When it comes to traveling Indonesia, you’ll often here about places such as Bali, Lombok or the Gili Islands. But have you ever heard of West Sumbawa? Neither did I a few weeks ago. Luckily a friend of mine suggested traveling this untouched paradise, and I’m so grateful that I followed his advice.
Sumbawa is an island situated east of Lombok and is easily accessible by boat from Lombok. The island is very large and consists of so many incredible sights; waterfalls, rice fields, stunning headlands and empty beaches are just a few of them. To help you a little bit in discovering this remote island, I’ve written a list of seven things not to miss in West Sumbawa.
1. Get to a waterfall
Sumbawa has some of the nicest waterfalls hidden in the jungle. That means that they’re not so easily accessible and you’ll need to go on a hike to find them. There’s also no such thing as Google Maps available, so when we went on our search, we had to count on the local people to guide us in the right direction. However, as nobody speaks any English there we first had to figure out the Indonesian saying for the waterfall, which was ‘Air Terjun.’
We’ve asked about five times until at some point we arrived at a little dam with a very small path into the dense jungle. Before we got even started a huge lizard (looked like an iguana) crossed our path, but that didn’t stop us. We came this far, so we decided to continue and look for the waterfall. What we found just 10 minutes later was amazing. In the middle of the jungle, there was suddenly this stunning waterfall with a heavenly pool full of the bluest water under it!
2. Surf some of best waves in the world
Sumbawa is very well known for one type of traveler: the surfer. For years surfers from all over the world have come here to surf. However, that doesn’t mean that Sumbawa is only for the pro surfers. If you’re a beginner, you’ll also be able to take some lessons and surf the smaller waves. But it has to be said: Sumbawa is the paradise for the more advanced surfers.
3. Drive through the rice fields
When you decide to explore rice fields in many places around Asia, you’ll often have to pay an entrance fee. Not only that, but you’ll also have to deal with a lot of other tourists. In Sumbawa, you’ll find exactly the opposite. We drove a scooter through the rice fields and got the most wonderful serene views of the area. Also, there was no such thing as an entrance fee, and we found zero other travelers.
One really cool thing that happened was when I was flying my drone. There were a bunch of local women working in the rice fields, who had never seen a drone. Some were even 80 years old, and I showed them a bit of the technology. These days technology often disconnects people from each other, but in this case, it totally broke through the language barriers, so that was a very rewarding experience that I’m still so grateful for.
4. Taste the local food
At this time, there aren’t many restaurants in Sumbawa. Or maybe I should say that there aren’t any restaurants at all. At least not how we know them in the Western world. Everyday we went to the ‘finest’ spot in town, which actually was also the only spot we could find.
5. Get close with the locals
If you love a bit of culture, one thing you can’t miss is communicating with the locals. We drove a scooter through some of the villages (which was actually needed to find the waterfall), and everybody was smiling at us. Kids were jumping and screaming around saying ‘Hey Mister! Hey, Mam!’ and it was like we were celebrities. Obviously, we are not, but I’m just saying this to show you how few people make it to Sumbawa. It is very special and beautiful to be able to see those reactions and use a few Indonesian words to connect with locals, for us a thing that we definitely recommend.
Just to give you an idea, it was a place where you’d get your own plate, get a bit of rice and then choose what food you want with it. There is no service, you just pick whatever food you want and walk to a table. There you eat your food, and afterward you pay for what you ate. However, to be able to pay for what you ate, you need to be able to communicate what exactly is was you ate. Explaining what we ate was a very funny thing as they didn’t speak English and our Indonesian was very limited. Luckily we didn’t eat much more than rice and chicken, two words that were in our Indonesian vocabulary.
6. Take a hike
Sumbawa is also known for it’s great headlands all over the island. You’ve got beautiful cliff and rock formations, many of which you can hike. As you’ll probably understand by now, you can expect to find zero people along the way. This really gives you a feeling of freedom and a great sense of adventure.
7. Enjoy an empty beach
Last but definitely not least, you need to find yourself an empty beach. Although this might be hard in other parts of Indonesia, in West Sumbawa, it is actually one of the easiest things to accomplish as every beach is pretty much empty anyway. Most of the times it will just be quiet a drive to get to a beach, and therefore we definitely recommend getting a motorbike for the day when doing this.
When you arrive at some of the beaches, you’ll see that you’ve got kilometers of white sand beaches with turquoise waters without anybody in the area. If you’re not careful, you might actually get lonely. No seriously, that’s how quiet it actually is. We didn’t meet any people there, though I did make two nice friends on the beach as you can see in the picture below.
As you’ve read in this article, Sumbawa is place that has almost not been traveled yet. That means that you now have the chance to still experience the gift of traveling to a place that is still so untouched, a thing that becomes more rare everyday. And although it might be a bit rougher to travel, if you’re open to adventure you’ll definitely have the time of your life!
P.S. if you’d like to see these things in one video, you can also check out our Sumbawa Video on Youtube.
Where to Stay in West Sumbawa, Indonesia
Best Budget Hotel in West Sumbawa, Indonesia – Rantung Beach Bar and Cottage
Best Mid-Range Hotel in West Sumbawa, Indonesia – Whales and Waves
Featuring free WiFi and a children’s playground, Whales and Waves offers accommodation in Lemonga. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar. Free private parking is available on site. Certain rooms feature a seating area for your convenience. Some rooms include views of the sea or garden. A flat-screen TV is offered.
This hotel has water sports facilities, and bike hire is available. You can engage in various activities, such as snorkeling, fishing, and canoeing. The nearest airport is Lombok International Airport, 56 km from Whales and Waves.
Best Luxury Hotel in West Sumbawa, Indonesia – Baha Baha Villas
Offering a garden and outdoor pool, Baha Baha Villas is situated in Sekongkang. Free WiFi is offered throughout the property.
The accommodation has a dining area and seating area with a flat-screen TV. Some units feature a terrace and/or balcony. Free private parking is also available on site. Towels and bed linen are available.
About the Writer
Hugo is the founder of the travel platform We Wander Asia. He met his other half Noemie when he was traveling through Indonesia, and they’ve been together ever since. As it was challenging to stay together being from different parts of the world, they have chosen to make traveling their lifestyle. They create videos, write articles and take photographs of their adventures. Follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube and let them inspire you to wander the world yourself.
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