Sumba – Indonesia’s hidden island paradise

Sumba – NOT Sumbawa!

Sumba’s beauty is a well-kept secret, even amongst many Indonesians, leaving this island paradise pristine and charmingly underdeveloped. Twice the dimensions of Bali, solely few individuals even acknowledge the identify, suggesting that we might discuss with Sumbawa as an alternative. We only discovered about Sumba because of our nice journey acquaintance and Indonesiaholic Micki, who we met a couple of months earlier in Azerbaijan.  Ok now… I will now stop my rumbling about why Sumba is so superb and as an alternative start telling what we skilled in our ten days on the western aspect of this island.

Sumba typically has two major points of interest to supply to its visitors: The primary is its untouched nature with superb seashores, teal lagoons, huge mahogany and teak forests in addition to scenic mountain ranges. The second is its distinctive tribe tradition. It manifests in the setup of the local villages, the ancestor cult and ritual celebrations. The cult is similarly refined because the ancestor beliefs and funeral ceremonies we encountered in Tana Toraja on Sulawesi.

Sumbanese villages in the Kodi region

Our first day trip on Sumba’s roads leads us to the region around the village named Kodi. After an hour and a half drive by means of teak and mahogany forests, rice paddies and cashew plantations, we arrive at one of the local villages, also referred to as Kampungs.

Nearly all of Sumba’s inhabitants continues to be following the Marapu faith – a perception that religious forces corresponding to gods, demi-gods or spirits of the ancestors addressed via offerings and rituals can affect future occasions. This belief reflects in two architectural traits that immediately catch our eye:

  1. Megaliths in the middle of the village – Like in Sulawesi’s Tana Toraja the ancestor cult and animist faith in Sumba continues to be actively practiced and trendy concrete variations of former megalithic tombs are steadily being erected. Having your ancestor’s remainders nearby makes it more doubtless that your offerings are accepted and that the spirits will influence earthly matters based on your wishes.
  2. Excessive rising thatched rooftops – The middle area of the thatched roof has a very sharp angle while the outer areas have less slope, giving the roofs the attraction of an oblong Gandalf’s hat with broad brim and pointy tip. Let’s do this: Think about Gandalf’s hat depicted in a portray by Picasso in his Cubism interval and also you get very close to the actual factor. Anyhow, there isn’t a practical cause to build a roof on this approach, but the locals consider that a excessive roof brings you nearer to the ancestor spirits dwelling within the skies above and thus think about a high roof as a status image, demonstrating wealth and energy. One way or the other it is all the time the identical – measurement matters.

Did I mention that the Sumbanese tribal tradition is a bit difficult? Let’s start with the welcoming ceremony. When arriving in the village we start off with greeting the elders sitting in entrance one of many huts and fill in a guestbook. Probably the most notable elder there’s often the Rato – the Marapu religious chief. Whereas filling out the guestbook the villagers anticipate a donation to the village – nothing huge however roughly 1$ (R10.000) per individual. This cash goes into their “social security fund”. If anyone within the village for example gets sick and may’t afford the treatment, the village supports him nearly as good as they will. Subsequent part of the welcoming ceremony is distributing cigarettes to the lads, sweets to the youngsters and betel nut to both women and men. Quickly afterwards, everyone is comfortably drugged or at the very least pleased with the presents and we are invited contained in the huts.

Each hut is inbuilt an identical approach: The oblong picket, principally bamboo, constructions are held collectively by lashing and dowels slightly than nails. Stilts increase the dwelling area from the ground. Beneath the slightly elevated degree with the dwelling space are the stables, the place horses, pigs and chickens rest within the shade. The dwelling space is split into one half for the women and one half for the lads. In the middle is a hearth where the cooking takes place. One degree above the dwelling space is some area for stowing the harvest and seeds for the subsequent yr. The hut has no strong aspect walls. Palm mats could be rolled down for some protection but during day time they’re often left open to vent the building.

Walking around in the village and taking a better take a look at the individuals dwelling here additionally reveals two extra fascinating elements of Sumbanese culture.

A few of the elders, amongst them the Rato we meet, have their scarves flung around their head like turbans. Many males put on sarongs, that are items of fabric, loosely tightened on the hips. They finish under the knee. An enormous long-bladed machete is tucked away of their waistband. John later tells us that the tradition of sporting long-bladed knives causes quite some bloodshed until in the present day when men get drunk on palm liquor and as an alternative of getting a fist struggle end up utilizing their knives in a stupid pub struggle. Fairly savage, isn’t it? It’s also value noting that the Sumbanese individuals have been head hunters in former occasions and having a knife shut by appeared to be advisable again then.

We go to two extra villages within the Kodi region this present day and get an excellent impression on the life of the individuals in the villages. Yet, because of the present language obstacles we certainly do not absolutely comprehend the way of thinking and the rich tradition of the Sumbanese villagers. Nevertheless, the small glimpse we get into their world is already very fascinating.

Danau We’ekuri lagoon on the western shore

For a pleasant settle down, we make a cease on the Danau We’ekuri lagoon, which from this present day on easily lists in my personal prime ten of marvelous locations to take a swim in this world. Set in between timber and rocks, this roughly 200 occasions 50 meter giant natural basin holds waters in probably the most magnificent turquoise colors. Faculties of small fish typically break the surface and take a leap into the air. The sound of waves, washing in recent water from the sea on the western finish of the pool, is calming and enjoyable. Apart from the 4 of us, only a couple of native youngsters are enjoying in the waters and curiously look over on occasion, typically guffawing when being caught whereas taking a peek. The water temperature is good and we take an extended swim.

The mountain village Sodan

Another noteworthy village tour that we pursue the subsequent day brings us to the mountain village Sodan. We’ve to go away our automotive at a river crossing and proceed on foot from there. A 5km stroll via the windless noon heat of a inexperienced valley and up a steep hill awaits us. The picturesque panorama compensates for the strenuous hike in the burning solar: We begin out strolling in a inexperienced valley following the river, surrounded by grass coated hills. Within the distance we already see the thatch-roof houses of Sodan on the top of the mountain. The upper we ascend, the extra parts enter the image. First, the river arms come into sight, enclosed by excessive palm timber and greens. Then, a bit further uphill, the ocean seems beyond the hills in its majestic blue.

After 1.5h, we arrive on the first home in Sodan. In Sodan the top hunter tradition was lengthy upheld and stay continues to be very structured around the previous traditions. Once we arrive, a number of the ladies bounce into some shirts or blouses. Of their tradition, it is regular to take a seat around naked breasted but they seem to be conscious that this is not the case in western culture. After having finished the welcoming ceremony, the Rato exhibits us around. He is particularly proud to present us the ritual drum, which, based on him, till very just lately was still tuned with human pores and skin. The Rato additionally explains to us that the village’s location up in the hills gave them a big benefit in the warfare with other tribes because it was easily defended and that Sodan was well-known in the whole south-western region of Sumba for its success in headhunting raids. In Sodan, also the Andung, the picket pillar on which the heads of the enemies have been hung after a head hunt continues to be erected. It stirs some fantasies about how this place might have appeared 100 years earlier.


The second a part of our stay, we relocate our base to the small southwestern town of Waikabubak. The town itself has not a lot to offer, however we find a nice Warung near the central square which has a wide selection of greens and fish for a really, very low worth. Our lodge receptionist rents us a scooter by way of a good friend. There are some outlets close by to satisfy all our primary wants. Immediately next to the city middle are two traditional villages, but after our very genuine experiences within the more remote elements of the island, they have little more to offer. Nonetheless, Waikabubak is a superb place to start out explorations of the southern region with its breathtakingly lovely seashores. Please also word that, whereas we explored the village Sodan on a day journey from the north, Waikabubak is definitely much closer and thus would have made a good higher base for this trip.

The Southern Seashores

Marosi Seashore, 32 km away from Waikabubak, is definitely one of the crucial lovely beaches of Sumba and for us, additionally probably the most lovely ones that we have now seen in Indonesia to date. A big atoll naturally divides the seashore into two elements each offering kilometers of extremely superb white sand. The crystal clear waters invite for a swim, however we arrive already at low tide and determine to loosen up on the seashore as an alternative. The one peril that befalls us on the seashore are sandflies. We don’t discover them at first but once we depart all of us have an excellent share of itching little bites throughout our bodies. Take some repellant with you if you need to be going to visit.

The Kerewee seashore lies a few kilometers east of Marosi seashore. It also boasts fantastic white sand and as well as has larger waves, making the kilometer lengthy seashore a surfer’s paradise. As a bonus, the seashore is nearly free of sandflies. There’s a homestay immediately on the seashore and we have now an ideal lunch there along with another guests surfers which are staying here at Kerewee for a couple of nights. What a soothing place to hang around!


We arrive by way of aircraft from Bali in Tambolaka and have set up our base at the Oro Seashore Visitor home – a nice, yet barely overpriced place run by a German/Indonesian couple, situated immediately on the north-western shore of Sumba.

The just about complete lack of touristic infrastructure on the island is boon and bane on the similar time. Whereas we love the unspoiled experience, it’s difficult to seek out transportation and accommodation by yourself. There isn’t any store renting out scooters! After some investigation we find locals who’re prepared to lease their personal scooters for a barely elevated worth. The first days on Sumba we spend together with Maria’s mother and father who are visiting us and we determine to get a driver/guide with a SUV to get around on the island. Our highly beneficial guide John (telephone: +6281337479988 mail: [email protected]) is a superb character and explains to us quite a bit concerning the local tradition, perception system, wildlife.

So why can we like Sumba so much?

Regardless of if you wish to explore local tradition, do some hikes in the hillside, journey a few of Indonesia’s greatest waves or simply hang out just about alone alongside kilometers of effective sand seashores – Sumba has it all. The shortage of infrastructure additionally provides you a little bit of an explorer’s feeling, which is tough to seek out at the moment in a world the place even probably the most distant spots develop into slowly developed. Give Sumba a shot whereas it is nonetheless on this lovely untouched form!

Read extra…


Did you want this publish? Do you’ve personal experiences to share? Please depart us a remark!

About the author