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Sumba Island – Lesser Sundas – Indonesia

Sumba Island – Lesser Sundas – Indonesia

Sumba Island is one of the fastest developing islands in Indonesia. It has two airports and extensive new roads construction. The Island has some of the greatest surfing and scuba diving locations in the world. Sumba has an incredible diverse and unspoiled nature. In the past years price of land was increasing by 100% every year.

The island was first documented by Pigafetta, a travelling companion to famed Portuguese explorer Megellan in 1522, when the first ships of the Portuguese arrived on the isolated and tribal shores of Sumba.

They recorded proud natives clad in fine woven Ikats, their bodies adorned with beautiful ornaments, and wrote of the traditional villages perched on green hills and valleys swarming with sculptured stone megalithic tombs.

This unique island is referred to as the rising star of Indonesia. Arguably, this is the most attractive location in Asia in terms of opportunities for future tourism development and growth.

Sumba is located just one hour flight from the famous Bali, in the eastern part of Indonesia, and belongs to the Lesser Sunda islands, the Eastern Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia.

At that time the air was filled with the sweet-smelling aroma of sandalwood forests that covered the island and remained centuries later a highly sought after commodity earning its name as ‘Sandalwood Island’ with the Dutch colonisation in 1756.

The Sumbanese also bartered their sturdy horses for gold, silver and Chinese ceramics that were, and still are, highly regarded as precious items by the islanders.

Sumba was known amongst foreign traders as being an island of fierce warriors where headhunting expeditions were common. It was due to these incessant raids that the villages were built on hilltops and heavily fortified by stone walls.

The dry season was the period of the headhunting expeditions as well as the wars between rival clans and villages. In East Sumba, heads were used as tokens of territorial conquest in battles between nobles. In West Sumba, headhunting rites were often acts of revenge between equals. In both parts of the island the heads were considered trophies that would be displayed on “skull trees” in the villages. It was believed that the trophies brought home would stimulate prosperity and fertility of the village and the fields.

Since Indonesian Independence in 1945, Sumba has been part of Nusa Tenggara Timor, the “Southeastern Islands,” with its administrative capital in Kupang on the Island of Timor. Although the government has recently improved the cross-island road as well as ferry and airport access to the island, outside of the local administrative capitals of Waingapu and Waikabubak life has changed little.

Sumba is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands and its geography spans 11,000 square kilometres, making it twice the size of Bali, with only 650,000 inhabitants (approximately one sixth of Bali) where the majority of the population still follow the ways of their ancestors.

The terrain on Sumba is quite different to its neighbouring islands; undulating hills replace the typical volcanic terrain in Indonesia with many areas in the North and East of the island resembling dry savannahs, whilst central highlands are covered in native Alang Alang grass and the mountains in the South extend down into lush tropical vegetation.

The World Wildlife Fund categorised Sumba as a deciduous forest eco region due to its special flora and fauna. However, only 7% of the island’s forest remains protected and preserved. Laiwangi Wanggameti National Park and Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park were designated in 1988 to protect the nature.

Due to the isolated location of the island, the language, religion and traditional lifestyle of the Sumbanese culture has been preserved.

Traditional dress is still observed in day to day life; men wear a short sarong (Hinggi) around their hips with belt and sword and a band or turban of woven Ikat with motifs and women wear long sarongs and headbands with different motifs.

Traditional villages and settlements are commonplace with traditional houses constructed over three storeys in a wooden structure, high pointed roofs made from native Alang Alang grass and sides of plaited bamboo. The construction of a house is accompanied by rituals and is believed to be a social and ceremonial unit.

Throughout the year the island is the site of many fascinating rituals; the most spectacular of them all are the Pasola ceremonies that take place during the months of February and March at select locations along the west coast.

The island is covered with tropical jungles, emerald lakes and magnificent pristine bays with aquamarine colored ocean touching fantastic white sand beaches.

The island is ideal for all kinds of recreation activities: surfing, diving, snorkeling, jungle trecking, ocean, lake and river fishing, canoing, sailing and horse riding.

Sumba is not just about some of the best beaches in Indonesia and the world, it also offers many other fascinating and diverse religion and culture. It is only majority Christian island in Indonesia. It is also home to the ancient tribal traditions that were preserved over many centuries and can now be seen nowhere else.

Natural properties of the island are second to none amongst all the islands of Indonesia. Green savanna areas in the humid southern regions and limestone hills in the north, where the climate tends to be more dry. It’s south is famous for surfing, the north for diving, whereas the central region is where the cultural and religious heritage is located with villages offering an insight into the everyday life and unique tribal traditions of the native population. This rich diversity making every visitor to fall deeply in love with Sumba.

The island offers ideal waves for beginner and professional surfers alike, whereas those keen on diving can enjoy numerous sites with crystal clear water, rich corals and an amazing marine life of the ocean.

Today, Sumba is undergoing the construction boom. Real estate and infrastructure projects including new international hotels, two airports and the orbital motorway around the entire island, which will extend the accessibility to all unique scenic beaches of the island. Today Sumba enjoys the continuously growing influx of investments and new tourists both from Indonesia and abroad.

Ikat Weaving:
Ikat weaving throughout Sumba has social, religious and traditions of significance. Without expectation, is always as female task. The word “Ikat” itself means knotting or binding. The pattern that is required on the cloth is knotted and bound into the wrap yarn and the thread is dyed before weaving.During the process of making an Ikat textile, it is strictly taboo for men to see or be close to the dye bath; older woman will build or find an isolated spot and prepared the dye in secret.
Each district in this regency has its own distinctive design and shade. All reflected the life, culture and history of the island. It’s not a merely cloth but has a deeply meaning in their social and ceremonial when someone died.