Elaborately contorted and sprawling into the sea, Sumbawa is all volcanic ridges, terraced rice fields, dry expanses and sheltered bays. Though well connected to Bali and Lombok, it's a very different sort of place – far less developed, mostly very dry, 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 law and lore) still thrives.
Mostly traffic-free and in great shape, the Trans-Sumbawa Hwy is excellent for getting quickly between Lombok and Flores. Transport connections off this trunk 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.