Visiting Sumba Island

Sumba is known by many as the islands of spirits as the island has a reputation of holding many funerals. This being said Sumba isn’t all about the celebration of the afterlife, the island is also famous for it’s ikat fabric weaving that is prominent throughout East Nusa Tenggara.

Warinding Hill, Sumba
Warinding Hill, Sumba (Source :

The one festival of interest that seems to attract the tourist is the Pasola, this festival is a ritual war fought on horseback while the crowd cheer jubilantly for their hero. To see these men on horseback one is led to imagine stepping back in time watching this ritual and the local villagers passion for it.

Pasola Festival, Sumba
Pasola Festival, Sumba (Source :

The island is divided into two parts. East and West. The two areas couldn’t be further apart in terms of landscape. The east is arid and rocky and relies heavily on the western part of Sumba for its food. The west side of this island has a lush fertile landscape allowing for the cultivation of crops.

If you plan on visiting Sumba, you will most probably arrive in the port town of waingapu by ferry from Labuan Bajo in Flores. The crossing usually takes around 7 hours. Upon arrival in waingapu you will be greeted by many hotel owners all wanting your business. This isn’t a bad thing as they will provide you with transport to their hotel in town. If you don’t want this option then many bemos can be found for around Rp 5000.

Sumba megalithic culture
Sumba megalithic culture (Source :

Animist culture thrives throughout Sumba and it is the village where you will witness this the most. The Sumbanese village is the heart of all things spiritual and the village itself is very unique in design and layout. The most distinguishing feature of the houses are the hat like roofs that seem to tower high above the main structure. Most villages are built upon a hill for fortified defense purposes and the village itself is centered around megalithic graves that are topped by petrified tree totems. You may be fortunate enough to see skulls on display from yesteryear headhunts. This has now been made illegal by the Indonesian government yet there are still a small number of villages that display the skulls.

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