West Manggarai: It’s more than just Komodos

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West Manggarai: It’s more than just Komodos

West Manggarai regency in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), is famed for its Komodo National Park. But the park housing the magnificent giant lizards is merely one of the region’s many attractions.

Around 25 kilometers from Labuan Bajo, the regency's capital city, is Mbeliling, the largest forest in Flores that is more than 1,300 meters above sea level. Mbelling encompasses 72.4 square kilometers of protected forest, 41.8 square kilometers of conservation forest and 120 square kilometers of producing forest.

According to BirdLife International, Mbeliling is home to 29 different species of birds. Three of them - the Flores serindit (*Loriculus flosculus*), the Flores kehicap (*Monarcha sacerdotum*) and the Flores Gagak (*Corvus Floresis*) - are the island's endemic species. One particular species, locally known as *kaka ngkiong*, is famous for its ability to produce 77 different birdsong.

Mbeliling is home to a spectacular moss forest, whose dazzling green hue is quite breathtaking. Cunca Rami waterfall, with a pond to splash around in beneath it, is also an incredible vista, as is the Sano Nggoang crater lake.

Adventure seekers might opt to climb Mount Mbeliling from various access points: via Langgo hamlet in Wae village on the west side; Culu hamlet in Wae Lia; Cecer hamlet in Liang Dara village; or Lamung hamlet in Golo Ndaring village. Mbeliling forest itself is surrounded by 27 villages. The distance between them can be great, yet they are easily accessible during the dry season.

Accoding to Lamung hamlet resident Agustinus Suhardin, the period between June and September usually finds tourists coming down from Mbeliling forest to  visit Cunca Rami waterfall and Sano Nggoang Lake.

Julian from France was one of them. He was spending his holiday trekking through the forest with a friend as part of a tour program offered by a tour operator in Labuan Bajo. Accompanied by a local guide named Anton, they joined a group of people who were on their way to the Cunca Rami waterfall.

At  11:30 a.m., the trip kicked off with a trek to the valley down from the hills of Mbeliling forest. The group had to stop frequently since huge tree roots and rocky paths made the track a challenging one every now and then.

After 30 minutes,  they arrived at Tua hamlet, Beo Jing. Legend has it that if a child or elderly person goes missing from one of the villages around Mbeliling, the locals should look for them from the top of Mount Beo Jing, where spirits are said to gather.

The trip then continued on to Lamu hamlet. During the journey, the group stopped at three wellsprings to partake of the forest's cool and refreshing water.

The group received a warm welcome upon arriving at Lamu hamlet in Mbeliling. They proceeded to eat together at the house of one of the local residents before heading off to the 100-meter-high Cunca Rami waterfall and Sano Nggoang Lake

"This is the first time I ever ate rice," said Julian, who also enjoyed the delicious Manggarai coffee. (Kes)