The Mysterious Allure of Sabu Island

The Mysterious Allure Of
Sabu Island

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Have you ever heard of Pulau Sabu, or Savu Island? On the map, this mysterious little island is a tiny dot in between Rote and Sumba. It’s part of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands, or Nusa Tenggara Timor (NTT) and is home to 2 Marine Parks, breathtaking coastlines, waving palms, megalithic structures, the Sabu people and their ancient culture as well as the Ikat textile.

Sabu is part of a mini archipelago – there are three islands that make Sabu: the main and biggest island is called Rai Hawu, the second largest is Rai Jua and then there’s Rai Dana, which is uninhabited but is considered sacred to the Sabu people.

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As you can imagine, the waters surrounding these paradise islands are choppy with deep and unpredictable currents and swells. To get there, you can take speed boats from Kupang, Ende in Flores or Sumba and you can also fly in from Kupang. The large Indonesian cruise ships PT Pelni and local ferries make their stop at Sabu too, so it is not an entirely remote island or cut off from the rest of the world in any way.

Visitors come to Sabu to meet with the friendly local people and to surf and to explore the island’s beautiful nature. The islands are part of two Marine Parks which are home to 63,339,32 hectares coral reefs with 500 species of corals, 5,019.53 ha of mangroves, 5,320.62 ha of sea grass beds, and 1,769.1 ha of estuaries. Five out of six sea turtle species in the world also can be found in the Savu Sea ecosystem, as well as 30 species of marine mammals (whales and dolphins), including the endangered sperm whale and blue whale.

Photo by @farhan_anggori on Instagram

Sabu has a few hotels and guesthouses but you could always opt to stay with the residents in their homes. This way, you’ll learn all about the local way of life as well as their traditional beliefs and rituals. The people of Sabu depend thoroughly on the sea for their living. Most of them are fishermen, many are seaweed farmers as well as salt farmers. There are also weavers and those in-charge of spiritual and religious matters, similar to the tribes located throughout other parts of NTT.

It is believed that Sabu has been inhabited since the Neolithic times, 6000 years ago. Archeological discoveries have been found including tools and carvings, some of which are now in the museums in Kupang.

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The Sabu people are also known for their Nose Kiss. This is where individuals greet each other by rubbing their noses together, a very similar tradition to the Maori tribe in New Zealand. The Sabu people do this to show respect, friendship and kinship to each other and also to welcome tourists to their paradise island.

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In addition to learning all about the Sabu people way of life, traditions, customs and religion, here are some of the must visit places in Sabu that you must not miss:

  1. Kelabba Maja: A sacred site where rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies are performed
  2. Bukit Bojo Ujumangi in Keduru Village, East Sabu
  3. Keliha Beach, East Sabu
  4. Hala Padji Beach, Sabu Liae
  5. Eiada Beach, East Sabu
  6. Bollow Beach, East Sabu
  7. Napae Beach, West Sabu
  8. Seba Beach, West Sabu
  9. Goa Lie Mebala, Central Sabu
  10. Goa Liemadira

Have you ever been to Sabu Island? Tell us all about, and don’t forget to share your photos and videos!

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