Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara – The South Emerald Home to T-Land

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May 2010

It’s often mentioned that travelers need that alternative spot in Indonesia besides Bali and Lombok. I’m sure that Bali and especially Lombok has a lot of spots that are less discovered, but I think the feeling of being further away from the crowd is what some travelers are seeking. And they’re right! Some of the best spots are remote. Take Rote Island (pronounced: Rote with e read out) in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) for instance. Ashamed to admit, I heard about this island after I browsed about other great places to visit and more ashamed to realize that it was right under my nose the past 2 years.

Rote Island

Where did the locals go to then? Apparently not to this southern beauty. Not a lot of locals recommended me this island, and if they did, most of them have never seen it anyways and have just heard of it. Rote is better known as the alternative surfing spot for those that choose to be stamped ‘surfed off the beaten track’. Come meet the T-land and everything that it has to offer.

I went with several friends from work after A LOT of compromise. Shees… sometimes it takes a lot to have fun ay?

Rote is a flat island. You could see it by passing the islands coastline. No mountains, just hills and a few very tall ones. It’s dry and has no sights of tropical forests. But can immediately notice long sandy beaches, which seem pristine and worth every wave you pass through. Coming to Rote island, you will dock at Ba’a port.

Rote Island

Ba’a port that afternoon wasn’t very friendly, even though summer has already started. It was cloudy and windy, far from any excitement of a laid back tropical ambience we were looking for. It was definitely crowded by the mob coming in from Kupang, by the public transport and those picking up friends and family. In a corner of the port there was also a bunch of travelers and tourists but far from being called a mass; just a hand full. And by the looks of their very long luggage, they knew what they were here for: Surfing! Seeing how hassled this crowd was to see this place, we knew we were heading the right direction… Come, fellow travelers, to Nemberala!

Rote Island

It’s a lovely scenic ride to Nemberala Beach with traditional villages along the way and lucky me, some traditional horsemen. I took a shot with my camera but failed to meet any again during this trip. But maybe because I wasn’t looking as hard 😛  I’m sure you will also enjoy seeing the skinny cows on the way.

Rote Island

Nemberala Beach

This is the beach you would love. It certainly was what I look for. It’s long, white sand, clean, quiet, not much tourist, clear water, fresh breeze, not so many tourists, with locals doin their thing, and waves breaking in the distance, making the beach less noisy than your usual surfing beach would.

You can just enjoy the beach by strolling on it to the very end. It was an easy 3 km from Anugerah Homestay to the south. Along the beach you could see the break in the distance, about 500 m from the shore. Beyond this break are the surfers searching for that perfect wave.

Nemberala Beach

Between the beach and the break, the sea was filled with rows of cultivated seaweed. There are small paths intentionally made for farmers to pass and reach every part of their garden. And amongst the greenish blue waters, you would also see some men fishing.

In the distance, you could also see a wooden boat with sails down. Cruising boats like these are quite common around the eastern parts of Indonesian waters. Luxurious boats like this usually are filled with loaded tourists ($$$) that don’t want to spend time and more money on land. A shame, really, since the locals are really interesting and nice.

Rote Island

And in the afternoon, when the tide is low and the sky is red and orange, surfers will emerge from the break with their boards, heading back for a good night’s rest.

Nemberala Beach

Surfing Nemberala Beach

I’m no surfer myself. When it comes to waves, I’m purely a body board fan. Surfing is just a bit too extreme for me based on past experience, although I can imagine how cool it would be to ride a wave. But maybe I’ll try it again on a friendlier area.

According to my reads, the T-land is considered an intermediate lefty surf or the waves pipe to the left if you’re riding it. The reefs are shallow and visible, says one local Caucasian hippy. Adrenaline pumps are the other thing surfers are looking for, no?

Nemberala Beach

Upon my visit, the waters weren’t very friendly. It was just after a full moon, so the currents were hard, the waves were random, and the pipes were too narrow. Well lookie here… we talking surf hehehehe… I learned a lot from the surfers and Om Mus that came out that day. To get out to the break, you can paddle yourself out as warm up or take the boat out which can be arranged by Om Mus and would cost about IDR 20,000 / trip / person. Om Mus was so nice to go surfing making sure got great pictures (Om is an calling for ‘uncle’. Indonesian used it as a polite way to address older men). He really was enthusiastic after I told him about this website. And hence he suggested us to come out to snorkel to see the potential of the reef. However, it was hardly possible and murky due to the currents. And by the looks of the underwater scene, Nemberala was clearly not sold for its snorkeling.

Nemberala Beach

In the water that morning, I saw numerous surfers, waiting and on the look out for waves. Some were lucky, most were not. Om Mus was amongst the unlucky ones, but he was happy enough just being in the water. Although known to be quite consistent during the year, Nemberala has its days where you just have to enjoy what’s on land, rather what’s at T-land. The waves just before we came in were reported to be great, but again, the moon demands differently in the following days.

Nemberala Beach

Surfing Boa Beach

Another area that is famous for its surf is Boa, located about 6 km to the south from Nemberala. This beach is an intermediate righty and usually houses International tournaments. During my visit, it was deserted. There were only a few foreigners checking out the local kids practicing in the distance break. I honestly thought they were foreigners cutting waves because they were pretty good for the common eye. Turns out they were local teens having fun. Wow! It’s exciting to see local boys surf and being good at it. Although Indonesia is an archipelago, most of its people can not swim. Not sure why? So it’s a wonder to see people swim let alone surfing.

Boa Beach

At Boa, you could also see the most southern island of Indonesia’s archipelago, Ndana Island. And you could see that it’s surrounded by white sandy beaches. Om Mus suggested a whole day trip to enjoy Ndana, because beside of the white beaches, it is said that the snorkeling is also promising. But time wasn’t available… and I failed to step on the most southern island of Indonesia :) oh well…

Beaches of Rote Island

So we had a whole day in front of us waiting to be wasted. A friend and I decided to take a motorcycle ride, for the sake of exploring great beaches and photo hunting. Om Mus provided the bike for us to use. In this parts of the country, traveling using a car is not so common. Besides the public transport that run only a few hours a day. Despite that, I still think a motorcycle is still the best to enjoy the area. You can easily jump in and out of the water, dry easily, and have the humid air blow your face while you get the 360 degrees view.

Rote Island

Rote to my surprise is beautiful, green and blue, exotic, and cleaner that what I expected a coastal village to be. This is probably because most of the people cultivate seaweed, obligating them to keep the beaches clean for the sake of their lively hood.

The beaches? Oh My God! The beaches were stunning. Blue in every shade, add turquoise in there, white sand, and calm to wavy waters. Scenic views tire our eyes and cameras. We made countless stop before reaching Oesei just for the sake of a great photo and a dip of feet in fresh cool waters. By that point, I realized why people stay longer and longer. They spend their time swimming in each beautiful beach. Am I exaggerating? Here are some pictures of different beaches, and you tell me if I’m exaggerating. You’ll see that I’m not 😀

Rote Island

One of my favorite is Famo’ok which actually is a mini mangrove forest with a sort of canal going going out to the ocean. The water was really calm and clear. The only thing that really prevented me to dip in longer is the fact that we didn’t have much time, yet we were barely where we were heading 😀

Rote Island

It’s so worth traveling way south and around, man! What comes to mind is… what’s on the north part of the island? Do you get what I mean??? Another planned trip, yay!

Tirosa Homestay

Our first choice was Tirosa Homestay. Like many of the homestays and hotels here, Tirosa terrace faces the sea, making the ocean accessible with just a few steps away. Numerous websites and my friend, Riga in Kupang, recommended this venue first. Each room costs IDR 100,000 / person / day with 3 meals. Sounds like a great deal? Sure… the place was fully occupied with visitors and cute shirtless men. Darn!


Anugerah Homestay

We chose to stay at our next recommendation. Anugerah is not really located on the side of the road, so better ask around to know exactly where it is. To right on the path heading to the Nemberala Resort. The green gate of Anugerah is there for you to enter.

Rote Island

Anugerah Homestay is a semi resort own by Om Mus. Om Mus has been in this business for many years, starting as a local surfer, and now also training local kids to surf.

Anugerah Homestay will cost you IDR 150,000/person/night. This includes 3 meals a day. Coffee and tea are free and self served. The food is great and the service is great. Om Mus is really nice, and so is his staff.

Rote Island

Rote Island

The bungalows are the best sellers here. They are made with bamboo walls and thatched roofs. It contains 2 beds, one queen size and one single, cooled by the ceiling fan. Each bungalow has its own bathroom that is clean. The main bed has a mosquito net, which you probably need if you don’t have a repellent or an extra sheet to cover yourself. And don’t forget the porch to sit and read, and spread your hammock.

Rote Island

The beach is a walk away from the homestay, passing a few coconut trees, which is very nice.

Anugerah Homestay

Nemberala, Kecamatan Rote Barat, Kabupaten Rote Ndao

NTT – Indonesia 85382

Phone: +62 852 391 626 45

Email: /

Fly in to Kupang to start the your journey. There are several flights routing to Kupang, amongst them are Garuda Airlines, Batavia Air, Sriwijaya Air, Merpati Air, and Lion Air. The latest flight comes in from Surabaya and arrives at 19:30. For those that would like to skip sight seeing in Kupang, although much to see (you can search for Kupangs delights in our web of course), can take this flight and spend the night at Kupang. Flights are also available from Bali which are provided by Garuda or Merpati Airlines. I’m not sure about the others.

There are 2 ferries from Tenau port in Kupang to Ba’a port on Rote Island that travel daily. If you hate boat rides, then the express ferry that departs at 9 pm will be the best choice. You can start to get you tickets before the day you leave or on the spot as I did. Be there about 7 am if you choose to buy on the spot for a bigger chance to get a seat. You can book the seats that you want especially for the executive class.


The executive class offers AC and entertainment to kill time. The chairs are clearly from airplanes so they’re quite comfy. Windows are provided of course for you to sight see with a cooler breeze.  You also get water and a piece of bread to munch on, not bad for breakfast! Executive class will cost you IDR 120,000 per pax.

Ferry to Rote Island

While the economy class is just as pleasant in many ways. You get plastic seats just like the ones you find in bus stops. You get sea breeze in your hair and a freedom to take pictures of the landscape since you would probably be outside. There are also economy classes inside, but I think it’s not as good as the seats outside. Economy will cost you IDR 85,000 per pax.

I tried both classes. I recommend the economy class anytime, especially for those that is traveling Rote for the first time. The coasts of the islands are beautiful especially on a bright sunny day. But, if you’re a bit puffed on the way back, the AC class would really help.

Rote Island

The other alternative is the larger cargo ferry that leaves Bolok port in Kupang at about 11 am. This ferry can lift cars and motorcycles and trucks and people and goods. It’s the ferry that we all imagine about. I think it runs 5 days a week and of course cost cheaper considering it takes quite a while to get to the island. I think it takes about 3-4 hours to get to Rote Island.

The other luxurious choice is the plane. It takes you about 30 minutes to get there with a Casa plane or equivalent to it. The planes fly on Friday to Rote and Monday back to Kupang. It’s the only schedule of this route.

Get back

To get back, the express ferry departs the Ba’a port at about 12.30 pm. It really depends on what time the ferry comes in, and how long it takes to load all the passengers. It then takes about 2 hours or maybe 3 back to Tenau depending on the waves.

Part of traveling is mingling. We were confused with the amount of people and public transport at the port so we asked the locals if they knew which public transport were heading to Nemberala. Not all knew, but all helpful to ask around too.

The white mini buses with stickers on them are your line of transport. You don’t have to charter one if you’re not in a hurry or if you don’t mind getting jammed with other locals and err… goods. It’s far more cheaper and not that much different in comfort considering it’s about a 1,5 hour scenic ride. The cost? IDR 20,000 per pax. Far from the IDR 350,000 that you would have to pay for a car. However, if you happen to want to stop in numerous places, travel in bunches, or plainly want to spoil your board on a private car, then renting a whole car could be the choice for you.

Rote Island

Getting back from Nemberala, we decided to get a motorcycle ride or ojegs. The hour ride will cost IDR 50,000 – 75,000 depending on your haggling ability. The hotel where you are staying probably can help you get a transport back. You can alternatively call my guy, Adi at 085239719825, if you have some knowledge of Indonesian language or ask a hotel person to talk to him about ojeg  services.

Rote Island

To get around Nemberala Beach and the surrounding beaches, rent a local motorcycle which can be arranged by Om Mus or any hotel and homestay that your are staying with. A motorcycle costed Rp 75000 per day including gas. A great deal, considering gas is a luxury in this remote area.

A bicycle could also be your choice. Not sure about the price, though. However, to effectively use this means of transportation, you would probably have to be a bike mania. Traveling to neighboring beaches means you would huff and puff through the steep bumpy hilly landscape. It’s a challenge should you choose to do so.

There are a few things that you can spend on while on Rote Island. Fresh fruits are available during each of its season. In our case it was time for watermelons. I can’t remember the price of one, but it was really cheap. We bought one not even trying to haggle the price.

Rote Island

Souvenirs shops are also available. They don’t sell much but really good quality items. Local weaved cloth with traditional patterns, traditional Rote hats, and hakken knitted bags can be purchased around the area. One shop was at the corner of the main road and small street to Tirosa Homestay.

I bought a bag for relatively cheap but after a tough bargain. A really tough one I tell you. And we had to buy 3 to get that price, which I will leave to your imagination (don’t wanna kill the local livelihood right?). But it really isn’t that much. And it’s great quality. Not to mention the local weaved cloths are really nice too for scarf’s and shawls and tablecloth. Multi function for the price of one 😀

5 Responses to Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara – The South Emerald Home to T-Land

  1. what time the express ferry from kupan to rote? how many times perday?

    • The fast ferry run in the morning. I think it was about 8 or 9 in the morning. There is one fast ferry in the morning and one slow ferry (about 3-4 hours) in the afternoon.

  2. Hi there
    I was wondering if there are any cash machines around Nemberala beach?

    • I can’t recall any cash machines when I was there, but it has been sometime so not sure what development has happened there. To be save, better bring cash from Kupang :)

    • in Ba’a the capitol of Rote you can find atm at the only Bank on the island, but it is not very reliable, eg. empty waiting for it to be refilled,or out of order. far better to take cash , in Kupang there are many, certainly no atm’s in Nemberala.

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