Facing the wide Indian Ocean, the island of Sumba in the province of East Nusa Tenggara is a surfer’s 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. However, throughout the year, swells rise from 3 to 6 feet.
Although as yet little known on the tourist map, surprisingly the island of Sumba has a number luxurious, well frequented resorts. The Nihiwatu Resort, for example, describes itself as “the ultimate in privacy, exclusivity, views and romance”, and has been awarded Indonesia’s 2nd best hotel by Tripadvisor. Additionally, there is the Sumba Nautil Resort both in the south west of Sumba, another favourite with surfers.
Located between the islands of Komodo and Sumbawa, Sumba has two distinct climates. Its western part receives more rain, is more fertile and therefore has more inhabitants, whilst its eastern part is mountainous with grassy plateaus and valleys. Here is Sumba’s highest peak, the Wangga Meti rising 1,225 meters above sea level. Capital of west Sumba is Waikabubak with its airport at Tambolaka, while the island’s largest town of Waingapu in East Sumba.
In between are mostly villages where communities still adhere to the ancient belief of Marapu or ancestor worship of the megalithic era. Here you will find large, well carved megalithic tombs. Traditional clan houses are round with peaked thick thatched roofs resembling wide sunhats. West Sumba plants rice, while East Sumba is famous for its water buffaloes and ikat weaving. Sumba raises Indonesia’s best horses.
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 rituals following the ancient belief of the islanders.
The center of rituals is the village of Tarung, a small remote hamlet west of Waikabubak, which the Sumbanese believe is their spiritual center. It is the high priest of Tarung who officiates at the yearly Wula Padu ceremony honoring the deified ancestors at the start of the Marapu newyear at the arrival of the rainy season. The Festival is held around October or November.
Once a year the exciting Pasola jousting festivals, the culmination of a series of fertility rituals are held on separate days at different locations on the island. Hundreds of warriors on horses charge into each other riding bareback, hurling spears. This festival, usually held between February and March, and is believed to bring fertility to the land.
The world has come to know West Sumba closer since the opening of the Nihiwatu Resort in the southwest of the island, some 1.5 hours from Waikabubak. This resort is known for its exceptional surf and beautifully inspiring surroundings. Surfing is best at the Kerewe, Marosi and Dasang beaches facing south where there are premier lefts and large double overhead surf.
Waingapu on the northern eastern coast of Sumba is the largest town 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. Look for the unique cloths with sewn in seashells.
Best surf in the east is on Manggudu island, which has both left and long right waves.
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