A long time ago I was in Bali, which was a dream for me. When I came back 10 years ago, I got a shock: I hardly recognized it - instead of a tropical idyll, overpopulation, mass tourism, rip-off, overcrowded beaches, congested streets, malls, waste, pollution and prostitution.
Since that experience I have become an avid Sumba traveller. A lot of things are similar to Bali as it had been then.
But Sumba is also different: the landscape is rather hilly - no volcanoes, partly extremely dry - not harmonious green. The traditional festivals are not for highly sensitive visitors - not homey. For me the people seem more comprehensible, perhaps due to their different religion.
Conventional guidebooks for individual travellers and backpackers don't have more than a few pages about Sumba. They give only little more than factual information on flight connections, hotel rates and mainstream attractions. And they are usually already outdated at the time of going to press.
That's why I had the idea of writing a guidebook in form of a website, to provide up-to-date information on Sumba, which gives visitors a comprehensive picture of the island. Something that helps visitors to inform in a way that helps to avoid negative developments such as in Bali, and helps to steer a little bit in a different, positive direction.
General themes and background information are not meant to be complete but are only touched on briefly. Information on individual sports such as diving, snorkelling, surfing, kite surfing, fishing, cycling, birdwatching, cave exploring, and yachting are given only in passing. By clicking on the links provided you can find further information.
There is also no reasonable Sumba map. So I have made one which you can buy in a high resolution as paper version, the: Tourist Map of Sumba or Peta Wisata Sumba.
Sumba’s Tourist Future
According to official figures, about 15000 tourists come to Sumba every year (most of them are Indonesians). Promotion of tourism is a very important topic in local politics.
3 airlines offer daily flights to Sumba. The airport runway of Tambolaka has been extended and the shack in the airport has long been replaced by a real reception building. The extension of the runway of the airport in Waingapu is planned, the buildings already get renovated. There is a debate on expansion of air traffic and further airports in the Anakalang and Waijelu district.
Anywhere in Sumba new roads are under construction. They mainly do not connect people in their villages, but above all lead directly to beaches and attractions of the island. Fences are built and hotels are being planned. Everywhere locals offer beaches and land for sale. Swarms of investors look around for land in Sumba. They do this not only on foot and with 4wd's but also from the air with drones like vultures … and present their prey on the internet. Almost all beautiful beaches are already owned by Balinese or foreigners from China, Russia, France, ... .
Many Sumbanese have come back hapless to their villages in Sumba, after a job in Bali. Today they dream about flourishing tourism in Sumba. In many villages people have the idea to build huts or guesthouses for tourists. Just to get a little slice of cake that is distributed.
The declining attraction of Bali because of too many tourists, noise, rip off, chaotic traffic and environmental problems has the effect, that travellers go to Sumba to discover a new destination. Many surfers are tired of the Balinese surf circus and kindergarten. They look for the original experience. And Sumba is hardly more than an hour's flight away from Bali and Lombok.
Sumba – or rather not?
The life of the people in Sumba is more difficult than in Java and Bali. Especially the northern part of Sumba is extremely dry. The soil is exhausted by deforestation and erosion. Sumba is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia. What they plant is usually not enough for their own food. About half the population has no access to clean water. Malaria is widespread. There are hardly any doctors. Little more than a quarter of the children get a qualified basic school education.
It may be that the Indonesian government cares less about areas where the inhabitants are not predominantly Muslim.
If you cannot manage without WiFi, your social network, and other achievements of the western world, you should wait a little bit before you make a trip to Sumba.
Tourists, travellers and backpackers cannot be stopped - they will come. Sumba will not remain a lonely planet. Tourism could offer the people of Sumba a source of income.
There is much to be discovered in Sumba: lots of culture, traditional lifestyle, friendly, and hospitable people, bizarre landscapes, untouched nature, and many beautiful beaches.
Hopefully the majority of income from tourism will remain on the island, and for those who need it. This website and guidebook aims to contribute a bit to it. I have no economic interests with this website. The sale of brochures and maps barely covers operating costs. Donations are used completely for projects in Sumba.
Only with your help, this site will be a real help for others. So please send me more information, posts, comments, updates and corrections to this website.
Frequently I am asked for private accommodation and competent tour guides. Please write me, if you live in Sumba and would be happy to accommodate tourists; or if you want to work as an English speaking Guide. In Indonesian language: Silahkan menuliskan saya, jika Anda tinggal di Sumba dan ingin mengakomodasi wisatawan; mungkin Anda ingin menjadi Guide yang berbicara bahasa inggris.