Whilst Bali is one of my favourite places on earth to visit, the popular tourist destination is only one of 17,000+ islands that make up the archipelago of Indonesia. Not many people are aware of the beautiful places that surround the famous party island, especially one in particular – the island of Sumba.
Sumba is situated east of Bali resting right in the heart of Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province. Whilst areas of Bali have succumbed to the booming tourism industry, almost the entire island of Sumba remains untouched and authentic, showcasing the true beauty of the Indonesian culture, landscapes and people.
I am lucky enough to have visited Sumba numerous times throughout my life and on every trip I find something new and truly amazing about the island. Unlike the crowded Kuta beach, Sumba boasts several pristine beaches with white sands and crystal clear waters – all this without a tourist in sight!
Two of my favourites beaches are Kerawai and Kodi beach, both lining the western side of the island. Just relaxing on one of these beaches will undeniably make you feel like you’re in paradise!
To really get a glimpse into the life of a typical Sumbanese, you must visit one of the many traditional villages (Kampung adat) that spawn the island. One in particular that stands out from my trips is Tarung, a village nestled in the hills around the outskirts of Waikabubak – Sumba’s second largest city.
In Tarung you will find traditional Sumbanese houses (uma) made out of bamboo and thatch, and buffalo horns adorning the front of each house representing Marapu; the ancestral religion that is still practised on the island.
Young children can be seen entertaining themselves with one of their many clever homemade toys. The village women gather around preparing meals for their families and the elders are weaving beautiful traditional fabrics (ikat) to be worn and sold.
It is only when visiting a place like Tarung do you truly see how simple life should be and that we don’t need half of the stuff we have to be happy. These villagers are poor in possessions but so wealthy in love, happiness, family and values.
The majority of the population of west Sumba reside in Waikabubak. However, unlike Indonesia’s overcrowded metropolitan cities like Jakarta and Denpasar, Waikabubak is home to only around 10,000 people.
Almost everything you need can be found on the main street of Jalan Sudirman, although it is by no means a typical CBD. There are a few cafes (warung) and convenience stores but there are no malls, skyscrapers or even a McDonalds. Locals buy their groceries at the local market (pasar). The markets are great and a definite must-see!
I loved looking at the careful displays of spices and fresh herbs and interacting with the locals. I must say, don’t be alarmed if you feel like you’re being watched.
As Sumba is an isolated part of Indonesia, many locals rarely come face to face with foreigners and tend to stare at you and even follow you around, curious to see what you will do and buy. Just crack and smile and be polite. The Sumbanese are some of the most friendly people on earth, they’ll be sure to smile back!
Next time you’re planning a trip to Bali, perhaps think about adding Sumba to your itinerary. A short flight can teleport you away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta to a relaxing paradise with a difference. Then you can say you have truly been to Indonesia.
Do you think Sumba is a place you would like to visit? Comment in the section below!