If you fancy a little island hopping in Indonesia, the small chain of islands known as the Pemana island group is ideal. Located off the Flores coast just minutes from Maumere, the islands can be explored in a single day or longer if you’re having trouble dragging yourself away from the white sandy beaches and clear blue sea. It’s entirely up to you.
The island group includes Pulau Besar (‘big island’), Koja Do’I Island, Pengabatang Island, Pulau Babi (‘pig island’), Sukun, Palu’e, Permana Kambing (‘goat island’) and the main island of Pemana Besar. Between permanent villages, makeshift fishermen’s camps and deserted beaches there’s plenty of opportunity to explore, swim, snorkel, dive or simply relax and soak up the sun.
The Pemana islanders trace their roots back to the seafaring Bugis indigenous group from Sulawesi and to this day their lives remain intrinsically connected to the ocean. They are delightfully friendly and don’t mind at all curious tourists wandering through their villages admiring their boat building, fishing and diving skills. Smile and show a little interest (how could you not!) and you could well end up with an invitation to visit share a meal or join them on a fishing expedition in on of their small longboats called lepa lepa.
The best way to undertake your island hopping adventure is to charter a local fishing boat for a day or longer. You can do this from Maumere with the help of your hotel or guesthouse or by simply going down to the port yourself. Alternatively, catch the daily public boat from Maumere to Gunungsari Village, Pemana Besar’s port and charter a boat from there. Note that at the time of writing, the public boat departed Maumere at 1pm and returned from Pemana Besar at 8am so this second option isn’t viable for a daytrip.
Once you have your boat organised, it’s simply a matter of letting your captain know what you want to see and do. And the choices are endless. You could easily blow the entire day on Pemana Besar exploring the palm tree Gunungsari Village, visiting the island’s lake and cave, swimming and snorkelling. Snorkel or laze on the beach at Pengabatan or Kambing Islands or head over to Babi Island to visit a fishermen’s village where you can buy some fish to barbeque on the beach.
If you’re planning on two or more days island hopping, you do need to be self-sufficient. There’s no commercial accommodation on the islands so plan on camping out. Otherwise, at Gunungsari Village you’ll likely find a local villager willing to host you for a night or two for a small cost but you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag or blanket and some food provisions which you should count on sharing with your host. Whilst they’ll be able to provide you with local style meals of rice and fish, contributions of fruit and any special treats like biscuits that you bring along will go a long way to enhancing your experience with them.