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West Sumbawa
Little visited attractions

In their hurry to arrive in Bima, most visitors skip the western part of Sumbawa. They do miss some very interesting, relatively untouched destinations. The area around Taliwang as well as the southern coast of West-Sumbawa are blessed by beautifull quiet beaches and fishery villages. The island of Moyo in the north has a game-reserve and several of the best reefs in the area.
Tepal, in the highlands of southwestern Sumbawa Besar, is one of the remaining traditional villages. The only negative thing - if you see it as one - is that some of these locations can only be reached over bad roads and with transportation that has four-wheel-drive or a big truck. You can also travel by motorbike, and also by foot if you want to. There is no luxury accomodation along the route as well. This way of travelling demands a flexible schedule; you have to be handy and be able to speak some Indonesian, or take an Indonesian-speaking guide with you.

Houses near the seaport

When you arrive in Poto Tano in West-Sumbawa from Lombok with the ferry you have two possibilities: south to Taliwang or east fo Sumbawa Besar. Buses which drive from the ferry to the south, often stop in Taliwang. There you can take a truck to the southern coast in the early morning. The best option for a visit to the southern coast is renting a jeep or Kijang.
At the mooring place of the ferry in Poto Tano (poto means 'seaport') are houses on pawls. It's ten kilometers to the main road, and then another 33 to Taliwang. The first half of the trip takes you through an arid and bald landscape with a little piece of sea every once in a while. The first sign of life is Setelek; it's residents, fields and animals are a welcome view. In the nearby village of Rempe there should be several prehistoric remains. Eight kilometers north of Taliwang the road runs along Danau Lebo (Lake Lebo) for four kilometers, it's a big, shallow with water lillies, lotusus and other water vegetation. Just before Taliwang you cross the lifeline of the area, the Brang Rea (Rea River).

To forget: Taliwang

Taliwang, where a dialect is spoken, is not an attractive place. There are a lot of dogs and a number of small mosques. Who has own transportation should defenately drive on. Bus passengers have to spend the night here to take a truck to the south the next morning. The inhabitants make ratten furniture; maybe you can see them making them. It's the last place with a losmen; who goes further down south should also take food and drinks with them as well.
Who turns left about one kilometer south of the city, arrived in Labuhan Balat after eight kilometers. It's a small town with a wide, curvy beach with yellow-like sand, surrounded by rocks. There are a few huts and fishing canoos and a big, ramshacle colonial harbour building. In the Dutch period, before the construction of the main road, Labuhan Balat was the shipping center of Southwestern Sumbawa.

Economically the area around Taliwang doesn't differ a lot from the rest of West-Sumbawa. Towns and villages were founded on locations where the soil was flat enough, and where was enough water to grow rice. People grow corn, soy- and other beans to add to the production of rice. Surplusses are exported. Small plantations of coconut-palms are to be found all along the coast. The farmers also hold cattle: goats, waterbuffalos and Bali-cows, a domesticated form of the wild cow, the banteng. Besides some houseworking in ratten furniture, Taliwang has little to offer.

Labuhan Lalar: Bajau village

Six kilometer south of Taliwang, a road takes you to Poto Batu, along the coast at the end of the long, wide rivermouth. During weekends this place is a popular destination among people from Taliwang. There are a few stretches of good beach; the sand can be followed until Labuhan Balat. On clear days the sunsets are very nice. There are a few shelters with roofs, and with special tides, some form of fake 'geiser' is assumed to spew seawater from a hole in the coralreef.
Labuhan Balar, a Bajau village consisting of houses built black sand, is three kilometers ahead. This is the only Bajau village at the seaside in this region; the rest of the population is formed by the farmers in the inlands. Every once in a while a boat takes off for Lombok, and in the early morning hours you can buy fresh fish at the local market.
Jereweh is 15 kilometer south of Taliwang, just past the Tiu Punje river. Past this town the roads are certainly very bad. The beautifull landscape makes up a lot. Jereweh has a well-stocked shop for the last shopping. Who arrives here just before the planting of the rice has the chance to see the waterbuffalo races (kerapan kerbau). Inform yourself about this in the town. It's rewarding to return for this or to wait for it as well.

Surfing near Malok

With own transport (or at the back on a chartered motorcycle) you can follow the seven kilometer road from Jereweh to Jelenga, at the coast. Next to a white sandy beach surrounded by a bay, about 250 people live there which are part-time farmer or part-time fishermen. Hardly any tourists visit this place.
Outside Jereweh the 'main' road is smooth and in reasonably good condition, but not for long. Soon a path with loose stones runs into the steep hills. Maybe this road used to be paved but nothing is left about that anymore. After another 12 kilometers you will reach the sea again near the village of Benete - with several seaweed plantations.
Five kilometers from Benete if Malok, visited by dedicated surfers and their friends. The surfers we met all had a close encounter with the coral; they are healing from the wounds which would have been rewarded with a medal if it were from a war. The waves break on the edge of the reef, about half a kilometer off the beach. The inhabitants of the village where the surfers stay, are mainly farmers; there is little fishing.

Sekongkang: turtle beach

Sekongkang Atas, eight kilometers from Malok, is the final destination for all traffic with exception of trucks and transport with four wheel drive.
Just before the village a road towards the west leads to Sekongkang Bawah, and from there you can reach the beach and the bay in two kilometers. From this point, a small path, hardly useable during high tide, runs to a beautifull, quiet bay, separated by a reef of coral. Be certain to bring your snorkling gear, because the waves, the coral and the colors are astonishing. The beach is visited by turtles which lay their eggs there. Don't damage the nests; sometimes the eggs are collected by the villagers as well.
The 12 kilometer long path which connects Sekongkang with the area of Sejorong and Tatar is even worse than the previous kilometers. Informants said the beach was 'fabulous'; locals also confirmed that turtles visit it. From Sejorong you can walk to Lunyuk via Tatar through the hills, from where you can reach Sumbawa Besar in three hours by car.

Bungin: most densely populated island

An alternative for the trip to Lunyk is the way back to Taliwangb, from where it's 115 kilometers to Sumbawa Besar. There is nothing special to see on your way. But it is worth while to make a stop in Alas, the seaport which used to be the mooring place of the ferry from Lombok. Just off the coast, 15 minutes by speedboat, is the island of Bungin, scattered with the houses on pawls of the Bajau fishermen.
Bungin is said to be the most densely populated location of entire Indonesia. In fact the 'island' is nothing more than a coral reef. About 200 years ago, Bajau fishers used it to dry their nets. After that they moved to the small island - because they feared an attack by the Sambawa - where they built houses on pawls in Bajau style. They live from everything that the sea gives them and trade fish for tools and food like rice on the market of Alas.

Picture: White beach

The houses are close to eachother, with the back to the sea. There is not a single free spot for building anymore; if someone wants to marry he first has to enlarge the island by dumping coral in a shallow place of the reef, so it's new house can be build. There is almost no vegetation anymore; the goats of the inhabitants mainly eat some rice and even fish.
The residents of Bungin get burning wood from Panjang, the next island, where they also bury their deads. Until recently, the Bajau were very isolated; they only spoke Bajau and married among eachother. Girls didn't leave the island until their marriage. But a lot has changed since, now there even is electricity and water.

Sumbawa Besar

Sumbawa Besar, the capital of the district with the same name, is a big city which has two places of interest for the visitor: a nice beach near Lahuban Sumbawa and a palace built in 1885. The palace was restaurated almost hundred years after it's construction. They made the esthetic big mistake to built a concrete path to the entrance. But the palace is worth while visiting; take a dokar to get there. The market and bemo-station, the big Seketengcomplex, is located along the eastern side of the city.

Wild on Moyo

Pulau Moyo, northeast of Sumbawa Besar, has several of the best snorkling places - with untouched coral - in Indonesia. There were two meter-long sharks, which were innocent, only a little curious.
Moyo also has a lot to offer for the bird lovers, furthermore there are deer, wild pigs, banteng ( big local cows with a beautifull deer-like head ), flying dogs ( also named kalong ), snaked and lizards. There are so much wild animals on this island, that a hunting program is put together on this big island, of which 65 per cent is a nature reserve.
At the northern coast, outside the reserve, are two villages (Labuhan Aji and Sebotok) and several settlements. The farmers feed waterbuffalos, horses and goats and all residents are fishers. Moyo supplies coconuts and bananas.

Transportation to the island

Tanjung Pasir, on the southern tip of Moyo, is on two hours by motorboat from Sumbawa Besar. Several hotels can organise a trip, or you can negotiate with a shipper yourself in the seaport of Muara Kali, also known as Kali Baru.
It's also possible to charter a boat in Air Bari, a fishery village across Tanjung Pasir, but the trip from Sumbawa Besar to this village is 30 kilometers of which 10 over a bad road and another ten with suffocating dust - not really nice. There is also a daily connection by bemo to Air Bari.
In Air Bari, you can also rent the speedboat of the Nature reserve Organisation ( Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam, KSDA). Then, the trip is only ten minutes. When you have a good wind you can also take a sailboat with a triangular shapes sail. The journey is preacefull and the only sound is that of the ship through the water. It takes twice as long as with the speed boat, but it's far more pleasant.

Air Bari

With a bad wind it's worth while to wait a while in the village of Air Bari. The name means 'salt water', but the water from the source - only boiled - is good enough to drink. If you don't trust it, you have to bring your own bottled water from the city. You can spend the night in the house which is used as the headquarters of KSDA; the people can also help get across as well.
There are worse things than getting stuck in Air Bari. You can have a swim or watch the village, which has a few hundred residents, some Samawa, Bajau and Buginese, but all muslem. They are friendly and poor; it's very hard to find a television or motor-cycle here. People have to work hard to make a living from the sea and with the cultivation of maniok, mung-beans and corn. The houses are built in a mixture of styles, which mirror the different places of origin of the population.

Tanjung Pasir

In Tanjung Pasir you can get very simple accomodation in the headquarters of KSDA. Only several people visited the area, mostly Indonesians. The enthousiastic comments in the guestbook give a slight impression how live should be here. The sunrize over Gunung Tambora is spectacular here.
The area houses five scattered pondok (raised and roofed platforms), where you can spend the night, have a rest and watch wild pigs which are looking for seafood during the low tide. You can see more game in the inlands. You can make several trips, varying in lenght from one hour to several hours. A possibity is visiting several caves, which are the home of several spiecies of bats and the usual wild animals. A hat and water can't be missed.

Snorkling near Moyo

The animals on the land of Moyo are easy to recognise and without doubt interesting, but the biggest attraction can be found under the water surface. There are no diving facilities, to bring goggles, snorkle and others along. A short snorkling trip west of the dock in Tanjung Pasir brought us a visit to several spotted reefsharks. They were patrolling the edges of the coral beds on a depth of about 12 meters. Our dive drew there attention and forced them to go up having a look, but they didn't want us to get too close.
Who wants to spend his time with less exciting things like this should stay in more shallow waters. There is a big variety of soft and hard corals, among them a blue-colored one. There are anemone-fish, schools of reeffish, and a diversity of other exotic and colorfull fish. The reefs aren't damaged by dynamite, thank to Allah.
The snorkling east of Tanjung Pasir, where we hoped to see some big deepseafish, was dissapointing. The waves were too high and the surface water to restless. This was around the end of September, and the people told us the best time was in the wet season: November-December until April-May. Our informers told that under good conditions you can even see sharks and mantha's.
Don't swim into the open sea from Tanjung Pasir. The currents are very strong and sometimes cause whirlpools. There are also stories about five-meter-long sharks which comes to the beach to have a look. To what? Tourist meat?

Batu Tering: sarcofagussus

Archeological lovers don't want to miss the area around Batu Tering, with it's dissappeared megalythical culture. The village is south of Sumbawa Besar, about seven kilometer east of the main road to Lunyuk. Turn left two kilometers after the little town of Semanung (18 kilometers from Sumbawa Besar).
You have to report with the village head for some information in the guestbook. In Batu Tering you can rent a guide for the easy trip to Airnung, seven kilometers ahead.
The big stone sarcofagusus in Airehung once containted the remains of the rulers and are covered with reliefs of lizards and humans. They are part of the megalythical culture which is almost similar to the one on Sumba. Closer to the village is the cave Liang Petang, which, as it is said, contains stones with magical power. The dark cave has stalactites and stalagmites. Bring a flashlight.
The road from Lunyuk is unpaved from Lenanguar, about 40 kilometers from Sumbawa Besar. The unpaved but still reasonable road brings you to the village of Ledang. In the area around Lunyuk, more than 90 kilometers from Sumbawa Besar, there are a lot of transmigrants, among them Balinese, Sasak from Lombok and Jawanese.

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