Four days in Sumba

Four days in Sumba

So you’ve only got a few days up your sleeve—is it worth adding Sumba to your itinerary? We would say emphatically, “Yes!” For a short trip, we’d suggest sticking to West Sumba to reduce travel time across the island and get the absolute highlights of this impressive small island. You will be left wanting more, without doubt.

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If you have time, do venture east and take a sharp turn south in the middle for one of the world’s best beaches (but you’ll really need an extra couple of days as it’s slow travel). You’ll need a car and driver or an ojek (beware of bone shattering roads) to fit everything in, and we’d recommend hiring a local guide for village visits too.

Getting around

It’s dangerous to drive at night around West Sumba, so start your day early. If you happen to be invited to a local ceremony, we’d suggest abandoning your plans and joining in. Do however be aware that most involve animal sacrifice and may be too confronting for some travellers (and children).

A horn or two at Waitabar village : Sally Arnold.
A horn or two at Waitabar village Photo: Sally Arnold

When to go

The best time to visit Sumba is after the wet season (November to April) when the landscape is green, green and more green. For the rest of the year it’s golden and brown, but still beautiful. The wet season brings sporadic rain. It’s still possible to travel, however check for local reports of flooding.

Day by Day

Day 1 — Arrival > Waikabubak
Book your ticket to Tambolaka (TMC) in West Sumba. If you’re flying from Bali most flights arrive late morning or early afternoon. Stop for lunch in Waitabula at Rumah Makan Richard for local fare, or if you’re not so brave, Gula Garam Restaurant near the airport.

Welcome to Bondo Ede village : Sally Arnold.
Welcome to Bondo Ede village Photo: Sally Arnold

Head to Waikabubak., detouring at Pabetilakera, Lokomboro or Waikelo Sawah Waterfalls along the way — Waikelo Sawah is the most accessible if you are short on time, though it’s more a lovely hydroelectricity plant and swimming spot surrounded by stunning rice fields than a proper waterfall.

Spend the afternoon exploring the traditional villages around Waikabubak. Tarung and neighbouring Waitabar villages, along with Bodo Ede, Tambelar and Elu are all easily reached on foot (or more quickly by ojek). These villages are familiar with the strange habits of foreign tourists, however it may be a good idea to employ a local guide to avoid any social faux pas.

Impressive scene at Gallu Bakul village : Sally Arnold.
Impressive scene at Gallu Bakul village Photo: Sally Arnold

Day 2 — Explore Wanokaka and Lamboya > Waitabula / Oro Beach
Head south and spend the day exploring the stunning deserted southern beaches around Wanokaka and Lamboya (don’t forget a packed lunch), stopping at La Popu Waterfall, possibly Sumba’s prettiest cascades.

If you have time, drop into Waigalli and Praigolil villages to see interesting megalithic graves. The monumental headstones here have become symbols of the area, and indeed of Sumba. Journey back and spend the night at Waitabula, or for more pleasant digs, the guesthouse at Oro Beach. Time your trip so you’re not travelling at night, as banditry can be a concern then.

Beach time. : Sally Arnold.
Beach time. Photo: Sally Arnold

Day 3 — Explore Kodi > Waitabula / Oro Beach
Short on time? Leave early today to pack in as much as you can around the Kodi area — there’s a bit of travel over not so great roads, so if you can squeeze in an extra day, consider splitting this itinerary into two day trips.

Take a packed lunch and your swimmers. First off head to Tanjung Mambang where two close by beaches offer dramatic rock formations, a stone arch at Bwanna Beach and five limestone karst islands at Watu Malandong Beach. The sea is a little treacherous for swimming, so photos only.

Bwanna Beach. : Sally Arnold.
Bwanna Beach. Photo: Sally Arnold

If you’ve time (or if you have split this into two days) stop at Wainyapu village. If not, head to Ratenggaro village for the craziest tallest roofs you’ve ever seen (you can spy Wainyapu across the river if you didn’t have time). Drive by Pero Beach for more stunning rocky coastline and a fun blowhole—nature blowing raspberries!

Then venture into the sublime Weekuri Lagoon. This awe-inspiring turquoise tidal lake will have you asking why you have never been to Sumba before this. Return to your hotel, perhaps stopping at Villa Redemptorist on the waterfront near Waikelo harbour for a sundowner.

Just glorious. : Sally Arnold.
Just glorious. Photo: Sally Arnold

Day 4 — Departure
You’ll have time this morning for a dip if staying by the beach or visit the Rumah Budaya Sumba Museum in Waitabula, which aims to help preserve the culture of Sumba (through donations they have so far helped build 78 traditional houses). Then it’s off to the airport. Don’t say we didn’t warn you that you’d want more time!

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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The region

This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.