Cultures and Textiles of the Lesser Sunda Islands
The Cultural Tour Itinerary
The Pre-Cruise Tour
How to Book
Life On Board
The Ombak Putih
Guest Testimonials
External Links


Cultures and Textiles of the Lesser Sunda Islands

The most exciting cultural tour you are ever likely to find – the trip of a lifetime!

We are not tour leaders - we are serious textile scholars who have been studying the weavings of Indonesia for over thirty years. During this time we have visited almost every part of the Indonesian archipelago, assembling one of the most extensive private collections of Indonesian textiles on the planet. Indeed this growing website illustrates our deep understanding of both the region and its weaving culture.

We lead this textile tour once every year because it is a fabulous voyage that we never grow tired of. Although we take our textiles seriously, this tour is also great fun, with a group of like-minded travellers sharing an amazing adventure. However its not all textiles - we also make time for visiting non-weaving villages, markets, museums, schools, churches and mosques, as well as swimming, snorkelling and relaxing.

This year's tour will be our tenth. If you would like to meet the artisans who still produce the most beautiful textiles in eastern Indonesia and understand how they are made and used, then come and join us.


Description: Children dressed in ceremonial costume on Savu

Children dressed in ceremonial costume in a weaving hamlet on Savu Island


The remote ikat-weaving islands of eastern Indonesia have one of the most diverse textile cultures on the planet. Hand-woven cloth plays a pivotal role in the cohesion of all these societies, cementing clan alliances through complex gift exchanges, reinforcing tribal loyalties and underpinning the annual cycle of rituals. As some islanders emphasize: ‘without cloth we cannot marry’.

Sadly the encroachment of the modern world means that the number of communities where
women still continue to spin their own cotton, prepare their own natural dyes and weave on traditional back-tension looms is limited. Their numbers are dwindling, and within a generation many could be gone.

One of the last remaining strongholds for these textiles are the stunningly beautiful Lesser Sunda Islands, which stretch out eastwards beyond Bali. We first visited these remote islands in 1991 and have been returning ever since. Many of the villagers and weavers we will spend time with are our friends. Let us share our expertise with you as we explore this remarkable region together.


Description: David and Sue aboard the Ombak Putih

The only way to travel through the Lesser Sunda Islands


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The Cultural Tour Itinerary

Our tenth textile cruise begins at the port of Maumere on the north coast of Flores Island and finishes at the port of Labuan Bajo on the west coast of Flores. Both places are connected with Bali by short inexpensive direct flights.

After arriving in Maumere, we enjoy lunch on deck and later visit a busy local fishing village of Bugis and Bajau people, famous for their stilt houses built above the water. In the evening before dinner we relax over cocktails while David and Sue give an introductory talk about the culture and textiles of the local Sikka People.

We begin our first full day by driving up into the highlands to visit a small village where we will be welcomed with music and dancing. After gaining our first insights into the local techniques of spinning, binding, dyeing and weaving, we will have the opportunity to purchase some of the finished textiles, while the adventurous among us will be able to try the local betel nut, tobacco, snacks and locally distilled liquor. After returning to our phinisi for lunch, we will sail out to a small uninhabited island for beachcombing, swimming and snorkelling.


Description: Musicians at a weaving hamlet in the highlands of Sikka

Musicians at a weaving hamlet in the highlands of Sikka


Early the next morning we will moor close to a small islet to explore an extensive coral reef. After sailing past a towering stratovolcano we will anchor in a sheltered picturesque bay. After lunch we will go ashore to be welcomed by local Lamaholot villagers who will show us in detail how they produce their fantastic earthy-brown ikats decorated with small white seashells. We can then walk around this colourful well-kept village before returning to our phinisi.

From our overnight mooring we sail along the coast of Adonara to visit an important weaving community. They live in a fascinating village built on the flank of an active volcano. The people of Adonara are also Lamaholot, but they are a mixed Muslim/Christian community and their weavings are quite different from those we will have seen so far. After another busy morning we will enjoy lunch on board before sailing to some tiny remote islands for a refreshing dip.


Description: Ilé Boleng on Adonara

The towering stratovolcano of Ilé Boleng on Adonara


From our dramatically located overnight mooring it is a short crossing to the north coast of Lembata Island to visit the villages that lie at the foot of the active volcano of Ilé Apé. Here local weavers produce some of the finest ikat textiles in the region. After a formal welcome and demonstration of local weaving techniques there will be a selling exhibition of textiles, giving you the chance to add a fabulous bridewealth cloth to your collection. Guests will also be invited to see an ancient anthropomorphic rock painting in a nearby village. Later, during lunch, the boat will cruise around the headland to a secluded spot for excellent snorkelling.


Description: The children of Ilé Api

The children of Ilé Apé are ready to give us a very special welcome


Description: Weavers of Ilé Api

Some of the weavers living at the foot of the Ilé Apé volcano on Lembata Island, every one a skilful drop-spinner


Description: Sunset

A stunning sunset behind the volcano of Ilé Apé from our evening mooring


The following day we continue our voyage eastwards, spending the morning on the tiny island of Ternate, where they produce over one hundred natural dyes, some from marine sponges and sea hares. We will have the chance to see and buy many of their fabrics and see how the fishermen make superb bamboo fishtraps. Over lunch we sail into Kalabahi harbour on the rarely visited island of Alor, mostly inhabited by Papuan people belonging to the Abui tribe with a very different culture from the people we have seen so far.

We will be invited to join in the hypnotic lego-lego dance before shopping for textiles, baskets and jewellery at a small pop-up market. We will return via the Kalabahi Museum of One Thousand Mokos, where we will see their fine display of textiles and bronze moko drums from across the island.


Description: Abui dancers, Alor Island

Women from the Abui tribe performing the lego-lego dance on Alor Island


Overnight we sail west to the extraordinary whaling village of Lamalera, on the southern side of Lembata, landing on the beach in front of a row of thirty whaleboat sheds. After a welcome by our friend, the kepala desa, we will be entertained with dance performances and shown demonstrations of local dyeing and weaving. Many textiles and other artefacts will be available to buy. We then go to the upper village to visit the school and the massive Catholic church of Saint Peter and Paul, getting excellent views of the boatsheds as we descend. Before we leave some of the local men will show us the dangerous techniques they use to harpoon huge passing whales from their tiny wooden sailboats.


Description: The village of Lamalera

The whaleboat sheds at Lamalera on Lembata Island


Lunch will be served as we begin our long sail across the Savu Sea to the beautiful non-volcanic low-lying island of Savu far to the south, whose people are renowned for their horsemanship, their dependence on the lontar palm tree and their fine weavings. After our busy schedule, this is an opportunity to wind down and relax.

After breakfast the next day we go ashore at Napae Bay, following in the footsteps of Captain Cook who landed HMS Endeavour on the same beach in 1770. We will drive to a tiny hamlet in the hills, where local weavers will warmly welcome us and show us how they still make their beautifully traditional naturally dyed cloths. The men will demonstrate how they climb the tall lontar palms to tap their delicious juice, which of course we will be able to sample. After lunch back on board, we return ashore to witness a cleansing ceremony, before being welcomed by ikat-clad horsemen showing us their riding skills. A short drive takes us to Namata, the most important ritual centre on the island, where we will visit the sacred enclosure of priests of the ‘Jingi Tiu’ religion, containing the largest grouping of megaliths on the island.


Description: Savu welcome

A formal welcome at the most important weaving hamlet on Savu Island


Description: Textiles for sale on Savu

Textiles for sale on Savu Island


Overnight we sail further west across the Savu Sea for the first of two fantastic days on the island of Sumba, the highlight of our tour. After breakfast we land on a sandy beach on the east coast of the island and drive off in a local bus to visit two amazing but quite different royal villages, each with megalithic graves surrounded by tall traditional thatched houses. We will meet members of two local royal families and see how they make some of the finest textiles to be found on the island, using the techniques of supplementary warp and warp ikat - sometimes even combining both techniques in one textile. The choice of high-quality textiles for sale is mindblowing. We return to our phinisi for lunch while we sail northwards.

The next day we drive from the port of Waingapu to a local weaving studio where we will be given an in-depth demonstration of how the islanders make their amazing pictorial men's blankets, many of which will be for sale. That afternnon we drive to a rarely visited weaving village to be greeted by ikat-clad warriors on horseback. Sitting in the shade on the veranda of a traditional house we are welcomed by the entire village and entertained with traditional dances that are still used to welcome important visitors and were used in the past to welcome the warriors back from their headhunting expeditions. Textiles will be hanging everywhere and we will be offered a huge array of jewellery, statues, boxes, baskets and other crafts.

On our last night, as we cruise north, you will be invited to dress lavishly in your finest ikat cloths for our farewell dinner party with the captain and crew.


Description: Sumba textiles

Some of the fabulous textiles on offer to our guests on Sumba island


Description: Indigo dyer

An indigo dyer taking a rest on her veranda on Sumba island


Description: Weaving pahikung in East Sumba

Weaving a woman's skirt decorated with supplementary warp in a small village in East Sumba


Description: Young dancers, Kambera, East Sumba

Young dancers performing at an important ikat-producing village in East Sumba


After crossing the Savu Sea for the final time, we make an early morning stop at the small dock on Rinca Island, one of the three islands in Komodo National Park that are home to the world's largest lizard - the Komodo dragon. Park rangers will lead us on a short walk across the island to see some of the the local dragons as they warm themselves in the early morning sun. Back on board, we will enjoy brunch during our short sail to our final port of call, Labuan Bajo. After saying goodbye to our crew we will be escorted to nearby Komodo Airport for our onward journey.


Description: Komodo dragon on Rinca

A Komodo Dragon on Rinca Island


In village after village we will see every aspect of ikat production and natural dyeing and have the opportunity to purchase fabulous textiles directly from the women who made them. Before each visit guests will be fully briefed so that they completely understand the type of textiles and techniques they will encounter and the role that cloth plays within the local community. We also see villagers dressed in the same ceremonial outfits that they wear for their own private traditional rituals and festivals - textiles that you would never see if you visited these villages alone.

Our journey will take us through a dramatic volcanic and non-volcanic landscape during which there will be time to relax, write-up journals, swim, snorkel, sunbathe, and beachcomb.

Come and join us on a fantastic, adventurous voyage of a lifetime!


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The Pre-Cruise Tour

Because there are some important ikat-producing villages on Flores Island that cannot be easily accessed by sea, we decided to offer our textile cruise guests the opportunity to begin their adventure with a short pre-cruise tour. This gives them time to adjust to the slower tempo of life in the eastern islands and gel as a group. During the past eight years only eight of our guests have not taken up the pre-cruise option.

The four-day pre-cruise tour includes the domestic flight from Denpasar to Ende, where we will spend the first night in a city hotel, two nights in the beautiful rural Kelimutu EcoLodge at Moni on Flores Island, all meals, all local transport, English-speaking guides and local tips. It excludes alcoholic beverages and laundry.

Our guests will be met on their arrival at Ende Airport following their morning flight from Denpasar on Bali, which involves a stop-over at Labuan Bajo airport. We will immediately set off to see some of the highlights of Ende, including the Catholic Cathedral, a local market and the Bung Karno Museum, the former home in exile of Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement, who would later become the nations's first President. It was here that he formulated his mission statement for an independent nation, which would eventually be known as the Pancasila.


Description: The Bung Karno Museum in Ende City

The Bung Karno Museum in Ende City


The next morning we will make a short drive up to a weaving hamlet in the district of Ndona, where a small cooperative produce traditional Lio ikats using only natural dyes. It is typical of the many small-scale weaving ventures that we will be encountering over the next two weeks. From here we head into the mountains to spend a few hours in a fascinating hill-side village where textiles are a feature of daily life, but where weaving is actually banned. It is inhabited by the Lio mountain people. We will enjoy our packed lunch in the village school, where the local children will entertain us with songs and dances, including the challenging bamboo dance. Afterwards our host and friend, the local clan leader (called a mosa laki) will escort us around the village and explain about its history and culture.


Description: A small weaving cooperative

A small weaving cooperative at Ndona on Flores Island


Description: Lio mountain village

Our friendly host and the chief of the Wolo clan in front of his ancestral home in a small Lio village in the mountains of Flores


Our home for the next two nights will be the modern ensuite bungalows at the Kelimutu Crater Lakes EcoLodge in Kelimutu National Park, set beside a babbling mountain stream and surrounded by rice fields. The climate is cool and fresh, and the EcoLodge gardens are a haven for wildlife.


Description: Bungalows at Kelimutu EcoLodge

Some of the bungalows at Kelimutu EcoLodge, Moni


The view from one of our bungalows at the EcoLodge


After breakfast the following day we drive towards the coast to visit a remote Lio weaving village that is renowned for its culture and the quality of its ikat textiles. We will be shown all stages of the weaving process, will be invited into local houses and served local coffee and fresh coconut. We return to the EcoLodge for lunch before venturing out to a quite different weaving village, which is half Christian and half Muslim. It also produces textiles, but with different designs and motifs. In the evening we will enjoy a traditional Lio feast at the EcoLodge and will be entertained by a local cultural dance group.


Description: Lio weavers

A local cooperative in the most important Lio weaving village in the Ende region


After early morning coffee on the fourth day, we will drive up to the Kelimutu volcano carpark from where we can walk to views over the extraordinary crater lakes within its three calderas. Not only does each lake have a different colour, but the colours vary over time. Back at the EcoLodge we will enjoy a well-earned late breakfast before heading off to the port of Maumere, where we board our phinisi in time for lunch.


Description: Kelimutu crater lakes

The amazing volcanic crater lakes in Kelimutu National Park tinted with three different colours - the only place on Earth where this colour variation takes place


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How to Book

We are currently finalising the planning for next year's tour.

If you would like to register your interest, please contact David and Sue directly at


Description: Children having fun

Children having fun in the whaleboat sheds on the beach at Lamalera, Lembata Island


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Life On Board

Life on board is laid back, with few formalities. The itinerary is planned so that we spend most of each day ashore, but always return for lunch. Meals are almost always taken on deck, under the shade of a large awning. Nothing beats having a delicious breakfast watching the stunning scenery as we arrive at our next port of call. If we are unlucky and there is a passing rain shower we can retreat into the lounge, which has plenty of seats and tables. Before dinner guests can enjoy a cocktail, wine or beer as we brief them about tomorrow's destination. We hand out detailed printed notes after each talk, so that guests can return home with a complete record about the history, anthropology and textiles of every destination.

We go ashore using two small motorised tenders. Some landings are dry at a dock, while others are wet. Crew members are always on hand to assist.

Dress is casual, most people preferring shorts and t-shirts on deck and of course swimwear when they are sunbathing. However many of our guests like to wear something a little smarter for dinner, while still remaining informal. On shore we advise our guests to cover their upper arms, shoulders and knees. The people of the Lesser Sunda Islands are very conservative and, while they are all far too polite to criticise, we want to dress appropriately.

Returning by tender from our village visits you will be welcomed back on board with cold, freshly squeezed fruit juice and cool, damp towels with which to refresh yourself. Tea, coffee, soft drinks and mineral water are all complimentary, as is the use of the snorkelling equipment and sea kayaks. A selection of beer, wine and spirits is available at reasonable prices.


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Guest Testimonials


You both did so much to make our recent trip enjoyable and meaningful for us and the rest of the guests. It was special for us to have the benefit of your deep knowledge throughout the trip. Sue, you were especially good at making sure we saw things you thought would be interesting from a practitioner's perspective; David, you were generous sharing your expertise about the science and process behind the textiles. Thank you both so very much.



What a trip! Thanks for all your prep and guidance. It’s really hard to explain to others how rich this trip was. I’m slowly sorting pictures. I also got bits of the various people singing and playing their music and it helps to describe the experience. Thank you so much for the great opportunity. I loved the trip!


DM, New Zealand

We had a wonderful tour, in large part due to the expertise of you both. That you had made great efforts over many years to track, and to support, so many villages was great to see. I doubt that we shall get back to those regions again, so experiencing them in depth was a delight.



In all seriousness and I hope indeed you had a chuckle, your trip was well researched and truly magnificent. Thank you for sharing your love of this beautiful part of Indonesia. An incredible learning and human experience.



To read a blog written by a guest on our 2019 textile tour, please click here.



Although my interest in traditionally made ethnic textiles was a notch below my obsession with travel photography, David and Sue Richardson’s superbly planned and organized tour 'Tribal Weavings of the Lesser Sunda Islands' and its Pre-Cruise program was a trip of a lifetime. We visited villages of whale hunters, horsemen, kings and queens, ancestor worshippers, former headhunters, and above all else, spinners, dyers and weavers of remarkable textiles. The traditions of these villages go back hundreds of years, and many are still quite isolated from the Western world. As a travel photographer, I am always looking for the unusual and extraordinary, and this trip had it in spades. In addition, the companionship of a small group of likeminded people, the depth of knowledge and experience David and Sue shared with us, the flawless execution by the ship’s crew and kitchen staff and the bonus of snorkeling and visiting the Komodo dragons - I would give this trip an A+.


GA, Mexico

I don't quite have the words to fully capture the incredible experience I had on the textile tour of the islands. It was simply AMAZING! Each day brought a new and delightful surprise. The meticulous planning, execution, and information provided made every moment memorable. I particularly enjoyed the evening talks where we delved into the history, techniques, and significance of the textiles we were about to encounter. Despite my limited understanding, the richness of each experience left me in awe. This tour isn't just a treat for us textile enthusiasts; it's a lifeline for the villages we visited. It's heartwarming to witness how our presence helps sustain their traditions and supports the talented women who keep them alive. The joy on their faces when we appreciate their craft and capture their essence in photos is truly priceless. Exploring the natural dyes and learning about the intricate processes behind them was enlightening. But what truly made the journey extraordinary was the opportunity to connect, even briefly, with the people behind the craftsmanship. The exhilarating boat rides between islands will forever be etched in my memory. Despite being a seasoned traveler, this adventure stands out as one of the best in my life. Every day was filled with surprises, whether it was a scenic school bus ride, a leisurely walk, or a thrilling snorkeling session against the backdrop of an active volcano at sunset. Sue and David are not just experts; their passion for Indonesia and Ikats is infectious, leaving me eagerly anticipating the next adventure even before this one ended.


JR, Australia

This trip has been an amazing adventure and I have learnt so much about Indonesian textiles from remote islands, their cultures and their dyes. It was truly an honour to be guided through the process by David and Sue, whose knowledge, love and passion for not only the textiles but also the people, is immense. They were generous to a fault and it is hard to imagine, in fact impossible to imagine trying to do a similar trip by yourself.



It went far beyond any expectation I had of seeing what's left of natural dyeing, handspinning and backstrap weaving.


TH, Canada

Thank you also for putting together such an amazing trip. Using your knowledge and research you really did put together a fabulous itinerary that gave us a perspective into Indonesian culture (and its textiles!!!!) that I don't think we could have got on any other trip.


MT, Australia

What a wonderful trip it was! A truly memorable experience! I felt greatly privileged to visit many of the villages where 'modern life' has not as yet had a great impact. The villagers were so friendly, welcoming and generous to us with their hospitality. Thank you both for creating this tour - it is quite special and your knowledge and expertise adds a whole other level to it. Travelling on the Ombak Putih too was such an experience, with the crew being second to none!



Sue and David Richardson's textile tour was a trip of a lifetime and provided a rare opportunity to explore the indigenous cultures of each island visited. At each village, our group was welcomed with music and dancing, as though we were VIPs. Sue and David gave very informative lectures each night, describing the next day's explorations. We saw beautiful people and textiles, lush landscapes, and interesting museums and architecture; and enjoyed gourmet dining at each meal on the beautiful ship. Plus, the photographic opportunities are endless. I give this trip five stars!


JC, Malaysia

Sue and David. Many thanks again for all your hard work and efforts to make this trip a truly memorable, enjoyable and adventurous one.



Having Sue and David Richardson as subject matter experts made all the difference between a generic trip and an informative learning experience. The time and effort they put into developing the itinerary, creating professional PowerPoint slides, delivering lectures every evening, answering questions, etc., was huge and enabled all of the guests to understand how and why the textiles are made and used. The rapport they had already established with people on each island enhanced our interactions greatly.

This trip was one of the best I have had, due in large part to David and Sue and the entire crew.


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External Links

To visit our Textile Tour Facebook page please click here.


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This webpage was first published on 24th January 2016. It was last updated on 15 June 2024.