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Sumba: Ancient Lands to Lead a New Revival
14 September 2020 | Written by Chris Alexander

As Indonesia continues to make preparations for the recovery of domestic and international tourism, the Government of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) is presenting one of its prime attractions as the key to a safe and specialised revival. The island of Sumba combines remoteness and sparse population density with a spectacular array of natural, cultural and historical attractions. NTT is one of the regions least affected by Covid-19 in Indonesia, making it the ideal destination for returning travellers. 

Covid-19 lockdown measures have already been lifted in many regions of NTT, where the economic impact of restrictions far outweighs the relatively low risk of possible infection. In remote islands such as Sumba, the greater damage has been done to the economy, as farmers and villagers have been unable to sell their produce and traditional tourism has taken a significant hit without regular arrivals. The region’s governor, Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat has previously confirmed his intention to balance safety with practical concerns and economic expediency in the region: 

“The NTT government will not adopt the latest World Health Organization protocol,” said the governor in a statement in June, when NTT lifted its initial Covid-19 restrictions. “The province has limited capacity in terms of budget, healthcare facilities and personnel,” he added. With relatively few cases of the virus, NTT is presenting itself as a destination that’s ready-made for returning travellers. Provided these visitors are screened and processed according to WHO regulations at source, NTT can offer them a wide range of wildlife attractions and unique cultural insights, in locations shielded from Covid-19 concerns by their relative isolation. 

Home to ancient beliefs and traditions, Sumba is a unique destination where distant history continues to inform everyday life. Visitors will immediately notice this timeless aura on the island, when they see its various stone megaliths, tombs and iconic village houses; thatched huts with enormous swooping rooftops, which are home to ancient heirlooms – iconic ikat fabrics, colonial coins and even the occasional trophy from Sumba’s bygone days of headhunting; treasures and relics of clan battles, all hidden away in the tall wooden rafters. 

But it’s not all ancient history in Sumba; the island is also home to one of the world’s finest and most luxurious resorts: Nihi Sumba. Perched on an isolated shore overlooking the ocean, readers of Travel and Leisure Magazine recently named Nihi Sumba the #1 Resort in the World two years in succession. The resort is a favourite hideaway for celebrities and the international jet set; in the post-pandemic travel landscape, locations such as this offer the ultimate in indulgence and escapism. 

From animist rituals and warrior heritage, to serene landscapes and luxury resorts; Sumba could be an exquisite bubble in which to revive international tourism to Indonesia. To see original photography from the island and read an in-depth blog about Nihi Sumba, check out our Travel With Us section for more info and inspiration. 

Sumba is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands in the province of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), located to the very south-eastern edge of Indonesia. The largest town on the island is the main port of Waingapu, home to a population of just over 50,000 people. Elsewhere, villages are dispersed across great rolling plains of open grassland, or along rocky coasts with spectacular ocean views. The island can be reached relatively easily and regularly by plane from Bali. Other nearby attractions in NTT that can be combined with a visit to Sumba are Flores, Komodo, Sumbawa and Timor. 

Panorama Destination offers unique and unforgettable tours to Sumba and NTT, with services based out of the company’s local hub in Labuan Bajo, Flores.