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