Hi love! I’ve finally stopped slacking and now present you the most requested travel journal of the year: Sumba! It’s been months since I promised you to write it #sorry, and I figured that this post is worthy of the start of 2019- a post of one of my favorite destinations in my beloved country.
There’s something truly enchanting about Sumba. Its rugged grass savannah stretching as far as the eyes can see, wide blue skies and perpetual cotton candy clouds that look like you can almost touch them. I saw the most beautiful tangerine sunset sinking behind the emerald hills, white sand beaches, waterfall, and endless secret swimming spots. The beaming expression of the Humba kids and their radiant smiles tacitly inviting you to their world. These are the beautiful memories I had in this magical island.
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But Sumba is so much more than natural paradise, it’s also one of the culture hub of West Nusa Tenggara Archipelago. From world-renowned weaver villages and witness century-old ikat weaving techniques, traditional hilltop villages with tall grass roofs, annual Pasola ceremony, all the way to the spine-chilling, indigenous Marapu tradition with their megalithic stone burial rites. Excited? Let’s get started and read on!
Getting There and Getting Around
We flew into Tambolaka, the western part of the island, spent the whole five days on the road all the way to East Sumba. We returned home from Umbu Mehang Kunda, Waingapu Airport. Both flights had connections in Bali as Sumba airports only serves smaller airplanes with shorter distance.
The flight from Jakarta to Bali takes approximately 1,5 hour and it takes another hour to fly to Tambolaka / 1,5 hour from Waingapu.
We traveled throughout the whole island in a Hilux 4WD jeep with our local driver, Ary (@trip_sumba_arye, very recommended!), which is probably the best way to explore the island. Depending on the type of the car, distance and your negotiation skills, a car with driver costs around Rp.800,000 to 1,000,000 (USD 60 to 75) per day.
Motorbikes for hire are a lot cheaper at around Rp.75,000 to 150,000 (USD 6 – 11) per day. Keep in mind that the roads in Sumba are not entirely covered by Google Map and there is a scarcity of street signs on the main roads. But do not worry!! The friendly locals in Sumba will be more than happy to help you, or even accompany you to get to your destination.
Normally when people visit Sumba they travel from West Sumba to the East Sumba (or the other way around) and stay on the island for around 5 to 6 days. Since we only had five full days to spend on Sumba island, our first dilemma was whether we should spend our resources on one destination: west or the east side of the island? (both home to an airport.)
After thoroughly researching all the information online, we decided to spend more time on the East. East Sumba offers rolling hills, waterfalls, savannah and more hidden nature gems. We spent a day and a half day in West Sumba and the rest in the East. I think it was the perfect amount of time to get a real feel for the island. Of course, if time allows I would have tried to stay longer. Sumba offers a vibe is so chill that it would be a mistake to rush a lot of itinerary within one day.
- Day 1: Arrival at Tambolaka Airport, Visited Lendong Ngara Hills & Mananga Aba Beach
- Day 2: Lapopu Waterfall, Praijing Village, Wairinding Hills
- Day 3: Ikat Workshop, Puru Kambera Savannah, Taibihu Waterfall
- Day 4: Waimarang Waterfall, Walakiri Beach
- Day 5: Tenau Hills, Departure from Waingapu Airport
West Sumba (Waikabubak)
West Sumba Regency was the gateway to our trip. If you want traditional villages and pristine beaches, West Sumba is your destination. That is where Ratenggaro’s traditional homes and many other nearby villages are to be found, and also numerous pristine beaches and lagoons that are not only spectacular, but they were also gloriously serene and empty.
In the west, you might be alarmed by locals carrying big knives (parang) strapped to their waist. I would advise against walking around after dark in West Sumba. Always get a local guide (if you don’t speak Indonesian) to ensure your safety.
There are several destinations that we skipped (Ratenggaro, Weekuri Lagoon, Bwanna beach), and that’s enough of a reason to visit Sumba again!
Lendong Ngara Hills
Upon arrival, we dropped our bags in the hotel and headed to Lendong Ngara Hills. The view of the town faded behind us as the road took us to utterly “natural art”. The hues of blues, olives, greens and beiges all come together into beautiful real life paintings. Ary, our driver, smiled at us who stood silently in awe on top of the hills and told us, “Wait till you arrive in the East, you’ll see the more beautiful places than these.” Such an epic landscape to start out our adventure indeed.
Mananga Aba / Kita Beach
A quick drive from Lendong Ngara took us to Mananga Aba, the beach with the softest, powdery white sand stretching far to meet the crystal clear turquoise water; shimmering and glittery as it bounces back the sunlight. We spent the rest of the afternoon at nearby’s Mario Hotel’s restaurant for coffee and banana fritters before heading back to our hotel.
Lapopu Waterfall is easily reached from Waikabubak and Wanokaka. After a short walk from the parking lot through the jungle, crossing a bamboo bridge alongside the river, and you are rewarded with a curtain of magnificent cascades. Water pouring over large boulders and branching through trees in a series of smaller falls. It is certainly not just one of the prettiest falls in Sumba, it is also the highest waterfall in East Nusa Tenggara.
We made a quick stop at a spot overlooking the Praijing village before continuing our way to Waingapu. Praijing is a small, picturesque traditional village built in the hills, about 10-20 minutes by car from Waikabukak. It consists of houses built in traditional Sumbanese style with peaked and thatched roofs, extending over some terraces and surrounding tribal stone structures. The locals call these houses either Uma Mbatangu or Uma Bokulu, which means “the big house”.
When you stand in front of the entrance, you can have a beautiful overview of the entire village.
East Sumba (Waingapu)
The drive to East Sumba / Waingapu took us around 5 hours (which would have been less, if we didn’t make a stop every half hour to take pictures on the way.) Every fifty kilometer we stopped to take in another improbable colorful view: emerald fields, crystal blue beaches, mahogany tatched roofs of the hilltop villages. We were lucky to arrive just in time to catch the magical sunset at the velvety Wairinding hills, located between Waikabubak and Waingapu.
Catching sunset in Wairinding hills is mandatory. The panoramic landscape is definitely out of this world! Unlike any other places I’ve ever seen on earth, the view and feels from standing on top of the serene hill left us extraordinarily humbled, and truly blessed to be here at all. We were so happy to just have the experience of finally feasting our eyes on this famous geologic wonder.
As we slowly took in the breathtaking sunset, beautiful Humba kids were running around the hills and singing in their pure, innocent, and joyful voices; a scene that would definitely melt the hardest of hearts.
Ary took us to one of the local Ikat shops to see and buy some fabric. Sumbanese ikat textiles are among the most beautiful and intricate in all of the Indonesian fabrics. They can be found in the major museums of the world as well as the homes of collectors all over the world.
The symbols and stories associated with each Sumbanese cloth represent their strong tradition. They also serve as a medium in which the present generation passes on messages to future generations.
In the workshop, we watched ikat being made with a skilled and tedious process; from designing, dyeing (with natural dyes extracted from tree roots), to weaving. Everything that was made by hand and a tenun cloth can take months or even years to finish. Ikat is often a symbol of status and power and is highly prized within the community because of the time and efforts used to make it.
Puru Kambera Savannah & Beach
Wild horses running around the vast savannah with clear blue beach and hills on the background; no that’s not a scene from a painting or an African postcard (although it might look a lot like it), it’s the view you’ll see in Puru Kambera beach.
Devoid of other tourists when we arrived, all we heard was the sound of the tall grass getting swept by the wind and the occasional gallop of the beautiful creatures. The long, winding empty road separating the grassland makes for a perfect inspiration for a road trip story.
Taibihu Waterfall (Lewa)
A 2 hours drive to Lewa took us to a house in Umbu Timor’s house in Laikering Village, Lewa Tidahu. We spent a good half hour playing with the kids before setting ourselves to trek to the Taibihu waterfall behind their house. The place itself was discovered by the kids when they were wayfaring around. Isn’t it a dream to spend your childhood around the beautiful nature?
Admittedly, it was the most challenging trek of the whole trip! The distance is a short but steep 300 meter down the jungle but as the destination was barely untouched by visitors, there was no easy way to get there; no steps, hanging rope, etc. While going down the steeper cliffs, we had to hold on to some tree barks and roots for our safety. Note to self: Don’t ever wear skirt when you haven’t researched the terrain well.
I got tons of recommendations on my Instagram DM to visit Waimarang Waterfall, and I’m so glad I listened to you guys!
The drive to Waimarang is a smooth one, but later on followed by around 8km of bumps before arriving at the carpark (I’m advising my preggo sisters against this drive), then it’s an medium-easy 20 minute picturesque trek from the parking lot to reach this heavenly blue pool in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by limestone cliff walls.
You would want to spend at least a couple of hours swimming here, or if you dare, jumping down to the water from the top of the cliff. Please proceed with caution, as there are some parts of the cliff that is rather slippery and could endanger your safety.
To close our journey, we visited Walakiri Beach for another breathtaking sunset view featuring the dancing mangroves trees. I was awestruck at the surreal scenery of picture perfect – a sight constantly shown on tourism ads yet this was the first time I’ve seen it in person. It did definitely exceed all my expectations.
Sadly, Ary told me that some of the mangrove trees are recently destroyed by the irresponsible tourists trying to take selfies with them. It takes decades to grow the trees, and it saddens me how tourist would go as far as climbing the trees to get that perfect selfie. Please treat the nature with respect.
Wairinding might be the most Insta-famous hills, but it’s not the only one that Sumba boasts. In fact, Sumba is also known for “Pulau Seribu Bukit” (The island with a thousand hills.) Located within Waingapu, the idyllic Tenau Hills is the smaller version of Wairinding. Personally, I love it better.
There is nothing as beautiful as watching a sunrise from the top of Tenau hill. The cold early morning breeze coupled with the golden hue slowly warming up the rolling hills and valleys was the perfect closing to our magical Sumba trip.
What to pack
- Lots of space on your memory card. Every part of the island is so picturesque you’ll want to shoot and record everything.
- Wide lenses and if possible, a drone. Not the small ones though as most of the places are windy. Our small plastic drones couldn’t fly high and got stuck in the trees often 🙁
- Summer clothes and bathing suit, these will be your daily wear.
- Comfortable walking/trekking shoes, you would walk a lot on the excursions. Leave your expensive sneakers or heels at home.
- Light jacket/parka. The wind around the hills and beaches get really chilly on sunset and at night. You’ll also need it for the night drive to see the milky way.
- As of today (October 2018), Telkomsel is the only provider that works on the island. Unless you plan to be completely off the grid, get a Telkomsel sim card just for the trip.
- For your first trip, I would recommend you to travel with a local driver who can double as a guide. Google maps and other navigation devices do not always work and the locals know all the best secret spots!
- In the west, you might be alarmed by locals carrying big knives (parang) strapped to their waist. I would advise against walking around after dark in West Sumba. Always get a local guide (if you don’t speak Indonesian) to ensure your safety.
- Have snacks, water and tissues supply on the way because warungs/kiosks are scarce and it can be a long drive from one point to the other (this also means scarcity of toilet.)
- The landscapes in Sumba have fairly difficult terrain and you need to do some hiking to explore the hills and see waterfalls. It also gets slippery when it rains. Make sure you are physically ready when you’re planning your adventure on this beautiful island!
In conclusion, Sumba has exceeded my expectations and hopefully this journal can help you plan your itineraries to Sumba! Check out the hashtag #npmapsumba on Instagram to see more photos, and if you need more info, feel free to drop your questions on the comment below! Kisses and Happy Travels!14