A slender, rain-starved limestone jewel with powdery white-sand beaches and epic surf, Rote floats southwest of West Timor, but has an identity of its own. For tourists it’s all about the surf, which can be gentle enough for beginners and wild enough for experts.
The deserted white sand beaches, unique mangroves, uninhabited little islands, intact coral reefs, diverse marine life and world-class waves are some of the features that make Rote Island a small paradise on earth.
Ba’a, Rote’s commercial centre, is a sleepy port town on the west coast where fast ferry and flights land, but people don’t tend to linger. Stunning Pantai Nemberala is home to the world-renowned T-Land break, and there are dozens of hidden beaches to the south and north. To find them you’ll roll through villages, over natural limestone bridges and through undulating savannah that turns from green in the December to March wet season to gold in the dry season, which is also when offshore winds fold swells into barrels. Don’t overlook the tiny offshore islands where you can find gorgeous ikat, turquoise bays and more surf.
Rotenese people are very friendly and helpful. The island itself is also very safe, giving you the benefit of sleeping freely without any worries. They are mainly of Christian faith and religion plays an important role in their lives.
Palm trees are distinctively typical of East Nusa Tenggara. Locals also sell sugar made from palm trees as souvenirs. There is also a musical instrument called sasando made from the tree which the locals called lontar. The musicians often play the instrument while wearing hats made of lontar leaves.
The Nemberala beach at Nemberala Village in Rote Ndao District won the most popular surfing spot category in the Anugerah Pesona Indonesia 2016. This world-class beach is two hours from the airport. There’s also the Bo’a Beach that is said to have the second world’s largest waves after Hawaii and is often used for world surfing events.
Rote Island also features the Dead Sea Lake located at Sotimori Village in East Rote, which is 90 minutes away by car from Rote Ndao district central. You can ride a jet ski to travel to other smaller islands that are in the Dead Sea Lake.
There’s also the Mando’o Hill that is locally known as the ‘300 Staircase’ where tourists must cover the distance of 300 staircases to reach the hill’s summit. Up there, you will see the scenery of the beach in Kuli Village.
The locals farm seaweed as their livelihood other than fishing. Almost all of the residents in Oeseli, Rote Island work as seaweed farmers. To reach this spot, you will need to travel 20 kilometers from Nemberala by car.
The local economy in Rote is characterized mostly by farming of lontar plantations and seaweed for cosmetic purposes. Fishing and animal rearing are also popular; hence the frequent sight of pigs, goats and cows roaming the island freely.
Rote’s food culture is generally based on local organic produce. Fruits and vegetables are bought at the local markets and supplied by local farmers. Meat and fish are usually bought directly from the local fishermen.
All in all, Rote Island offers you an exciting tropical getaway, which unlike many other destinations across Indonesia, is still remote and unexplored
How to get there
Rote is accessed by a half-hour flight from Timor’s capital Kupang, following a one-and-a-half-hour fight from Denpasar, Bali.
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