Dis­cover Moyo Is­land in the east of In­done­sia

Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Irene Barlian

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.


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.

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