If you need to get away – far, far away – to a magical place completely different from anything you have seen, welcome to Sumba and Flores islands, Indonesia.
Sumba is a remote island in Eastern Indonesia, part of the Lesser Sunda Islands group in the province of East Nusa Tenggara — a 55-minute charter flight east of Bali. The island is defined by its uniqueness – even within Indonesia. With its “rugged undulating savannah and low limestone hills,” its physical characteristics bear hardly any resemblance to the other islands of Indonesia.
This paradise islands is perfect for snorkeling, swimming, scuba- diving, jungle trekking, boating and canoeing.
In addition to relaxing on the beach, swimming and diving, there are many things and places to visit and to discover in the surrounding of Komodo and Flores.
Everything there is about relaxation, appreciating nature, and experiencing culture. Surrounding it are Stone Age sites and traditional villages that have remained unchanged for centuries. You can fish, surf, or dive right on the resort’s beach, and you’ll be surrounded by tradition — “sometimes buffalo are led down to this beach to be washed, and when the tide draws back over the reef, villagers emerge to gather seaweed, urchins and crabs,” according to Condé Nast Traveler.
Sumba has a semi-arid climate. Especially the east of the island is characterized by the hot north-Australian climate. There is a dry season from May to November. From December to April it can rain. The monsoon or rainy season lasts from about three months in the east up to five months in the west. The rainfall ranges from 800-1000 mm per year in the northeast to 1000-1500 mm in the central region and up to 1500-2000 mm in the south-western part of the island.
In the eastern part the average temperature is between 27 and 36 degrees Celsius. In the west the average is 2-3 degrees cooler. The night temperatures are significantly lower than in Bali. In the highlands and from July to September the night temperature can be below 18 degrees.
Lately, the monsoon has been very different. There were extreme droughts but also heavy rain. Rivers in the south changed their course because of the flooding and destroyed many fields and bridges. Recently the shortage of water forced the people in the Northeast of Sumba to abandon some traditional villages and new settlements.
The best time for travelling for nature lovers is from October to mid-December, when it becomes a little green due to sporadic rains, and from April to June after the monsoon. The surfers’ season is from May to October like everywhere in Indonesia. High waves from July to September make swimming often difficult.
In Sumba, there is always something to celebrate somewhere. Celebrating and inviting more people than necessary is part of their culture. You need not necessarily attend a big festival or ceremony. If you know a little Bahasa Indonesia, it is the little encounters that we as foreigners remember for a long time.
Here is a selection of celebrations:
Perkawinan = Weddings
In the chapter history and culture / traditional way of life I have described the importance of marriage. Here is the now customary routine:
Weddings are celebrated in the bride’s house. Days before the celebration the dowry of the bride is shown in front of the parents’ house. This might be a marriage bed, TV and furniture. On the day of the celebration, the bride’s family gather in front of their house and wait for the groom.
The groom starts from his family home and collects his relatives on the way to the bride. Nowadays they use mostly Bemos and trucks for the trip. They have room for the presents: horses, water buffaloes and pigs. A decorated horse symbolizes a motorcycle.
Upon arrival of the groom, the two families consult whether the presents are in balance. Only when they agree a religious service will be held in the relevant belief. Animal sacrifices are common at weddings.
Music and Dance Festivals
Traditional music and dance were originally a part of Marapu ceremonies. Today they also take place in local festivals and events. Each region of Sumba has its own types of dance. There are dances where women and men dance together or dance separately. The most popular is Woleka and Kataga. Woleka is a dance of women to celebrate the return of the heroes from the battlefield. Kataga is a war dance. It is performed by men very expressive and full of energy.
The music is more rhythmic concomitantly. The musical instruments that are most commonly used are gongs called Talla and a kind of drum called Beddu. Gongs are made of brass or steel. They are different in size. There are the large ones Talla Pia and small ones Talla Ana Kouka. They are addressed with wooden bats. Then there is the small drum Katuba who is beaten by hand.
In addition, there are various other today more rare instruments such as the Kasabba: a kind of basin; Goga Ama: a kind of short-flute; Talahe: a kind of hollow flute which gets air through one nostril while the other nostril is closed; Ndungga: a kind of rattle made of coconut shells and horsehair or spun yarn).
Elements of the traditional festivals are often involved in non-traditional events. For example: campaign events, sports events, and inaugurations.
In all bigger villages in Sumba, there are equestrian games around the National Holiday August 17.
From the 17th of August to the 16th of September the Taman Hiburan Rakyat festival takes place in Waingapu. It is a mixture of Oktoberfest and representation of NGO and government projects.
Sumba’s Tourist Future
According to official figures, about 10000 tourists come to Sumba every year (most of them are Indonesians). Promotion of tourism is a very important topic in local politics. There is a debate over the expansion of air traffic and a further airport in the Anakalang district. Meanwhile four airlines offer flights to Sumba. The airport runway of Tambolaka has been extended and the shack in the airport has long been replaced by a real reception building.
Everywhere in Sumba new roads are under construction. They do not only connect the people in the villages, but also lead directly to the beaches and sights of the island. Beach plots are for sale.
The declining attraction of Bali because of too many tourists, noise, rip off and environmental problems makes travel agencies in Bali and Lombok offer Sumba as a destination for individual travelers. And Sumba is hardly more than an hour’s flight away from Bali and Lombok.
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