Forgotten, lost, ignored. Perched near the bottom edge of the Indonesian archipelago, Sumba is the third island in the chain that stretches east of Bali and is just 700 kilometres from Australia. Sumba’s rich ancient culture and stunning landscapes will have you wondering why you’ve (till now!) never heard of it.
Wonky cigar-shaped Sumba is about twice as big as far more popular Bali but is home to only 15 percent of the population. Very, very few Western tourists make it here. Surfers have known for years that Sumba’s coastline is one of the most spectacular in Indonesia. Beaches feature silky white sand, blue ocean and often good waves and are guaranteed to convert even the most beach adverse. Coastal cliffs and limestone formations are dramatic.
In the south, you will find tropical rainforest, including in two designated national parks, which boast an abundance of bird life including several endemic species. Very pretty waterfalls feature in the forest areas, and a few waterfalls near hydro power stations can be visited.
Traditional Village and megalithic culture
A visit to Sumba is not complete without venturing into one of its custom villages. They are residential cluster of traditional homes inhabited by locals, so remember to be respectful of local etiquette. Upon arriving, visitors will be welcomed by megalithic tombs that line the path to the village.The houses are a glimpse into the past, as they host traditional wooden and thatched houses. The exaggeratedly high roofs were made to reach the gods. The central part of the house is for humans, while the area below is for the family’s livestock, usually pigs. The village also makes traditional tenun ikat, a woven fabric that is a signature product of the island’s culture.
La Popu waterfalls & Mata Yangu waterfalls
In the wet season, Mata Yangu produces an impressive wall of water and even in the dry, we’re told you can swim here. A part of the Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park, and geographically part of the same water course as the more accessible La Popu Waterfall, Maya Yangu Waterfall is well worth a look.
There’s something truly enchanting about Sumba. With its rugged, undulating savannah and low limestone hills growing maize and rice, it’s nothing like Indonesia’s northern volcanic islands. Wairinding Hills is one of the most photographed sceneries of Sumba offering a large views of Savannah as the rolling hills are a must-visit stop for travelers in Waingapu
Walakiri Beach is home to Sumba’s most famous icon, its dancing trees. Just a 30-minute drive eastward from Waingapu, East Sumba, travelers would find a stretch of savannah along the way to the destination.
The best spot in Waingapu for views of the city is Bukit Persaudaraan, not far from the airport. It’s perfect for beer-o-clock sunset viewing, but you’ll have to BYO as there’s nothing to buy here. During World War II, Japanese forces were based in Sumba with plans to invade northern Australia. On top of Bukit Persaudaraan you will find Japanese-built caves from this period.
The traditional festival of Pasola, a ritual horseback spear-throwing war, is the most famous and popular for tourists. However, many other festivals and ceremonies happen throughout the year, and as a tourist you are most often welcome. Masterful ikat and songket weaving are produced (and sold) in many traditional villages. Often a small pop-up market will surround the visiting tourist. As there is no written Sumbanese language, the colourful motifs and designs of ikats are a way of passing history and stories down through the generations. Ikat is very important to the local culture for ritual gifts and as funeral shrouds.
How to get there
Sumba has two airports, one in the western end of the island and the other in the east. Both airports have daily connections with Jakarta with a transit in Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali
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