If you are a beach person, you will definitely be fascinated by the beauty of Sumba. The East Nusa Tenggara island, sandwiched between the Savu Sea to the north and east and the Indian Ocean to the south and west, boasts pristine white sandy beaches with dramatic backgrounds of rocky mountains and dense woodland. Some of its beaches have also been known as surfer’s paradise.
Almost all of the beaches in Sumba are untouched by mass tourism. One of the reasons these beaches are safe is their remote locations.
There is no public transportation available and other tourist facilities, such as hotels, homestays or restaurants, are few and far between.
But you should not let the lack of facilities deter you. The dramatic panorama and excitement you will experience at these pristine natural beauties are definitely worth the effort.
A good place to start is Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba district. There are daily connecting flights from Jakarta to Waingapu via Denpasar or Kupang, the capitals of Bali and East Nusa Tenggara, respectively. Total flight time is about three hours, but transit time may vary between airlines.
In Waingapu, you can hire a four-wheel-drive vehicle, which will prove indispensable during your travels in this island. The rent is usually between Rp 800,000 and Rp 1,000,000 ($65 and $82) per day, excluding a driver and fuel.
You can also hire a skillful driver and local guide to take you on your way during your travels.
Forget about GPS, mobile networks and any other satellite communications during your journey. As the most beautiful beaches in Sumba are hidden behind massive limestone mountains and thick jungles, all mobile and satellite communications will usually fail. In a way, it is a good means of escaping from modern civilization and its hubbub during your holiday on this island.
Last but not least, you had better bring along your own tent, sleeping bags, a portable stove and enough food supplies to last you through your travel. You will be hard pressed to find eateries, lodgings or even public toilets along the road.
Sound like a hassle? Not entirely.
First of all, you will experience the hospitality of the people of Sumba during your travels. Should you get lost during your adventure, most of the locals you encounter will go out of their way to ensure your safety. Some may offer to escort you and or even give you lodgings in their own home if it is late.
Sumba is also safe for local and international travelers.
“Crime rates are very low in Sumba,” our local guide, Kristian Woli, assures us. “Tourists can generally feel safe, even if they’re traveling on deserted tracks at night.”
All your efforts will be paid off by the pristine natural beauty that you will discover in the beaches of Sumba.
Puru Kambera Beach
This is one of the closest beaches from Waingapu. The beach is about 26 kilometers, or a one-hour drive, from the city.
During the drive, you will enjoy 360-degree, unobstructed views of Sumba’s breathtaking landscape of vast savannah and rocky mountains. Sometimes you may have to stop your car to allow for Brahman cattle, buffalo or wild horses to cross the road.
The road to Puru Kambera is relatively easy to travel. For the most part it is paved, before narrowing down to stony tracks near the beach.
Puru Kambera, which is located in Mondu village in East Sumba’s Haharu subdistrict, is a long, flat strip of white sandy beach with rows of majestic pine trees in the background.
The beach is an ideal place for families, as the kids can freely play and build sand castles along the shore. There is also plenty of treasure for kids to discover; the beach offers a wide array of unique colorful corals and seashells washed from the sea. As the water is relatively calm on this part of the island, the kids can also swim along the length of the beach.
The beach faces north toward the Savu Sea. But as the shoreline is quite long and flat, you can catch glimpses of both the rising and setting sun from this beach. The orange glow of either event, filtered through the pine trees, is glorious to watch.
This horseshoe-shaped bay, cradled among jutting cliffs, is famous for its dramatic beauty and big, rolling waves.
Between June and September, its white sandy beach is usually packed with surfers from around the world seeking to ride its towering waves.
“During these months, the waves can easily reach up to two or three meters high,” Kristian says.
Tarimbang is located in Tabundung subdistrict on the southern edge of East Sumba. It is about 120 kilometers from the town of Waingapu.
The five-hour drive to this beach can be quite thrilling as you will pass through steep and narrow jagged rocky paths along mountain ridges, which are flanked by deep ravines on both sides.
But the views are quite stunning as you will see vast stretches of rugged limestone mountains, woodlands and savannah. On some occasions, you will also pass through traditional Sumba villages with interesting clusters of thatched-roofed stilt houses and ancient megalithic tombs in front of the houses.
You can park your car about 200 meters from the beach at Tarimbang. From there, you have to go on foot through a rough patch of woods and a lush green field speckled with water hyacinths.
The views that you will immediately see as you emerge from the woods are breathtaking.
A vast stretch of pristine white sandy beach unfolds before you. Gray rocky mountains, like giant sentinels, stand guard on either side. The endless expanse of the Indian Ocean kissing the shoreline perfectly mirrors the clear blue skies above.
When we visited Tarimbang in early January, it was completely deserted and silent, except for the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach.
However, you should be advised that the currents can get quite strong and can be dangerous for young children and inexperienced swimmers.
The corals and seashells awash on this beach have unusual colors of pink, blue, emerald and fuchsia. Your kids will definitely love to collect and treasure them.
There are a couple of accommodations near this beach. One of them is Peter’s Magic Paradise (peters-magic-paradise.com), owned and operated by German illusionist Peter Kersten and his Indonesian wife, Yosni Suruk. This resort, located on a cliff, offers stunning views of the beach from above.
The other accommodation is Marthen’s Homestay, which is located about five minutes from the beach. This simple accommodation, owned and operated by a local family, offers rustic cottages modeled after Sumba’s traditional houses.
Watu Mandorak Cove
One of the most challenging beaches to discover in Sumba Island is the Watu Mandorak Cove, which is completely hidden behind rocky mountains and cliffs in the southwestern part of Sumba.
The cove is only 42 kilometers from the town of Tambolaka, but it requires a drive of about two hours because the roads are in poor condition.
They consist mainly of dirt paths that can get muddy and dangerous during the rainy season.
Jutting rocks along these paths may sometimes hit the underside of your vehicle. Moreover, these narrow paths are sometimes obscured by overgrown weeds and shrubs.
But you don’t have to worry about getting lost on your journey. The paths pass through a lot of traditional villages, rice paddies and cashew plantations. Most of the villagers we met along the way were happy to point us in the right direction.
The white sandy cove, flanked by steep gray cliffs on both sides, is shaped like a bowl. Facing the Indian Ocean, its concave lagoon holds crystal-clear turquoise seawater that tosses and turns angrily all day and night.
If you arrive early enough in the morning, you will catch sight of brave local fishermen setting out to sea from the rocky cove.
“They have to time their moves carefully so that their boats will not be bashed against the rocks,” Kristian said.
Sylviana Hamdani/The Jakarta Globe