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Eight hours by ferry ship off from Kupang, it will get us to this small island located between Sumba and Rote Island, which has gone under the spotlight of East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur) in Indonesia for quite a while. Especially, after it came out as the 1st winner in the category of Most Popular Hidden Paradise at API Awards 2018, people start noticing this place even more.
Having seen from the photos that appeared on some social media channels a while ago, and being there myself – seeing the canyon with my own eyes, walking on the rocky path down to the valley under the blue sky and the scorching hot sun of Sabu Island, I must say, the experience is much more rewarding. The photos I saw only showing one small corner of Kelabba Madja.
The Exotic Sawu Island
Dry season seems to be longer in Sawu. It has not been raining much though it should have already had starting that month when we visited in late November. As far as my eyes can see, almost all the trees dry up, leaving only the exposed branches that somehow make the scenery looks exotic and unique to Sabu Island. Road and trails with dry soil with loose pebbles are commonly found here.
That day, we headed to Kelabba Madja after having our lunch along the way. It was around 2 pm when we got there I believe. Not really an ideal time to visit as the sun was still right on top of us. But because we were a little bit tight on time, we were there anyway. Once I got off the car, I grabbed my pink color lightweight jacket out from my bag and put it on. The hassle of bringing an umbrella or wearing a cap to keep me under the shade makes me choose to wear a light jacket with hoodie instead.
After we pass the entrance gate, we saw the big solid signboard of Kelabba Madja where we can see the whole landscape of the canyon. While I and few friends sat there for a while to hide from the sun, I tried to see if there is any more comfortable route to explore Kelabba Madja. There was a trail down to the valley on the right side from where I was sitting, part of it was still shaded by trees. Then my eyes rolled following the path which then led me to see the barren area in the valley. It was like seeing my biggest nightmare – walking fully exposed under the glaring sun.
But well, after took a deep breath, I made up my mind to start to walk following the trail down to the valley. I couldn’t stand the heat but it’d be too ashamed to miss exploring the place just because of that. The trail isn’t properly paved yet, but walking on it won’t be that difficult although wearing proper footwear, at least mountain sandal, is always recommended.
In terms of the size of the area, Kelabba Madja isn’t as huge as other canyons in the world that we may have ever heard of. Because of that, we can trek down to the valley and back again relatively fast. Even so, I and friends spent almost a good 2 hours there exploring around enjoying the view and of course, taking photos.
Kelabba Madja and the Abode of Gods
Besides the beautiful gradient color cliff walls, what I find unique about Kelabba Madja is the three big stones on one side of the canyon that seems about to fall. But no, it is not going to fall, don’t worry. It is one whole piece of rock that has such an interesting shape. The locals believe that those three rocks symbolize the Father, Mother, and Child with another rock in the middle that is used as an altar for praying to the God of Madja.
Sabu people’s belief is Jingi Tiu. Once a year, they will hold a praying ritual asking for safety and fertility. As they believe Kelabba Madja is where their gods dwell, a sacred place, hence, all visitors who come to Kelabba Madja are expected to behave by not saying harsh words and acting inappropriately. And certainly, no vandalism, please!
Sneak preview video of Kelabba Madja on Sawu Island is up on YouTube. Enjoy watching! Don’t forget to leave a comment or give a thumb up if you like it! 🙂
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The ideal time to visit Kelabba Madja is after 3 pm, I think. Around that time, the sunlight is already less glaring and I also notice that the gradient colors on the cliff wall become more prominent. Topped with the clear blue sky, the view is even more fascinating. Otherwise, come here in the morning for sunrise would be awesome, too.
I must say, Kelabba Madja is totally worth a visit even though the journey getting to Sawu Island can be quite long. But with various transportation options available, it shouldn’t longer be an issue. Whether we want to take the 8 hours ferry ship that departs at 8 pm and reaches Sawu Island the next early morning or 4 hours fast boat, OR, simply take a short flight from Kupang to Sawu, all can be done depending on our preferences.
What do you think of Kelabba Madja? Would you be interested to visit? 🙂