Kei Islands : More Than a Pristine Beach

Kei Kecil

“The” beach

Kei is mostly known for the immense pristine beach on the east coast of Kei Kecil, a darling of Instagramers and drone photographers. It is usually called Pasir Panjang Beach and is bordered by the village of Ohoililir in the North and Ngurbloat in the South.

This beach is truly marvelous, long, pristine, almost empty at least outside the weekends and made of the finest white sand. Unfortunately it is not free from garbages (plastics, cans, diapers …).

The area near Ohoililir (in the North) is calmer and cleaner. Accomodations there are slightly more expensive and cater primarily to foreigners. Near Ngurbloat it’s a bit cheaper but also dirtier and plagued with karaoke.

Pantai Pasir Panjang Kei
Pasir Panjang Beach (“Long Sand Beach”)

If you love lying and chilling on the beach you’ll be in paradise here. Otherwise you might quickly get bored. There is not much to see if you go snorkeling from the beach.

From the beach, you can arrange an day-trip to explore some of the many islands off Kei Kecil. Trips usually includes a stop in the lagoon of Bair island as well as the sand bank called Ngurtavur Beach.

 

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Other places in Kei Kecil

From the beach, motorbikes rental is available for 100,000 or 150’000Rp a day (I forgot, I didn’t used it). If you want to use public transport, go back to Langgur market first and wait for a minibus to your destination.

Hitchhiking is also possible but you’ll have to be patient.

Kei Kecil
View from the coastal road of Kei Kecil

The cave of Hawang is surprising. It’s a natural pool of crystal clear water in a cave. Entrance is 10’000Rp (two caves).

Not very far, you have the public pool of Evu, a good idea if you want to swim in freshwater.

Kei Besar

From Langgur market, take an angkot for Watdek (5,000Rp). There is at least one boat leaving daily for Elat Kei Besar at 2PM for 50,000Rp. If forgot if there are any other departures.

Another possibility is the ASDP ferry leaving from Tual and heading to Larat. You can put a motorbike in this ferry. Other departures to Dobo (Aru islands), Tayando and Kuur in the Kei archipelago. Check ASDP website for more details, cross-check those information with the local office because the website is not always reliable.

Many beach stalls on Pasir Panjang beach on Kei Kecil have a administrative map of Kei islands with the name of many villages. Try to take a picture of it before heading to Kei Besar.

From Larat, you can make a nice 2h walk to Waur in the South and check the old stone slabs for offerings. Pack-up a lunch or be ready to ask the villagers because you won’t find any warung on the way.

Waur Kei
A friendly family in Waur

Heading North, walking along the coast is very pleasant. I’ve been up to Bombay but the road continues much further. Many houses are built on stone terraces.

Kei Besar

Public transports are scarce in Kei Besar, if you really want to explore the island seriously I guess your best option is to manage to rent a motorbike in Tual and bring it by the ASDP ferry to Larat.

Kei Besar

Tanimbar Kei

From Langgur market in Kei Kecil, take an angkot to Debut. There wait for a fishing boat to leave to Tanimbar Kei. Morning and noon is usually a good time to catch a boat.

I happened to go to Tanimbar Kei on a party day. Villagers were celebrating the first native pastor to take office on the island. Many relatives from another village in Kei Kecil joined in for the celebration. As a consequence, transport was free. It took us 3 hours to get there and 4h30 to come back.

Tanimbar Kei is a remote island habited by an old community living in a sole village. They used to have their own system of belief, which is now classified as a sect of Hinduism for administrative purposes.

The following is based on the book : “Tanebar-Evav : Une Société de Maisons Tournée Vers le Large” by French ethnographer Cécile Barraud.

Traditionaly, the inhabitants of Tanimbar-Kei or Tanimber Evav as they call it believe in 9 pairs of mythical ancestors (the Wadar) thought to have disappeared in the sea. Those ancestors were worshipped in altars located in the houses and outside and regularly fed with meat of turtles, dolphins and dugongs. The upper village is constituted primarily of 23 traditional houses (rumah adat) belonging each to a lineage. The children build houses in the lower village but at the death of their parents, the elder will move to the upper village to carry on the rituals.

Today, a large part of the population has converted to Protestantism but a significant share still adhere to the old belief. For administrative purpose, they are considered as members of a sect of Hinduism, hence the Balinese temple next to the upper village.

Tanimbar Kei
View on the lagoon at high tide from the upper village

Community fishing

First a very long rope is prepared and pieces of palm leaves are attached roughly every meters.

Then everyone sets out for a bay near the village

From one end of the beach, the men starts to drop the line, regularly someone jumps into the water and grabs the line.

Now comes the tidious part, pulling the rope from the beach. Men who jumped in the water hit the surface of the water with their arm to push the fishes back in the trap. At then end, they are all concentrated in a small space, a net can be used to get them all.

Result :

Fishing Kei

The island and its people

Tanimbar Kei
The daughter of the village head who was busy all day to cook because of all the guests

Practical tips

There is a very comprehensive section about Kei islands on East-Indonesia.

How to come to Kei ?

There is an airport on Kei Kecil, with daily flights to Ambon.

Otherwise the harbour of Tual is well connected to other harbors thanks to Pelni ships, you may want to check the guide to boat travel in Indonesia. You need to wait roughly 10 days between each connection to Banda or Ambon by boat.

Local transport

From Tual harbour, take an public minibus (angkot) to Langgur (5,000Rp). From Langgur market wait for another minibus to Ohoililir or Ngurbloat (7,000Rp).

From Langgur market to Debut, the ride is 7,000Rp.

Where to stay ?

  • In Langgur, Wisma Matahari is a good pick, 135’000Rp for a simple double room (fan, cold shower), near the market hence the public transports as well as some simple restaurants.
  • Near Pasir Panjang beach, many options available but nothing cheap for Indonesian standards. If you are really on a budget it’s better to stay in Langgur I guess. I didn’t like the concentration of foreigners altogether of Ohoililir and I tried Ngurbloat but karaoke are a real plague and there is not much options to eat for a reasonable price. I stayed at homestay Romeo, 150’000Rp for a simple double room.
  • In Larat, there is simple but nonetheless great guesthouse near the harbor that charges 75’000Rp per night.
  • In Tanimbar Kei, ask the village head, don’t abuse people hospitality. I left 150,000Rp per day I spent in the village for food and accomodation.

Map

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