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Feature Destination:

Sumbawa
AND THE REST OF EAST NUSA TENGGARA

"Though the size of Sumbawa is three times the size of Lombok, it holds just one-third the population - or approximately 1.000,000 people."

Sumbawa's terrain is rough and mountainous and has none of the fertile plain that grace south central Lombok. On a map, the outline of the island is controlled by capes, peninsulas and deeply cut bays. The 15,600 square kilometer island stretches 280 kilometers from east to west and varies from 15 to 90 kilometers in width.

Some 85 percent of Sumbawa are too mountainous to farm, but rich volcanic soil of the river valleys yields bumper crops, These valleys were the sites of many petty states, the island's first political units.

Sumbawa is part of the volcanic northern chain of East Nusa Tenggara, and while activity took place over the eras, no single explosion seems to have been as dramatic as the Mt. Tambora eruption of 1815. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this was the greatest eruption in known history. Over 36 cubic kilometers of rock and ash, including the top third of the volcano, were propelled upward, leaving Tambora truncated and creating, huge caldera.

When you stepped off the Lombok ferry at Poto Tano, in West Sumbawa, you have two basic choices: head south to Taliwang, or head east to the area around Sumbawa Besar, and on to the Bima district.

Buses south usually head as far as Taliwang from the ferry landing, and trucks over the rest of the way to the south coast, leaving Taliwang early each morning. But is still best to hire a jeep or Kijang (a locally built utility vehicle).

As you leave the ferry landing area at Poto Tano (Poto means 'harbor' in Samawa), you are greeted first by long, rectangular houses, neatly aligned and perched on stilts. It's 10 kilometers to the main road, and then another 33 kilometers to Taliwang.

Taliwang is not a very attractive town. There are lots of dogs and several nondescript mosques. If you came by bus, you'll have to stay overnight to catch a truck south the next morning.

The Taliwang speak a distinct dialect. Many have immigrated west to Lombok, bringing with them their taste of Ayam Taliwang, a delicious type of spicy chicken.

About 1 kilometer south of town, turn west, at the end of an 8-kilometer road you'll find Labuhan Balat, a wide, curved beach of yellowish sand. The beach is walled in by high cliffs.

There are a few huts and fishing canoes and a big, crumbling, colonial port building. In Dutch times, before the main road was built, Labuhan Balat was the shipping center of southwest Sumbawa.

Six kilometers south of Taliwang, the road leads to Poto Batu, on the sea at the head of a long, wide estuary. The place is popular with the residents of Taliwang on weekends, and there are a couple of good stretches of beach - you can follow the sand all the way to Labuhan Balat.

Labuhan Lalar, A Bajau village of huts perched on black sand, is 3 kilometers further. This ist he only seaside Bajau village in the area, the rest of the people here are an inland farmer. Boats occasionally make the run from here to Lombok , and during the morning hours, delicious fresh fish can be bought at Labuhan Lalar's small market.

The little town of Jereweh, 15 kilometers from Taliwang and just across the Tiu River, is the last town before the road becomes terrible and the scenery becomes fantastic. There is a fairly well stocked store here for last minute supplies. If you are around just prior to planting season, ask if there are water buffalo races (kerapan kerbau). It's worth staying around, or returning for the event.

The district capital of the western part of the island is a large town just one redeeming feature for the visitor: an old palace built in 1883. Sumbawa Besar's Palace was partially restored a century later, with the only aesthetic blunder being a concrete apron in front of the main entrance. The palace is worth a short visit. Just grab a horse drawn dokar from anywhere in town. There is also the large Seketeng market cum bemo station, at the eastern edge of town.

Moyo Island, to the northeast of Sumbawa Besar, offers some of the very best snorkeling in Indonesia. Beautiful, untouched corals. Moyo also offers bird lovers with 3 number of species to see. There are also deer, boar, banteng (looks like something in between a cow and a water buffalo), fruit bats, snakes and lizards.

On the north coast of the island, outside of the reserve, there are a couple of villages - Labuhan Aji and Sebotok - and several hamlets. The farmers here raise water buffalo, horses and goats and all the inhabitants do some fishing. Coconuts and bananas are the most important crops.

Moyo Island is the right place for lovers of nature and the underwater world. But for those seeking a look at the traditional village life of Sumbawa, the hilltop village of Tepal, where many pre-Islamic beliefs are honored, is the place to visit.

Reaching Tepal requires an 8-hour walk from Batu Dalang, which is south west of Sumbawa Besar, at the limit of a vehicular traffic.

Tepal village, located on a hill above the river used for bathing, has maintained its traditions in great part due to its isolation. While no Japanese tour groupshave yet invaded the village, the occasional foreign traveler makes it to Tepal, so the people are accustomed to strange ways and faces. It's no problem to find a place to sleep - check in the kepala desa, but bring whatever goodies you can't live withoutand share them with the hosts.

The 250-km stretch of road between Sumbawa Island's two regional capitals has recently been upgraded to a wide, well-surfaced highway. The regular buses take about 7 hours. Traveling east from Sumbawa Besar to Bima, the first part of the ride relatively boring, but the second half offers much better scenery.

THE DRAGON LIZARD OF KOMODO

Komodo dragon is the largest known monitor lizard (Varanus sp.), a genus whose members are distinguished by their voracity and opportunistic feeding habits. Monitor's also called goanna lizards in Australia got their name because it was believed that they warned of the presence of crocodiles.

Komodo Island and neighboring Rinca are between Sumbawa and Flores, approximately east of Bali. There is just one village in Komodo and the 600 hundred or so Komodo Islanders cling precariously to the Eastern Shore. Despite the small size of the community, they have developed their own distinct dialect.

FLORES

Flores is a long, narrow rugged island with dramatic volcanoes, beautiful mountain lakes, grassy savannah and mountain forests. The landscape is beautiful in an untamed way, and yet it is one of the least visited parts of Indonesia.

Ende is the largest town in Flores, and is set on the island's south coast, nestled in the crook of a small peninsula. Most of the shipping activity is concentrated in this area.

About 40 km from Ende is Mt. Keli Mutu with three volcanic crater, each filled with a lake of different colors. The landscape surrounding the lakes is barren and Grey, and in this setting the collors are nothing less than astonishing. In fact, visitors to Keli Mutu might as well as be advised to bring offerings to Konderatu and Bobi, if they want a clear morning in which to view the three lakes.

MAUMERE

The capital of Flores that lies in the island's hub of communications, with a wide range of accommodations and many of Flores' attractions.

The villages south and west of Maumere offer a gamut of attractions: a regal treasure of 17th century elephant tusks, the only real museum in the province, splendid views onto the Flores and Savu seas, ikat weaving, and a sacred spot reserved for ancestor worship.

SUMBA

Visiting Sumba especially the West can be an experience to treasure if one has an appreciation for non-industrial culture.

In many villages - recently commercialized, Tarung is a glaring exception - locals don't quite know what to make of western visitors. They stare in disbelief at camera wielding foreigners who, unfortunately, often disregard the first rule of Sumbanese courtesy: sharing betel nut and chatting with one's hosts.

The most spectacular ceremony in Sumba is the Pasola, a ritual fight with spears featuring hundreds of horsemen. It is a wild and martial event, and although the government now insists on blunt spears, serious injuries are common and there are occasional deaths.


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