Sumbawa is one of the 13,000 plus islands in the Indonesian archipelago. It's a large island to the east of Bali and Lombok. Sumbawa, along with Lombok, is part of West Nusa Tenggara. There are hundreds of small islands in this area in addition to the two major islands.
Sumbawa is known to some tourists for its great waves and sandy white beaches. Due to the somewhat trying process of getting there and the scarcity of cheap tourist facilities, the island is not visited much by non-surfing tourists which is unfortunate as parts of the island are quite beautiful.
Sumbawa really belongs more to Eastern Indonesia than to to the West. The effects of Hindu and Buddhist cultures are minimal in Sumbawa; the majority of the population are Muslims.
During the dry season (April to November) a lot of dust is blown up and around. Strong winds blow in off the ocean, and the lush green hills, mountains and valleys turn a dusty brown. When the rainy season begins an amazing transformation takes place and the island becomes a lush jungle once again. Because of dryness, Sumbawa is frequented with crop failures, and even more so than Lombok, is subject to extreme poverty and starvation is not uncommon, robberies due to extreme desperation do occur. In October 2012, 20 children died in a single month on Sumbawa from malnutrition.
As most of the island is still developing, there is a very rural feel to just about everything, including Sumbawa Besar, the capital of the western side of the island. The mining company, Newmont, has a gold and copper mine down in the southwestern corner of the island around the villages of Sekongkang, Maluk and Benete. Their presence has speeded up the development process in this side of the island, though the vast majority are in abject poverty and claims of environmental destruction have been made against the company, which has had to suspend operations due to mass rioting.
Bahasa Indonesia is spoken widely in Sumbawa.
Sumbawa is considered somewhat remote even by Indonesian standards, and an overland-and-sea journey from Bali takes 15 hours beginning in Singaraja, Bali, and ending up in Poto Tano, the port on the western side of Sumbawa.
Only the cities of Sumbawa Besar on the western side of the island and Bima on the eastern side of the island have regular air service. Merpati and Transnusa fly to both cities from Denpasar (Bali) and Lombok on Western-made ATR-42 turboprops about four times a week. Sekongkan also has an airport, but flights have been stopped for an indefinite period after a small airline called Tropical Air ceased operating.
To reach Sumbawa by sea take a ferry (1.5h) from Labuhan Lombok to Poto Tano. Ferries run 24h per day except in bad weather. Labuhan Lombok is also known as Labuhan Kayangan.
To get to Sumbawa from Bali most people take the ferry from Bali to Lombok, travel overland to the eastern seaport in Lombok (Labuhan Lombok) and then take another ferry to Sumbawa, ending up in Poto Tano.
In the other directions, ferries from Labuanbajo, Flores travel to Sape.The slow ferry is daily and the fast boat is three times a week. The fast boat also goes to Sumba twice a week. Call Kapal Cepat Express Bahari 0823 592 87 257 in Sape, 0822 373 68 767 in LB or 0812 3743 6447 in Waikelo (Sumba).
Transportation across Sumbawa is problematic, and it's best to book ferries and buses as combined tickets from either Lombok or Flores if you are trying to cross the island as fast as possible. There aren't local long distance buses for the whole trip or tourist oriented door-to-door transportation as offered in Java, Bali and Lombok.
However, transportation within Sumbawa is quite possible and easy using local buses and bemos (small vans). Most places of interest and major cities have bus terminals served by plenty of bemos and motorbike taxis. Locals will help direct you to the correct bus. These are local buses without AC and will stop often to drop and pick-up passengers.
Ikan Bakar (barbequed fish) at the sole warung located at Telok Santong on the road between Sumbawa Besar and Bima.
In Maluk the Ikan Bakar at Warung Cotok Lamongan is equally good. Choose your own fish from the cool case, sit and have a drink and 15 minutes later you'll be in seventh heaven!
In Taliwang try Ayam Taliwang, a dish now famous in other parts of Indonesia but beware - it's pedas! (spicy)