Sumba is one of three big islands of East Nusa Tenggara (Flores Island, Timor Island and Sumba Island). Although I had visited Flores and Timor, I had never been to Sumba. Part of the reason is that it’s so isolated, which makes it that bit more expensive and harder to get to.
Still, a visit to Sumba has been on my ‘to do list’ for a while. When I was in Timor and heard two of my friends were planning to go to Sumba I decided that right then that it was the right time to visit the island. Here I would like to share some basic information about Sumba tourism with you and hopefully I can somehow help you plan your trip. Let’s start with this Sumba travel guide!
Where is Sumba?
Don’t get confused between Sumba and Sumbawa. It is so easy to get mixed up, but they are two totally different islands. While Sumbawa is part of West Nusa Tenggara (together with Lombok), Sumba is part of East Nusa Tenggara (together with Timor and Flores).
Sumba is divided into four regencies. There is East Sumba, West Sumba, Central Sumba and Southwest Sumba. The most popular and developed regencies for tourism are Southwest and West Sumba. Hotels in East and Central Sumba are more limited and the transport infrastructure is less developed.
How to Get to Sumba
There are two airports on the island of Sumba, one in East Sumba and the other in Southwest Sumba. The airport is East Sumba is Umbu Mehang Kunda. It was previously known as Mau Hau and is located in the town of Waingapu. The airport in Southwest Sumba is called Tambolaka.
Direct flight to Sumba is only available from two cities, Denpasar (Bali) and Kupang (Timor). If you want to visit Sumba from anywhere else in Indonesia you will have to transit through one of these two cities first.
A number of airlines fly to Sumba, including Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air. If you want to fly with Garuda Indonesia then you will need to fly to Tambolaka Airport.
Travelling Around Sumba
Transportation in Sumba is limited. You can travel with local buses between the major urban centers. While this is cheap, the service is limited (like super limited). Maybe only 2-3 times I saw a bus pass (it was an old bus). Alternatively, you can arrange a private car or motorbike rental.
My advice would be to hire a car and driver to help you to explore Sumba. While it is possible to rent a car without a driver, you will have a hard time navigating. The signs in Sumba, especially for tourism destinations, are not very good. Plus mobile signal on the island either does not exist or is very limited.
My Sumba Itinerary
Normally when people visit Sumba they go from West Sumba to the East Sumba and stay on the island for around 5 days 4 nights. Having visited Sumba I think 5 days is a great amount of time to get a real feel for the island. Of course it’s always nice to stay longer. 🙂
When we visited Sumba we went from East Sumba to West Sumba, which is the reverse of most people. We visited 3-5 tourist spots a day on the tour, which made it quite an action packed adventure. Below is the itinerary we followed along with a few of the highlights of the trip.
We flew into Waingapu from Kupang in Timor. We took an early morning flight and arranged for one of our friends to meet us at the airport. Later in the day we met our private driver. On the first day in Sumba we went to several different tourist sites. We visited five different places including Puru Kambera Hill, Puru Kambera Beach, Rende traditional village, Laipori Lake and Walakiri Beach (you can find our more about these places on the Things to Do in Sumba article-it is coming soon!). On our first night we stayed in Waingapu.
Recommended Hotel – Tanto Hotel
Tanto Hotel is a new hotel in Waingapu. It’s mid range with basic amenities and nice beds. It is located close to a main road, so it does get a bit noisy at night. It is a bit overpriced for what you get. However, there aren’t many hotels in the area, so until more tourists visit Sumba, this is the best of what’s available.
Visit Walakiri Beach at sunset for beautiful views of the mangroves. The mangroves at Walakiri are probably one of the most photograph places in Sumba. I wasn’t lucky with the sunset, but the visit to see the mangroves was so much fun!
On the second day in Sumba we headed towards Tarimbang. The first destination of the day was the Wairinding hill. It was dry season in Sumba so the grass on the hills was different shades of brown (it’s best to visit in the wet season when the grass is fresh and the rolling hills are a bright green). After visiting Wairinding we stopped at Umbu Tidur hill. We arrived at Tarimbang at around 3 pm.
Recommended Hotel – Sumba Paradise
Sumba Paradise is a picturesque hotel on the top of the hill overlooking Tarimbang beach with panoramic views out to the ocean (the hotel was formerly known as Peter’s Magic). It’s a beautiful place for sunset or sunrise. If you are on budget, you should check out Marthen’s Homestay.
The view of the bay from Sumba Paradise was the highlight of the day. I can’t forget how beautiful sunset was from the top of the hill. Plus the people who run Sumba Paradise were fun and friendly.
On the third day, we decided to play around Tarimbang Beach in the morning before checking out of Sumba Paradise. The beach is a great beach to swim and take some holiday snapshots. We saw two surfers from far and several local fisherman coming in with their catch. After checking out of Sumba Paradise we continued our journey west to Waikabubak. On the way we visited Konda Maloba Beach, Pasungan traditional village, Waitabar traditional village and Waikelo sawah. We arrived at Waikabubak at around 7 pm.
Recommended Hotel – Sumba Nautil Resort
The Sumba Nautil Resort is one of the better resorts in Sumba. The rooms are nice, simple, clean and comfortable. There is a swimming pool with views overlooking Marosi Beach and the Indian Ocean. It’s a picturesque place to eat and the food is decent too.
Waitabar village was a nice mix of modern and traditional. The village has the traditional straw Sumba houses that the island is famous for.
Day four was my favorite day in Sumba. We start the day visiting the Lapopu waterfall. The waterfall ran over rocks before falling over the edge of the slope into a huge turquoise lagoon. After visiting Lapopu, we went to Weekuri Lagoon, which shouldn’t be missed when you visit Sumba. We finished the day swimming and snorkeling at Weekuri then going to Bwanna Beach, which has a unique arch in the cliff.
Recommended Hotel – Oro Beach Bungalows
The Oro Beach Bungalows are located on the outskirts of Tambolaka. The resort gives you the feeling of being on holiday, opening up directly onto the beach. The rooms are rustic, spacious and attractive. There’s plenty of space to relax and socialise. It’s a nice place to start or finish your holiday.
The highlight of day four was Weekuri lagoon. It is the kind of place where you get wonderstruck visiting for the first time. It is so beautiful. I feel so lucky having the chance to go swimming here (you can also snorkel in the lagoon).
Day five was a lazy day. Our flight out of Tambolaka Airport was at 12, so there wasn’t really time to do any exploring. We were just lazy at the hotel, which was a nice way to end our trip to Sumba. From Tambolaka we flew directly to Denpasar, Bali.
I’d spent so many years hoping to go to Sumba that I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Thankfully it didn’t. Sumba is a really special place to visit with some incredible tourism destinations. While travel around the island is still difficult, I believe it’s worth it for the experience. If you get the chance to visit Sumba I’d recommend taking it.
Have you visited Sumba? What did you think of the island? What places would you recommend visiting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
If you are interested in booking accommodation for your holiday in Indonesia I recommend Airbnb. Sign up through this link to receive a $25 discount on your first booking. For hotel bookings I recommend Agoda for its low price and discounts.