Nestled in the middle of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Lombok to the west and Flores to the east, Sumbawa is one of the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia. Its picturesque landscapes are still relatively untouched by tourism, with most visitors being adventurous surfers looking to take advantage of Sumbawa’s uncrowded waves.
Sumbawa is situated within the Pacific Ring of Fire and noted for its active volcanoes, which include Mount Tambora whose 1815 eruption was the most destructive in modern history. Experienced climbers can tackle its slopes, with the 2,821-metre high caldera offering unparalleled views across the island. The capital, Sumbawa Besar, is the island’s main commercial hub on the western side of the island, while the hills to the east are home to large stone sarcophagi and megaliths, thought to be the royal tombs of Neolithic chiefs. Bima on the east coast is another important hub with a few basic hotels, together with the Beach of Wane which serves as the launching point for surf adventures along the coast to find undiscovered waves. The main surf breaks of Jerantut, Maluk, Hu’u and Sekongkang Bay hug Sumbawa’s coast, while the rugged interior is home to traditional villages where little has changed over the decades. It is here that the Donggo tribal people live according to their ancient animist beliefs, and are renowned for beautiful indigo cloth weaving. Pulau Moyo off the north coast of Sumbawa has been transformed into a secluded luxury getaway, with good fishing, waterfall treks and snorkelling on offer.
Sumbawa is connected to Lombok, Java and Bali by regular ferry services with infrequent ferries to Flores, and flights operate to Sumbawa Besar on the western side of the island and Bima on the eastern side. Public buses are the main means of transport across the island, although most visitors opt to hire their own motorbike or moped to get around.
Sumbawa’s abundance of natural resources, including sappanwood, sandalwood and honey, have seen it invaded by outsiders throughout history, including the Javanese, Japanese and Dutch who colonised the island from the early 20th century. Balinese kingdoms ruled over parts of western Sumbawa at one point, while the Islamic Sultanate of Bima ruled over its east, with the island marking the eastern bounds of the spread of Indian religion and culture across Indonesia.