Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sumbawa Island

Sumbawa, which lies to the east of Lombok, is larger than Bali and Lonbok put together. It’s a poor rugged island, which, thank to an enormous gold and copper mining project that has recently begun operations, may well become more developed and much wealthier in the future. Meanwhile most of the inhabitants are farmers, and fishermen.

Sumbawa naturally divides into two parts, west and east, separated by the Tambora volcano. In 1815 Tambora erupted, killing thousands and reducing the peak from 4,200 m to the 2,850 m, it is today. The western Sumbawans lean towards Lombok in both looks and language, whilst the easterners lean towards Flores. Everyone however is strongly Muslim and has been since the early 1600s.

The island’s attractions are mainly natural: the volcano can be climbed although it’s hard, two-day trek to the top. Once there on a clear day, the views are breathtaking, and the caldera, which is some 6 km wide, contains a two-coloured lake.

But most of the visitors to the island, however come for the world-class surfing at Hu’u and Lakey Beach, which is at its best between June and August. The island’s main town, Sumbawa Besar is small, dusty ans provincial -easy to explore on foot or by horse and cart. People are friendly and hospitable. Also within visiting distance are some fascinating megalithic, carved tombs, believed to be 2,000 years old. Sambawa may be fairly a low-key island, but it is well worth a few days of your time.

When to go: May to October. Population: 1,000,000. How to get there: By air to Sumbawa Besar or to Bima from Bali, Sumba or Flores. By ferry from many others Indonesian islands.. You should know: Don’t dress skimpily unless you are at the beach, this is strongly Muslim island.

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