Photo: Oh Melolo.

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Aside from having a lovely name that rolls off the tongue, Melolo occupies the halfway position along the eastern coast of Sumba, about 65 kilometres south of Waingapu, at the mouth of the Melolo River. The town itself is a mere blip on the map, straddling the main road that connects Waingapu to the south and an area of thick mangroves divides the town from the sea.

Around Melolo you’ll find villages famous for producing some of the finest weaving in Sumba, Umabarra and Pau. Nearby Rende village, the “village of kings”, has some magnificent megalithic tombs. The area could be visited on a day trip from Waingapu, but if you’re heading south to Kalala, Melolo makes a good halfway point to stop, explore a bit and spend the night.

Wet season lushness. Photo taken in or around Melolo, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Wet season lushness. Photo: Sally Arnold

The coastal road south from Waingapu is one of the better roads in Sumba, paved all the way and relatively flat for hilly Sumba. About an hour south of Waingapu, Menggitimbi, a collection of small roadside lakes and sandy marshes, is an excellent birdwatching spot. Further south towards Melolo, scenic rice fields edged with coconut palms line either side of the road.

At the northern end of the town of Melolo, a small path alongside the graveyard leads through mangroves to the almost-deserted beach. Not far from the path as you enter the beach, the wide Melolo river flows into the sea. Warning: there are crocodiles here, so don’t swim in the river, and probably not the sea. One local proudly showed us the skin of a small croc he’d caught, so there is one less to fear.

Beach scenes by Melolo. Photo taken in or around Melolo, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Beach scenes by Melolo. Photo: Sally Arnold

At low tide Melolo Beach becomes a series of mudflats that see a few locals collecting sea creatures. In the late afternoon horses are lead to be washed and exercised along the beach, but other than that there’s not a lot of activity. The beach is appealing, and while not extraordinary, it’s a prime position for watching the sunset over the river or, if you happen to be an early riser, the sunrise over the sea.

Melolo has only one place to stay, which is nothing special, but clean and fine for a night. There are a couple of warungs, with fish the main offering. Most are simple hole-in-the-wall food stalls selling nasi bungkus (take away rice packets), few with anywhere to sit, all dotted along the main Melolo road.

Bungkus breakfast. Photo taken in or around Melolo, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Bungkus breakfast. Photo: Sally Arnold

There is one sit down warung, Warung Pojok Indah, which as the name suggests sits on the corner (pojok means corner), just after the bridge over the Melolo River as you enter the town. Don’t be put off by the not-too-salubrious surrounds, as the food is simple and tasty. We ate there twice and recommend the fish soup. Skip the coffee here though, as it’s weak and tasteless and they added chocolate milk. Very little English is spoken, so it’s point and pick, or learn one or two Indonesian food words: ayam, ikan, nasi, sayur (chicken, fish, rice, vegetables) and you will do fine in these parts.

Directly across from Losman Hermindo, a small Muslim stall sells very tasty nasi kuning with fish on the side. The coconut yellow rice is sweet and flavoursome.

Two well stocked local shops compete selling a-bit-of-this-and-that from either side of the road: Purnama Kashi is open daily 07:00 to 22:00 and Sumba Indah is open daily 08:00 to 22:00. Gallery Sumba Heritage is a small craft co-op opposite Losman Hermindo that mostly sells songket weaving. It’s open daily 08:00 to 22:00.

Plenty of weaving to see. Photo taken in or around Melolo, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Plenty of weaving to see. Photo: Sally Arnold

The BRI ATM on the southern end of the main road accepts international cards. The police station is also on the main road, a little further south. Melolo post office is on a quiet street one block back from the main road, almost directly to the west of the BRI bank. There is a local doctor on the main road in the middle of town whose practice is only open Tuesday to Saturday, 16:00 to 21:00.

Buses on the Waingapu-Biang route pass through Melolo and Rende. There is no regular schedule as it depends on how many stops they make along the way. Ask at Losman Hermindo to help you hail one down. If you are heading south to Kalala, Kalala Bungalows can arrange a private car or a “travel” bus to pick you up.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Melolo.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Melolo.
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