Photo: Prailiang village scenes.

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Waingapu, the capital of East Sumba, will likely be your first or last port of call on a trip to Sumba. Waingapu is the largest town in Sumba and sprawls over several hills and around the harbour. It’s more developed than the towns in the west, but don’t expect shiny glass and skyscrapers: The wide dusty streets are more likely to be filled with goats and horses.

The main ‘tourist’ part of town is centred near a small park in front of the Catholic church where Jesus wears a traditional ikat sarong. Nearby you’ll find several hotels and restaurants, and a perpetually glowing Christmas tree (even in March, when we visited).

Welcome to Waingapu. Photo taken in or around Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Welcome to Waingapu. Photo: Sally Arnold

Hotels are mostly local business-style, but there’s a fair selection for a range of budgets. For something a little more tourist-style (and pricier), head an hour north to Pantai Puru Kambera (pantai means beach in Indonesian).

Waingapu is not much of a tourist destination in itself, but is a good base to use while exploring eastern Sumba. An interesting local market is in the centre of town, and a wander up any hill will provide sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and bays, notably Bukit Persaudaraan. The old harbour with Bugis ships loading and unloading makes an interesting diversion, and at night the area transforms into a small night market with warungs grilling the latest catch from the nearby fish market. It’s well worth a visit.

Really friendly locals. Photo taken in or around Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Really friendly locals. Photo: Sally Arnold

Fifteen minutes’ walk from the hotel area heading towards the airport you can easily visit the traditional village of Prailiu, where you can see terrific ikat being made. Indigo Art Shop (75 Jalan R. Suprapto, Prailiu, Waingapu; T: (0812) 379 5 355; [email protected]), a small commercial ikat shop, is near the entrance to Prailiu. A 30-minute walk to the north, at Ama Nai Tukang (53 Jalan Hayam Wuruk, Kallu, Waingapu; T: (0387) 62 414; (0821) 4491 5885;), in Kallu, you will see some of the finest ikat in the whole of Sumba. If you are really into ikat, they have a small homestay.

Nine kilometres south of town, the local picnic spot Bendungan Kambaniru (Kambaniru Dam), is very picturesque, and worth a trip. We’ve seen great photos of a waterfall at Gunung Meja too, 15 kilometres from Waingapu, but were informed the road was too bad to access it at the time of our visit.

Classic Sumba. Photo taken in or around Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Classic Sumba. Photo: Sally Arnold

Wunga village, the oldest in Sumba, and Prailiang village, a couple of hours to the north, make a great day trip. The drive is scenic and you can stop for a break at one of the beaches along the way. If you are short of time, villages around Melolo can also be visited as a day trip from Waingapu. If you have more time, we’d recommend overnighting it there to really explore, or stop by on the way to the southern beaches.

The airport linking you to Bali and West Timor is five kilometres out of town. There are two long-distance bus stations. One is for buses east, connecting you to Lewa, Waikabubak and Waitabula and is found in the southeastern part of town, about four kilometres from the centre; the other southern terminal has buses to take you to Melolo and Baing (for Kalala), and is found 10 kilometres out of town. A small bemo terminal near the market connects you to both. Ferries can take you to Flores — which you can see from the port on a clear day — and West Timor. The occasional Pelni ship docks in too.

The port is worth a look. Photo taken in or around Waingapu, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

The port is worth a look. Photo: Sally Arnold

ATMs are dotted around town, but many only dispense 50,000 rupiah notes, with maximum withdrawals of 1,250,000 rupiah. Free Wifi is offered in most hotels, but we had difficulty connecting. 3G, however, seems to work. Telkomsel is the only phone provider with coverage in Sumba.

The police station is on Jalan Suprapto, in the east of town, between the airport and hotel area. The post office with a Western Union branch is inconveniently located at the top of a hill at 2 Jalan Dr Sutomo. Open Monday to Thursday 8:00-16:00, Friday and Saturday 8:00 to 14:00.

RS Kristen Lindimara is the closest hospital to the hotel area. Located at 6 Jalan Profesor Dokter W. Z. Johanes; T: (0387) 61 064; Several private doctors’ practices are nearby RS Kristen Lindimara. Other public hospitals are RSU Imanuel, west of the market at 44 Jalan Nangka; and the large regional public hospital RSU Umbu Rara Meha southwest of town at 5 Jalan Adam Malik. For major illnesses we would recommend transferring to Bali.

A recommended English-speaking local guide who can take you all over East Sumba by motorbike or car is Arye Tamelab. His rates are 250,000 rupiah per day (excluding transport). T: (0813) 3942 9429; [email protected]

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Waingapu.
 Read up on where to eat on Waingapu.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Waingapu.
 Read up on how to get to Waingapu.
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