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Sumba Property FAQ

How do I get to Sumba

From Denpasar, Bali, to Tambolaka Airport in West Sumba, there are direct flights with Wings Air and Garuda Indonesia. There are also direct flights from Denpasar to Waingapu Airport in the East, with Wings Air and Sriwijaya Air.

What are the urban centres on Sumba?

There are two cities on Sumba: Waingapu, and Tamboloka (also known as Waitabula). Each is home to an airport.

How different are the geographical regions of Sumba?

When anyone talks about or describes Sumba, we generally refer to the western part of the island. That is where most of the economic advances are made, and it’s also safer – while malaria has been eradicated in the west, it still occurs in the east.

There are however meaningful differences between north and south. Southwest Sumba has really stunning landscapes and beautiful sunsets. The waves are quite high so it’s a great place for surfing. The closest airport, in Tambolaka, is about a two-hour drive away.

In Northwest Sumba the ocean is calmer, somewhat lake-like, which makes it better for swimming, snorkelling and diving. There is also more economic development in the north and land is cheaper. In addition, the airport is closer-by.

What legal implications should investors be aware of?

The rules applying to foreign investors in Sumba are the same as for all of Indonesia. If you invest here you will need an Indonesian notary to ensure everything is in order.

Broadly speaking, foreign investors should be aware of the following.

  1. You can purchase land on Sumba either through a local nominee, who will be an Indonesian citizen who buys and holds the land for you. In this case, to ensure you retain all rights, you should either obtain: a loan agreement, specifying that the land is yours but only lent out to the nominee; a permanent right of use for the nominee, entailing the investor owns it but the nominee manages it; an attestation letter, in which the nominee acknowledges that he or she has only bought the land but does not own it; or a power of attorney, stipulating that the investor has all rights over the ownership and use of the land.
  2. You can purchase land through a company. In this case you would create foreign capital investment company (a Penanaman Modal Asing, or PMA Company) which enables investors to do business in Indonesia. With this you can own and manage your own real estate without need for an Indonesian nominee. PMAs receive renewable licenses to operate for 30 years and can request three work permits for foreigners in their first year of activity.

What religions are practiced on the island?

Roughly a quarter to a third of the Sumbanese practice the local Marapu, an animist religion that emphasises spiritual power and a devotion to ancestors. The remainder are principally Christian, with some Sunni Muslims in the coastal areas. Most Christians are Calvinists (because of Dutch colonisation) but there is also a substantial Roman Catholic minority. It should be noted that Christianity and Islam on Sumba are nearly always infused with elements of Marapu.

What are some key features of Sumbanese history and culture?

Between the eighth and 18th centuries, Chinese and Arab traders frequently visited the island. They brought horses, which are still central to Sumbanese culture, taking sandalwood and slaves in exchange. In 1866 the Netherlands colonised Indonesia, leaving an imprint on Sumba, including the large number of Calvinist Christians here today. Sumba became a part of independent Indonesia when the Dutch relinquished sovereignty in 1950.

Almost 70 years later, Sumba remains quite a world apart. Despite the comings and goings of Chinese, Arabs, Dutch and Indonesians, the Sumbanese have by and large kept to their own ways. Animinist priests read the intestines of chickens to determine whether a sick child will survive; the annual harvest festival of Pasola is still held, when tribesmen on horseback fight with wooden spears to fertilize the soil with blood. It may sound daunting but, really, it’s just fascinating!

How is the road network on Sumba?

The roads on Sumba are of decent quality, connecting the main villages to each other and also to the coastal areas and beaches. They’re at their best around the airport, but still a bit unrealiable for travel to the more remote areas.

Significant efforts are being made by government authorities to improve the road network, seeing as investment and visitors have started to trickle more and more onto the island.

Where can I stay while visiting Sumba?

There’s a number of hotels on Sumba. Some of the better known ones are Sumba Mario Hotel and Café, Sumba Sinar Tambolaka Hotel and Sumba Nautil Resort. Of course, there is also the famous Nihiwatu Resort, by some accounts the best hotel in the world.

What about the weather on Sumba?

The weather conditions of all the Indonesian islands is affected by its location between two key landmasses: the hot, dry deserts of Australia to the south, and the green, lush Asian continent up north.

Seasonal temperatures range between 26°C – 35°C (77°F – 95°F) with the hottest months being from November through to February. The cooler months are June and July. The water temperature hovers around 26°C – 28°C all year round.

The high season for surfing is between March and October, when the monsoon blows hot, dry air up from the Australian deserts. Sumba doesn’t receive all that much rain, but it’s rainy season lasts from about November to March.

Are mobile and data networks available?

Mobile connectivity works perfectly well in the cities, but in the more remote places that is not always the case. This is however changing rapidly as new cell towers are being built at a fast rate. You can also make use of your data roaming near cell towers but do note it’s generally slower than what you’re probably used to. Lots of restaurants, hotels and other commercial places offer free Wi-Fi connection though.