Expectations in travel are a funny thing. They can work for you or against you. Especially when you are heading to a little-known destination described as remote. I was forced to suspend my usual expectations of convenience and luxury when travelling to Rote, an Indonesian island south of Timor, best known as a relatively remote surfer’s dream destination, for my brother’s wedding. I had threatened not to come if the level of comfort available did not meet my basic requirements. My brother assured me the villas where I would be staying would meet these and more, but his requirements are notoriously less stringent than mine. But pretty images of palm trees and thatched villas sealed the deal. I was going.
After a trip from Sydney involving three flights and an overnight stay in Denpasar Bali, a driver collected me from the small airport in Ba’a, for the 45-minute drive to my accommodation. The drive was not promising. The two-lane road was mostly empty, save for a few motorbikes and an occasional small truck, the landscape quite arid and rugged and my driver was constantly honking his horn to warn the many free-ranging goats, slow, lumbering pigs and stray dogs to keep out of our path. Thankfully, the animals seemed well-trained and we turned off down a broken concrete local road to the dirt coastal road leading to Rote Island Villas without incident.
The Villas are on the southwestern coast of Rote, just north of the village of Nemberala and look out through a palm tree- strewn white sand beach over a tidal lagoon, to one of the many famed reef breaks that surfers come here for. I was welcomed by my hosts, relaxed and congenial Australian Dickson Beattie and his Indonesian wife Rida, in time for the first of the nightly, luridly beautiful, tropical sunsets and soon settled into the languid, relaxed routine. This is made more possible by the simplicity here and the distance from the hustle of everyday life or a resort holiday over-crowded with traffic and choices, such as nearby Bali.
There are three individual guest villas set in the sandy compound around the swimming pool and open, central dining and living pavilion. At the rear, is a full clay tennis court with racquets and balls available on request and a keen opponent in Dickson, if the competitive spirit takes you.
The thatched, air conditioned and spacious villas accommodate couples or up to four people for families with roll-out beds available for children or extra guests staying in the same villa. Queen-size beds are curtained by full-size romantic mosquito nets at night, however, I did not see any mozzies during my stay. The large, open, private garden courtyard- style bathroom features a hot water shower, and western toilet, however, you will need to bring all toiletries with you. And a hairdryer if you want one. There is a desk and international electricity outlets, handy if you didn’t bring an adapter for phones or computer charging but it’s unlikely you will want to work when you are here. Have laundry? Rida will arrange for it to be done for you. Want internet? It’s coming, says Dickson, but meanwhile you can tether to his phone.
Three delicious, fresh two-course meals per day are included in the rate, taken at the communal dining table and may include freshly caught fish, mild curries, soups, BBQ chicken, an array of delicious salads, vegetables, homemade bread and for breakfast, fresh fruit, eggs and bacon and homemade banana pancakes with syrup made from the lontar palms. Beer is available locally but wine and spirits not so much and a duty-free allocation should be brought with you if it’s an essential. There are a couple of local restaurants and resort bars in town where alcoholic drinks can be purchased.
Apart from surfing– and Dickson will happily take you out to the reef break in front of the villas – there are tours for fishing, diving or snorkelling the rich marine reserve and kayaking through the beautiful old growth mangroves or for a more gentle pursuit, yoga classes are available in nearby Nemberala village. Kite surfers can revel in the strong trade winds to race along the uncrowded lagoons, families visit to experience a new adventure or explore this new destination or simply for some relaxing downtime without the tourist distractions of Bali. Transport is mostly by motorbikes – which can be rented cheaply- or a car and driver can be arranged for approximately 300,000Rp (approx A$30) for the first hour and less for subsequent hours, by negotiation.
Days can be spent in enjoying the many marine activities, exploring the pristine coastline or simply lounging by the pool- the water is cool and refreshing and Rote is not as humid as many tropical locations, but the sun can be equally fierce. If you forgot a book there is a small library with an eclectic collection and comfortable couches decorated with ikat, the local woven throws, to while away languid afternoons gazing out at the reef, checking the surf, reading or snoozing. If you didn’t bring snorkelling gear, Dickson will have some you can borrow, and he will also take you out in his boat and guide you to the best spots. Want to visit the Nemberala markets (held weekly)? Rida may offer to take you after her early visit to buy much of the villas’ fresh food supplies. Its fascination to see the different stalls selling everything from betel nut and chewing tobacco to fresh fish from a pail on the back of a motorbike. Its also the major local social occasion apart from church; Rote is a devoutly Christian community and the church plays a major role in local life here.
Dickson and his family are natural and delightfully warm hosts and are happy to tailor activities and offer assistance to help you experience whatever has drawn you to visit the island. A stay with them is an inclusive, happy and relaxed one, in the most informal way.
So, if an island holiday appeals, embrace a sense of adventure and discovery, suspend your pre-conceptions, whatever they may be, and visit Rote Island Villas. You will be well-rewarded with a wonderful new travel experience.
Want to Go?
Rote Island Villas approximately 2 km from Nemberala, Rote, Indonesia.
Three Villas can accommodate 2-4 people each, with flexible sleeping queen or twin beds plus sofa beds as required for families/ groups. Meals are served at a communal dining table in the indoor/outdoor lounge pavilion.
Rate of 150,000Rp (approx A$150) per night for two includes three meals per day, air conditioning, hot water, wifi internet, pool, tennis court, use of snorkelling equipment and all the spectacular sunsets you can photograph. Host Dickson Beattie will take you on a half-day surfing or fishing excursion or snorkelling. Open 1 April- 31 October. www.roteislandvilla.com