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Sawu Islands

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Sawu Islands

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Sawu Islands is in Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.


Sawu Islands consists of three islands: Savu (the main island), Raijua, and the uninhabited island of Rai Dana.

Other destinations[edit]


Savu, Sawu, Sabu, Hawu:

  • Savu is how the name of the island is generally spelled in contemporary Western sources.
  • Sawu is how the name of the island is generally spelled in older (usually Dutch) sources.
  • Sabu is how the name of the island is pronounced, and often written, by Indonesians.
  • Hawu is the name of the island (and language) in the local language.

The indigenous animistic religion of the islands is called Jingi Tiu. However, today most people in Savu are Protestant Christians, and generally seem quite devout. However, as in other parts of Indonesia, older animistic traditions still survive.


The local language is called Lii Hawu and is spoken only on Savu and Raijua, and by Savunese communities elsewhere. A closely related language/dialect is spoken on the island of Ndao, off the western end of Rote.

Most people in Savu and Raijua are fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, though if you visit small kampungs you may occasionally encounter people who only speak the local language.

Very few people in Savu speak English at even a basic level, so you will need to speak Bahasa Indonesia to get around.

Get in[edit]

The best way to get to and from Savu for most travelers will be the "Express Cantika" fast ferry that leaves around 10AM daily (most days?) from the Tenau Harbor in Kupang (the same harbor as the fast ferry to Rote) and takes around 4-5 hours to arrive in Seba on the island of Savu. Another boat makes the trip from Seba to Kupang, also leaving around 10 AM.

There are also daily fast and slow boats leaving from Seba to Raijua. The fast boat usually leaves Seba around 9-10 AM and takes around 1.5 hours to reach Raijua, with a similar service in the opposite direction. It is generally possible to leave Raijua in the morning and still catch the fast ferry from Seba to Kupang - just inform the ferry captain in Raijua that this is what you want to do, and they will call the fast ferry in Seba and tell them to wait for you. You can board the fast ferry to Kupang directly from the ferry from Raijua.

It is possible to get to and from Savu from Sumba by boat via the Uma Kalada, which leaves from Waingapu on Monday around 2 PM and takes about 14 hours, arriving in Seba at around 4 AM. The Savu-Waingapu trip is on Thursday.

There are also Susi Air flights between Savu and Kupang, and possibly also to Waingapu.

Get around[edit]

There is no mass transportation on the island, so you will need your own wheels. Motorbikes can be rented in Seba, but be forewarned that the roads are in terrible condition in many places, so if you aren't an experienced motorcyclist you may want to simply hire an ojek (motorbike taxi) to take you around.

See[edit][add listing]

Traditional ceremonies are still held throughout the islands, but not every day, so you will need either some luck or some advance planning to see one.

Twice a day (morning and late afternoon), men can be seen climbing the lontar palms in order to tap tuak (palm wine) from the tops of the trees.

There is not much to see at the Istana Teni Hawu, the former palace, but you might as well take a quick look at it since it's in Seba.

Namata is an interesting megalithic ritual site about a 30-minute walk from Seba. You can also get here by motorbike or ojek, but the last section of the trail is rocky and extremely rough.

In the northeast corner of the island you can find a cluster of four interesting sites with megaliths and traditional houses: Kujiratu, Rae Ba, Rae Awu, and Unu Pu Toka. Also nearby is Keliha village at a beach with very nice white sand, seaweed farming, and salt production in seashells.

In the western part of the south coast of the island you can find the very traditional village/area of Pedarro, with a number of traditional houses and megalithic sites, along with ikat weaving. There is also a nice view of Raijua from here.

Heading east along the south coast, you can find the geological wonder of Kelabba Maja, the most interesting natural site on the island. Near Kelabba Maja is a beach where you can find salt production in small baskets made from lontar leaves.

Further east, you can find the remains of Benteng Ege, an old Dutch fort, but there is not much left of it.

Raijua is extremely off the beaten track - even the few visitors who go to Savu typically don't go to Raijua. The island has a very nice white sand beach right next to the main harbor. There are several low key sites not far from the harbor, such as some old tombs and the "Sumur Maja", an old well built in Majapahit times. There are also small villages with traditional houses throughout the island. An interesting small village is called Ketita, located on a hill toward the western end of the island. The western tip of the island is rocky and has a rugged, end of the world feel. You can see ikat weaving in a few places on Raijua, and the weaving tradition is quite different from what is found on "mainland" Savu. There are some ritual sites on the island, but you may be asked to sacrifice a pig before being allowed to visit them, which make require more time and money than you wish to spend, and it's not clear what there is to see at these locations. There are a few other small dolmens and megalithic sites scattered throughout the island.


Do[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Purnama Homestay (HP: 081237860012 or 08215847952) is located on the main road through Seba, about a 10-minute walk from the harbor. Can arrange tours of the island by ojek.

Penginapan Petykuswan, also on the main road through Seba.

Elsa Homestay is located several km north of Seba.

Stay safe[edit]

Savu is generally quite safe, however it is probably best to avoid a small village called Mapipa which is considered by locals to be full of murderers and thieves.

Get out[edit]

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