Wae Rebo Traditional Village

Wae Rebo Village, located in the Manggarai on the Island of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara Province – Indonesia. Wae Rebo is the only village in the entire district which still hosts the complete village structure including the traditional houses (mbaru niang house –a cone shaped house with massive roof made of layers of palm leaves and wooden structure), a drum house as symbol of the unity of the clan and communal building as well as the stone altar compang, where the souls of the ancestors are believed to stay. This village was designated as Asia–Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2012 by UNESCO.

Wae Rebo is small, very out of the way village. Situated on around 1.100 meters above sea level and the village can only be reached by way of a three-hour hike (depending on your physical condition) from the lowlands. The hike is definitely worth the effort: the dense rain forest along the narrow path to Wae Rebo is one of a stunning biological diversity. Not only does it host interesting vegetation, including orchids, palms, and different ferns, but also an impressive population of singing birds. There is also no mobile coverage in this village. The air is relatively cold, especially in the dry season. So don’t forget to bring your jacket if you’re planning to visit the village.

Founder of the village and, therefore, their main ancestor who built the village some 100 years ago, was a man called Empu Maro. Today, the inhabitants are his 18th generation descendants. Wae Rebo’s main characteristics are their unique houses, which they call Mbaru Niang that are tall and conical in shape and are completely covered in lontar thatch from its rooftop down to the ground. It appears that at one time such kind of houses were quite common to the region. But today, it is only this village that continues to maintain the typical Manggarai traditional house, without which these unique houses would have been completely fazed out.

The house has five levels, each level designated for a specific purpose. The first level, called lutur or tent, are the living quarters of the extended family. The second level, called lobo or attic, is set aside to store food and goods. The third level called lentar is to store seeds for the next harvest. The fourth level called lempa rae is reserved for food stocks in case of draught, and the fifth is top level, called hekang kode, which is held most sacred, is to place offerings for the ancestors.

One special ceremonial house is the community building where members of the entire clan gather for ceremonies and rituals. They are predominantly Catholic but still adhere to old beliefs. In this house are stored the sacred heirloom of drums and gongs.

With a small population of around 1.200 inhabitants only, the village comprises 7 houses. The staple diet of villagers is cassava and maize, but around the village they plant coffee, vanilla and cinnamon which they sell in the market, located some 15 km away from the village.

Lately, however, Wae Rebo has grown in popularity as a tourist destination for international ecotourism enthusiasts, and this has added to the economic welfare of the village. The people of Wae Rebo warmly welcome visitors who wish to see their village and to experience their simple traditional life.

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