Untouched, Pristine, and Pure: Things We Love About Sumba
In April, TravelPeople organized a pioneer trip to Sumba, a pristine island in East Nusa Tenggara. It is located just south of the Flores island in the map. People often mix up Sumba with Sumbawa, which is an island that lies between Lombok and Flores.
Sumba’s culture is still very well-preserved and original. Their culture (especially in West Sumba) is still quite hard-line. We strongly suggest joining a tour with trusted and experienced local guide when visiting this island.
Sumba is overwhelmingly rural. Chicken, cows, goats, dogs, and horses wander along the roadsides. Pigs roast on front-yard spits, buffalo hides are stretched on bamboo frames to dry in the sun.
This trip made us realize that Sumba is actually a complete package, offering everything from beautiful natural attractions, unique culture and interesting history. If you are looking for a less crowded scene, then this island will be perfect for you.
We have summarized five things we love about this island:
- Awesome Sunset
Sunset is always a great idea to beautifully end the day. There are many places in Sumba where you can enjoy magnificent sunset. In West Sumba, we visited Tanjung Bwana, where we can see unique rocks in the place called Batu Bolong Beach and Batu Maladong Beach. The view is comparable with 12 Apostles in Australia. Or you can go to Pero beach, a long-wide-wavy beach with very calm and peaceful atmosphere.
Tanjung Bwana Beach
Wairinding Hill Sunset
- Aquatic paradise: Sumba’s Lake, Beach, and Waterfall
The beaches were surreal! We visited Mandorak beach where you can see all kind of blue in this place, from turquoise, dark blue, until the soft blue at the sky. The mixture of it makes this place very special.
We also went to We’ekuri Lake, a unique lake with turquoise water. This lake was surrounded by rock cliffs, which directly led to the ocean. The water is crystal clear so you can see the white sand and the rocks below. It was early morning when we arrived in this place, so there was nobody but us. It was a perfect timing to take great pictures and felt like we were the owner of this lake!
Sumba also has lots of unique and beautiful waterfalls. One of them (the one we visited) was Lapopu Waterfall. The waterfall is a natural phenomenon formed by the fault movement in the river flow so that it formed steep cliffs. We were, once again, lucky to arrive there with nobody but us! We got to explore the waterfall, jumped into the water, and took many great pictures!
- Changing Color Hills
There are three types of Sumba, Sumba when it’s purely green, yellowish green, and yellow. All of the grass will change its color according to the season.
When we were there, we could see the grass starting to change the color from green to yellow. We visited Wairinding Hill, and at that moment, it was mainly green and really beautiful combined with the sunset. We also met lovely local children in this area. In east Sumba, the children are still needed to help their parents to work. The local children in Wairinding Hill are working as well, mainly they went out to collect reeds. However, they were really excited to study and in need of books. Every traveler was suggested to bring book(s) for the local children. When we gave the books to the kids, they were really happy!
We visited Purukambera savannah on the next day, and the color of the grass was mainly yellowish green. It almost looked like we were in Africa! In addition, there were many “wild” horses in this place. They are not entirely wild actually, because some of them have been marked and they were set free at the savannah.
Sumba’s culture is very unique, from their traditional houses, custom & traditions, and clothing. In their traditional houses, the bottom part of the house is used for the cattle’s pen. They have various animals, such as pigs, dogs, horses, and even buffalo.
Sumba’s culture cannot be separated from their ancient religion, Marapu. They believe in ancient animism, that God could exist in many form. When we visited some traditional villages, at the center of the village were the enormous stone graves of clan ancestors. Traditional funerals involve the sacrifice of dozens and even hundreds of animals. A family can easily go bankrupt staging an appropriately lavish ceremony. Especially if they were a royal family, they had to invite many people to attend the funerals and also provide them with animals as a gratitude.
The cost of a funeral itself could reach up to 3 billion rupiah. How did they get the money? Sumba is well-known for its hand-crafted weaving. Sometimes 4 meters of weaving are valued up to 300 million rupiah, depending on the level of difficulty and how natural the materials are.
When we visited Rende Village (The Village of the Kings), we saw some magnificent tombs of the past kings. And we got to meet the queen of this village, a surprisingly very humble and simple lady. She didn’t look like how a queen in the western world may look, but surely you could see the charm in her face. She wasn’t married because she was the only living queen at her level (in Sumba, there are many levels of royal blood) and she would rather stay unmarried than to leave her responsibility of the village. If she gets married to someone who is below her level, she would lose her title as queen and would be forced to leave her responsibility to the village.
Queen of Rende Village: Tamu Rende Intan in the middle
We met some extraordinary people in Sumba. From the local villagers who closely follows the political development in the capital city of Indonesia (Jakarta) and many young people of Sumba who wants to make a change in their hometown.
Interestingly at Tarung Village, villagers still go to tribal wars and they would bring a human head home when they won the war. But when we went there, we got to sat down with the locals and talk candidly about how they feel about the election in Jakarta! They also told us that Sumbanese respects each other despite their religion differences.
In Rumah Budaya Sumba, our guide explained in details about Sumba’s culture. Through her explanation, we understood more the philosophy of Sumba people. Have a look at this video below.
We also got to know Sumba kids. In East Sumba, we went to an orphanage to donate some of our books. This orphanage was one of the poorest orphanage in Sumba, and many people were touched to help. Every year some students from National University Singapore spend at least two weeks to help repairs & build facilities in Prailiu Orphanage. Some of them cried and didn’t want to leave the orphanage after their two weeks stay.
Our new friend, Hosea, a real East-Sumbanese told us a story of his inspiring life. He was a boy from a little village in East Sumba, raised poorly to be a farmer. He was beaten and was told not to dream to be more than a farmer. But he refused to accept it. He ran away from his divorced parents and was taken care by a Sumba family who also didn’t treat him well, but at least he thought that he could go to school. He struggled at his young age and he told us that when he was about to start his degree, he only had 50 Rupiah coin to sign up. Amazingly, with the local sponsor’s help, he did finish his theology degree and then went on to do a post-graduate degree in the same area. Now, he is working closely with children of Sumba, trying to change their mindset to be more courageous to dream beyond what they were told. He volunteered to many rural places and taught children to work towards a better future.
Everything about Sumba is just awesome! Not only we enjoyed beautiful sceneries, but also we got to learn many things about Sumba’s culture, which also further showed us how rich Indonesia is. It is rich in natural resources, culture and traditions, and of course, its people.
People of Sumba are very inspiring. They are often underestimated because they come from quite far east of Indonesia. During our trip, we have encountered people with strong willingness to develop their region, kind people who care about our nation’s well-being. Not to mention, the children who were really keen to learn and go to school.
In the end, we would like to say that this trip was beyond an ordinary leisure trip, it also taught us cultural knowledge, as well as spiritual & moral lesson, which will remain forever.
Click here to read more about Sumba.
Experience Sumba yourself and get your own Sumba’s story!
Written by :
Gabriela Davita Amelia
A proud Indonesian travel addict. In love with underwater world as well as overhead places. Thus I am always looking forward to my next dive and hike! I believe that the beauty of the world is here to be relished and preserved.