West Sumbawa: Information for Travelers
Sumbawa is one of the larger of the 17,000 islands that constitute the Indonesian archipelago. It is about three times the size of neighboring Lombok, but with a small population estimated to be between 1 and 1.5 million. Despite its large size and proximity to the vacation island of Bali, Sumbawa doesn't receive a lot of tourist traffic, partly due to its lack of a tourist infrastructure and partly due to its relative remoteness. While there are a few airlines that make limited flights onto the island, the best way for a traveler to explore the island is to rent a car in Bali or Lombok and drive overland and cross via the ferries that connect these islands to Sumbawa. Another option is to travel via public bus from Bali, although the ride and bus conditions are really only suited for the most seasoned travelers. Surfers can surf Sumbawa by coming over on the surfboats that make the trip to Sumbawa from Bali and Lombok, but this limits their opportunities to explore the island and experience its natural beauty and unique culture.
Politically, the island is divided into four regencies: Sumbawa Barat, Sumbawa Besar, Dompu and Bima. Sumbawa is a great place to visit if you are a surfer or if you want to experience the natural beauty of the island and a culture far removed from that of the well-known Balinese culture which is based on Bali's Hindu religion.
Sumbawa's natural beauty is cause for reflection on the wonders of this planet. Many times during drives up and down the west coast road, I would be called to pull off to the side of the road to gaze at the lush mountainous terrain that seemingly stretched on forever. The climate is significantly drier than Bali's; it is similar to the climate of eastern Lombok. Sumbawa is home to the volcano, Mount Tambora. In 1815 Tambora erupted – the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – and the effects were felt all the way to the United States. Approximately 92,000 people died because of the eruption. The Year without a Summer in the northern hemisphere was caused by Tambora's effects on the climate.
Sumbawa is perhaps best known to travelers for its great waves and sandy white beaches. Due to the somewhat trying process of getting to Sumbawa and the scarcity of cheap tourist facilities, the island is not visited much by non-surfing tourists. During the dry season (April to November) a lot of dust is blown up and around. Strong winds blow in off the ocean, and the green hills, mountains and valleys turn a dusty brown. When the rainy season arrives an amazing transformation takes place and the island becomes a luxuriant jungle once again.
Surfing and relaxing on the white sand beaches are the most common reasons that travelers visit Sumbawa, and they come from around the world. Sumbawa's west coast boasts three well-known surfing spots: Yoyo's, Scar Reef and Supersucks. Yoyo's is located on the southwest coast in the village of Sekongkang, SuperSucks is a bit farther north just south of the village of Maluk and Scar Reef is still farther up the road that runs along with west coast in the tiny village of Jelinggah just south of the regional capital of Taliwang. The best time to surf Sumbawa is from April through October. Each of these surfing spots has at least one hotel or surfing camp nearby for surfers.
Supersuck hotel was built back in 2005 by an American group based in Hawaii. The hotel is right on the beach just south of Maluk village. The hotel features 4 deluxe suites that look out on Supersuck. The suites are air-conditioned with satellite TV, bathrooms and 600 square feet of space. These family size units start at $45 a night. Supersuck also has private rooms in the main building. These cost $25 a night and have shared bathrooms and can accommodate two people. Contact information is on the hotel website.
Yoyo's – Sekongkang
Yoyo's has a long history in Sekongkang and it has gone through several phases in its development. It is currently under the management of three Australian and their Indonesian mates. While Yoyo's has always received it share of surfers, prices at one time were considered too expensive for most surfers as the hotel's focus was on employees of the nearby mining company. The new management has lowered prices for their guest rooms.
Scar Reef - Jelenga
Scar Reef is the most isolated of the three main surfing spots in the west of Sumbawa. Located far back off the main road just south of Taliwang that runs down from the northern port of Poto Tano, Scar Reef is a spot that can be a surfer's delight as there is just surf and nature around. This is a great place to come with a few friends and relax in the evening after a long day of surfing with a few beers and perhaps a movie or two. There are several small hotels in the area with basic facilities and cold beer. The Scar Reef Surf Camp is the newest of the facilities. Scar Reef is located on Jelenga Beach and its easy to get there from the main road by following the signs through several small villages. The camp has four large bedrooms with hot and cold water bathrooms. There is a lounge in the middle of the building where guests can play ping pong, have a meal or watch TV or a movie.
Getting to Sumbawa
Forget flying and drive across Lombok from Bali. Renting a car is cheaper in Bali than in Lombok. From Kuta Beach area drive to the harbor at Padangbai. The ferry crossing takes four to five hours normally. Drive through the capital of Mataram and head east on the main road that traverses the island. Stop at a few small warungs along the way and have a cold drink to break up the trip. The road through Lombok is well-paved. Once you reach the harbor on Labuhan Lombok, or Kayangan, take the ferry to Sumbawa. The trip normally takes about two hours. Upon arriving at the Poto Tano harbor in west Sumbawa, head south towards Taliwang, Maluk and Sekongkang. The drive from Poto Tano to Sekongkang takes about two hours. Stop along the way to appreciate the scenery.
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