Jenny Bright is one of a handful of globetrotters who have been lucky enough to visit the island of Sumba, Indonesia for the Pasola Festival and enjoy the many delights of this slice of paradise. Afterwards, she shared such brilliant feedback with us that we HAD to share it with you! Check it out below.
Were there any stand-out 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 is 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 fitted 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, and there were also two other pools on site that we could use, or we could swim in the ocean. The ocean is 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 it wasn’t a huge concern for us and was great 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 a feisty little guy called Covo who must have been all of 14hh, but had more ‘go’ than just about any horse I’ve ever ridden! My husband rode Danny, a very well suited horse for a less experienced rider.
Did you have a favourite day or experience while on your Globetrotting holiday?
It’s 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 along with so many motorbikes, trucks and cars, and the horses were so solid and bombproof. They didn’t so much as flinch! The energy of the Pasola riders passing us and the people on the side of the road laughing and waving and shouting ‘Bula Pasola!’ (‘white pasola riders!’) was amazing.
Then we rode up onto the Pasola plateau, where there were thousands of people mostly lined up around the outside of the field on motorbikes and scooters. Just beside the field where the Pasola riders were already battling it out was a herd of buffalo wallowing in the mud. The festival was such an overload of sights and sounds – it was just amazing to sit and take it all in.
In respect to your guides, were you happy with their level of service, knowledge of the environment and hospitality?
Our guide 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 my husband and I have tonnes of photos of the both of us, which was really good. Took 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.
The equestrian centre had some good long riding boots 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. Carol had 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 you want to see before it is over-run with tourists 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. That way you can take advantage of the beautiful resort, as well as get some good rest. While the horses seem to be relatively acclimatised, I struggled a little riding in the heat and humidity. A greater level of saddle fitness on our part would have helped a lot, but still, the heat can be a killer.
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’s 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 & 2017 awards. 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 in two hours’ time.
That first afternoon we were introduced to our guide, Carol, an Aussie expat now living in Bali, and our Sumbawa and Sandalwood ponies. I rode Covo and my husband rode Danny. Incredibly, there was only one other rider on our trip! It was basically a private ride just for the three of us and Carol and the guides were great company on all of 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 is held, we passed hundreds of other travellers, horses dressed up in colourful headgear with bells chiming at each step, and locals riding bareback on ponies less than 12hh. Our horses were rock-solid, the ultimate bombproof horses. So much traffic was headed to the Pasola that it felt like the entire island was converging on one place. 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 witnessing 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. Although this is now more a cultural event rather than a religious one, accidents still happen and the field is ringed with tributes to those who 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 involved 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 to Nihiwatu, but we chose to continue on and visit the local village. We tried betel nut, bought some local trinkets and took photos of all the gorgeous children. It’s 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 through 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. If you ever have the opportunity to join The Sumba Ride and see the Pasola festival, don’t think, just do it. Two weeks’ notice is really all you need, after all!
Well, it’s safe to say Jenny and her husband thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we couldn’t be more THRILLED for them! If you’re interested in learning more about our horse riding holiday on the Indonesian island of Sumba, you can find all the details here.