Andrew and I recently had the pleasure of staying with some friends on West Timor’s Rote Island, famous for its killer surf break, T-Land. As non surfers ourselves, most people were a little non-plussed when we mentioned we were heading to one of the furthest islands from Jakarta in the archipelago, but we weren’t about to turn down the opportunity to explore somewhere new.
From the capital it’s a fairly big trek to Nemberala, starting with an overnight Batik Air flight to Kupang, West Timor’s sleepy port town and provincial capital. From there, take a quick drive to the ferry, after a stopover at the Hotel on the Rock for a breakfast bite on a beautiful balcony overlooking the ocean. Another two hours across the Savu sea and you arrive at Ba’a, before an hour long car ride to the Island’s south. All in all, about 12 hours gruelling hours in transit, but that’s a fair price to pay for paradise.
Nemberala itself is pretty small, and the tourism entirely focused around the Island’s surf breaks. T-Land is easily the most popular, evident in the bungalows and resorts that line the beach. The waves break a few hundred metres behind the coral reef, full of visiting Australians and expats who have been around for just a little too long. Migrating between the waves and frame-worthy sunsets, surfers spend their day in a time-warp of perpetual bliss, and it’s easy to see why people never want to leave.
So, how do you amuse yourself if you aren’t a slave to the surf break? Firstly, a scooter is a must – Nemberala gets pretty hot in the afternoons and there’s no public transport to speak of. Although the island is pretty small (in fact, there’s a sidewalk that runs almost the entire length of the main beach), there’s nothing quite like the wind in your hair as you zip along palm-tree lined streets.
If you’re a beach person (and you’d want to be), Rote has some fantastic, ‘The Beach’-esque lagoons that, when the tide is high in the afternoons, you can have all to yourself. The best part of being a non-surfer in Nemberala is that there’s no one there to cramp your style, except for the rogue beach pig or two. Bring a snorkel and you can paddle out over the shallow reef to see what you can find, or hire a paddle board and work on those abs as you push out hundreds of metres from the shore.
My favourite part of the day is at about 5pm, when the sun begins its quick descent into the ocean. Find a possie at the fancy Nemberala beach resort, where a huge beach-facing bar is designed to take in the very best Rote has on offer, or opt for something a little more low key, like Lualemba Bungalows, where you can grab a large Bintang and nestle in on the sand.
Whether or not Rote Island is a good holiday destination for you depends on what you value in your vacations. If malls, massages and nightlife are more your thing, then perhaps you should stick to Bali. But if you like to surf, or just enjoy getting out to the still relatively undiscovered areas of Indonesia, then Nemberala is the perfect island paradise. Bring a book, a sarong and plenty of time to lay back and relax in the sunlight.
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