The sub-district of Riung, located to the north of Bajawa, is famed for its beautiful coral gardens. The coast and the surrounding area of the town of Riung have become a national conservation area, and were even given the status of a national park and named Pulau Tujuh Belas, or ‘Seventeen Islands’. In fact, the national park consists of more than 20 small and larger islands. The local people, though, have named the area ‘Riung Seventeen Islands’, a label that is easy to remember as it refers to the personification of a beautiful 17-year-old girl and also Indonesian Independence Day on the 17th of August.
The national park area is inhabited by various exotic species, e.g. the Timor deer, hedgehogs, monkeys, ferrets, the Timor monitor lizard, marsupials, and partridges. The large variety of birds, such as eagles, white herons, black storks, partridges etc, make the area a great spot for bird watching.
Even a moderate-sized species of a Komodo dragon named Mbou is said to exist in some regions such as Torong Padang, where it has been spotted in particular seasons only. It has hardly ever been encountered by either the conservation management or tourists.
The marine park status has been established to preserve the area’s underwater world. The Seventeen Islands area encompasses a rich coral-reef ecosystem where you can count up to 27 different species of coral. The Riung waters are home to plenty of exciting animals, ranging from marine mammals such as dolphins and whales to various colorful fish. The crystal-clear water makes it a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling, and underwater photography.
The biggest island is the hilly Ontoloe, which is covered with short grass and a few trees, as well as fringed with mangroves. On the north coast of Ontoloe, you can observe the famous large fruit bats, called ‘flying foxes’, flying over the mangrove trees.
A visit to Kalong, the ‘Flying Fox Island’, gives you the opportunity to see these fascinating animals as they fly into the sunset. The island of Bampa Barat is a temporary home to several fishermen, who sometimes sell their catch of the day directly from the boat.
If you plan to see the national park, you should also take some time for visiting Riung Village, as it offers you the possibility of unique cultural encounters. Lively celebrations of the Ngada people’s traditional hunting and boxing is just one part of their manifold cultural life.