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The spread-out and distinctly rough-around-the-edges looking port city of Maumere is one of the biggest in Flores and tends to attract far more sailors and traders from Sulawesi, Timor and further afield than it does tourists, with the latter often opting to stay well out of town along the beautiful coastline to the east of Maumere than in the city proper.
Maumere used to be one of Asia's finest diving sites until the arrival of the December 1992 6.8-magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a powerful tsunami. At least 2,500 people were killed by the combination of the trembler and the waves. In the process, the remarkably biodiverse coral reefs that attracted international tourists were destroyed, and the diving -- and tourism -- industry here has never quite bounced back.
However, intrepid divers are still able to see some interesting critters with a bit of effort and patience, including the rare mimic octopus and a veritable profusion of nudibranches. There are also wreck dives, and snorkellers we spoke to most recently in April 2014 had good things to say about the conditions, though we found them less exciting -- perhaps we swam in the wrong direction. Still, if nothing else the beaches are very pretty in places, and the undeveloped coastline, with a jungle-wrapped ridge plunging to the water, with islands dotted offshore, is extremely beautiful.
Land-bound travellers in Maumere may not find the city itself charming, but it's possible to take day trips to a number of interesting villages nearby, including the Catholic weaving community of Sikka. If time allows it's worth stopping here for a few days if you're headed to Larantuka or to the Solor and Alor island chain.
While there is accommodation in Maumere proper, unless you have some particular reason for staying in town, you are far better off heading out to the east of town, where, up to 30 kilometres away, small family-run beachside resorts and bungalow operations offer ample opportunity to destroy, or at least delay, the best planned of itineraries.
While Maumere town is a bit of a sprawl, the central part of it is compact and easily walked. ATMs are easy to find in the downtown area, including BNI, which accepts Visa cards.
There are a number of internet cafes as well: look for the distinctive blue and white globe sign. Telkomsel has a good 3G signal.
Maumere's airport is a short drive to the east of town.
By Faine Greenwood.