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Sumba (Indonesian: Pulau Sumba) is an island in eastern Indonesia, is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands, and is in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. To the northwest of Sumba is Sumbawa, to the northeast, across the Sumba Strait (Selat Sumba), is Flores, to the east, across the Savu Sea, is Timor, and to the south, across part of the Indian Ocean, is Australia.

Rarely visited by westerners. It is a sparsely populated island with just 620,000 people spread across its 11,000 sqm.

Aside from a couple of resorts, tourism infrastructure is very basic and it is not an easy destination for independent travel except for the most hardy of traveler. If you do make the effort though, you will be rewarded by experiencing a unique culture and some stunning beaches. This is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood of all Indonesia's major islands.


Information provided by Wikitravel


Historically, this island exported sandalwood and was known as Sandalwood Island.

Before colonization by western Europeans in the 1500's, Sumba was inhabited by Australian and Polynesian people. In 1522 the first ships from Europe arrived, and by 1866 Sumba belonged to the Dutch East Indies, although the island did not come under real Dutch administration until the twentieth century. Jesuits opened a mission in Laura, West Sumba in 1866.

Despite contact with western cultures, Sumba is one of the few places in the world in which megalithic burials, are used as a 'living tradition' to inter prominent individuals when they die. Burial in megaliths is a practice that was used in many parts of the world during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, but has survived to this day in Sumba, and has raised significant interest from scholars. At Anakalang, for instance, quadrangular adzes have been unearthed. Another long-lasting tradition is the sometimes lethal game of pasola, in which teams of often several hundred horse-riders fight with spears.

A number of pasolas are held each year in western Sumba near Waikabubak, usually sometime in either February or March (or both). These are ritual horseback jousting trials which including a ritual battle where mounted riders attempt to dismount other riders using blunt-tipped spears (sometimes there are fatalities). The pasola is an important annual ceremony and a key, unique attraction in Sumba.


Sumba has a highly stratified society based on castes. This is especially true of East Sumba, whereas West Sumba is more ethnically and linguistically diverse. Twenty-five to thirty percent of the population practices the animist Marapu religion. The remainder are Christian, a majority being Dutch Calvinist, but a substantial minority being Roman Catholic. A small number of Sunni Muslims can be found along the coastal areas.

Sumba is famous for the ikat textiles, particularly very detailed hand-woven ikat, which is prepared on the island. The process of dying and weaving ikat is labor-intensive and one piece can take months to prepare.


There is a dry season from May to November and a rainy season from December to April. The western side of the island is more fertile and more heavily populated than the east.


The Sumbanese people speak a variety of closely related Austronesian languages, and have a mixture of Austronesian and Melanesian ancestry. The largest language group is the Kambera language, spoken by a quarter of a million people in the eastern half of Sumba.


By plane

According to the flight schedule Garuda Indonesia flies daily the route Denpasar Tambolaka Kupang and Wings Air flies the route Denpasar Waingapu Lombok.

You have to know that the schedules of the airlines are the maximum theoretically possible number of flights. With too few passengers flights are canceled. There are delays due to stopovers on some islands. In bad weather, especially during the monsoon season and during strong winds, they will not fly.

By ferry

Pelni Line runs along the route Waingapu - Ende (Flores) - Sabu (Sabu) - Kupang (Timor) - Kalabahi (Alor) - Larantuka (Lembata) - Kupang - Sabu - Ende - Waingapu - Bima (Sumbawa) - Benoa (Bali) with the ship KM Awu (made in Papenburg/Germany) every two weeks. Another ship goes to Ende (Flores) every 2 weeks .

A current schedule is available on the Pelni website.

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