If you go to Indonesia, it isn’t likely that you’ll make your way to Rote. In fact, very few travelers do. It’s sparsely populated by Indonesians, even! Your road fellows are more likely to be cattle and pigs, rather than cars or rickshaws —
But that’s what helps Rote retain its magic.
Rote Island is often described as “the way Bali was, many, many years ago.” Though Bali is a pinnacle of Indonesian spirituality and culture, it is also a hotbed of tourism, meaning that it is forever evolving and expanding to fit the needs of those who call it their temporary home. You’ll get a taste of Indonesian culture, but it’s often filtered and stereotyped; so much so that the balinese themselves sometimes wouldn’t recognize it.
Stepping off the plane to Rote is like taking a step back in time. It’s old-world in a way that is anything but artificial. No where else will you find beaches that present themselves that way they are promised to be — blue and tranquil in some places, surf-able in others, with hardly a person in sight to take you out of your element. Often times, the only time you’ll be with other travelers is if you bring them yourselves, or attend a Surf & Yoga Retreat with SwellWomen to find a tribe of your very own. You can float amongst the waves as if you the only person in the world, and to the locals on the island, you might as well be.
Nemberala Resort is the epicenter of tourism on Rote, if that’s what you’d like to call it. It’s a boutique operation with only 8 bungalows, each one more thoughtful decorated than the last. It’s a remote destination for adventurous people — but once you arrive, you experience a distinct feeling of being right at home. The resort sits mere steps away from the gently lapping waves of the beach’s edge (and there’s a beachfront pool for those who prefer a fresh water milieu), but the real hallmark are the people who work tirelessly to make Nemberala a dreamy reality.
Perhaps it’s because Rote does not see the big crowds that other islands do, but Nemberala’s staff continually finds ways to treat their guests like true family. From the preparations of authentic Indonesian cuisine to taking visitors on personally guided fishing charters to offering beautiful yoga classes, it’s astonishing the welcoming passion with which the team of Nemberala offers their island up to others. Even the local people who are not directly involved with Rote’s diminutive tourism sector love to greet travelers with a wondrous fascination, smiles plastered across their sun-soaked faces, waving from far across the unpaved streets.
When it comes to surf, the Rotinese do their best to keep everything localized — but it’s impossible to keep waves of this variety and quality a secret for long. Rote sports famous reef breaks at nearly all points in the islands, featuring distance swells from Antartica, South Africa and Australia. The main break is called T-Land, famous for it’s super long left-handed rides and relatively deep water. It harbors a resemblance to a similar break in Java, but the simple, off-the-grid lifestyle and empty beaches are what draws surfers to Rote. For a place that boasts world renown surf, with breaks for beginners to experts, that is more valuable than gold.
Sitting on your board, out in the middle of no where in the Indian Ocean, teaches you a thing or two. The surf breaks are the type that requires a boat to reach — which means it’s often just you, your surf instructor, and your preferred surf partners. The consistency of the waves provides learners with the ability to learn from ocean’s flow and cycles, and at the same time, the ability to dive deep within one’s self to recognize the true strength; and it does, indeed, take inner strength to travel and surf the waves of Rote Island.
Though surf if what Rote is renown for (at least amongst the surfing crowd), there are other pleasures the island provides. Borrow a bike from Nemberala to explore the island and discover off-the-grid fishing villages, or take advantage of unlimited boat access to glimpse ultra-remote beaches and, perhaps, a few neighboring islands. The environment is arid and stubbed with fabulous palm trees, and just as you would expect, the sunsets are unrivaled with big, vivid colors and no light pollution — and perfectly centered in front of your beach bungalow, as if it was made just for you… and let’s just say it was 🙂
Need a reason not to visit Rote? Here’s 21 reasons why Rote Island might not be for you!