Sumba, Indonesia Expedition 2024

March 13 - 21, 2024 / $6995 / Indonesia

In the heart of Indonesia, floating between Bali and Timor, on the western edge of the Savu Sea, lies a place where wild horses still roam across golden-green hills and through tropical lush forests. A place where nature is as beautiful as culture is rich. Where you will have pristine, palm-fringed beaches all to yourself and you can buy seafood straight off the fisher boats as they come in with their morning hauls. This magical place is called Sumba, Indonesia’s best kept secret.

A place that feels as if time stood still and where the lives of the villagers move at the rhythms of sacred ceremonies and words of Ratos – local shamans. For a period of 9 days, we will immersive ourselves in Sumbanese culture, and with the help of local communities we will experience every long-preserved part of it.

After successfully launching my first-ever ‘Because People Matter’ expedition to the Indian region of Ladakh earlier this year, I am launching a second intimate photographic journey under the ‘Because People Matter’ umbrella. This time to the Indonesian island of Sumba for a deep dive into the precious Marapu culture that made me fall in love with this special island during my first visit here in March 2023.

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Important information

  • Dates: March 13 – 21, 2024
  • Expedition starts/ends in: Bali, Indonesia
  • Type: Car based island expedition
  • Physical difficulty: Easy
  • Price: $6995 per person (based on twin sharing / double sharing accommodation)
  • Deposit payment: $2500 (paid upon booking to hold your seat), 120 days prior to departure the remaning balance of $4495 will have to be paid
  • No single supplement available
  • Group size: Min 4, max 7
  • Experience level: Anyone is welcome, from beginners to professionals
  • Above price is incl VAT
  • Make sure to read the Terms & Conditions before booking

After traveling extensively through Indonesia for the past 15 years on multiple assignments in Sulawesi, Papua, Timor and Tenggara, I first set foot on Sumba Island in March 2023 and I instantly fell in love with the beautiful culture of this precious island. It was mostly the human spirit of the Sumbanese people that got me and in the months that followed after my first explorative trip, I carefully crafted a unique itinerary that crosses the entire Western Kodi region, focusing on meaningful and genuine interactions with the Sumbanese people, learning about their lifestyle, culture and traditions and documenting it all with the incredible medium that is photography.

However, this expedition is so much more than a photographic trip. It’s an opportunity to learn about the ancient Marapu culture, a local religion that makes Sumba such an intriguing place. It will be a fully immersive journey to a truly unique destination that will steal your heart and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

The entire expedition is designed for the curious, open-minded traveler, who’s looking for a soul touching experience. We will have exclusive and privileged access to elements of Sumbanese culture that are usually off-guard for tourists. With daily opportunities for 1-on-1 in-field tuition and several mid-day lectures, I will guide you towards creating meaningful stories during this expedition. Of course, the expedition is designed for photographers, but don’t worry about your skill set or your equipment.

Because my expeditions are an extension of what I value in my work as an artist and story-teller, I carefully select the partners I work with, based on a few core variables. Next to the photographic potential, I am always looking for a unique and distinct hospitality angle. Accommodation that allows my guests to connect with nature and culture in a meaningful way, as well as allowing them to experience the nostalgic charm of the olden days.

For this expedition I am collaborating with Cap Karoso, an intimate resort sitting on the shores of a coral reef in the unexplored Kodi region, in the southwest of the island, surrounded by turquoise lagoons and traditional villages. A sanctuary for the curious epicurean, manifesting social responsibility and sustainability across 47 suites that all celebrate Sumbanese culture and tradition.

During my first visit in March 2023, I experienced a truly magical energy & spirit when staying in this beach side resort and I’m sure you will feel the same! If you want to visit the website of Cap Karoso, click here.

The last 2 nights of this expedition we will stay with the Sumba Hospitality Foundation, a local NGO that empowers Sumbanese youth through education. Sumba is one of the poorest regions in Indonesia and while tourism is gradually developing, I believe responsible tourism is the only way to protect this fragile island in a way local communities can benefit. Therefore, I am taking you to experience the important work being done by founder Inge de Lathauwer and her local team on the ground in Sumba. We will meet all the kids that study at the Hospitality school and hear their stories. More about their work can be read in the itinerary below. If you want to visit the website of SHF, click here.

Day-to-day itinerary

For a period of 9 days we will travel through the unique Kodi region, under the guidance of the Cap Karoso and SHF guiding teams. We are traveling at a slow pace that allows to create meaningful and thoughtful images of people, culture and landscape, while visiting traditional villages, religious settlements, pristine deserted beaches, hidden lagoons and sandalwood horsemen.

On our journey we will encounter indigenous art, megalithic tombs, and traditional houses with soaring meter-high roofs, a design unique tot this region. But above all we will be greeted with the smiles and welcoming hearts of the Sumbanese people who live in these iconic houses. Their kampung villages with thatched pointy-roofed homes are one part of the indigenous belief system called Marapu in which locals worship the spirits of their ancestors. Part of the belief is that the high roofs create a stronger connection with the spirits. The moment you set foot on this island, you will instantly feel that.

Day 1: Arrival in Bali

After everybody arrived at Ngurah Rai Airport just outside of Denpasar, Bali, we will gather at the Vira Bali Boutique Hotel & Suite, where we will stay for 1 night. The hotel is located in South Kuta beach, only 20 minutes away from the airport. Everyone will have a private transfer upon your international arrival and with all participants coming in on different international arrivals we are using this hotel as our landing base to acclimatize for 1 day, before we proceed our travels to Sumba Island. After your check-in we will chill the remainder of the day at the pool to rest from our jetlag and get ready for everything that’s ahead of us.

Day 2: Arrival in Sumba

Early in the morning, at 9.20am, we get transferred as a group to Ngurah Rai Airport, where we board our domestic flight to Waikabubak Airport on the Western side of Sumba where we arrive at 10.45am. After flying over the turquoise waters of Sumba, we will be picked up by the Cap Karoso team and transferred to the resort. The 1,5hr drive from the airport is stunning through lush dense jungle to end up on the Westernmost coast. Upon arrival you will be checked in to your amazing rooms and we have lunch together. After a quick dip into the ocean, we will hit the road to visit the mind blowing Weekuri lagoon where we will swim in turquoise waters before ending the day with a sundowner at the Cap Karoso beach.

Day 3: A first glimpse of Marapu culture

We get up each morning at 5.30am to hit the road long before the sun rises. This morning we will visit Pero village, a local fishing village where we will meet the fishermen returning with their catch. Then we’re off to Bondo Kawango, a local village that has Sandelwood horses and we are ending the morning at Rattengaro village, a beautiful example of a perfectly preserved example of a traditional village on a hill top and cliff, overlooking the ocean. Upon return we will have a leisurely breakfast/brunch/lunch depending on our time of arrival.

After lunch and a swim in the ocean or the swimming pool, we meet for our first introduction lecture at 2pm in which Pie will outline the basics of photographic story-telling. Afterwards we meet on the beach at 4pm for a 2hr introduction to the Pasola horsemen, who come all the way to the beachside next to the resort to meet us and talk about their Pasola traditions. They will ride their Sandelwood horses in Pasola attire on the beach and wash them in the ocean. We’re ending the day with a beautiful dinner at the Beach Club.

Day 4: Deep dive into Kodi

Today we will start early once again, heading out to see the lush green rolling hills of Lendongara at first light, after we will visit a secret swimming spot for a fresh dive. On the way back we will make brief stops in several villages. After a leisurely lunch at the Beach Club, we will head out again in the afternoon, to travel to Waikaroko village, a local, authentic village and home to some of the guides we work with on this trip. We will experience a traditional welcome by the villagers and explore the full afternoon talking to them learning about their culture and their Marapu religion. We will play music together, sing and dance.

Day 5: Sunday, Church day

We start the day today early, driving along the Southwest Coast down to Mareha Cape, a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean & Mbawana Beach offering white sandy beaches and beautiful waves. On the way back we arrive just in time to attend the Sunday Church Service, of a very small intimate local church. We will mingle with the locals and attend the service.

Atter lunch in the resort, we are engaging in a second photographic story-telling lecture by Pie, and afterwards we are heading out to Mandorak Beach, where we will go fishing with local fishermen. They will take us out on the water in their traditional fishing boats. Upon return in the resort, we will have a big dinner together at Julang Restaurant (named after a Sumbanese hornbill bird), the fine-dining restaurant of the resort. Gastronomy receives a real focus at Cap Karoso, including Julang which welcomes guest chefs from around the world.

Day 6: Off the path

Today we venture off the beaten path, exploring our local area around the resort, discovering hidden lagoons and deserted beaches like Pantai Kawoto, Wee nameba lagoon, Bukamberu Beach, Wee Limbu and Pantai Humma. We even get to swim in the most secret hidden lagoon of the island, and I promise you it will be special. We will spend the remainder of the morning and afternoon in the resort, resting for the next leg of our journey, and leaving some space for 1-on-1 tutorials and Q&A’s with Pie. In the afternoon there’s also a possibility to return to places we have previously visited for more photography.

Day 7: Finding ways to help

After breakfast, we will be picked up by the Sumba Hospitality Foundation, a local NGO who’s doing vital work on the island, that directly benefits the future of Sumba, its youth! Upon arrival we will check into our rooms at Maringi, the student hotel that is managed by the Foundation. After a chilled lunch, we will get a tour around the property and visit several students on the Campus. We will speak to them to learn about the important work being done by the foundation. Some of them will invite us to join them to their homes in the villages around, where we get to meet their families. Their remarkable life stories will stay with you for a long time.

Day 8: The long journey South

Right after breakfast, we are leaving to visit the impressive Waikelo Sawah waterfall, where we continue to walk to Weekacura waterfall. We will visit Praijing village where we will have lunch and then continue our drive towards the most beautiful beach of Sumba, Watu Bella Beach in the South, famous for its incredible surf. We will enjoy the sunset over there and end the day with the long journey back to Maringi where we will have dinner together.

Day 9: Saying goodbye to the lovely Sumbanese people

Today, our flight back to Bali leaves at 11.05am, which means we will spend the morning at leisure in Maringi and say goodbye to all the lovely students. We will engage in a group yoga class after breakfast, to energize for the long flight home. We will arrive in Denpasar Airport at 1pm where everyone continue his/her own travels home.

*NOTE: This journey is an ‘expedition’, so above itinerary is the plan. The actual journey may change depending on the weather, the road conditions, the availability of the communities we visit, the wellbeing of the group members or other events beyond our control. Or simply if new exciting opportunities present themselves. But don’t worry, the guiding teams and myself will do everything to ensure you will get the best possible experience.

Included in the expedition

  • 1 night at Vira Bali Boutique Hotel & Suite based on B&B
  • 5 nights at Cap Karoso in a Studio Room based on twin or double sharing
  • 2 nights at Maringi in a Pool Pavillion based on twin or double sharing
  • All domestic (airport) transfers in Bali & Sumba
  • Domestic flight tickets Bali – Sumba – Bali
  • Full board at Cap Karoso (breakfast, lunch, dinner with non-alchohol drinks during meals)
  • Full board at Maringi (3 meals a day and non-alcoholic drinks)
  • Complimentary laundry at Maringi
  • All guided excursions as specified in above itinerary
  • The use of private 4x4 vehicles incl private guides for the entire duration of the expedition
  • Photographic lectures and image review sessions by Pie Aerts
  • 1-on-1 tuition in the field

Excluded in the expedition

  • International flight tickets to and from Bali
  • Travel & cancellation insurance
  • Tips & gratuities for staff
  • Visa
  • Alcohol beverages (you do receive a 10% discount on the - Drinks Menu)
  • Charcuterie, dry-aged steak and lobster
  • Dinner on the first night in Bali on day 1 (paid individually)
  • Dinner + wine at fine-dining restaurant Julang on Day 5 of the expedition
  • Any additional excursions, not mentioned in the itinerary above
  • Expenses of personal nature such as Souvenirs and Spa - - Treatments (you do receive a 15% discount on the Spa Menu)

Testimonials of previous participants

As you probably know, I have been hosting expedition to Africa for some years now. After each expedition I am asking participants to write a short testimonial, below you find a few examples of last year.

But first, to get you in the right mood, here’s a wonderful video testimonial created by Yash, one of my previous guests on an expedition to Kenya, watch the full video to get an impression of what’s it like to join one of my expeditions.

Sasha (USA) - I just got back from a life changing expedition with Pie in Kenya, and literally had the time of my life. The thoughtful care and effort Pie puts into planning these trips was evident every day, and it was clear he has spent years building meaningful relationships with everyone involved in Africa. The Kenyan people were kind and genuine beyond words and truly added to the overall experience. I felt safe and taken care of the entire trip. I made tons of new friends with fellow photographers, witnessed endless sightings of incredible wildlife and landscapes, ate some of the best food of my life, and walked away feeling inspired, full of emotion, and ready to take my business to the next chapter. Throughout the trip, Pie shared his knowledge and expertise whenever he could - during workshops, meals, even during jeep drives! The connections made during our time together became apparent during our goodbye’s, especially when the tears started flowing… haha. Overall, it was unbelievable how much education, life experiences, and joy were packed into 10 long days. It’s an investment for sure, but also the trip of a lifetime, and one that everyone should experience!

Michelle (USA) - Where to begin, Pie’s expedition was a trip of a lifetime! One that will have me buzzing for a long, long time. Amboseli and the Masai Mara are two very unique and magical places that stole my heart from the beginning but what was extra special was the amount of knowledge I took home from hours upon hours of being in the bush and learning from Pie. To add to that, the lodges were absolutely incredible as was the heaps of delicious food we had at every meal. I had tears in my eyes on the final day knowing I was leaving such a special country and even more special group of people that came together from all over the world to learn about photography and be immersed in the African bush for 10 days.

Tobias (United Kingdom) - This is the third time I have been on a trip with Pie and every trip seems to get better and better. It’s more than just a photography trip, you almost seem part of a family. The relationships Pie builds with the people in his groups is what really makes these trips so special. The wildlife is mind blowing and Pie works with the best guides that do everything they can to get you in to the best positions for photography. This specific trip opened my eyes more than ever to the challenges that wildlife and humans face in Africa during climate change and droughts, and witnessing this first hand has had a huge impact on me personally. I can’t thank Pie enough for making a trip like this possible and I also can’t thank everyone who was there enough for making it so unforgettable.

Noortje (South Africa) - This Kenya expedition was about so much more than just taking photos. It gave us an insight into Pie’s adventurous spirit and way of living, his view on the planet, our place on it and how we coexist with the natural world. Understanding that is what ultimately results in taking great images and we certainly achieved that! It was a beautiful and wild adventure, and Pie’s enthusiasm, commitment and honesty made the trip unforgettable! Thank you for your knowledge, the laughs, the chases, the fantastic food (!) and all the in-between moments!

Yash (India) - I mean it when I say that this trip to Africa has had a huge effect on who I am, and I mean it in the most positive way possible. I came thinking only about photography, but left with an African experience so raw and so moving. My eyes opened to incredible stories of the people and wildlife, which I attempted to capture with my camera under the guidance and teachings from Pie. And last but not least, and which was totally unexpected, but I left with a new found group of incredible people that I consider as one of my closest friends.

Nathalie (Netherlands) - This was definitely a once in a lifetime trip! It was an incredible experience to hitch a ride on Pie’s passion and energy. It was a wonderful group, with a great variety in personalities and background, which made the expedition even more special. Every little detail was right! I dare to say it was a dream which unfortunately I have to wake up from now, but I’ll carry it with me the rest of my life.

Capucine (France) - A trip of lifetime, this is what was promised and the dream became a reality! I had an amazing time in the bush with the best group of people. Amboseli and Masai Mara blew my mind with the abundance of wildlife. Going from shooting unbelievable scenes to having the most delicious food in the camp has been a real happiness bubble for 10 days! Very inspiring workshops as well with Pie who definitely made this trip very special. Also, lots of surprises along the trip, which I won’t share here, which made it unforgettable!

Do I need any photography experience?

Nope, not at all. Everybody is welcome. Beginners and professionals. Young and old. In fact, a diverse group always makes up for a lot of fun, because the main idea of my expeditions is all about interaction and learning from each other. I’m more than happy to explain you the basics of how to use your camera, but we can also have a deeper conversation about how to grow your personal brand as a visual artist, or how to find your voice. Or about music. art or sports :) So please don’t hesitate if you have never used a camera before, I’m there to help. But also don’t hesitate if you want to fine-tune your professional skills, I’m sure I can help with that too.

What type of gear do I need?

As soon as you have confirmed your booking, we will share an extensive list of recommended gear items that you would need for this expedition. However, don’t stress, any camera will work, it all depends on how you use it. We offer a custom advice for every level, from amateurs and beginners to full professional photographers.

In what way do the Sumbanese people benefit from this expedition?

When you follow my work long enough, you understand how deeply I care about giving back. Dignity, mutual respect and genuine relationships form the foundation of everything I do. The communities we meet during this expedition are therefore compensated through donations to community councils that will ultimately benefit the wellbeing of its members through the development of education and health care. This is a well-coordinated approach lead by the Cap Karoso team to secure the support ends up where needed most.

Furthermore, by staying at Maringi, the hotel that is managed and owned by the Sumba Hospitality Foundation, we directly contribute to the vital work that is being done by them accross the entire island. Every dollar we spent in this eco-resort goes directly to building a future for Sumbanese kids. Therefore, this expedition makes a significant contribition to the future of Sumba. If you want to read more about it click here.

In addition to that and in preparation of the journey, I will coordinate a joint effort as an expedition group to collect and carry a significant number of goods that will benefit the people we meet. In the last place, but above anything else, we show the people we meet on the road our genuine respect, listen to their stories, learn from their ancient wisdom, and build friendships that will stay with them. Because people matter.

During the expedition there’s multiple occasions when participants can give their support by making small donations to schools, charity initiatives and/or health centers. Our guiding team will advise.

How do we move around?

For this expedition we are using 4x4 vehicles. We have 4 cars at our disposal which means in each car there will be 1 driver, 1 guide, 2 guests. So with a group of 8 people (7 guests + myself) we operate with 4 cars. This gives us full flexibility on the road and this means we can potentially split up the group to make sure every single interaction feels intimate and private.

Why in March?

Sumba year round is generally scorching hot and dry. In march, however, at the start of the dry season, the island just comes out of its rainy period. As a result the island is lush and green. The morning light in March is incredibly soft and there’s a fair chance for afternoon showers and thunderstorms making a great backdrop for photography. Also, March is a quiet month, which means there’s barely any tourism.

Can I cancel my seat when I change my mind?

Read the Terms & Conditions for more info.

Is there an option to book a private room?

No. On this expedition there’s no single supplement. All rooms are based on twin sharing unless you book as a couple, we will of course offer you double sharing. As soon as the group is complete, we will make a roomplan taking into account personal preferences.

The host

Pie Aerts is a Dutch documentary and wildlife photographer with a sincere interest in human/wildlife conflict stories. Through his lens, he examines the intricate relationship between animals, humans and nature and, as we become increasingly distant from each other and ourselves, he uses photography to search for the cause of this disconnect. He believes art can be an incredibly powerful tool in restoring that lost connection and therefore founded Prints for Wildlife in march 2020. Since it’s inception 2.1 million dollars have been raised of which 100% has been donated to African Parks Network. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Pie spend more than 60 weeks in Kenya, visualising his personal relationship with the Kenyan landscape. Pie serves as a Canon EMEA ambassador, Gitzo Ambassador and as Hahnemühle Ambassador.

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