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SUMBA: the newly discovered Gem in East Nusa Tenggara

 

With its rugged undulating savannahs and low limestone hills knitted together with fields of maize and cassava instead of rice, the island of Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara Province offers its own distinct splendors in the eastern part of the Indonesian Archipelago. Sprinkled throughout its countryside are hilltop villages with thatched traditional clan houses clustered around unique megalithic tombs where villagers still pay homage to their ancestors in the ancient belief of Marapu and have retained most of the indigenous culture and traditions for generations. The island is also known for the precious art of Tenun Ikat handwoven fabric, and the origin of the strong and agile Sumba Ponies or Sandalwood Horses


Located between the islands of Komodo and Sumbawa, and directly facing the Indian Ocean the island is also a surfers' paradise. The large rolling Sumba barrels usually appear between May through October when waves can be either very high and strong or very flat as breaks are directly exposed to wide open ocean swells. This kind of powerful surf, however, though very challenging, should only be ventured by professionals. Nonetheless, throughout the year, swells rise from 3 to 6 feet.


Although the island may still be off the grid from the general tourist map, surprisingly Sumba has a number of luxurious, well frequented resorts. The Nihiwatu Resort, for example, describing itself as "the ultimate in privacy, exclusivity, views and romance", has been recognized as 2nd best hotel worldwide by Tripadvisor. There is also the Sumba Nautil Resort in the south western part of Sumba, which is a favorite among surfers. For those who seek peace and serenity and the chance to watch dolphins playing in the open sea as you sip your morning coffee, the Mario Hotel and Café is the place to be.


Image source: www.asiaresorts.org

For a truly special experience of not only staying in a hotel but also interact further with the local people and help develop the island's tourism that is beneficial to the local community, the Sumba Hospitality Foundation welcomes visitors to stay at their on-campus hotel school simply known as The Sumba Hotel School. It includes five beautiful, bamboo guest pavilions tended to by students. Powered entirely by solar energy, the school aims to set itself as an example for sustainable tourism on the island and beyond. During their stay, visitors are encouraged to interact with the students to learn more about Sumba, or share any experiences that will be of value to the students. All proceeds help fund the school's programs.


Image source: www.jmak.com

The western part of Sumba has plenty to offer tourists who dare to venture into off-the-beaten- track destinations. Here can be seen traditional villages, stone megalithic tombs even around West Sumba's capital of Waikabubak, and watch unique rituals and traditions following the ancient Marapu belief. Once a year the exciting Pasola jousting festival, the culmination of a series of fertility ceremonies are held on separate days at different locations on the island. On that occasion, hundreds of warriors on horseback charge into each other riding bareback, hurling spears. This festival, usually held between February and March, is believed to bring fertility to the land.


Waingapu on the northern eastern coast of Sumba is the largest town on the island and its seaport. Around two kilometers from Waingapu is the traditional village of Prailiu, and some 10 km. away is the village of Kwangu, while 6 km from the city is the village of Labanapu, all three are famous for their exquisite ikat weaving. Women of Sumba produce some exemplary hand woven cloth with motifs of stylized horses, animals and people, in dark blue, red and black, white and yellow natural dyes. Here visitors can watch the entire intricate and tedious process of ikat weaving. For a very special memento, do look for the unique cloths with sewn in seashells.

 

Video by nathwild

 

To Get There:

Sumba is connected by air via the Tambolaka Airport in Southwest Sumba Regency and Umbu Mehang Kunda airport in Waingapu Town, East Sumba Regency. Most flights to the island depart from Bali, so if you are in another city make sure to get to Bali first or get a connecting flight. Garuda Indonesia, Wings Air, and Nam Air serve daily flights between Bali and Tambolaka. Wings Air also serves daily flights between Bali and Waingapu, while NAM Air serves the flights of Bali-Waingapu 3 times a week. There are also flights from Kupang and Ende in Flores to Waingapu served by Garuda Indonesia, Wings Air and NAM Air.

 

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