Tribal Weavings of the Lesser Sunda Islands
The Textile Tour Itinerary
The Pre-Cruise Tour
How to Book
Life On Board
The Ombak Putih
Guest Testimonials
External Links


Tribal Weavings of the Lesser Sunda Islands

The most exciting textile 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, schools, churches and mosques, as well as swimming, snorkelling and relaxing.

This year's tour, which will be our seventh, will be the most extensive we have ever led, with visits to some of the most remote islands in the region. 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 Textile Tour Itinerary

Our seventh textile cruise begins on Thursday 12 May 2022 and ends on Monday 23 May 2022. An optional four-day overland pre-cruise tour begins on Monday 9 May and ends on 12 May. Full details of both are given below. Our eighth cruise is scheduled for May 2023.

If you want to experience this unique opportunity to enjoy an amazing textile tour, run by a reliable cruise company and led by experts who really know the region and its people, why not join us? We still have a couple of cabins available for 2022 but 2023 is filling fast.

We begin each cruise at the port of Maumere on the north coast of Flores Island and finish at the port of Labuan Bajo on the west coast of Flores. Both places are connected by short inexpensive direct flights to Bali. We spend our first day and a half exploring a number of very different villages in the district of Sikka before sailing along the north coast of Flores into the spectacular bay of Larantuka. We spend the morning in a small and friendly village of Lamaholot weavers before sailing east to stop at a spectacular location just north of Adonara Island for a swim and snorkel.


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

Musicians at a weaving hamlet in the highlands of Sikka


Description: Village welcome in East Flores

A village welcome in East Flores


Description: The Ombak Putih moored in Larantuka Bay

The Ombak Putih moored in Larantuka Bay with the islands of Adonara and Solor in the distance


From our 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 Api. Here local weavers produce some of the finest ikat textiles in the region. 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. Over lunch we sail into Kalabahi harbour on the rarely visited island of Alor, mostly inhabited by Papuan people with a very different culture from those we have seen so far.


Description: The children of Ilé Api

The children of Ilé Api 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 Api volcano on Lembata Island, every one a skilful drop-spinner


Description: Sunset

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


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 30 whaleboat sheds. After a welcome by 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 whales from their tiny wooden sailboats.


Description: The village of Lamalera

The whaleboat sheds at Lamalera on Lembata Island


From Lamalera we sail south to the City of Kupang on Timor Island, landing next to the ruins of the old Dutch fort. We drive to a small hamlet for an audience with the charming King of the Amarasi, followed by a visit to a local weaving cooperative to see a demonstration of how they make naturally dyed Amarasi textiles. After returning for lunch on board we head out again to visit a tiny group of Helong weavers who will show us some of their natural dyeing techniques.


Description: Usif Robert Koroh

Usif Robert Koroh, the charismatic King of the Amarasi, and his wife Ratu Mira Syah, the daughter of the Sultan of Ternate


As the sun sets over Kupang Bay we embark westwards towards the small low-lying island of Savu, whose people are renowned for their horsemanship, their dependence on the lontar palm and their fine weavings.


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


The following day is less intense, exploring the textiles and culture of the rarely visited islet of Raijua, just west of Savu. We spend the afternoon swimming from one of Raijua's pristine beaches.


Description: Bapak Leonard Lai Kuji

Bapak Leonard Lai Kuji, the grandson of the last Raja of Raijua


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. We will see huge megalithic tombs and visit royal villages which produce some of the most beautiful and complex textiles in eastern Indonesia. The choice of high-quality textiles is mindblowing.


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 moor at a small fishing hamlet on Rinca Island, famous for its Komodo dragons. From Rinca it is just a few hours to our final port of call, Labuan Bajo.


Description: Weaving in East Sumba

The Ombak Putih at anchor at 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 - costumes 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. During the past four years only six of our guests have not taken up the pre-cruise option.

The 2022 four-day pre-cruise tour includes the domestic flight from Denpasar to Ende, where we will spend the first night, 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 direct late morning flight from Denpasar on Bali, which on the way temporarily touches down at Labuan Bajo airport for twenty minutes. After checking in to our modern hotel we will visit the local Bung Karno Museum, the former place of exile of Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement, who would later become the country's first President. It was here that he formulated his mission statement for an independent nation, which would eventually be known as the Pancasila.

The next morning we will make a short twenty-minute drive to a weaving hamlet 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 inhabited by the Lio mountain people, enjoying our packed lunch in the village school.


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 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. This evening we will enjoy a traditional Lio feast at the EcoLodge and will be entertained by a local cultural dance group.

After early morning coffee on the fourth day, we 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 enjoy a well-earned late breakfast before heading off to the port of Maumere, where we board the Ombak Putih in time for lunch.


Description: Lio weavers

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


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

Although we act as the onboard experts for this tour, your contract is with SeaTrek. All bookings are made through them - although we are of course happy to try to answer any queries you may have. The price is per person in a shared cabin. Solo travellers are most welcome and can either guarantee sole use of a cabin by paying a supplement, or agree to share a cabin with another guest (who will be allocated by SeaTrek - no need to find a cabin mate). The best way to book is by visiting the SeaTrek website and submitting the contact form.

To see details of the Textile Tour please click here.

To see details of the Pre-Cruise Tour please click here.


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 limited daily laundry and the use of the snorkelling equipment and sea kayaks. A selection of beer, wine and spirits is available at reasonable prices.

We usually arrange a beach barbeque on one evening, and hold a farewell dinner on the last night.

Captain Jufri and his dedicated crew hail from all regions of the archipelago and work extremely hard to ensure your trip is a remarkable and memorable experience.


Watch this short video to get a great idea what a cruise on the Ombak Putih is like. The destination of the cruise illustrated was the northern Maluku islands, which unfortunately do not produce textiles


Description: The partly shaded foredeck

The partly shaded foredeck



Relaxing in the shade on the foredeck



Cooking lunch in the galley



A 'wet landing' on a sandy beach


Description: Relaxing on a beach

Winding down in the warm sea just before sunset



Preparing for the end-of-tour dinner party



The Ombak Putih musical ensemble in party mood


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The Ombak Putih

The Ombak Putih ('White Wave') is a traditional Indonesian schooner, custom-built by Buginese shipbuilders in Kalimantan in 1995 and given a major interior refit in early 2015 using only the best traditional materials, shaped by highly skilled Indonesian craftsmen. In May 2019 she was fitted with a new wooden deck.

She is 42 metres long, with accommodation for up to 24 guests in 12 comfortable cabins. All cabins are located below deck and offer private en-suite bathrooms, portholes, individually controlled air conditioning, and ample storage space.



Deck plans of the Ombak Putih


On the main deck there is a spacious lounge and bar, with a 60-inch AV monitor where we give a short lecture before supper each evening.

The top deck has the wheelhouse and two different areas to relax – one shaded and one open to the sun. This is a great place to go after dinner and lie on a sunbed watching the star-filled sky and trying to spot a shooting star. There are even sleeping bags for guests who want to try sleeping outdoors.


Description: The crew of the Ombak Putih

The fantastic crew of the Ombak Putih


Description: Cabin with double bed

Cabin with double bed showing door to the shower, washbasin and toilet


Description: Cabin with two bunk beds

Cabin with two bunk beds showing door into the shower room


Description: Cabin with double bed

Cabin with double bed


Description: Lounge and bar with monitor

Lounge and bar with monitor. The 30-inch monitor shown has now been replaced with a much larger 60-inch monitor


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Guest Testimonials


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+.



It was the best trip I've had in years. I loved it. Thanks for making it so special.


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.

To visit the SeaTrek website please click here.


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This webpage was first published on 24th January 2016. It was last updated on 1 April 2022.