There’s something truly enchanting about Sumba. With its rugged, undulating savannah and low limestone hills growing maize and rice, it’s nothing like Indonesia’s northern volcanic islands. Scattered throughout the countryside are hilltop villages with tall, symbolic grass roofs clustered around megalithic tombs, where nominally Protestant villagers still respect indigenous marapu with bloody sacrificial rites.
Encircling Sumba are white-sand beaches that are the stuff of dreams, as are the island’s secret swimming spots and waterfalls further inland. Throw in some of Indonesia’s most prized ikat (patterned textiles) and the annual Pasola festival and you have one of the most diverse islands in Indonesia where adat runs deep and small children with big smiles shout ‘hello mister’, irrespective of gender.
One of Indonesia’s poorest islands, an influx of investment has seen villages swap thatched roofs for tin. Traditional dress is reserved for special occasions and remote villagers expect larger donations from visitors.