Island of Flores, Indonesia
Up high in the hills of the Sano Nggoang region, Flores, lies Melo Village, the home of the Caci Dance.
Melo Village is 17km south-east from Labuan Bajo, which is the main port of entry from the nearby islands of Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands. Surrounding the Melo community are steep forests of banana and palm trees; intertwining roads between the vegetation which farmers use to herd their livestock.
The Caci Dance Ceremony
The Caci Dance is a traditional performance of the Manggarai community, which has been performed frequently for decades. It consists of two tribes from nearby villages, putting forward their best fighter to battle one another with whips and shields while dancing to the rhythm of traditional acoustic instruments.
I strolled around, taking photos as the men were preparing the costumes and dance tools; the women synchronously beating on metal drums, which are put together with three pieces of wood, hung and held by a string.
It all begins with the elder members of the village grouping together and humming an opening ceremonial chant. At the same time, the fighters circle them, allowing the acoustics to psyche them up for the pending battle. Throughout the building, crowds from nearby villages gather together, cheering for their community.
During the battle, the fighters give each other turns on striking one another.
If one fighter manages to get a hit to the head or the face, this means they instantly win the battle. A strike on the back is seen as a good sign – meaning that the tribe will have a promising harvest next crop cycle.
Caci Dance equipment
For the battle, they use a larik (the whip made of rattan) for striking & a nggiling (the shield – made out of buffalo hide) for defending. There’s the songke (an Indonesian sarong), the belt and the nggorong bell – an attachment on the fighters belt that creates a jingling sound, similar to that made from cattle bells.
There is a lot of hidden meaning behind the equipment used by the Caci fighters. The whip symbolizes the male, the father, and the sky. The shield represents the female, the female womb and the earth. The collision of the whip and the shield represent a sexual unity and the giving of life.
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It is not mandatory, but a donation of 1,000,000 RP is recommended for the performance & the a glass of sopi provided ( local palmed wine). It does sound steep for what it is, but they appreciate anything that you have to give. Remember that there are around 30-40 people taking part in the performance.
Getting to Melo Village
To find the Melo Village, you will need to drive for 45 minutes from Labuan Bajo town, up to the Jl Trans Flores motorway. The journey is approximately 25 km. It’s not that difficult as you’d be following one road for the majority of the trip, but make sure you search the directions. Search for Melo Village on either Google Maps & Maps.Me.
As you reach the village, on the left side of the road, there is a grass pathway that leads you up to the opening. It isn’t that obvious- it isn’t signposted, so be on the lookout. Below, I have a photo of the opening gate.
Organising a tour
ToursByLocals – ToursByLocals is a fantastic group which pairs you up with someone from the town, who can provide you with an authentic tour with real local knowledge. What is great by using them is that your money is going directly into the pockets of the locals who are welcoming you into their hometown. It’s important to give back to the places we go to, and using a local is doing just that!
Where to stay in Labuan Bajo
Luxury – Plantaran Komodo Beach
Middle Class – Le Pirate Island
Budget Accom- Homestay Sahu– This is where I stayed during my 3 nights in Labuan Bajo. The owner is really friendly & welcoming. She has many nearby recommendations, including the stunning Cunca Rami Waterfall
Click below for Indonesia Guidebooks by Lonely Planet
Melo Village location:
Below you can find the location of Melo village using Google Maps.