an interesting part of Nagekeo’s history. It is named after the dam’s chief engineer, Sutami, who initiated the construction project. The impressive dam was completed in 1972. Statistics record that it is capable of discharging up to 7,500 liters of water per second. Despite a decline in recent years, there is still enough water flowing to irrigate about 3000 rice fields around Mbay. This town, formerly known Danga, and its surroundings, are therefore among the most intensive rice-producing areas of the East Nusa Tenggara province. Well known as one of the main rice barns in Flores, Sutami Dam plays an important role in supplying water for rice fields in Mbay.

Facilities

In Mbay, you have a limited choice of accommodation but a sufficient selection of warung and small restaurants.

How to get there

Mbay is located along the northern coastal main road. From Bajawa, just turn left and take the road to Riung, which takes about two hours (around 80km). When you arrive at the intersection, turn right to continue to Translok Road in Mbay, which takes about one more hour (around 17km). If you come from Ende to visit Mbay, then just take the road to Boawae until you arrive in Mbay. It takes about three hours (around 114km). From Maumere, you can go along the north coast until you arrive in Mbay, which takes about six hours (around 262km). There is a lot of public transportation from Maumere to Mbay (usually via the north coast), between Mbay and Riung or between Mbay and Bajawa.

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