A few of the more adventurous tourists make the journey to remote Lamalera each year. Enjoy your time by walking on the beach before starting your adventure with a local boat to learn more about the sperm whale or other animals ie: dolphins, manta rays, turtle. If you are lucky, you will directly see how the fisher folks catch the whales by using their traditional gear.
When I chose to visit Indonesia, I didn’t know where to go as it’s so big with 16000 islands, and I only had one month more or less. So when I started to get to know the people and places, and understand the Indonesian melting pot I was really confused. Where to go? Papua, Bali, Sulawesi or Banda Island? I also don’t enjoy plane rides so I decided to go east – from Java to Lembata, which is close to East Timor, by taking the local buses or boats in order to try to understand, speak, meet, laugh, drink, smoke, and eat with the locals as much as I can. One month was not a lot so the decision was to not stay in touristic places like Bali but instead, visit little villages and islands. Every time, everyday, every night to the East, and I wanted to reach Lamalera.
During my stay in the village, a whale was brought in only once. When the fishermen brings the whale onto the beach, everyone comes down to the beach, and children jump and play on the back of the whale. It’s a celebration after a long wait – from May to August they only caught six whales.
I spent almost five days there and I became a close friend of the harpooner Stefanus, he was the one who killed the whale. In the next few days, he introduced me to all the other villagers. It was very funny for me to spend hours to try to speak to them with my basic knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia and with their basic English. The electricity in Lamalera is only from 6pm to 8pm and my nights at the harpooner’s house were unforgettable: drinking tuak, smoking, I had a really great time. They told me beautiful stories about the hunt for whales and for me it was like being in the novel, “Moby Dick”. I was happy to be really integrated into the community.
You can agree or not with their way of living, and I don’t want to judge whale hunting. They can end all hunting of cetacean mammals, they might move to an annual quota as the Innuit did or turn their skills into whale and dolphin hunting into watching trips for tourists.
But that’s not the point, they only hunt for what they can see with their own eyes. Their way of life hasn’t changed for hundreds of years – a group of skilled fishermen using only their bodies and extraordinary bravery to catch a 25-meter long sperm whale to provide enough food and materials for their whole village. Whale hunting is a tradition connected to every aspect of life in Lamalera.