Lesser Sunda

The Island

The Lesser Sunda Islands or Nusa Tenggara stretch east of the island of Bali. The main islands of the archipelago are Lombok, Sumbawa, Sumba, Flores, Alor and Timor. Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi form the Greater Sundas. Read » How to get to Alor.

Located 7-8 degrees south of the Equator, the Lesser Sundas lie between the Sunda and Australian plates and are very complex geologically. They are also fairly 'young' islands, formed by the collision of those two continental plates, and are mostly mountainous with many active volcanoes. They are surrounded by some of the deepest seas in the world.

Map of Lesser Sunda Islands
Fig. Lesser Sunda Islands in yellow color among other Indonesia's Islands in light grey color.


Iklim di Kepulauan Nusa Tenggara semakin ke arah timur semakin bersifat kering. Dengan rata-rata air hujan 1.349mm tiap tahunnya, kepulauan ini merupakan terkering dibandingkan dengan wilayah kepulauan Indonesia lainnya, tetapi juga memiliki musim paling tidak menentu.


Letak wilayah kepulauan ini memanjang dari barat ke timur. Mulai dari Timur Bali di bagian barat sampai pulau Tanimbar di bagian timur.


Kain tenun Ikat, Taman Nasional Komodo, Komodo, Gunung Rinjani, Danau tiga warna Kelimutu.

Overview of Nusa Tenggara

Until the 15th century, Nusa Tenggara's contact with the outside world was mostly via traders from China and Portugal who came here looking for sandalwood, spices and other local products. When the Portuguese arrived in 1512, they also started zealously spreading their religion in the region. They first landed on Flores, Timor and Solor, and gave Flores its name, meaning flower in Portuguese. Later the Dutch expelled them from this area, and the Portuguese only maintained a foothold in East Timor.

Nusa Tenggara has a mostly dry climate, and many of its people are farmers or fishermen. Seaweed cultivation is an important part of the local economy. Many foreign aid projects are run in the region, not always successfully, partly due to corruption among the local authorities. Infrastructure is also underdeveloped compared to other parts of Indonesia. In many areas, barter economy continues due to limited cash among the local people. This can be seen at local markets, where Muslim fishermen trade their catch for rice, corn, vegetables and other products of the Christian people of the interior. In this trade, there are no fixed prices and quantities, it is based on mutual agreement and honesty. A bunch of bananas might be traded for a certain amount of small fish, or five cobes of corn for a plate of salt or 15 beetlenuts, or a tuna.

In reality, Nusa Tenggara isn't a poor region. It has many natural resources such as mangan and gold deposits, and a rich culture that is one of its main tourist drawcards, however these resources are yet to be properly exploited.

The People

It is thought that the ancient man, Homo erectus, migrated to the Lesser Sundas from Java via Bali when those two islands were still connected by land. However, east of Bali a deep sea trench separates Nusa Tenggara from the Greater Sundas so to reach these islands the ancient humans must have been far more able than previously thought. It is not known what happened to the Homo erectus here, and the modern humans living on these islands today are descendants of later waves of migrants.

Traditional houses at Waerebo Village, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara