1. Not many tourists, so the few who do make it get to experience the friendly, genuine smiles of the curious locals (Easy to take a lot of great portrait photos)
2. Given the few western tourists who travel to the villages (especially in the eastern part of the island) little children are likely to surround any visitors in a loud, happy, curious throng, and it’s not at all unusual for their parents to invite visitors into their homes – without any thought of profit. This is always a fun experience, involving a lot of body language
3. The tumult at the local markets, and the mix of aromas (especially garlic)
4. The beach at Pantai Rua, where it’s easy to take a leisurely dip. It’s interesting to sit on the beach among the locals, and isn’t at all crowded. What’s more, the beaches are more beautiful than in Bali.
5. Tourists have hardly begun to discover this island, so there’s no dispiriting mass tourism. There are, however, some wonderfully unique experiences to be had, amid authentic local life which still hasn’t been uprooted by tourism.
6. The tall, broad huts of the traditional villages, together with photogenic villagers and well-treated livestock roaming the streets (the islanders are not predominantly Muslim, so there are lots of pigs too)
7. Watching the local funeral rites, which have much in common with the Torajans’ rituals, including animal sacrifice (here mostly piglets), singing, dancing, and much celebration amid the mourning. Anyone who has not already visited Sulawesi will find this a very memorable experience.
8. The magnificent mangrove trees on Walakiri Beach
9. Sitting by the shore in the evening, just before sunset, and watching the local fishermen, and the children exercising their horses.
10. Very clean, with less litter than elsewhere in Indonesia.
1. The smell of dried fish at markets is off-putting – even here
2. Bathing at several beautiful beaches is unfortunately not without some danger, on account of strong currents (sometimes rip tides) and occasionally some submerged rocks
3. The means of obtaining permission to attend a traditional funeral ceremony were complicated and circuitous – this is not a tourist event, so it was difficult to learn what gifts were appropriate to give as a guest. Oh, and the slaughter of an animal just isn’t all that romantic… (of course, it’s also impossible to know whether someone will conveniently die just when you’re visiting Sumba)
4. Very few locals can speak English (and mostly in the cities, of course) but this is understandable, as the island is still outside the mainstream of global tourism
5. Poverty (this is one of the poorest regions of Indonesia) though in fact it doesn’t seem so dire
6. The flea-like sandflies can at times be an irritation at the beach
7. Roaming stray dogs
8. We never found a reliable, easy-to-use map of the island