Set on idyllic Kepa Island just a short boat ride off the southwest coast of Alor, French-run La P’tite Kepa delivers on just about everything we look for in a remote hippy-chic beach getaway; we loved it so much we booked a second stay before we even left the first time.
In business almost 20 years, hosts Cedric and Anne run a welcoming place that, while diving focused, welcomes divers and non-divers alike. It’s set on the north-facing shores of the island, so you can relax in a lazy chair (or hammock) and look out to sea towards Ternate while the sun sets in a fiery farewell behind the mountains of Pantar to the west.
Accommodation comes in three main flavours: traditional Alor bungalows (with shared-bathroom facilities), freestanding bungalows ideal for travelling couples, and two larger family houses that would comfortably sleep four. The set-up is all wooden, thatch and bamboo—don’t expect too many straight edges, there will be gaps in the walls and the floors will creak as you walk through, especially in the traditional bungalows where much of the floor is split bamboo.
Shared bathrooms, and the bathrooms in the private rooms, are clean and well kept, but fittings are basic. There is little running water, just a saltwater bucket flush for the loo and a freshwater bucket for the shower. The island is a dry rock, meaning all fresh water is brought from nearby Alor, so you’ll get a talk about being careful with how much water you use when you check-in.
We stayed in a traditional bungalow, which would work for two people, perhaps even three at a squeeze. The bed is upstairs and, as with all the beds, well mosquito-netted. The upstairs area has no windows, so it does get very dark and some may find it a bit warm or claustrophobic. You will bang your head. If you prefer, staff will move your bed downstairs and rig the net up there so you can sleep in the open air.
The freestanding bungalows are more traditionally formed and are mostly set a little back from the sea. They still enjoy scattered ocean views, both from inside and the deck areas. Beds are wood-framed with foldable mattresses and mosquito nets strung above. There are plenty of gaps, both between the rattan walls and the ceiling and, well, between just about every joint in the place. Expect some insects and perhaps other odd creepy-crawlies in the room.
The family bungalows are ideal for travelling families of four (they come with one double and two single beds, but these can be rearranged depending on demand). Essentially a larger version of the freestanding rooms, these are one large bedroom with a large private bathroom at rear and a super-sized balcony out the front. There are only two of these and they are extremely well placed to enjoy the ocean views.
La P’tite Kepa has picked up some of the family trade that has shifted from Kanawa Island in Flores (at it sadly continues to slowly fall apart); if you liked Kanawa, you will like it here. Reservations for these rooms in high season are essential. Light sleepers should note you’ll hear every moment of the 4:30am call to prayer from the mosque in Alor Kecil—pack earplugs if this is likely to bother you.
While La P’tite Kepa doesn’t consider itself to be a dive resort, most guests are divers—on our first stay we were one of only two guests who were not diving. If you are not planning on doing any diving, it’s best to let them know when making a reservation. Snorkellers are welcome to join the dive boat (for a reasonable 100,000 rupiah per person) which runs daily for two dives a day. See their website for charges related to diving and snorkelling.
Primarily due to the currents, diving in this region of Indonesia is for divers at a more advanced level than what you may encounter elsewhere. La P’tite Kepa is not a dive school; they suggest having a minimum of 30 dives under your belt before getting underwater here. If you only learned recently, it would be a good idea to accumulate this number of dives before coming.
Rates may seem high at first glance, but they are full board—breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included, and are served at the same time in a communal setting at one long table in the restaurant area. There is no a la carte and no 2pm plates of French fries. Breakfast is very simple, while lunch and dinner are Indonesian fare and of a high standard. The food is hearty, and comes in very generous servings.
Coffee, tea and boiled water are free, other drinks are limited to icy beers, a couple of soft drinks and bottled water. The drinks are extra, but prices are reasonable given the location. Extra adults in a room (beyond two people) attract a charge of 225,000 rupiah, kids under 10, 150,000 rupiah.
There is no air-con nor fans; the resort is solar powered and you can charge electronic gear. A 3G signal is available on the island, though it can be a bit hit and miss.
We loved it here, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for mod-cons and really prefer a Western style bathroom, you might leave disappointed. As the resort is small, it can feel a bit cliquey depending on who is there, but there is nothing else like it in this price range in the area—we liked it a lot.
If you’re looking for something more affordable (and more basic), consider Hirang Bungalows, a two-hour boat ride to the south of Kalabahi (it was unfortunately closed while we were in the area). If you’re looking for something more high end, with a matching price tag, consider the Alor Divers Resort on Pantar. There is also a homestay on Kepa Island, with a clutch of lumbung-styled rooms facing Alor Kecil, but it was not open for business when we visited.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 20th April, 2017.
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