Melo Village & The Caci Dance
Up high in the hills of Sano Nggoang, Flores lies Melo Village, the home of the Caci Dance.
Melo Village is a 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 community are steep forests of banana and palm trees, intertwining roads which farmers use to heard their livestock and the odd family of 4 all somehow packed onto a scooter driving to nearby villages.
After a few minutes, locals started arriving and walking up the path, looking at us with bemused faces. It all unravelled in quick succession; shortly after we walked back up it seemed like the whole village had gathered in the small opening. Women and men, old and young, had formed a big circle and made chairs from anything they found.
I strolled around taking photos as the men were preparing the costumes and dance tools, while the women had started playing on the metal drums I had earlier helped set up.
The residents of Melo have been performing a dance for decades now.
The Caci Dance
The Caci Dance is a traditional performance of the Manggarai community. 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.
It all begins with the elder members of the village getting together and chanting (what exactly, who knows), while the fighters circle them, mentally preparing for what’s to come. While this is happening, crowds are building up, cheering for who they’re supporting.
During the battle, the fighters give each other turns on striking one another.
A hit to the head or the face means losing the game, but a hit on the back is seen as a good sign. This means that the tribe will have a promising harvest next time around.
Caci Dance equipment
For the battle, they use a larik (the whip made of rattan) for striking & a nggiling (the shield which is covered in buffalo hide) for defending. There’s the songke, which is the Indonesian sarong, the belt and the nggorong bell, which is an attachment on the fights belts which makes a jingling sound, similar to the bell on cattle.
Caci Dance Symbolism
There is a lot of symbolism behind the equipment of 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.
Like it? Pin it
It is not mandatory, but guests are asked for a donation of 1,000,000 RP, where you’ll be served a glass of sopi, the 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, so make sure you do donate!
How to get 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 it’s following mainly one road, but make sure you search the directions. Melo Village is listed on 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 where the Caci Dance is performed. It isn’t that obvious, and it is not signposted, so be on the lookout. Above, I have a photo of what the opening gate looks like.
Getting a Tour Guide to watch the Caci Dance
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 lady looking after the place was really friendly & welcoming, as well she went out of her way to show us how to get to places like Cunca Rami Waterfall
Want to know more about what there is in West Nusa Tenggara?
Click the photo below to have a look
Melo Village location:
Below you can find the location of Melo village on Google Maps. You will need to keep a lookout of the entrance on your drive up.