East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) will hold at least two festivals this September to attract domestic, as well as foreign tourists, to the province whose beautiful nature, particularly underwater wealth, remains hidden.
The eastern Indonesian province will host the Alor Marine Festival from September 16 to 18, along with the Indonesian Adventure Festival on September 15-20, to publicize its tourist attractions, mainly promoting its nature and unique culture.
"Marine and adventure tourism attractions needs to be continuously promoted to make Indonesia a major tourist destination in the world. For that purpose, sustainable promotion that brings Indonesia to the world stage is necessary," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said on Aug 20, 2015, when announcing plans to hold the festivals.
The central government supports the festival, to be organized by the NTT provincial tourism office and initiated by Way 2 East Indonesia, Yahya said.
Alor District Head Amon Djobo said the peak ceremony of the Alor Marine Festival will take place on September 18 at Sebanjar beach, Alor Besar village, Alor District.
The highlight of the ceremony will be a demonstration of Pou-Hari and Gala Soro rituals, as well as a parade featuring 100 traditional war ships.
"The Alor Marine Festival, which is to be held for the first time, will have four main maritime activities," Djobo said.
Some 1,000 local inhabitants will be involved in the festival. "Pour-Hari" is a traditional ritual for presenting sacrifices to sea spirits to assure they provide an abundance of fish to the beaches on the cold sea currents.
Additionally, "Gala Soro" is a traditional war victory celebration carried out at sea by tribes living in Alor.
An underwater photography contest will also be held, with some 25 domestic and foreign divers taking pictures.
Furthermore, a gala dinner will be held on Batu Putih beach, Alor, to entertain visitors and participants with the traditional foods of Alor.
Alor, with its beautiful nature scenery and exotic diving spots, is an unknown "heaven" for divers.
"Alor sea has beautiful coral reefs and its underwater scenery is often compared with those in Caribia by foreign media," Djobo remarked.
The district hosts populations speaking more than 40 local dialects and is known for its high quality hand-made woven clothes.
The area is reputed for its cultural diversity, as well as tolerance of different faiths. In its museum, visitors can see one of the oldest Islamic Holy Book Al Qurans dating to 1519.
The Adventure Indonesia (FAI) Festival 2015 will also be held in Alor District, to indulge tourists at what is called "heaven for divers".
Alor, which has many species of fish and coral reefs, is an unknown heaven for divers, Minister Arief Yahya said.
Among favorite diving spots in Alor are the waters around the isles of Alor, Kepa, Ternate and Pantar.
This years festival is the second, after the first was held in Lembata, also NTT, in September 2014. Some 120 participants, including photographers and reporters, attended last years festival.
The Indonesian Adventure Festival is an annual attraction for domestic and foreign adventurers to enjoy Indonesias nature, local culture and traditions.
Activities to be offered during the festival will include diving, cycling, hiking, photography, camping, culinary, cultural tour, and overnighting in local inhabitants homes.
Further, Alor District Head Amon Djobo said the local administration will offer tours to 14 interesting destinations, including Kalabahi town, Maimol beach, Sika Isle, Deere beach, Batu Putih beach, Kepa Isle, Ternate Isle, Mount Sirung, Pantar Isle, Pura Isle, Buaya Isle, Monbang/Kabola village, Takpala village, and Luba village.
Some 200 domestic and foreign adventure lovers are expected to participate in this event.
They will be encouraged to mingle with local villagers and share their time with them during a cultural tour that will take them to the traditional villages of Takpala, Monbang and Bampalola.
The participants will also be able to experience the meeting of cold Australian waters and warm Indonesian waters while diving.
The Indonesian Adventure Festival is organized by the Tourism Ministry, the East Nusa Tenggara provincial tourism office, and the Alor district administration.
In the meantime, at present, Lembata District, also in East Nusa Tenggara Province, is organizing the Nuhanera Marine Festival from August 22 to 27, 2015, to promote the beauty underwater of the Gulf of Waienga as a new diving site.
Head of Lembatas Tourism Office Longginus Lega said on August 20 that the Nuhanera Festival is a series of marine tourism rallies, which is an annual event that sponsors a number of activities.
"We hope this festival is able to encourage local economic growth through marine-based tourism activities," he said.
The festival consists of a number of events, such as Atadei-Lamalera Exploration and Batutara Expedition, Nuhanera Marine Festival, Adventure Uyelewun Festival, as well as Lamaholot Festival.
He said the Gulf of Waienga stretches 91 km long and 1 km wide, and includes 14 villages.
The activities during the Nuhanera Marine Festival 2015 include a traditional boat rowing race, bay swimming, fun fishing, boats and marine motors parade, traditional art performances, as well as an underwater photo contest.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that marine tourism is a priority to be developed in the next five years, as it contributes up to 35 percent of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia.
"There are five top tours that contribute to foreign tourist visits, namely shopping and culinary (80 percent), heritage and religious tourisms (80 percent), marine tourism (35 percent), meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) tourism (25 percent), and sport tourism (5 percent)," Yahya said.
In 2013, the total foreign exchange earned from tourism amounted to US$10 billion, of which US$3.5 billion derived from marine tourism.
Indonesia has 6 main diving tourist destinations, including Bali, Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara), Lembeh and Manado (North Sulawesi), Komodo (East Nusa Tenggara), and Raja Ampat (Papua).
Currently, there are 710 diving sites in the waters of Indonesia, including the Gulf of Waienga.
New Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources Rizal Ramli said Indonesia could be number one in the world in marine tourism if the country could preserve the beauty of its seas.
Rizal said he had launched a program, entitled Expedition of a Million Ridges of Rock, as earlier announced by President Joko Widodo, to add beauty to the countrys sea tourism.
"We will provide apartments for fish. In five years, the apartments in the ridges of rock will grow taller. There would be more fish available so our fishermen do not have to go far to fish," he said.
He said Indonesia should be able to compete against other countries which have made a living from sea tourism, such as the Maldives and Thailand.
"The Maldives is nothing compared to Indonesia (in sea tourism potential)," Ramli said. (Antara)