Moyo Island sits just off Sumbawa’s mid-north coast, almost closing off the entrance to Sumbawa’s massive Saleh Bay. It’s another very pretty island in a chain of very pretty islands but Moya has something the other islands don’t – several permanent spring fed waterfalls hidden among the trees just a short walk from the beach. Don’t be surprised if you have some of the resident macaque monkeys for an audience whilst you’re enjoying the refreshing cascades.
Moyo Island is home to about 1,000 permanent residents reside in six villages spread along the coast around the northern half of the island where they eke out a living fishing and farming. However, most of the southern half and interior of Moyo is uninhabited and a designated nature reserve, interestingly named the “Moyo Island Hunting Park.” With mixed vegetation of mangroves, evergreen forests, dry woodlands and rolling grass savannahs, the nature reserve is home to long-tailed macaques, wild boar, deer, wild oxen, fruit bats and butterflies.
Moyo has also developed a reputation as a bird watching hotspot, with 87 species of birds recorded on the island. Among them, several species of heron, raptors, terns, parrots, owls, jungle fowl and the endangered yellow-headed parrot and the Tanimbar Megapode, both endemic to Indonesia. The latter is a ground dwelling scrub fowl with makes large mounds of sand and leaf litter in which to incubate its eggs. You may not see this shy bird itself, but keep an eye out for a nest when you’re hiking around the island.
Most of Moyo’s coastline comprises of long sandy beaches and fringing coral reef. Recently, most of the east and west coasts and the entire south coast of Moyo Island was declared Marine Park to protect it from fishing and other harmful activities. That’s the official line, but we’ve personally witnessed fishing within the protected zone and although there are still extensive patches of pristine coral reef, you don’t have to look far for evidence of coral bleaching and damage from past poor fishing practises. If you’re visiting with the intention of snorkelling, as your boat captain to take you where the good coral is.
The island is generally accessed at the Labuan Aji village on the north-west coast or Tanjung Pasir at the island’s southern tip, depending on what kind of experience you’re wanting. Those with very deep pockets can head straight to the exclusive Amanwana eco-resort located on the mid-west coast. Rumour has it that the resort once hosted Princess Diana and needless to say, they don’t welcome drop-ins to the resort or the surrounding chunk of land they own.
If you’re looking for a purely nature based experience, such as camping, hiking, snorkelling or lazing a beach that you have all to yourself, head to Tanjung Pasir. There is a National Park post here but the buildings are rundown and often times, it’s not even manned. If there’s someone there, they may request you pay a park fee but ask for a receipt just to be sure they are actually a ranger and not someone simply masquerading as one. From Tanjung Pasir, you can hike around the eastern half of the island all the way north (roughly 40km) if you’re so inclined. There are no designated hiking trails but you will find some well-trodden paths to follow and towards the northern end of the island, there are some small waterfalls to be found by tracing back along some of the little creeks away from the beach. You won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to camp along the way but you do need to be totally self-sufficient and be sure to carry plenty of water.
To reach Tanung Pasir, you’ll need to charter a local boat from the small boat harbour in the river mouth at Sumbawa Besar. The journey takes around 1 hour and you can expect to pay between Rp 1.500.000 – 2.500.000 per day depending on the size of the boat and number of passengers. If you’re planning to camp, you’ll need to arrange to be collected, but you should be able to negotiate a better rate for the two trips.
Snorkelling wise, Stama reef, about 15 minutes by boat to the east of Tanjung Pasir is particularly good. Be aware that the currents around the this part of the island can be quite strong so be sure to wear fins. Ideally, have you boat captain drop you at one end of the reef then collect you at the other end so you can drift over the coral with the current.
If camping isn’t your thing, head to Labuan Aji village instead. Basic homestay accommodation is available at Sunset Moyo Bungalows (+62 852 0517 1191) or Davi Homestay (+62 853 3993 2815). If you can’t get through on those phone numbers, ask your hotel or the tour office in Sumbawa Besar to assist. Most of the time, you could simply turn up without a booking. Be aware, electricity is usually only available between 6am to 6pm so be sure to take a torch with you. There’s also a small visitors fee payable on arrival.
From Labuan Aji, you can hire an ojek to take you to Mata Jitu Waterfall (30 minutes) and Diwu Mbai Waterfall (15 minutes). Neither waterfall is big but Mata Jitu is an extremely pretty cascade with limestone terraced pools. Diwu Mbai isn’t as attractive but it has a deep pool and a rope swing which is a bit of fun, although use it at your own risk. Unfortunately, there is a bit of price gouging going on so expect to pay a fairly hefty price of Rp 100.000 for a return trip to each waterfall. Alternatively, you can certainly walk to each waterfall in around 1 hour.
Public boats operate daily between the river mouth at Sumbawa Besar and Labuan Aji village. Departure times tend to be when the boat is full but at the time of writing they depart each morning and late afternoon, and during the day as required. The passage takes around 1.5 – 2 hours and costs Rp 50.000 each way. Alternatively, you can charter a local wooden boat or speed boat for between Rp 1.500.000 – 3.000.000.
Be aware, snorkelling gear can’t be hired on the island so take it with you. You should be able to hire some by asking around at the river mouth in Sumbawa Besar.