The Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara stretches from Komodo in the west to West Timor in the east and down to Indonesia's southernmost island, Rote. In all East Nusa Tenggara includes more than 500 islands, many of them stunning, but for now it receives a fraction of the foreign visitors Indonesia hosts.
Those who do visit the area tend to focus on the westernmost region of the province, encompassing Komodo and Rinca and the long, thin island of Flores. Outside of these, save surfers and the most intrepid, independent travellers are few and far between.
The region is similar in some ways to the rest of Indonesia. Expect dramatic scenery, with towering volcanoes, beautiful beaches and dense jungle (that which hasn't been cut down, that is) accompanied by very limited infrastructure -- getting around, like elsewhere in the country, can be very time consuming.
There is one big difference: religion. East Nusa Tenggara is primarily a Christian region, with some 90% of the population identifying as Christian (Catholic and Protestant) and less than 10% being Muslim. You're far more likely to see churches than mosques as you make your way around.
Poverty, especially once you are out of the larger centres, is grinding -- this is one of the poorest provinces in the archipelago. While regional centres such as Labuan Bajo can feel quite prosperous, in the rural upcountry, beset by high unemployment, low secondary school enrolment and poor health services, the outlook is far more bleak.
As with the rest of Indonesia, agriculture and natural resource extraction are the main meal tickets, but tourism, especially in Flores and Komodo, shows considerable promise.
Komodo National Park, easily reached from Labuan Bajo in Flores, is a highlight for many visitors, boasting tremendous diving and snorkelling along with its namesake, the impressive Komodo dragons. Heading east, Flores delivers on volcanoes, cultural points of interest and excellent beaches. To the south, exotic Sumba is home to Nihiwatu beach and Rote attracts steady streams of dedicated surfers.
By and all though, Flores and Komodo attract the bulk of the foreign visitors to the region, and so it is there that we begin our coverage.
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