How to get to Sumba Island

Getting there by Plane
Merpati and Batavia are bankrupt. Never the less there are now 4 airlines again that fly to Sumba. According to the flight schedule Garuda flies daily the route Denpasar Tambolaka Kupang and Lion Air = Wings Air flies the route Denpasar Waingapu Lombok. TransNusa = Trigana = Aviastar flies with their old aircrafts 3 times the week Denpasar Tambolaka Ende Kupang. Srivijaya Air = Nam Air flies daily the route Denpasar Waingapu Maumere Kupang, while Lion Air = Wings Air flies Denpasar Waingapu Kupang.

You have to know that the schedules of the airlines are the maximum theoretically possible number of flights. With too few passengers flights are cancelled. Due to the amount of stops throughout the day, there may be delays. In bad weather, especially during the monsoon season and during strong winds, they will not fly.

Online bookings with the airlines often do not work. So the airlines’ websites presented on my link site are for information only. If you don’t want to wait too long in Bali, Lombok or Kupang, you must pre-book through a travel agency or via the most comfortable and safest way with Ticketindonesia from home on the internet. This is sometimes cheaper than via search engines. For Pasola or holidays the planes are usually sold out.

It is very important to tell the airlines an Indonesian cell phone number for return calls. A foreign mobile phone will not be rung due to high costs. It has happened that a flight started before the time written on the ticket or schedule time. You should definitely ask the day before the flight, if and when it really starts.

The airlines do not have offices in Sumba, but are represented by agencies.

In Waingapu you get tickets of all airlines in Jalan Ahmad Yani next to hotel Elvin at: BPU Andrew Jonathan, phone 038761363 or 081238065155 and Elimindo, phone 038762776 or 081231015800.
In Waikabubak an agency is in the hotel Aloha (at the main crossing), one in the hotel Manandang and opposite the telephone mast and former Internet station.
In Waitabula / Tambolaka there are various agencies in the main street.

You should take an Ojek to the airport in Waingapu, it is just 3 km. By the way, it has a new name: Umbu Mehang Kunda. From Waikabubak to the airport Tambolaka it is 42 km, which takes more than an hour.

Getting there by Boat
Pelni Line – runs along the route Benoa (Bali) – Bima (Sumbawa) – 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 2 weeks. A current schedule is available on the Pelni website. The Pelni office in Waingapu is in Jalan Hasnnuddin at the old harbour, phone 038761665. Pelni operates from the new harbour. Although the new harbour is located opposite the old harbour, the overland route there is 7 km.

ASDP Indonesia Ferry – with the infamous small ferries – has no office in Sumba.

They should go from Waingapu on Wednesday evening to Ende (Flores), Friday afternoon to Sabu (Sabu) and Kupang (Timor) as well as Saturday morning to Aimere (Flores) and Kupang (Timor). The ferry timetables change often, the almost actual one is stuck on the entrance of the ferry terminal in Waingapu. You can contact ASDP in Kupang on 0380890420 and Waingapu on mobile phone 081339415045 or 085346593007. The ferry port of the ASDP is another 2 km behind the new port (where Pelni leaves) – from the town this is 9 km.
It is planned that once ships to Savu will start from Baing in the south of Sumba. Due to high waves the construction of the port will probably never be finished.

From Waikelo in West Sumba the ASDP ferry should start on Tuesday and Saturday afternoon to Sape (Sumbawa), Monday and Friday mornings they return from Sape. Phone in Sape: 037471075.

By the way, there is a ASDP hotline now: 02142882233.

Private boats – for those who love adventure:
– Kalala to Savu, 10-meter-long boats, weekly, overnight, view navigation
– Katundu to Salura, outrigger canoes, on request or weekly, 2 hours

Orientation in Sumba
Orientation in Sumba is difficult. This has the following reasons:

There is no reasonable tourist map of Sumba. Supposedly accurate maps show roads which definitely do not exist or are in different places – really existing roads are missing.

You find a collection of maps on the link site – and, of course, in relevant guidebooks. You can also draw a map from Google Earth and Wikimapia, but beware- dusty streets look very similar to dry rivers and grey asphalt roads can easily be overlooked.

That is why I created my own Sumba Map. My Sumbamap or Tourist Map of Sumba is an almost actual roadmap; all the tourist attractions of this website and much further details are included. You can get my Tourist Map of Sumba or Peta Wisata Sumba in the scale 1:225000 via the order-button on the feedback page.

The second reason is that places are named differently: There is the Indonesian name and its name in the native language. Often you find not the name of the place itself, but the name of the district (in Indonesian or local language). If you ask someone in town for a distant place, he will probably say the Indonesian name. In the place itself they only know the name in the native language.

Rivers often have as many names as areas through which they flow.

Family names change when the meaning of the name is also the description of an object (like Mr. Bridge or Mrs. Flower).

Different names are enclosed in brackets (…). In my map and in the German text only the most common names are given respectively.

In addition there are notation changes: vowels are added, letters are doubled, endings disappear, 2 words become one…

Roads in Sumba
Main roads have 2 lanes and are all paved, and in good condition (but it might be that the next monsoon changes that). This applies to the following connections:

– Waingapu to Kadahang, Baing, and Waikabubak
– Waikabubak to Waitabula/Tambolaka, Wanokaka, and Lamboya
– Waitabula/Tambolaka to Waikelo, Kodi, and Karuni

The remaining roads differ in their quality. Sections are paved and super; sometimes only fragments of asphalt are left, sometimes you go through boulder fields, beaches and river beds. The road layout is adapted to the terrain and on steep trails it usually looks very bad. Many recently constructed roads will only get a gravel bed first. If they do not get paved right away, it is gone again after the next monsoon. In the south of Sumba, there are many fords and a few bridges. In the monsoon season bikers might have to wait for a truck to take them over. Given the frequent changes it makes no sense at this point to indicate the respective road conditions.

Whenever I call something a “track” in my Sumbamap or Tourist Map of Sumba you will have to ask several people what it is like and if you can make it. And make a risk assessment from the different answers…

Roads, which are logical connections need not be necessarily good, it depends on the ethnic connections, whether they are needed. New settlements and transmigration villages are usually completely isolated.

Transport in Sumba
It usually says on buses in Sumba where they go to. Buses run generally from the vicinity of the respective markets. Only in Waingapu there are 2 bus terminals: one in the south and one in the west, each about 5 km outside the town. Most busses start at the market, and make an intermediate stop at the outside terminals. Between Waingapu and Waikabubak buses run almost every hour during daytime, it takes about 5 hours. There are also small express buses, which are more expensive, they pick you up at your hotel, do not stop on the way and are generally faster. From Waingapu to the southeast, to Baing (or Waijelu), there are about 5 buses a day, which take about 4 hours. To the northwest, to Maru (or Kadahang), there are 3 buses.
From Waikabubak to the west, buses leave almost every hour to Waitabula/Tambolaka. If you want to continue to Pero, to Kodi or Waikelo, you should go to Waitabula and then wait for a connection. To the Lamboya district in the southwest, there are 3 buses that go to Kabukarudi or maybe until Gaura. In the southern district, around Wanokaka, there are numerous buses and Bemos. Sometimes there are buses to Mamboro.

During the daytime Bemos run constantly on all shorter distances in densely populated areas and on paved roads. Just ask where they go or look what is written on them. Bemos are cramped and noisy. Sometimes you have to pay for extra luggage.

Trucks or wooden buses = Biskaju
In all areas where road conditions are bad, you can only find trucks. Usually the destinations are painted on in colourful letters. The main routes lead from the markets in the towns to places at the coast. There is next to no cross-traffic along the coasts.

On the floor of the trucks, there are wooden benches transversely installed. Some trucks are open. It may happen that you have to share a bench with a Sumba horse. If you want to go to Tarimbang, Tawui or smaller towns at the north or south coast, you are dependent on trucks. The travelling is painfully slow on the eroded roads…

In 2015 the trip from Waingapu to Tarimbang is still 4 hours – but the road is gradually repaired. The direct truck does not operate every day. From Waingapu to Tawui the trip takes 7 hours in the dry season 12 hours during the monsoon season.

If there is no public transport, take an

Ojek = Motorcycle Taxi, or rent a Car
For short distances you will almost always take a ojek/motorbike taxi. The backpack is put between the handlebars and the driver, then just sit down behind him and off you go. A helmet is not compulsory out of town.

If you do not know the usual price, you have to negotiate beforehand. For long distances on poor roads, the price will be quite high (Bali is not a comparison). You are quite likely to have to help the driver to push the motorcycle.

Anyone travelling with a surfboard and rolling suitcase across the country, has no alternative than to rent a car. Car rental is extremely expensive due to road conditions. Depending on road conditions half up to one million rupees a day with driver and gasoline is reasonable.

You can rent a motorcycle everywhere. If you rent one from your hotel, the owner of the motorcycle gets only about 2/3 of the rent.

To hire a private motorcycle requires some knowledge of language on both sides. The price for a private motorcycle is mainly influenced by the impression which the owner has of you. After all, it’s his bike that you might break. Expect about 3 times the price of Bali.

A fully automatic motorcycle, as it is often offered in Bali, is not suitable for Sumba. You must be aware that you must often drive up steep gravel roads, through rivers and rough terrain. Honda Revo is the common motorbike in Sumba.

Many owners require no deposit – a handshake is all. I consider it important in the mutual interest, to give the owner, for example, an ID card or an ATM card. In addition, you should definitely write down the cell phone number of the owner to give information in case of breakdowns, problems and to keep up SMS contact during longer trips.

The facilities of a motorcycle should include:
– 2 functioning brakes
– Wide tyres with tread
– Electric starter
– Well-fitting, lubricated, and smoothly running chain
– Light
– Helmet
– License plate, license (Surat Mobil) or proof of purchase
– Proof of paid tax
– Tools, especially for tyre changes (key size 10,12,14,16, and 19)

This you should be bring with you for longer trips:
– Repair kit (there are no self-adhesive patches in Sumba)
– Spare tubes (front and rear, mostly they are different)
– Hand- or foot pump

For Indonesia, you need an international driver’s license – but no one knows that in Sumba – all Indonesian children drive motorcycles when their arms and legs are long enough.

At the main road Waingapu, Waikabubak, Waitabula and Melolo there are now many gas stations. Apart from this route you have to rely on gasoline in bottles. By the length of the queues at the pumps you can get an idea about the gasoline supply. It often happens that a tank ship is late and then there are bottlenecks. “Bensin habis” can be read sometime at the gas stations.

Sumbanese know that, and are hoarding gasoline. Gasoline is more expensive and rarer to get, the further you are away from a gas station, on Sundays, and when a petrol price increase is pending.

Gasoline in bottles should get poured through a sieve maybe a handkerchief, if it looks dirty. The last drop of gasoline should always remain in the bottle…

This is a new section of the website. Due to many requests from readers I’ve looked around during my last visit in Sumba whether there are places for riding. Usually the people gave a negative reply. Only Philip Renggi and Yuliana Ledatara (cf. below), were prepared to listen to me.

Nothing is offered in Sumba, you just have to ask. There are no special tours or routes, only small narrow paths from village to village or along the beaches.

At the following places riding seems to be possible on request: Kalala, Tarimbang, Katikuwai, Tawui, Mamboro and around Waikabubak.

For the people of Sumba trails and paths are connections between their villages, to water points, the fields and the next road. As mentioned before there are clear ethnic boundaries between the settlement areas.

Destinations for trekking are beaches, waterfalls, mountain peaks and jungle. It is therefore not easy to find a guide who can really help you. Actually you need several guides: one who translates, one who knows the region as a whole, and one who knows about nature and landscape.

Particularly in densely vegetated areas of the south you are dependent on a guide. Many routes are rarely used; they are often overgrown and therefore difficult to see. Paths of the people (jalan orang) are difficult to distinguish from livestock paths (jalan hewan). Locals also know about boars, snakes and alligators.

In the arid north it is easier, but many things can simply be overlooked. The traditional village of Prailiang for example, is so embedded in the landscape that you only notice it because of the noise of children.

Trekking in Sumba is possible – but trekking is something locals do not do. A trekking foreigner without a guide is entirely thrown on himself. For help in an emergency case you have to take care of yourself.

Trekking tours I have described in this website are mostly demanding.

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