Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 20 June 2017 • Destination
The beaches in Sumba Island made me realize how I missed playing in beaches and how I used to enjoy it very much. Although, it’s a bit vague whether my judgment was based solely on the various characters of the beaches, or also because I had not been to a beach for months prior to the Sumba trip. I might have missed being soaked in salty water and having the sun kissed my skin until it’s tanned.
Perched in a cove at the southern coast of Sumba, Lailiang welcomed us with its sunshine-bathed white sand that borders with greenish blue water. The sun hovered exactly above our heads, the day was frigging hot, and the soft wind blow felt like it was telling us to have a nap under the lush trees. After about 1,5 hours ride on partly rocky and undulating road from Waikabubak, the capital of West Sumba, we deserved the nap. Only a few motorbikes and cars passed by out on the street by the beach.
“I call this the Boci Beach (boci = baby-talk term for afternoon nap), because everyone who I’ve taken here would take a nap. Everyone!” said Zindan, our local guide, when we all had woken up and dipped our feet in the water.
We didn’t go for a swim because the waves looked pretty strong, and we didn’t want to hassle with wet apparels before our long way back to Waitabula later in the day.
On our way back out to the street, we made a little detour to the edge of a cliff. There I saw Lailiang Beach view from a higher point. Simply beautiful, and no coconut tree in sight.
This was the first beach in Sumba Island where I swam. Sitting on the north coast, there wasn’t much to distract me from the tempting blue water. My friend Indra and I mostly floated while updating on each other’s life stories; the water was that calm. The beach was a wide stretch of white sand with only a few coral stones scattered and almost no vegetation. Shasya took her time sun bathing on my beach cloth comfortably in between taking photos.
We were a bit unfortunate because the cloud was hanging after a while. If time wasn’t so limited, I would’ve spent hours on Mananga Aba beach just to swim, run around, and stare at the horizon wondering what made God in such good mood when She created this beach.
Next time I’m back in Sumba, I might just do that. After all, it’s only about an hour drive from Tambolaka, the capital of South West Sumba regency.
If you google-map it, type ‘Mawana’ instead of Mbawana. “It’s Mbawana, but the locals like to say ‘Mawana’ because it’s easier on the tongue,” said Zindan when I confirmed the name of this beach. And if you google-image it, you’ll find a lot of ‘batu bolong’ or holed-rock images. Apparently, that’s the most famous feature of Mbawana Beach.
Getting down to the beach, after our cars parked at the nearest spot possible, was a bit challenging for me. Going through the woods, at first the path was easy-peasy, just a little rocky. It then got rockier, steeper, and darker as the woods got denser. I wish I was wearing my trekking shoes instead of flip flops. Local teenage boys kindly helped us go through the path equipped with their flashlight. Only when we went back out later I got it that they expected money for the help that we didn’t even ask for. No such thing as a free lunch.
Anyway. The holed-rock was indeed attractive. But when I looked to the other side, the view made my jaws drop! In the distance, cliffs were layered with mist, and everything was golden. My heart dropped. It reminded of something beautiful yet mysterious and perhaps a little sad, but until today I can’t recall what it was exactly.
Until the trip ended a few days afterward, I still think this view of Mbawana Beach was the best view of all beaches in Sumba Island that I’ve seen.
Mbawana offers more than just cliffs, holed and ‘whole’. Locals from nearby villages passed by carrying their catch of the day; fishes, octopus, and turtles, all for daily consumption. Some you can see fishing on the rocks. Though they looked puzzled by my astonishment, they answered me nicely about what they’ll do with the catch. It’s very normal to them while I’ve never eaten turtles (and I think they’re protected, you’re not supposed to catch them) and have only tried a wee bit of tentacle a few times.
“Are we there?” I asked Rizal, as our cars parked on a piece of land by the cliff. He’s the trip organizer from @t_ourjourneys. “Yup. But we only have 30 minutes here,” he replied. I went out of the car and all I saw beyond the coral reef was deep blue ocean to the horizon. Nothing special, 30 minutes would be too long, I thought.
I walked along with the guys, turn right, and.. WHAT IS THAT TURQUOISE COVE WITH NARROW WHITE SAND BEACH BEHIND THE CORAL REEFS? IS THAT PHI PHI ISLAND? The next thing I remembered, I was swimming in the cove with some of the guys. Our cameras and clothes were left in our bags on the beach near the boats. I mean, 30 minutes in this kind of setting? Rizal, you’ve gotta be kidding me!
We weren’t the only one swimming. Local children were bathing too, with and without clothes at all. There wasn’t much interaction between us and the kids, but we were all laughing, running, floating, swimming, and playing with the water and coconuts. The water had a bit of current. We didn’t go as far as the ‘opening’ to the vast ocean because it seemed to have stronger current from there on.
“Looks like you guys are all the swimming kind of people,” was Rizal’s observation after a few beach visits. Well, I really can’t imagine anyone visiting a beach as gorgeous as Mandorak, with such calm-ish water, and not having the urge to swim! The 30 minutes then stretched to 1 hour if not more. I mean, c’mon!
We arrived at Watubela a bit later than scheduled. To get to the beach, we had to hike down a little, and the hike looked easier than that of Mbawana. But I was just not in the mood, since the day was getting dark anyway. I didn’t want to hassle myself with hiking up when it’s already dark.
So while a few guys went down, the rest of us stayed on the cliff. The beach did look amazingly white and gorgeous from up there. Watubela means white rock. It’s easy to guess where the name derived from.
We enjoyed the sight of golden sunset from up the cliff and had fun taking silhouette photos like any tourist would. Later at dinner, Indra and Sandy, who had been down at the beach, talked about how they were bitten by sandflies down at the eye-candy beach. Yikes! That could be why there wasn’t a lot of people I saw at the beach. And for once, my laziness (about hiking) paid off. As much as I like beaches, I much prefer not having itches!
For some reason, Tarimbang Beach is popular among those who have been and who’ve been inspired to go to Sumba. I heard it was very beautiful but quite inconvenient to get to. So if so many people loved and curious about it, it must be a totally great beach!
Getting to Tarimbang required a detour from the main roads and from the rest of our itinerary. We passed through villages, savannas and awfully rocky roads, about 3.5 hour drive from Waikabubak (or 3 hours from Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba).
Arriving at the beach, a leaning tree trunk on the vast beach was the first thing I saw. It’s that popular tree from photos on Instagram. But I was more inclined to swim first than taking too many photos. Indra, Mike and I went a little far from the tree, where the water was less murky. “Normally it’s more blue and clearer than this,” said Rizal. Oh, well. Still, I enjoyed the swim, with a teeny weeny current, though it couldn’t beat Mandorak or Mananga Aba.
I think Tarimbang could be a great option for those into sun bathing, or those into making poetic pictures with the tree trunks. But for me, Tarimbang beach is not worth the hassle and spending half a day just getting there, unless you’re staying around the area a lot longer.
Arriving at Walakiri beach just minutes before sunset, I didn’t get to see much of it. The main reason people go there is the ‘dancing trees’ silhouette. They’re mangrove trees, scattered in the shallow part of the sea, and in low tide you can see them from the ground up. Walakiri beach in sunset is truly a gem for photographers or Instagramers.
I was among the tourists that took turn in posing with the trees. ‘Things aren’t always as easy or pretty as they seem’ apply here. From the parking spot, walking on the beach and getting to the trees, I said ‘ow, ow, ow,’ a lot. There were sharp coral stones and small mangrove roots/growing trunks I had to avoid stepping on but sometimes failed. Wearing water resistant footwear would be a great idea here. There were also a lot of small starfish, I had to really watch my steps not to crush them.
So those are the 7 awesome beaches in Sumba Island that I’ve been to, out of so many more that I believe exist and have yet to explore next time. These aren’t all easy to reach, not all became my favorite, but all are definitely memorable as the whole island is to me. The interesting part of the trip is not only the beaches in Sumba Island. Next up, I will tell you about the savanna, lake and waterfall.
But before that, let me ask you one thing. Which of these beaches in Sumba Island do you find most attractive, and why?