Sumba

Travel Guide Lesser Sunda Islands Sumba

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Introduction

Ratenggaro village and beach

Ratenggaro village and beach

© theo1006

“Sumba, the forgotten island” is the title of a photo book on Sumba, its nature and culture, published as recently as 2011. Indeed, Sumba has long been neglected by tourists and the central government alike. In the 80ies the people of East Sumba still used to suffer famine by failed crops and poorly organized food aid from Java. But this condition is rapidly changing. Sumba has been discovered by domestic tourists who are attracted by its pristine beaches, challenging waterfalls and traditional villages with their festivals and rituals. They are being followed by a trickle of foreigners who are fed up with Bali. Already the best coastal land has been bought up by investors speculating on a tourist boom similar to those of Bali and Lombok. So hurry if you want to see Sumba relatively unspoiled. Sumba remains one of the few places in the world where megalithic burials are still a common practice, like they were in the Neolithic Age. All traditional villages have their megalith tombs, but elsewhere people have resorted to constructing the tombs from concrete. Horses play an important role in the life of he Sumbanese. This is reflected in the pasola, mock battles on horseback in West Sumba, and horse races in East Sumba.

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Geography

The Dutch government divided Sumba administratively in West and East Sumba regencies of about equal size. But in 2007 parts of these regencies were combined to form Central Sumba, and South-West Sumba was split off from West Sumba, so that now the island consists of four regencies: Sumba Barat Daya (1,445 km2), Sumba Barat (710 km2), Sumba Tengah (1,870 km2) and Sumba Timur (7,000 km2). The unequal size of the regencies reflects their relative capacity to support human habitation, East Sumba being the most sparsely populated. The total population of Sumba is not more than 800,000, of which 250,000 live in East Sumba. Of Sumba’s original forest cover only isolated patches remain, notably in two National Parks: Laiwangi Manggameti NP in East Sumba and Manupeu Tanah Daru NP in Central Sumba. These are essential for the preservation of over 200 bird species living on Sumba.

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Towns

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Sights and Activities

Sumba is one of the very few places globally where the neolithic/bronze age practice of burial in megaliths remains intact. Stone megaliths (and other standing stone stuctures) are widespread on the island.

A number of pasolas are held each year in western Sumba near Waikabubak, usually sometime in either February or March (or both). These are ritual horseback jousting trials which including a ritual battle where mounted riders attempt to dismount other riders using blunt-tipped spears (sometimes there are fatalities). The pasola is an important annual ceremony and a key, unique attraction in Sumba.

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Events and Festivals

  • Pasola, mock battles in which horse riders show spears at each other, can be witnessed for four weeks in the months of February and March in West Sumba.
  • Palapang Jara, or horseracing with young boys as jockeys, is popular in East Sumba. Every third week of the months of June, August and October competitions are held in Prailiu village, Kambera district.

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Getting There

By Plane

Sumba has two airports, Umbu Mehang Kunda Airport near Waingapu and Tambolaka Airport. They are connected by daily flights with Denpasar (Bali) and Kupang (Timor).

By Boat

Pelni ships and ASDP ferries travel between Sumba and neighbouring islands, among these Bali, Flores and Timor. Inquire about the schedule if you would try this option.

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Getting Around

Exploring Sumba on one’s own is a challenge, because there is few accommodation outside the towns, there are no good maps and no road signs once one gets off the main roads. Therefore the most practical way is to hire a car with driver/guide (more expensive than on Java and Bali).
Renting a motorbike is an option, but consider that off the main roads assistance may be hard to get in case of a breakdown.

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Eat

If you visit Sumba, be sure to try goat.

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This is version 18. Last edited at 19:45 on Oct 4, 18 by theo1006. 4 articles link to this page.

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