At 2,247m high, Mount Mutis is the highest peak in West Timor and the central feature of the 12,000 hectare Gunung Mutis Nature Reserve. It is bordered by the much larger 100,000 hectare Mutis-Timau Protection Forest. The region is the traditional home of the Dawan (or Atoni Metu) indigenous tribe, the earliest inhabitants of Timor. For 13,000 years they’ve hunted and gathered from the lands around Mutis, supplemented by livestock they began domesticating around 4,500 years ago.
These days Mutis still plays an important role in the Dawan ecomony with up to 25,000 Dawan still living in small villages in and around Mutis. The reserve and protected forest provide a grazing area for livestock and a source of household water, building materials and firewood whilst products such as honey and sandalwood supplement household income.
The Mount Mutis reserve also plays a critical and much wider role in the Timor economy and ecology as the uplands around the mountain receive the highest annual rainfall on the island of Timor and as such, are the main watershed for Timor’s biggest rivers. It’s also an important habitat for most of the native Timorese mammals and its 217 bird species. The seasonal montane forest at the higher elevation is comprised mainly of a type of eucalyptus called ampupu and is unlike any other in Indonesia, but the non-botanists among us will simply appreciate the beauty of the alpine landscape, the rolling grassy hills and the peaceful atmosphere.
Climbing to the summit of Mount Mutis is a relatively easy 2-3 hour trek, traversing initially through rolling hillside farmlands and thin woodlands, then up onto a grassy ridge with lovely highland views including the pyramid peak of Fatu Timau (1,058m) on the left. Along the ridge you’ll find some small cairns marking the graves of some early Dutch settlers, then the Batu Pintu, a sacred rock where the locals leave small offerings of food and betel nut. From this point the travel becomes noticeably steeper but it’s only an hour to the summit where a small monument and magnificent views all the way to the north coast and over Timor’s central highlands await.
The starting point for the summit trek is about 10km beyond the village of Fatumnasi. The Lopo Mutis Homestay will provide an ojek to the trailhead and can hook you up with a guide which is essential as the trail is totally unmarked. Ideally, you should commence your climb early in the morning as clouds often roll in over the peak by lunchtime which will spoil the great views.