After a 3-hour trek it’s the view as you hike over the hill that takes your breath away. The seven circular cone shaped Mbaru Niang houses of Wae Rebo are built in a semi circle on a flat plain in a valley. The settlement is surrounded on all sides by rolling hills set against a backdrop of taller peaks that rise up into the sky. It’s a picturesque setting.
Flores is a culturally diverse island. There are six local languages spoken on Flores. Wae Rebo is a village of the Manggarai tribe. The tribe is settled in the provinces of West Manggarai Regency, Manggarai Regency and East Manggarai Regency in the West of Flores.
Within Flores the Manggarai are well known for their traditional martial art, called Caci. Demonstrations of Caci are held around the port town of Labuan Bajo and are a popular tourist attraction. Yet if you really want to experience Manggarai culture, and go on an adventure, you should visit Wae Rebo.
History of the Village
According to oral tradition Wae Rebo was settled 18 generations ago. An elder from the community had a vision. He led his tribe into the highlands of Flores where they settled under the protection of a friendly spirit.
In 1997 the local government took the first steps in supporting the development of Wae Rebo as a tourism destination. They invested in the construction of two Mbaru Niang houses. In 2008 s group of 15 Jakarta based architects, with support of the local government and the community, renovated the remaining Mbaru Niang houses. You can find more information about the development project for Wae Rebo here.
The Main Attractions
Wae Rebo is one of the most famous tourist attractions in West Flores. Wae Rebo is a lot of fun to visit and different than many of the ‘cultural villages’ that you can visit around Indonesia. And many countries in South East Asia…
One of the nice things about the village is just how isolated it is. It’s a 28 km hike through thick rainforest to Denge, the nearest village. At the moment the only way you can visit is if you stay overnight. The isolation limits the number of tourists that come to Wae Rebo. It makes the trip more about the experience.
During the day you can explore the valley, interact with the villagers and your travel companions or just read a book. It’s really up to you. At night the sky is filled with stars, which makes it a great spot for night photography. And you’ll get to sleep in one of the Mbaru Niang houses.
The Mbaru Niang houses, translated as ‘drum houses,’ are communal buildings. Built around a central pole with supporting bamboo beams and thatched roofs they’re enormous buildings. The houses are 5 stories high and can host up to 8 families, their crops and food.
Getting to Wae Rebo
For the moment Wae Rebo is bit difficult to get to. Denge, the nearest village, is a 3-hour drive from Labuan Bajo. Public transport is almost non-existent. You can make the trip by truck or boat, but realistically you’ll need to make the trip by car or motorbike. Then when you arrive at Denge you’ll need to find a guide to take you to the village.
Most travellers who visit the village join a group tour. The most popular package leaving from Labuan Bajo is the Wae Rebo 3 Day 2 Night Tour. It’s done in stages. On the first day you go to Denge via the spider web rice fields of Cancar. The next day you hike to Wae Rebo where you’ll spend the night. Then the third day you go back to Labuan Bajo.
Wae Rebo is one of the few cultural sites in Flores that really fascinates me. The unique architecture of the buildings and the beautiful setting and the fact you have to stay the night make Wae Rebo an adventure to visit. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a nature lover! For more ideas of trips around Flores you can visit this page.
Have you ever visited Wae Rebo? What did you think when you visited? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.