Homestay Lamalera

Lamalera lies on the southern coast of Lembata, approximately 50km from Lembata’s capital, Lewoleba. This village, of more than 2.000 people, is most famous for its whale hunting tradition. It is one of the last traditional whaling communities in the world. The people of Lembata have been hunting whales in the Sawu Sea, a migratory route for different whale species and other large sea life, for nearly 600 years. Lamalera’s ancient beliefs, use of traditional hunting methods and reliance on whaling as a pivotal food source and barter item have exempt the village from the international ban on whaling. The whale meat, as well as that of manta rays, sharks and dolphins is traded in the local barter market for fruits and vegetables that are grown in other parts of the island. Visitors are drawn to Lamalera’s unique culture and authentic lifestyle, which has continued largely unchanged for centuries.


Four Lamalera families have joined the homestay network. Their houses provide comfortable private rooms which include a mattress, mosquito net and lockable door. Other amenities vary depending on the homestay. The bathroom facilities are shared and are either located behind or within the houses. They feature a traditional squatter toilet and bucket shower. Electricity is provided from 6pm until 12am daily.

Some village history

During the 1970’s P. Arnoldus Dupon, a Dutch priest, was working in Lamalera. He supported Abel Beding to build a home stay, supporting the local community to develop tourism activities. P. Arnoldus lived in Lamalera till he passed away in the ’90s. You can visit his grave at the local cemetery. It is local custom that community members build their tomb during life, as to prepare for when it is their time to depart this world. According to local belief the spirits rest at two islands close to Alor.

pictures : Nina van Toulon


According to Rafael Beding, son of Abel Beding, 300 years ago migrating fisherman founded this community. Three tribes – Blikololong, Bataona and Lewo Tukan – they came from Sulawesi and luhut Maluku Utaria. Life in the village revolves around whaling, migrating whales pass in front of the village, Sperm whales, Orca and Blue whales, the latter not being hunted because they consider the Blue whale as a friend. A legend tells about a sinking boat, a Blue whale rescued the fishermen and brought them ashore safely. Whale hunting is done with traditional wooden prahu – Tena. The boat builder is called Atamole / Labaktilo. The boat holds maximum 12 men – Meing – with one man at the front – the Lamafa – and one assistant – the Breung Alep. The captain – Lamauri – at the rudder. The man standing at the front is the one who holds the spear – Leke (bamboo) + Tale Kave (point and rope) = Tempuling (in Bahase Indonesia the set of spear, metal and rope).

In the village 18 men hold the spear. This task is handed over from father to son, unless the son has moved away, then a person from another family is chosen. The Lamafa is a man of standing, a good and courageous person. To kill an Orca means luck. The catch is equally shared by all in the village. It is also shared with other communities on the island.

According to Rafael the village respects conservation, not hunting baby whales and not hunting aggressive whales. According to local beliefs the tradition revolves around three things, the boat, the traditional house and the whale. The hunt is dangerous and safety depends on exact timing. It is teamwork. The Lamafa and the Breung Alep need to coordinate every move. As soon as the whale is within reach, the Lamafa jumps of the boat as to add force to the spear, the Breung Alep is responsible for the rope attached to the spear; it must not entangled a person on board. The other boats approach to jointly bring the whale to shore. This might take one day and night. According to local beliefs, when an accident occurs during whaling, the cause is said to be an unbalance in the individual’s family situation. There are many legends about the whales. One story tells about the origin of whales. Buffalo’s came from the mountains, went into the water and changed into whales. Buffalo which were too slow to enter the water turned into the stones along the shore. These stones are worshipped in ceremonies.


Fishing, hiking, Ikat weaving, boat trip with fishermen and recommended to visit the market in Wulandoni, located close to Lamalera. Wulandoni Market is a traditional barter market in existence since more than a century. Women from farming and fishing communities meet and barter fruits, vegetables, tobacco and fish. This weekly meeting is also about socialising, sharing news.  The lady vendors are a mix of two religions, women from the farming communities being predominantly Catholic and women from the fishing communities partly Islamic, partly Catholic.

pictures : Nina van Toulon

Code of Conduct

When you visit Lamalera please respect the local Code of Conduct, established together with the homestay families and members of the community. All visitors to the homestays should follow these rules. Thank you for your understanding!

  • Visitors must register in the village guest book upon arrival;
  • Visitors should cover up appropriately during their stay in Lembata (please see the section below on suggested clothing). In traditional villages visitors must wear a t-shirt and a swimming shorts on the beach. In remote locations it is ok for women to wear bikinis;
  • Visitors should not give children money. If tourists wish to give food to children they must ask an adult for permission

  • If travelling as a couple, visitors should state that they are already engaged (bertunangan) to avoid being placed in separate rooms or to be turned away;
  • Being intimate/ showing affection (e.g. kissing) should be avoided in public areas and in the homestay;
  • Visitors may enter the local church and take photos as long as mass is not being held. During Sunday mass, only Christian visitors are allowed to enter the church. Visitors must wear appropriate clothing (please see the section below on suggested clothing);
  • When walking through a group it is polite to say permisi while bowing and walking through with your right hand held downwards in front of you;
  • Always give, pass and accept objects with the right hand;
  • During meals it is considered impolite to wear a hat;
  • During meals it is considered impolite to cough. If coughing, please say permisi (excuse me) and leave the table;
  • It is considered impolite to eat with crossed legs;
  • Visitors should always be friendly and open towards the locals and respect the local traditions.