BEYONDBALI MAGICAL MOYO
Discover Moyo Island in the east of Indonesia
Welcome to Moyo Island, a sanctuary located just outside the north coast of Sumbawa Island that is home to magnificent waterfalls, lush greenery and endless savannah. I first learned about Moyo Island a couple years back when I stumbled upon an article on the internet. A perfect picture of a splendid waterfall with natural stone steps and turquoise water stroked my attention. I was captivated and later found out that it was a photo of the Mata Jitu Waterfall, a heaven on earth on the magical Moyo Island.
There is more to Moyo Island than a luxurious resort and its pristine white sandy beach. The island has two waterfalls; Mata Jitu and Diwu Mbai. More than 80 species of birds are among the island’s indigenous fauna, as well as long tail macaques, wild bovines, wild pigs, deer, and 21 bat species. Two endangered species endemic to Indonesia, the yellow headed parrot and Tanimbar Megapode, can also be found here.
That’s just the tip of the island’s biological iceberg. In 1986, a national park was established to protect Moyo Island’s nature and habitat. However, conservation was always managed naturally by the locals who have been living on the island for centuries. They are not allowed to hunt or fish in an unordered fashion, yet for some people it’s just a matter of surviving and providing food for their table.
While the local boat that I took was docking at Labuan Aji Village, I could already feel the island offered a soothing and warm atmosphere. Villagers came running towards the boat as soon as it arrived. They were fetching their cargo from the nearest big island, Sumbawa. The captain handed my backpack with a gentle smile and wished me to have a great time on Moyo.
The two-hour journey from Muara Kali Port in Sumbawa Island was the most interesting boat ride I’ve ever had as I shared it with the friendliest locals I’ve ever met. There were no other tourists; I was the only one who came from outside the island. They were curious about me as much as I was about them. “Where are you from?” a woman asked me with a local dialect. “Jakarta”, I replied.
The conversation continued with a lot of giggles.
At 3 p.m., I enjoyed lunch with local delicacies – a plate of rice with sepat, a traditional acidic fish soup dish from Sumbawa – while having a conversation with Mahin, the owner of Davi Homestay that boasts a beach view with uninterrupted sunset scenery and one of the first inns to open in Moyo. “Do you want to visit Diwu Mbai Waterfall?” he asked. “It’s the one where you can jump from the top.” It tickled my curiosity. With much excitement, I started walking.
There is only one main road in Moyo and most other roads on the island are not fully developed yet. Electricity is only available when the sun sets and the only vehicles are motorcycles. Guided by Mahin’s directions, I walked through the center of Labuan Aji Village. After 15 minutes of walking, I rambled through glimmering rice paddy fields, a creek where children took a bath, and a wild jungle. I was trekking in the bamboo forest when Mahin tracked me down with a motorcycle and guided me back. We tip-toed on stepping stones trying to cross a river for the final part of our trek. The terrain before I reached the grandiose Diwu Mbai Waterfall was quite challenging.
Surrounded by green huge trees with giant roots sticking out of the soil, Diwu Mbai is truly enchanting. The stream is vigorous. Mahin says the water is the source of life in Moyo, hence the waterfall is essential for the people. “Are you ready to jump?” challenged Mahin. At first, I was not ready. It was quite a distance and I couldn’t see what was underneath the water. Suddenly, I heard a splash and saw that Mahin had already made his jump. “Come on! It’s your turn now,” said Mahin as he climbed back up. I took the obsolete rope with hesitation and made a leap that felt so liberating.
The next morning, a 15-minute boat ride on Mahin’s own fishing boat brought me to an island for snorkeling. Since Moyo is located on the border between east and west Indonesia, its ocean is populated with a dynamic marine life as well as beautiful coral reefs. As soon as I dipped into the sea, I could spot large schools of fish swimming from
every direction. There was so many, I couldn’t possibly count them.
However, nothing on my adventure compared to the island’s “primadonna”, the Mata Jitu Waterfall. It is also considered the “Queen” Waterfall because the late Lady Diana once visited and bathed here. And ever since her visit, Moyo has attracted many international celebrities like Mick Jagger, David Beckham, and Maria Sharapova. “No wonder they would travel all that distance just to get here,” I mumbled in awe.
The waterfall is absolutely magical. Located deep in the dense jungle of Moyo Island, the waterfall is an isolated spot where I could hide from the world and be one with nature. The seven-meter tall waterfall has three main terraces from a thousand-year-old lime stone sediment. Without further ado, I took a dip in the refreshing turquoise water. It was a moment I will treasure for life.
LIVING IN HARMONY
The concept of living in harmony with nature and other people is cherished highly in Moyo Island. As an outsider, I’ve never felt so welcomed in a foreign place before. Almost everyone I met on the island would share their life stories – sometimes, they would even open their door and invite me to their house. On my way back from the Mata Jitu, I encountered a group of women playing volleyball at a field and could not resist their invitation to play. “We play almost every day,” said one of the women before our match began.
By the time we were finished, the sun had already set and everyone headed home. That night, under the mosquito net at Davi Homestay, I felt at home. I was supposed to travel back to Sumbawa Island the next morning but a heavy rain was pouring all night long. There were no boats to cross the sea. Mahin suggested I wait it out – it was a blessing in disguise as I got to help the villagers moving their boats from the seashore to a safer place.
Around noon, the sky was clear and the sun was shining again. I bargained my way out on a transit boat and sat on the back, right next to the engine. My journey of going back to the city began, but I wasn’t worried much because now I know a place where I can be at peace whenever the city life drives me crazy. And if someone I know needs some peace and quiet, I would just say, “There is this place you can go on the north coast of Sumbawa, where the people will welcome you with open arms. It is a serene place where nature and people live in a perfect harmony. It is Moyo Island.”
The Mata Jitu Waterfall, the primadonna of Moyo Island.
The Crocodile’s Head Beach.
The villagers work together to keep their boats safe from the storm.