Sumba, the hidden gem of Indonesia: Why you need to visit Sumba Island

Have you ever heard of the island of Sumba, Indonesia?

A paradise island in Indonesia just below Bali, full of deserted beaches that appear to have never been walked upon, and crystal-clear waters inhabited by an exceptional aquatic fauna. If you have never heard of it, you are not alone. Sumba Island is the hidden gem of Indonesia, and a must to visit.

It will be clear, once you have set foot on land and see the coconut trees, waterfalls, rice fields:

You have arrived in paradise…

Known as the forgotten island, Sumba is one of the best kept secrets of Indonesia. Surfers and adventurous travelers love this island and for good reasons. There are good waves (not recommended for beginners, but Sumba offers surfing lessons too!), and the beaches are not crowded by too many tourists and commercialism in general.

The good thing is, Sumba is only an hour-flight away from Bali which is the best way to get to Sumba Island. You can get there from other Indonesian airports too, but Bali is among the cheapest and fastest options. You can get there from Bali already from 100 euros for a roundtrip.

Find below why Sumba is the hidden gem and best kept secret of Indonesia…

So, what can you expect of Sumba?

You will not find a lot of tourists, bars, hotels, and resorts here at Sumba Island.

It is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia, relatively unexplored with a well-preserved local culture to immerse yourself in. Thereby perfect for nifty travelers and pioneers who like to explore. And, while tourism is gradually developing in Sumba, you will find tourism of an entirely different kind. The island promotes sustainable and ecological tourism.

Initiated by the “Sumba Hospitality Foundation”, a lot of projects are carried out to gain awareness for both tourists and local communities. To protect the island from environmental damage and to help the local people in the environment get out of poverty.

By the way, there are volunteering possibilities if you would like to help sustain the beautiful Sumba Island and want to give back.

Besides this, there are many more reasons why you would definitely want to travel to Sumba!

1. Discover world-class surf spots

“Nihi Sumba” has earned its reputation for one of the world’s most desired waves, known as “God’s Left” or “Occy’s Left” (named after Australian surfer Mark Occhilupo). The wave is so popular for its unique character, which is challenging even for the most experienced surfer due to different conditions such as tides, size, strength, and direction. Once you’ve got the hang of it and caught the wave, you are rewarded by a thrilling ride of 200 to 300 meter long that gives you the ultimate surfing experience.

If you are more of a beginner surfer like me, you can seek calmer waters around Coconut Cove. You will find an awesome spot to go to, and get nice surfing lessons.

2. Endlessly explore hidden beaches

Sumba has a lot of magical hidden beaches, and what is so amazing about this, and Sumba in general, is that the beaches are free from any hotels and touristy places. They are so untouched that you will absolutely love the beautiful deserted-like beaches.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

·      Probably one of the most iconic beaches you will ever see, Walakiri Beach in East Sumba is a must-visit spot to enjoy a spectacular sunset. The dancing mangrove trees along the white sand and calm beach make sure this beach will mesmerize you, just make sure you time the tiding right to make sure you can make the perfect picture there. You will find basic local meals and drinks along the beach too so you can enjoy some time here.

·      Mbawana Beach is another magnificent beach that you cannot miss. It is found alongside immense and rough cliffs, one of them forms a giant arch on the beach where you can walk underneath. Great to visit during the golden hour for some beautiful pictures.

·      One of the best-known beaches is Pantai Watu Malandong, which has lots of rocks that you can find along the coast. The most famous one is a rock with a hole in it.

·      Very close to the Weekuri Lagoon, a very beautiful beach to go to is Mandorak Beach. Madorak means “Sea Gate” and is the smallest beach in Sumba Island with a coastal line of only 50 meters long. The beach is surrounded by high and steep cliffs and offer a paradise feeling.

3. Make a Wish at Nipi Lama

Near Nihi Sumba, one of the best viewpoints of the island with beautiful panoramic views can be found at Nipi Limi, with a “Wishing hand” that is built of reed.

You can best visit this place with a scooter as there are no other destinations near this one.

4. Jump in the most magical waterfalls

There are many waterfalls, each of them are so unique and magical that you want to extent your stay in Sumba, just to explore all the beautiful waterfalls that Sumba has to offer.

·      Like many other waterfalls, Koalat is not too high, but not any less unique. Koalat has many small pools which makes it a very special waterfall area to visit if you want to enjoy your personal jacuzzi.

·      The Waimarang Waterfall is unique in its own way, deep in the forest of Sumba and surrounded by cliffs, this waterfall has formed a pond that is a tropical swimming pool. It takes some effort to get there, but you will not be disappointed!

·      The highest waterfall is probably the Kanabu Wai which is located deep in the jungle. This makes the waterfall not easy to reach, the most favourable way is through Ramuk village and about 3-5 hours by motorcycle.

5. Emerge yourself in Sumbanese culture

Once in Sumba, you will get to appreciate the well-preserved culture of the Sumbanese people.

Other than the natural attractions to visit, such as the magical beaches, lakes, waterfall, cliffs, savannah hill, make sure you will pay a visit ot the traditional villages of Sumba. The most popular is Ratenggaro Village, located in the Southwest of Sumba.

Ratenggaro Village has a very long and rich history and began in the megalithic era thousands of years ago. Ratenggaro means grave (“Rate”) of the people of Garo (“Garo”). It comes to no surprise that this village is full of graves, in total not less than 304 stone tombs are located there. During the war amongst the tribes, many lives of the Garo people were lost and they have been buried in the tomb.

If you are around on Sumba in February or March, you get the chance to witness the ancient and sacred tradition of Pasola. The Pasola is a sacrificial ritual that the Sumbanese people perform to ensure abundance in their rice harvest.

6. Swimming in blue lagoons

With bizarre tropical crystal-clear water in every imaginable shade of blue and green, and tropical green vegetation and rocks around it: the Weekuri Lagoon is a beautiful spot. Go for a swim, or just relax floating on the water.

The Lagoon is located very close to the beach and is connected to the sea, so the water is salty and feels quite warm. You can spend a full relaxing day here at this lovely lagoon.

7. Wander in the Savannah hills

Besides all its beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and cliffs, you will find an exotic foothill grass landscape with small majestic hills in the East of Sumba, the Wairinding Hill.

Wairinding Hill gives you some breathtaking views of the savannah that turn yellow during the dry season, and green in the rainy season. It offers a quiet and calm environment with amazing views and splendid for anyone who likes to go on a nice hike. You may even see some wild horses.

8. Horse riding in the Sandalwood Stables

People of Sumba believe that their soul is connected to the horse, and the horse is “The Soul of Sumba”.

At the Nihi Sumba luxury resorts, each morning the horses from the Sandalwood stables are released to gallop freely along the beautiful white sand beaches and swim in the sea. This is something extraordinary just to watch.

But, if you are up for an even more special experience, you can go horse riding, doing groundwork with the horses. Learn how to guide your horse purely with your voice and energy, and you can even swim and do yoga with horses. Get ready for a unique experience.

Practical information you need if you want to visit Sumba

Sumba if about 400 kilometers from Bali. The best options how to get to Sumba are by airplane.

Travel by Air

Daily flights go from Denpasar, Bali and Kupang in West Timor (both flights take about an hour).

Although Sumba is not the biggest island of the Indonesian archipelago, there are two airports on the island, which makes it pretty easy to get to Sumba:

  • Tambolaka Airport (TMC) located in Tambolaka – SouthWest Sumba.
  • The other smaller airport is Umu Mehang Kunda Airport (WGP) located at Waingapu – East Sumba.

Travel by Boat

Three times per week ferries go between Waikelo in West Sumba and Sumbawa, and between Waingapu in East Sumba and Flores, Sabu and West Timor. Schedule and prices can be found here: www.indonesiaferry.co.id.

As schedules can change regularly, it is best to check closer to your travel time.

How to get around on the island

The roads on the island are pretty good considering that Sumba is relatively unexplored. But it is good to take in mind that as a novice driver, you may not want to drive around with a scooter yourself. For the more experienced drivers, renting a scooter costs around 75,000 to 150,000 rupiah per day.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving a scooter, there are plenty of options to let yourself drive around by a driver. The costs can vary (it is negotiable) between 600,000 and 1,000,000 rupiah per day for a car with driver, and a motorbike taxi (ojek) will cost around 150,000 to 250,000 per day. You will notice that transportation costs to rent a scooter or let yourself drive by a car or motorbike, are a bit higher priced than other parts of Indonesia. But still pretty cheap compared to the west.

There are public bus services on the island that generally depart from the town market area. Buses connecting Waingapu, Waikabubak and Tambolaka run almost every hour during daytime.

Mesmerized by Sumba yet? 

The diversity of things you can do and see in Sumba Island are dazzling. This hidden gem of Indonesia is truly worth a stay.

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