Travel Guide to Salura Island - Sumba

By Tibs
Salura (called Halura in the local Kambera language) is an island located at the southern tip of Sumba. It is 4.5 km long and 1.5 km wide, which makes it a bit smaller than Nusa Lembongan, but almost 3 times larger than Gili Trawangan.

I traveled there for a few days in November 2017. It is still completely authentic and untouched by tourism. To give you an idea of how rarely visited it is, people told me that I was the first foreigner to ever spend a night there. Occasionally, though, they welcome luxury boats that make a stopover for a few hours, but that's it. 

Unsurprisingly, there is still very little information about how to get to Salura, where to stay and what to do. To change that, I wrote this short review that will hopefully answer all the questions you may have about organizing your trip on the island.

What To Expect on Salura Island

75% of Salura is surrounded by beaches, all with white or yellow sand.

On the northern shore, Pantai Mata Air gets its name from a nearby freshwater source. It actually consists of several small coves separated by rocks.
Pantai Mata Air
Also in the north, Pantai Salju (Snow Beach) gets its name from its white, smooth sand. The water there has an amazing turquoise color and it is perfect for swimming as you won't encounter any rocks or coral. This is also where the pier and the fishermen's boats are located.
Main beach on Salura

On the western shore is Pantai Extra Joss, whose name comes from a rock whose shape resembles the Extra Joss logo (a fist). 
You can see the "extra joss" rock in the background, on the left 

Finally, Pantai Karimara is a 3-kilometer long deserted beach that occupies the whole southern shore of Salura.

I haven't explored the eastern side as you need to access it by boat. Apparently, there are rocks with a couple of additional coves.

There are two smaller islands nearby:
- Pulau Mengkundu is an inhabited island that used to have a surfing resort. It was occupied by the Indonesian army for nationalistic reasons because the owner was Australian (the government thought it was the first step for Australia to claim this island).

I didn't go there but locals told me it has incredible beaches and great surfing. They can bring you there and back for IDR300,000.

- Pulau Kotak is another deserted island, only 500 meters from Salura. I haven't been there but it seems to have nice beaches.
From this photo, you can see a Pulau Kotak in front and a bit of Pulau Mengkundu on the left

Tourists are almost nonexistent on Salura, but that does not mean nobody lives there. In fact, the population varies between 600 and 1,200 residents, all of them Muslims. They can be split into two groups:
- The native people who were born on the island and who reside there permanently. They seemed to be all blood-related and part of only a few families. To avoid consanguineous marriages, they typically find their spouses on other islands such as Sumbawa, Flores or on mainland Sumba.
- The fishermen from elsewhere, particularly Lombok, who come from April to November to fish squids and calamari. Some of them live in tents by the beach, others live in the permanent residents' houses.

Existing facilities
Because of the squid fishing, the economy of Salura is rather prosperous compared to that of south Sumba.

Furthermore, as it occupies a strategic location within Indonesia (it is an outlying island that borders Australia), the government has made its development a priority.

For these reasons, you will find a rather decent selection of shops and facilities such as:

- Warungs: There are a handful of places where you can buy Indonesian food.
- Tokos (small shops): Many of them all over the island. They sell the usual: Snacks, bottled water, rice, indomie, chips, etc. Some have Bintang beer bottles (Rp50,000 for a large one), some sell basic pharmaceutical needs (antibiotics, etc).
- Puskesmas (health clinic): It is currently being built
- Dock for ferries: It is currently being built and it should be completed in 2018.
- A school, a police station, a "border police"
Salura's border police...
- A solar power plant, providing electricity from 6 AM to 10 PM
100% of electricity on Salura comes from this solar plant
- A mosque
- A few motorbikes (not really useful)

What you won't find on Salura:
- A proper hotel (see "where to stay" below for more details)
- Western food
- Aircon
- Abundant freshwater: You'll shower with rainwater during the rainy season, or salty well water the rest of the year.
Most houses have a well in their garden
- Internet: There used to be a telecommunication tower in Katundu but the wind knocked it off. They will probably replace it in the near future but for now, there is technically no internet. If you are lucky, when you sit at the extremity of the beach, you might get a weak signal, enough to send a text through WhatsApp or to open Facebook Lite.
- An ATM (the closest one is in the village of Karera)

Dogs are not allowed on the island, but there are plenty of chicken, cats, goats and even water buffalos. I also saw a small crab colony near the pier.

Mosquitoes are not that common due to the absence of stagnant water. You are unlikely to catch malaria there. Still, you will get occasional bites so don't forget to bring repellent and clothes covering your legs and forearms (white color is better).

Unfortunately, as often in Indonesia, the island is littered with plastics, both brought by the tide or thrown by local residents.

Don't come expecting everything to be clean or you will leave disappointed. As you get away from the village, though, it gets much better.

I hope mentalities will change in the near future because without the trash, Salura could be a true paradise island.

Locals mostly speak Kambera (Sumba language) and Indonesian. Many people also have a basic command of English, enough to get by in most situations. Still, it will be really helpful if you learn some words of Indonesian before visiting.

To help you, you can read my guide: 250 Most Useful Indonesian Words.

Climate - When to Visit
As elsewhere in Indonesia, there are two seasons, the dry one from May to October, the wet one from November to April.

It is not recommended to visit from December to February as the sea can be rough and it may rain every day. Ideally, you should go from June to September, when the weather is most pleasant.

The only benefit of visiting during the rainy season is that the landscape will be greener.

Where to sleep on Salura
At the moment, there are no proper hotels on Salura. Two bungalows for tourists are currently being built by the government and they should be completed by the end of 2017.

Here are your options for sleeping:

Camping is a great way to stay on Salura. I asked locals and they said they didn't mind campers. I recommend installing your tent on Pantai Karimera which is a clean and peaceful beach.

The house of Erwin, my host 
The bedroom 
Squid and fish at every meal
Personally, I stayed at a fisherman's home, Erwin. I met him on Katundu beach and he took me to Salura on his boat.

The conditions were basic, but the local experience was amazing. I was living with his family as well as other fishermen from Lombok. 100% local immersion guaranteed. I ate all my meals with them too.

Homestays are very easy to find. As you arrive on the island, just ask anyone where you can stay and locals will guide you to someone's home. You can ask for Erwin's which is 100 meters from the beach.

You should offer a compensation for their trouble. I gave IDR200,000 per day, which is probably fair.

One of the tourist bungalows under construction
As mentioned, two bungalows are under construction and they will be finished soon. If you visit Salura after 2018, they should be ready.

They are simple, with toilets outside, and located about 150 meters from the pier. It's not the most beautiful location but it's good enough.

For more information, you can contact the person in charge, Abdulkader (082237426551).

Things to Do on Salura
Salura is not your typical holiday island, yet there are plenty of things to do.

Apart from suntanning at the beach and swimming, the most interesting thing to do, in my opinion, is to immerse yourself in the local village life. If you ask, you can accompany fishermen on their nightly squid fishing expeditions for instance.
Squid fishing is done traditionally, at night, with oil lamps (using electrical lamps would deplete the squid stock too fast and it is therefore forbidden).

The lamps are positioned on the water and the light attracts the squids. All the fishermen have to do, then, is to catch them using a net.

Another thing to do is to hike the hills of Salura. They are quite steep but it's very doable and you'll enjoy a wonderful view.
Hills of Salura 
You may also visit the nearby island of Mengkundu, especially if you have a surfboard.

I didn't have any snorkeling equipment so I'm not sure if there are interesting corals near the reef. Please leave a comment if you know about that.

What to Bring and Prepare
Travel Insurance
Don't even consider going to Salura (or Sumba) without one. Even a small accident will cause you to be sent to a hospital in Bali or Singapore, for a cost of several thousand dollars.

World Nomads is a convenient option. For 1 week of travel protection, it will cost you around 35 USD. You can make your own simulation here: How Much Will I Pay For Travel Insurance?

Medical Kit
At least, bring the following: Antibiotics (Ciprofloxacin for traveler's diarrhea, Doxycycline for malaria prevention), sunscreen, mosquito repellent, disinfectant, bandage, paracetamol).

How to go to Salura
Going to Salura is a bit complicated, at least as of November 2017.

1st step: Waingapu to Katundu
Fantastic scenery on the way to Katundu
The most difficult part is the 110-kilometer journey from Waingapu to Katundu, from where you'll catch the boat to Salura.

About a third of the road is in excellent condition, a third in average condition, and a third in terrible condition.

On the bright side, the scenery along the way is stunning, there aren't many vehicles, and you'll come across dozens of friendly villages. You should also know that road repairs are underway and that within a few years the condition will have certainly improved.

There are three ways to go to Katundu from Waingapu.

By truck:
Riding a truck is the cheapest way to go to Katundu
There is one every day leaving at 4 AM from Waingapu's market. The price is IDR50,000. It takes at least 6 hours (it stops regularly) and it is rather uncomfortable.

By motorbike:
You can either take an ojek (moto taxi) for IDR250,000 or drive a motorbike yourself.

I chose the latter, which seemed safer.

I rented a motorbike in Waingapu for 5 days for IDR600,000, which is slightly above the normal market rate of IDR100,000 per day.

Do make sure the brakes and the tires are in perfect condition. Bring a raincoat as well. 

It took me about 6 hours to do the trip, with at least 10 stops along the way to rest and take pictures. The last leg was quite difficult as it was raining hard. I almost fell down a few times.

On the way back, I took the longer, coastal road going through Melolo, which was in even worst shape. It is worth seeing, though.

By private car
This is the best option if you are a group of friends, but of course more costly. Expect to pay around IDR1,000,000 one way.

2nd step: Katundu to Salura
My boat in Katundu, just before leaving to Salura
Katundu is more a hamlet than a proper village. There are a few houses, including one that belongs to the Kepala Desa (village chief).

You should go there first and ask if there is a boat going to Salura on the same day. If not, you may have to sleep there for a night (they have a wooden hut near the beach).

The price to go to Salura is around IDR250,000, but you can get much cheaper on Tuesdays (not sure how much, I read IDR10,000).

The boat ride to Salura takes less than an hour. As I wrote previously, there might not be any boats in December and January because the waves are too big.

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5 comments to '' Travel Guide to Salura Island - Sumba "

  1. Very complete and informative report, Thank-you! I've been to the main Sumba Island and found it to be an undeveloped jewel for off the beaten track traveling. This looks even better.

  2. Highly appreciate post.

    I loved sumba itself when i visited last year, this sounds like a cool stretch.

    For some nice shots of sumba life i recommend the movie marlina, a murder in four acts

  3. Very interesting post ! Bravo !

  4. Excellent report ! we need these ! Thank you very much/merci

  5. Thanks for this article! I'm planning to camp in Salura Island and the info here is super helpful. The only thing I could not figure out is if weather or not it is safe for a woman to go and camp on her own. I find that in Muslim communities they are very friendly and helpful but some men seem to have a creepy approach to western women.