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Introducing Sumbawa

Beautifully contorted and sprawling into the sea, Sumbawa is all volcanic ridges, terraced rice fields, jungled peninsulas and sheltered bays. The southwest coast is essentially a layered series of headlands and wide, silky white beaches with incredible surf. The southeast is no slouch. It’s also a bit more accessible, which explains why Lakey Peak has become Sumbawa’s premier year-round surf magnet. Massive, climbable Gunung Tambora (2850m), a mountain that exploded so large it forever influenced the climate and topography of the island, looms in the north.

Though well connected to Bali and Lombok, Sumbawa is a very different sort of place. It’s far less developed, much poorer, extremely conservative, and split between two distinct peoples. Those who speak Sumbawanese probably reached the west of the island from Lombok. Bimanese speakers dominate the Tambora Peninsula and the east. Although Sumbawa is an overwhelmingly Islamic island, in remote parts underground adat (traditional laws and regulations) still thrive. During festivals you may come across traditional Sumbawan fighting, a sort of bare-fisted boxing called berempah. Dynamic horse and water-buffalo races, best glimpsed in Bima each August, are held before the rice is planted.

Transport connections off the cross-island road are infrequent and uncomfortable, and most overland travellers don’t even get off the bus in Sumbawa as they float and roll from Lombok to Flores. For now, it’s the domain of surfers, miners and mullahs.