Born in Bajawa, Ansel first came to Labuan Bajo in 1989 and has been witness to the change and development in Flores. He has seen projects come and go but prides himself on knowing when a business has chosen wisely in Flores, and is happy to share his expertise.
Always one to see when an opportunity has been presented, Ansel moved from freelance work in tourism to hotel management several times. Changing companies and careers has meant that Ansel has forged relationships throughout communities in Flores and that makes him a valuable asset to any company he works with. Like in any new developing area or business, sometimes it’s a case of not what you know, but who you know – and Ansel makes it his business to know everyone.
I asked Ansel how he felt about the rapidly booming tourism trade in Flores, and in particular where he bases himself in Labuan Bajo. Change comes at a cost, and this means that there is more competition to consider plus environmental impacts. While Ansel misses the smaller boat harbour for the memories of good times past, he acknowledges that the bigger harbour is much better for the Flores people and tourism. It will bring more boats, more people, a better economy supporting Labuan Bajo. However Ansel also noted it is incredibly important that the harbour is managed to ensure the environmental impact is low and that the beautiful waters of the islands can be enjoyed for many more years to come.
Ansel has had the opportunity to work with many companies in Flores so I was intrigued why he chose to work with Asia Land and Sea and it’s director Jools. He first met Jools through a business friend who was looking for land. Ansel could see straight away that Jools was committed to Flores and its people, and appreciated the consideration taken for maintaining and preserving the natural beauty of the land.
And so began a working friendship, Ansel offering advice and insight to business practices, community and land development. Asia Land and Sea is committed to sustainable projects and for Ansel, this was key. In his words, “no environment, no tourism.” Putting the environment first ensures the stability of the business venture and more importantly the longevity of the land and the culture of its people.
As always, I like to ask interviewees what it is they love about Flores. It’s hard to put into words, I’ve tried so many times, and the closest I’ve come is explaining how the beauty of the land is reflected in the people, that they seem to have a shared soul and their culture carries this through any changes or development.
Ansel was able to define his passion for Flores as being about the culture and the people who carry on tradition. Flores people are strong and friendly, he said, and our culture allows our beliefs to be practised daily whether in farming, fishing or providing for others. Ansel feels Flores is THE place to go and there is no time like now to come visit and see why everyone is talking about the islands. The nature is untouched and with careful sustainable projects it will stay this way.
Komodo is an island that needs to be experienced to understand it’s beauty – the landscape and the dragons. Ansel admits it was Komodo that got him to Labuan Bajo and makes him want to stay. I had to agree with him, no sooner has my trip to the islands ended and I’m on a plane home, I’m planning the next trip back!
Thank you to Ansel for giving up his valuable time to meet with The Voice of Flores team, we learnt so much from your experience and look forward to seeing you again soon.