Sumba holidays, Indonesia
The phrase ‘off-the-beaten-track’ is readily bandied about, but Sumba genuinely fits the description. A world away from the well-trodden Indonesian holiday islands, Sumba is only now opening up to tourism.
It differs physically from its neighbouring islands: volcanic mountains and rice paddies are replaced with undulating hills and fields of maize. But it’s the rich tribal traditions that set Sumba apart from the rest of Indonesia, and make it a truly fascinating place to visit.
A journey through Sumba is like stepping back in time to an era of mysterious tribes and ancient rituals – such as the annual Pasola festival, when spear-wielding, jousting horsemen battle to appease the spirits. Around a third of the indigenous population follow animist beliefs, and it’s one of only a handful of places in the world where megalithic burials are still practised: impressive stone tombs are commonplace throughout the island.
Aside from its unique culture, Sumba is also well-known for its special weaving technique, which produces the famous ikat cloth, and itsunspoilt, unexplored beaches which have recently become a cult surfing spot.
The extraordinary region of Kodi is a stronghold of traditional Merapu culture, and an essential itinerary inclusion for an insight into Sumba’s unique way of life. Of particular interest is the isolated village of Wainyapu, which sits on a cliff top (for defensive purposes in the past) overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Its traditional homes, with their absurdly tall thatched roofs, surround large stone ancestral tombs and spirit stones which are used for offerings. Traditional ikat clothing is still worn by many people, with the men carrying swords. Tourists are still quite a novelty, despite the village receiving a handful of Western visitors, and the locals remain slightly wary - although the excitement of the village children is always a great icebreaker.
Sumba’s ancient tradition of ancestral burial in large stone tombs is evident throughout the island, but nowhere more so than in the western region of Anakalang.
The most impressive example is the Royal Tomb in Pasunga, which features a huge vertical stone slab carved with the images of the chief and his wife – a job that took six months to complete, and was followed by the ceremonial sacrifice of 150 buffalos. The Umbu Sawola tomb is also notable for its immense size and weight; a single piece of stone weighing in around 70 tonnes, which (we're told) took three years to carve out of the hillside.
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Destination Hotel: Nihi Sumba
Built out of a dream to find the perfect wave, this remote retreat is arguably the most stylish and luxurious surf resort in Asia. But it’s not solely for surfers! Anyone can appreciate the spectacular location, the kick-back chilled vibe and incredible private pool villas.
Boasting an impressive, isolated setting on the west coast of Sumba, surrounded by tropical forest and rice terraces, Nihi Sumba overlooks 2 ½ kilometres of pristine private beach (home to that famous left-hand surf break!). Hand-built by local craftsmen in traditional Sumban style with elevated ceilings, the 21 villas are designed to blend in with these beautiful natural surroundings. Offering plenty of in and outdoor space, with between one and four bedrooms, each villa features a pool of varying size.