Photo: Agal waterfall, Merente.

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Introduction

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Sumbawa’s northern coastline between Sumbawa Besar in the east the Poto Tano in the west doesn’t deliver much in the way of spectacular views, save the distance ridges and ranges that run up to the summit of Olet Sangenes, the highest point in western Sumbawa at 1,840 metres. On Google Earth at least the densely forested peak and crater look remarkably like an extinct volcano.



On the northwest side of the peak, the slopes tumble down, eventually falling into the Flores Sea, just to the east of the town of Alas. A mere 20 minutes’ inland from Alas will bring you to the charming ricefield village of Merente.

Just another rice field valley… Photo taken in or around Merente, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Just another rice field valley… Photo: Stuart McDonald

In Merente you’ll find a small community-based tourism scheme underway, where you can stay in a local’s house, explore the village, and trek to the beautiful Agal waterfall. The waterfall alone makes a visit here well worthwhile, but the village is also close to a refreshing swimming hole (part of the same river that Agal dumps into). This is a pleasant, laidback spot, where you’ll feel welcome and be encouraged to take a closer look at what rural village life in Sumbawa is like.

Lodgings and food are simple and the smiles are fast. There’s plenty of opportunity to get involved. The day we showed up our host invited us to go fishing with him to catch dinner (our talent as a fisherman saw us with eggs on rice rather than fish for dinner).




The waterfall walk takes two hours (each way) and is well worth it — the waterfall is truly spectacular — and there are a couple of other minor walks you can do. There’s also a second waterfall you can visit, Saketok Waterfall, but we were unable to visit this time around due to adverse weather.

Overall, if you have time, a visit to Merente is highly recommended.

Agal waterfall is … big. Photo taken in or around Merente, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Agal waterfall is … big. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Orientation
Merente has no internet, barely a phone signal and no ATMs. If you’re looking for an insight into how things work in Sumbawa, an overnight stay in Merente is a good taster. Plus you’ll be supporting a solid cause while you are at it. You could stay in Alas (where the accommodation is of a more typical standard) and visit the waterfall from there, but we preferred staying in Merente.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Merente.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Merente.
 Read up on how to get to Merente.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Merente? Please read this.





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