Sumbawa Island is the biggest island of the Province of West Nusa Tenggara and is located east of Lombok and west of the Komodos and Flores.
Despite the dominance of Islam, tradition (adat) remains strong here. Although outsiders call the whole island “Sumbawa”, on the island this term is only used for the west. Sumbawa Island comprises of 4 regencies: West Sumbawa (capital: Taliwang), Sumbawa (capital: Sumbawa Besar), Dompu (capital: Dompu) and Bima (capital: Bima). Each regency has its own distinctive atmosphere and history. Sumbawa Island is three times the size of Lombok but holds just 1 million people. Therefore the island is a true nature paradise. The island stretches 300 kilometres east-west but its width varies from 15 to 90 kilometres.
The two main ethnic groups of Sumbawa Island are the Tau Samawa who mainly reside in the Sumbawa district and the Dou Mbojo who live in the Bima district. The Samawa’s language is close to that of the Lombok Sasaks and Balinese to the west whereas the Bimanese language belongs to the eastern part of Eastern Indonesia. Sumbawa Island has a dominant Sulawesi influence, especially in architecture and the coastal population includes Bugis and Makassarese settlers. The Bima district is distinctively Arabic but a few kilometres east of Bima city, near Wavo, old traditions are strongly followed still today and ancient rituals connected with ancestral spirits are conducted regularly.
Just recently archaeological excavations were conducted on Mount Tambora, Sumbawa’s volcano, discovering a complete city buried under 40 meters of volcanic ash together with ancient Chinese porcelain items.
Mount Tambora erupted in 1815 and was recorded as the greatest eruption in known history. Once the highest volcano in Indonesia, Mount Tambora was truncated to 2,851 meters and the cone holds a huge caldera. A three day trek up to summit leads through dense rain forest and savannah areas. The highlight at the end of the trek is a boat trip to the island of Satonda consisting of the top of an emerging volcano (300 m) with a salt water lake. The island is home to many bird species and endemic fish as well as sea turtles.
The regency of West Sumbawa is most likely the most beautiful in regards of nature. Isolated pristine beaches and turquoise waters line the west Sumbawa coast from Taliwang to Sekongkang. Most visitors to Sumbawa race straight to Bima to catch the boats to Komodo and therefore this area has been completely ignored by tourism with the result that the area is a real paradise for outback adventure. But the visitor is not only blessed with countless sparkling bays, the area also comprises of interesting history and traditional art work such as hand loom weaving and rotan crafts. Traditional dances going back to early Arabic influence and pre Islamic graves can add to the West Sumbawan experience.
Sultan Palaces in Sumbawa Besar and Bima, Dutch heritage in Wavo and Sulawesi style weavings in Dompu as well as first class surfing in Dompu and West Sumbawa are other attractions not to be missed.
Parts of Sumbawa Island resemble landscapes of North Australia and explain the Wallace Line such as Lake Taliwang covered with huge lotus flowers. Large herds of water buffaloes can be observed on lonely beaches and shy monkeys play in rain forests.