Ahhh globetrotters I am SO excited. We just received the feedback form from Jenny Bright and her husband, two of the globetrotters to experience our first ever world exclusive Pasola Ride on the Indonesian island of Sumba, and it’s such brilliant feedback I couldn’t not share each and every word with you! It has me dreaming of heading back there to experience it all again myself! Check it out below!
Were there any standout experiences (good or bad) with the accommodation and meals that you would like to mention?
The Nihiwatu Resort is absolute paradise! As everything is included we had no worries about food or drinks. The accommodation is incredible and was actually the most spacious room that we have ever stayed in (and we’ve stayed in some amazing luxury accommodation previously). There was a huge adjoining lounge / entertainment area that could easily have fit 20 or 30 people in it, but which we didn’t even use! We had a private pool that we shared with our Globetrotting neighbour, but there were also two other pools on site that we could use, or we could swim in the ocean. The ocean was so warm, like bathwater, although the swell can be large so the lifeguards keep a very close eye on you. As Aussies, we swim like fish anyway so wasn’t a huge concern for us and was way more fun.
I cannot fault the accommodation at all. There were heaps of freebies; chocolate, snacks and bottles of vodka, gin and whisky! I wanted to take the bed back home with me. I even liked the friendly little gecko that used to roam around our room and bark “uh oh!” every so often.
Were you happy with the horse/s that you rode?
I rode Covo and Carmelo rode Danny. Covo is a really forward going horse and really likes to lead. He had no problem changing gears up into a trot or canter. Changing down was a little more problematic! He is definitely a horse for a more experienced rider. I would not put my husband on him. However, after a couple of days riding, Covo really settled down and I think he’d be a nice settled horse once he is taken out a bit more often.
Carmelo rode Danny who is a really sweet horse, but possibly wasn’t a comfortable horse for a beginner with his awkward trot. Carmelo also tried Rocket on the last day and Rocket was not as fit as he needed to be for the long ride in the sun. Both Carmelo and Rocket were a bit worse for wear after the long day and Carmelo opted to travel back in the truck. I’m sure Rocket was happy about that.
Did you have a favourite day or experience while on your globetrotting holiday?
Really difficult to choose the best part of the trip because it was so packed with amazing scenery, but I’d have to say that the ride from Rice Island to the Pasola field was incredible! We rode up a small narrow road with so many motorbikes, trucks and cars and the horses were so solid and bomb proof. They didn’t so much as flinch or shy, once!
The energy of the Pasola riders passing us as well was the people on the side of the road laughing and waving and shouting ‘Bula Pasola!’ (white pasola riders!) was amazing. We had so many excited people stopping and taking photos of us as we were taking photos of them.
Then we rode up onto the Pasola plateau where there were thousands of people mostly lined up around the outside on motorbikes and scooters. Just off the side of the field where Pasola riders were already battling it out, was a herd of buffalo wallowing in the mud. It was such an overload of sights and sounds it was just amazing to sit and take it all in.
We were only at the Pasola festival for about 45 minutes because it was hot and the day had started earlier than anticipated. We managed to watch a bit of the activity from a safe distance, but when one rider fell off and some others started throwing spears at him whilst he was on the ground, the military and ‘polisi’ stormed the field throwing tear gas, shooting water cannons and rubber bullets into the crowd, the Nihiwatu staff said it was time to evacuate. To be honest, we didn’t feel in any danger at all, but best to take these things seriously when in a foreign country!
In respect to your guides, were you happy with their level of service, knowledge of the environment and hospitality?
Carol and her staff, Carlos and Petrus, were really friendly and approachable. We had many opportunities to trot and canter along the beach and through the forest and it definitely was not a nose-to-tail ride at all.
Carlos is a great photographer and took hold of my camera for me so we have tonnes of photos of the both of us which was really good. Takes the stress out of trying to capture every magical moment! Petrus did the same when we visited the village and I have some really cute shots with the puppies. Poor Petrus got sun stroke along with my husband but whilst my husband went back in the truck, Petrus still had to ride, leading Carmelo’s horse. I felt a bit sorry for him for that.
The equestrian centre had some good riding boots (long) and helmets. I didn’t feel like I was wearing some old pair found in the back of the shed. It’s definitely a professional setup, with all the horses having matching saddle blankets and bridles. The horses were fit, covered in a nice layer of fat and muscle and very obviously loved. This was especially noticeable when you see how the locals treat their horses. Carol has done a great job with the horses and educating the staff in a different way of handling them.
In terms of value-for-money, how would you rate this particular ride?
This ride is NOT cheap. But it includes one of the most amazing resorts I’ve ever stayed at! I would say that if you can afford it, GO because this is one place that you want to see before it is overrun with tourists from all over the world and becomes another Bali.
Do you have any further comments or suggestions?
I would definitely advise for riders on this trip to stay an extra night or two at the end and possibly an extra night at the start. This way you can take advantage of the beautiful resort as well as get some good rest. The ride can be difficult in the heat and humidity and whilst the horses seem to be relatively acclimatised, even though I come from Brisbane I struggled a little.
None of the riders on the trip were as saddle fit as we could / should have been. This would have helped a lot, but still the heat can be a killer, particularly if the sun is out.
We would LOVE a testimonial about your globetrotting experience to share on our social media channels.
There’s nothing like the rush of finding an email in your inbox from Globetrotting about an amazing once-in-a-lifetime ride scheduled for TWO WEEKS TIME, jumping on the phone all excited to your other half, frantically trying to arrange time off, flights and accommodation and before you know it, landing in the beautiful, untouched paradise that is Sumba.
If you think that Sumba is just another Bali, it’s not. It’s so much more and SO much better. There are no crowds of tourists, no littered beaches, no busy shops or malls or restaurants. There are so few resorts that it’s mostly just yourselves and kilometres of beach. Exactly how we like it!
Nihiwatu totally deserves its hard won ‘Best Resort in the World 2016’ (Conde Nast) award. I have stayed at some incredible places on this planet and Nihiwatu is up there as one of the best. The food, service, accommodation and amenities are sublime and when we first arrived it really was difficult to imagine leaving for our first horse trek scheduled for two hours time.
That first afternoon we were introduced to our guide, Carol, an Aussie expat now living in Bali, and our Sumba and Sandalwood ponies. I rode a feisty little guy ‘Covo’ who must have been all of 14hh, but had more ‘go’ than just about any horse I’ve ever ridden, and my husband rode ‘Danny’, a very well suited (and much better behaved) horse for a less experienced rider. Incredibly, there was only one other rider on our trip! It was basically a private ride just for the 3 of us and Carol and the guides were great company on the treks.
Our first ride was a beautiful sunset trek along miles of white beach sand. This is no nose-to-tail ride. You’re responsible for yourself and if you want to go for a trot or canter through the surf, then it’s completely up to you. In my case, it was up to my horse and he had an absolute blast!
It was a very early morning the next day and we were saddled up and gone by 7am. We rode through the rainforest and rice paddies to Rice Island, a fantastic rocky outcrop in the middle of acres of rice fields where breakfast was served in the tree house overlooking the paddies. We drank fresh coconut water and met some of the other hotel guests travelling to see the Pasola festival, an ancient blood ritual timed at the rising of the full moon and the arrival of sea worms to the shores of the island.
On our trek to the tableland where the Pasola was held, we passed hundreds of other travellers, horses dressed up in colourful headwear with bells chiming at each step, locals riding bareback on ponies less than 12hh, and more. Our horses were rock solid, the ultimate bombproof horses. So much traffic was headed to Pasola that it felt like the entire island was converging on one place – actually they probably were! The locals were so excited to see us, the “Bula Pasola” (white pasola riders!) that they were taking our photos as much as we were taking theirs!
The Pasola was incredible. You simply have to be there to understand. You know when you see National Geographic photographers camped out on the sidelines that you’re capturing something special. There were thousands of spectators and hundreds of participants. The rules are: there are no rules! The aim is to spill blood by throwing spears at your opponent to ensure the rice harvest is bountiful and although this is now more a cultural event rather than a religious one, accidents still happen and the field is ringed with those that lost their lives to this sport, a huge honour to the Sumbanese people. It was an exhausting day but so exhilarating to be a part of.
The third and final day involves a more leisurely ride to Nihioko, a spa destination on a remote beach about an hour from the resort. We had breakfast there and spent the morning swimming and relaxing. You can notch it up a step and spend the day having spa treatments while your horses are led back by themselves, but we chose to continue on and visit the local village. We tried betel nut (not fun!), bought some local trinkets and took photos of all the gorgeous children. Its such a simple way of life but can be very difficult and I was so happy to hear that Nihiwatu have a good corporate sense of social responsibility, giving much back to the community in the way of outreach programs, medical assistance and employment opportunities.
We thoroughly enjoyed our spur of the moment adventure and I’m still dreaming of this magical place. We highly recommend that if you ever have the opportunity to join the Pasola trek, don’t think, just do it. Two weeks notice is really all you need after all.
Well I think it’s safe to say Jenny and her husband thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we couldn’t be more THRILLED for them! If you are interested to find out more about our ride on this Indonesian island of Sumba please click here.