Sumbawa Besar, usually referred to simply as Sumbawa, is the largest town on the island, although it sprawls without a real centre. The main streets run on a one-way loop, forming a convenient racetrack for ojek drivers in the evenings, although the side streets are quiet and leafy. The area around the Sultan’s Palace, to the south of town, is a particularly pleasant place to wander, where luxurious modern mansions sit side by side with old wooden huts on tiny, colourful alleys. You’re welcome to walk through the palace itself, an elaborate stilted wooden mansion at Jl Dalam Loka 1; ask the guard to unlock it for you.
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The main attraction around Sumbawa Besar is Moyo Island, home to deer, buffalo, wild pigs and vast numbers of bird species. The island sits in a nature reserve and is surrounded by coral, making it ideal for snorkelling. A luxury resort owns half the island, but a cheaper way to explore it is to hire a guide via one of the hotels – the Hotel Tambora is the best place to enquire. Independent excursions are also possible, either on a day-trip or overnight.
Boats arrive at Tanjung Pasir, on the south side of Moyo Island. From there you can hike on the eastern half of the island (the western half is owned by the resort), including up to some waterfalls in the north, and swim off the beach. You may have to pay a park fee, but there is rarely anyone there to request it. There are no official maps of the island, but the hiking is fairly straightforward.
Boats to the island sail from the village of Ai Bari (30min), about 20km north of Sumbawa. The public bemo from Sumbawa Besar to Ai Bari runs infrequently, and to guarantee getting it you will have to be at the market at around 6am. However, it is easy enough to hire an ojek or charter a bemo to get there. It’s advisable to pre-arrange return transport to Sumbawa, and if you want to stay on the island you’ll need to bring a tent or rent one from one of the fishermen. There is no water or food available, so make sure you have plenty of provisions.