The Lamalera Whale Hunters

Dolphin heads on the beach

When do indigenous hunting rights become a danger to the environment? Do we want whale hunting to become a tourist attraction? Should we eat in a restaurant that primarily serves dolphin meat? So many questions.

As we, along with our friends Elma and Marnix, approached the remote island of Lembata, Thomas and I were highly undecided about whether we wanted to visit Lamalera, the controversial whale hunting village on the south coast of the island.

Visitors to our site know we are very interested in the indigenous peoples of the world. But we are also dedicated wildlife lovers as well as avid divers. Lembata is really the first place where these interests have collided in such a dramatic way.

As we sat in Lembata’s tiny capital Lewoleba, I was still torn Continue…

Staring for Success

Third-world visas are the bane of our existence. Here in Indonesia, many regional immigration offices have a reputation for bureaucracy, corruption, incompetence, and downright meanness. The office here in Maumere is among the worst. For weeks, I’ve been dreading the thought of trying to extend our visa here, but to continue on to the end of Nusa Tenggara, an extension was essential.

Their requirements for an extension felt like the ultimate banana republic scavenger hunt. Using a template given to us by the immigration office, we had to type up two letters in Indonesian adapting them to our own personal situation. (Thank god for Google translation.) We had to find a local to “sponsor” us, get that local to sign our extension request letters as well as convince them to allow us to make multiple copies of their personal ID card to hand out to every bureaucrat under the Indonesian sun. Finally, we scrambled to find and purchase an Indonesian “authentication stamp” to stick next to our signatures, which in some way is meant to “prove” that our request letters were “official.” Geez. (I’d like to formally thank Jonny who runs that roadside Internet cafe / xerox copy / printout / web design / buy-what-you-need hut for his assistance in getting us that “authentication stamp.”)

After jumping through a hundred hoops, we submitted our grab bag of useless crap to the immigration office. The comatose bureaucratress, annoyed that we were disrupting her daily soap operas, smirk-screeched that our visa might Continue…