An Escape To Untouched Sumba

Ever since seeing a picture on the internet of a gorgeous blue lagoon that was like something out of a movie set, Sumba has been on my bucket list to visit. Finally, I got to tick it off! Here’s our experience of exploring untouched Sumba

View of a beach in Sumba, Indonesia

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About Sumba

This Island of Sumba is only a 1.5-hour direct flight from Bali. Sumba is an Eastern Indonesian island which is located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. Sumba is much larger than the Island of Bali and is still quite untouched from the outside world.

First Impressions of Sumba

There are two airports in Sumba – Waingapu (East Sumba) and Tambololaka (West Sumba). We stayed at the gorgeous Lelewatu Resort in West Sumba, so we flew into Tambololaka airport. Lelewatu Resort is around a 1.5 hour drive from the Tambololaka airport. The airport itself & the drive to the resort gives you an immediate glimpse into Sumba life. No fanfare, no big stores or restaurants… the majority of the island is mostly untouched, besides the resorts, the rest of Sumba is still very much traditional life and the Indigenous culture is evident everywhere. 

Ground handling at the airport in Sumba styleGround handling at the airport in Sumba style

The main roads are really well established so riding and driving on these is quite easy, once you are off the main roads you can expect mostly rock & dirt paths. The internet and phone coverage in Sumba is very intermittent and can’t really be relied upon (having a Telkomsel SIM card is best, but even then there are areas it doesn’t have any coverage). If you are navigating yourself around Sumba be sure to download offline maps (although as we found out, they are not so accurate….nothing beats some local knowledge!).

Ground handling at the airport in Sumba styleGround handling at the airport in Sumba style

Immediate things that stand out in Sumba are the colourful houses, the number of schools and churches (the main religion of Sumba is Christianity), and the presence of family tombs located in the front yards of almost every house. There are also animals everywhere in Sumba.

House, schools, churches all come in different colours in Sumba
Bathing buffalos

There are local buffalo, horses, pigs, goats, dogs, and more. We saw a lot of animals everywhere we travelled, some wild and some being herded or taking care of. My favorite animal sighting was when we rode past a herd of buffalos that were bathing in a group in a roadside waterhole.

Animals roaming around the roads of Sumba

Staying at Lelewatu Resort Sumba

On arrival at Lelewatu Resort, we were stunned at its beauty. A true five-star luxury resort that sprawls over ten hectares and overlooks the Indian ocean. Each villa within the resort honours the Sumbanese traditions and culture. From the traditional Sumbanese alang-alang thatch roof of each villa to the Ikat weave dressing gowns provided for your use during your stay (we loved these!!).

Our ocean view pool villa was nothing short of spectacular. Waking up to the sounds of waves crashing, watching the sunset in our private pool, and gazing out into the endless ocean, this resort is definitely memorable in the best way. It would make for an ideal honeymoon destination… it is very romantic. 

Lelewatu's private villas make a great honeymoon spot

You may come to Sumba for just a luxury stay in Lelewatu Resort and you wouldn’t leave disappointed – there is plenty to do and explore in the huge resort itself. We are adventurers at heart though and balanced our luxury resort time with exploring the beautiful island.

Amazing ocean view from Lelewatu spa

Exploring Sumba; The Stunning Weekuri Lagoon

Sumba is quite big and a few days is not enough to even scratch the surface of all there is to see. We only stayed on the West side of Sumba during this trip. When in West Sumba the number one spot you must visit is Weekuri Lagoon. The lagoon is around a 2.5-hour ride/drive from Lelewatu resort.

We spent a day and rented a motorbike and had fun riding through remote villages to get there. We got lost a lot (even with offline maps), in hindsight I’d recommend taking a car and a local driver which the resort will arrange for you (they also arranged our bike for us).

We did have a great time on the bike though and the Sumbanese people were so welcoming and helpful. No one really spoke much English, so if you have at least basic Bahasa Indonesia this helps if you’re navigating yourself. In some of the more remote villages, the children were so excited to see us and some were a little scared, they had not seen foreigners before.

After a few hours of getting lost on the bike, we finally made it to the Weekuri lagoon entrance. We had read there was an entrance fee but nothing was set up to make payment when we were there. We did pay the parking attendant 10,000 Rp to park our bike though. One of the locals offered to show us around for the lagoon and help which we gladly accepted. 

Weekuri Lagoon is right beside the ocean, it is saltwater and truly one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. The water is the most magnificent array of blues and turquoise and is crystal clear. In the pictures, it looks fake and even in real life, it looked like an Instagram filter.

There was barely anyone there when we visited, just around 10 locals. There is a little Warung beside the lagoon where you can buy drinks and snacks and there are also a couple of little market stalls selling sarongs and Ikat weaved products. As we arrived the locals had just caught a huge lobster in the lagoon and were cooking it over some coals – yum!

There is a wooden walkway to walk across the part of the lagoon that is beside the ocean. This gives you a great view of the entire lagoon.

There is a platform you can jump off to jump into the lagoon also.

Some of the locals have tubes and wooden rafts that you can hire and take rides on for around 10,000 Rp (70 cents USD). We had to pinch ourselves that we had such a stunning piece of nature almost all to ourselves. Swimming and paddling through Weekuri Lagoon will be something we never forget. This was a major bucket list moment for me, even writing about it now makes me want to return again soon to swim there. 

Along with the stunning Weekuri Lagoon, Sumba also has many waterfalls and beaches to discover. We quickly realised that it is an island we are going to have to return to in order to see everything we want there. We did get to explore one of the beaches on our Sumba bucket list though – Watu Bella beach.

Exploring Sumba; The PictureSque Watu Bella Beach

On this day we once again hired a bike, and offline maps once again failed us! This time we ended up asking two Sumbanese teenagers if they’d like to be our tour guides for the day (they didn’t speak any English, but our Indonesian is fluent enough to get us by). They jumped at the chance and this made everything so much easier. We followed them on our bikes to Watu Bella beach.

The entrance they took us to was actually at a local village house. We parked our bike at the house (giving the owners 10,000 Rp), walked through the yard area to a jungle pathway at the back, and walked down just two minutes to reach a large grassed area in front of the beach. This seems to be quite a normal way to enter this beach, but we did also get told there is another entrance (which is also via private property). 

Our new tour guides promptly climbed the coconut trees in the grassed area and fetched us some fresh coconuts to cool down with.

Watu Bella is a fine example of Sumba’s incredible untouched beaches. White sand, blue water, sandstone cliffs, palm trees, and not a sign of commercialism anywhere (not yet anyway).

Watu Bella also has a hidden cave! You need to crawl on your belly for around 5m, but once in it is quite a spectacular sight. Unfortunately when we visited the tide was unusually high so we couldn’t enter, but it is for sure a spot we are going to return to. The pictures we’ve seen of the cave are stunning.

Back to Lelewatu Resort

After hours on the bike on bumpy and dirt roads returning to Lelewatu resort each afternoon was a welcome retreat. The resort has an incredible ocean-facing spa and indulging in a Sumbanese massage in the afternoon was our perfect way of balancing a day or adventure and exploring with some luxurious resort time. 

We mostly ate at the resort, except for a couple of roadside Nasi Gorengs during our adventures. The resort food was delicious and they offered a huge range from local seafood and local dishes to Western dishes. Be sure to try the cocktails from their experienced mixologists. Sunsets by the main resort pool watching the sunset over the Indian ocean with a cocktail or two is a great way to end a Sumba day!

The staff at Lelewatu Resort were amazing. We actually felt quite sad farewelling them all on our last morning. They really went above and beyond to ensure we had everything we needed and to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. Everyone from our personal Butler to the gardeners would always greet us with a smile and they definitely all contributed to what a wonderful stay we had! 

An extra Night in Sumba – The Sumba Hospitality Foundation

As luck would have it just as we thought we were farewelling Sumba, we arrived at the airport and soon found out that our incoming plane had hit a bird and the propeller was damaged. We would have to wait for a replacement plane which wouldn’t arrive until the following morning.

We took this opportunity to checkout a place that I had heard about a few years ago – Sumba Hospitality Foundation. This Foundation was set up to help stop the poverty cycle for disadvantaged youths in Sumba. They train their student’s skills in the hospitality industry and have a strong sustainability focus on not only the environment but also sustaining the unique Sumbanese culture and heritage. We could write a lot about this amazing foundation, please checkout their website to learn more about the wonderful things they are doing to help the people of Sumba. 

A big part of the foundation is their Maringi Sumba Eco Resort. This is a hotel and restaurant that is open to the public to stay in and dine at. The hospitality students also live at the resort during their training and get to practice their skills they learn through their course on the guests visiting the resort. I already knew their resort was close to the airport and a quick phone call confirmed they had rooms available. A group of us who were supposed to be on the cancelled flight made our way to Maringi for the night. 

The missed flight was a blessing in disguise as I was so happy we got to experience this resort. The students were so excited to host us and went out of their way to make sure we were well looked after. The food they prepared was all delicious. The resort itself is very interesting, there is a farm, a spa and lots of information about Sumba and also the efforts of the Sumba Hospitality Foundation. We highly recommend a visit to Maringi if you’re in Sumba, whether to stay or to dine. There are also opportunities to support this amazing foundation and to sponsor the students.

Final Words

Sumba definitely stole a piece of our hearts, it was one of those places that we immediately felt a connection with. We are already making plans for a return visit to experience Pasola (a spear fighting ritual to celebrate the annual arrival of the sea worms). Stay tuned for that blog!

A visit to Sumba is the perfect extension to a Bali holiday or an excellent getaway for those of you living in Bali. It’s such an easy connection and quick flight between Bali and Sumba. The only requirement we needed to travel from Bali to Sumba (as of March 2021) was a negative rapid antigen COVID test and to fill out the EHAC online form.

In full tourist mode at Watu Bela beach

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After 15 years of visiting Bali as a tourist, Karlie moved her family to Bali 4 years ago. She loves helping others to enjoy Bali and founded Bali Buddies to encourage others to explore the island she now calls home.

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