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Sumbawa Island

sunset_wak.jpgSumbawa Island is in the province of West Nusa Tenggara and is located east of Lombok. Sumbawa in a way belongs more to East Nusa Tenggara than it does to West Nusa Tenggara and the island has four regencies and they are Sumbawa Barat, Sumbawa Besar, Dompu, and Bima. There is also a municipality called Kodya Bima. Sumbawa lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire and is a mountainous island with deep ridges and valleys and is also home to the volcano, Tambora.

The weather can sometimes be erratic and during the dry season (April to November) it is fairly dusty. Strong winds are prominent adding to the discomfort. But, when the rainy season begins, the island returns to lush jungles again. The island stretches 300 kilometres east-west but its width varies from 15 to 90 kilometres.

There are two main ethnic groups: Bima and the Samawa. The Tau Samawa who predominately reside in the Sumbawa district. Their language is similar to that of the Sasak’s in Lombok. The Dou Mbojo live in the district of Bima. This district is distinctively Arabic. If you travel a few kilometres to the east of Bima, near Wavo, old traditions are strongly followed and these include ancient rituals connected with ancestral spirits.

The Dutch first arrived in 1605. However, they didn’t effectively rule Sumbawa until around the early 20th century. The island was also ruled by the Balinese kingdom of Gelgel who ruled western Sumbawa for a short period. From the Makassarese of Sulawesi came Islam. It was only recently that archaeological excavations on Mount Tambora, discovered a complete city buried under 40 meters of volcanic ash together and ancient Chinese porcelain items were found.

Attractions of Sumbawa include the Sultanate Palaces located in Sumbawa Besar and Bima, Sulawesi style weavings in Dompu and of course the surfing in Dompu and West Sumbawa. Being somewhat of a hassle to get to the island, in some ways, the island is not visited much by non-surfing tourists and add to that the scarcity of cheap tourist facilities doesn’t make it appealing to the normal tourist.

Getting There

From Bali you can take the ferry to Lombok and travel overland to the eastern seaport in Lombok, and then take another ferry to Sumbawa. This will then take you to Poto Tano. From that point, transportation varies somewhat. There are buses that will take you on to Sumbawa Besar, or down the coast road to the south.Getting on the buses does prove trying sometimes and requires patience. Alternatively, fly into the city of Sumbawa Besar on the western side of the island, and Bima on the eastern side of the island. Many of the regional airlines have connections through Denpasar in Bali. In my opinion though, go overland for the adventure and get to see more of the region of West-East Nusa Tenggara.