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Surf Travel Destination: Roti, Indonesia

Posted: Monday May 11, 2009     By: Waterways     Category: Surf Travel

The Other Indian Ocean - Nemberala Beach Resort Opens a New Area of Indonesia

If the word "Roti" makes you think of the words "round", "flat", and "Indian" you are two-thirds correct.

Roti is a small island in the Nusa Tengarra region of Indonesia, southwest of Timor and a very different world away from the increasingly overrun surfing areas of Bali, Sumatra and the Maldives. On the southwest side of the island, the Nemberala Beach Resort is offering thoroughly modern tropical lodging with access to a half dozen, top-quality reefs classically Indonesian waves where, even in this crowded, modern world, the surfer can still seek the perfect wave on the perfect day and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.

The nation of Timor has a long, interesting and sometimes troubled history. Timor is where Captain Bligh ended his impossible, 3600-mile crossing in a small boat after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. (If the photos have already sold you and you are packing for Roti and need a good book, the Bounty Trilogy is fascinating, and appropriate to the area.)

Timor had been divided between the Dutch and the Portuguese for many centuries. Japanese forces occupied the whole island from 1942 to 1945. In 1975, the nation of Indonesia annexed East Timor and was proclaimed Indonesia's 27th province. After a prolonged guerrilla war East Timor won independence in 2002.

Trouble and strife but there is no reason to be timorous about this corner of Timor. Roti is only 20 miles from the mainland but far removed from the past violent nation-making on the main island. Roti is southwest of Timor and the Nemberala resort is on the southwest side of the island, facing into all that world-famous, well-traveled swell which starts in the turbulent storms of the Southern Ocean, organizes itself as it crosses into the Indian Ocean and arrives 4000 miles later on the reefs of Roti, falling gracefully on a half dozen perfect reef setups.

Roti is not the area most people go looking when they go to Indonesia for surf. According to Sean Murphy of Waterways Travel, "I have been surfing this area for about 12 years with my partner Gary Burns, who operated a surf charter aboard his 52' sailboat Mahalo I. Through the 70's and 80's Gary sailed the globe surfing all through South America, Central America, all regions of the Pacific and most of the Indian Ocean. When Gary came across the group of Islands situated off Timor his search for surf ended at Roti where he has been surfing the dozen breaks in the region for the past 15 years. In 2005 the decision was made to purchase the property fronting the main wave in this region and move from yacht to land.

The five-acre beachfront property is located directly in front of the main break providing all rooms - along with the bar and restaurant - a view of the 300+ yard long left reef/point which lies 500 yards off shore. The weather in the region is affected by the huge deserts of NW Australia giving warm dry conditions almost year round except for the brief wet season from December to March. Given the marginal rainfall this area sees only a small fraction of the mosquitoes and insects that one would expect in the more northern areas. The predominant trade winds are SE which blow off-shore at Nemberala most of the year. Given any break from the standard trade winds there are many other waves in the region that work better on north, south or glassy conditions.

The bungalows of the new resort feature a beautiful rock construction with louvered windows to keep the bungalows cool and breezy day and night. The central pool is a beautiful area to lay back with a drink and soak up the environment. The new spa and games room have also been recently completed. Surf transfers are provided on your schedule so you can choose when, how long, and how often you would like to surf: Sean Murphy said. "Our original plan for the property was to purchase a few prefabricated bungalows from Bali to be resurrected on the property. The plans quickly changed to utilize both local material and labor. After about a year and a half of construction running way over budget and taking twice as long as anticipated, we now have a property that is much nicer than any of us had originally anticipated. The four-duplex bungalows provide eight rooms each with private bathroom. The rooms can be connected by an interior door for families traveling with children, or for higher-end travelers that would like to change the layout to provide a bedroom with separate living room. All rooms have running water and 24 hour electricity. The kitchen serves up a variety of both Western and Asian dishes with fresh fish always available."

Due to the low cost of labor in the region, which is the second largest expense next to fuel, the Nemberala Beach Resort is offering remarkably inexpensive packages. "The resort runs $175 per person per day inclusive of meals and surf transfers to the break out front," Sean Murphy said. "We can do a full land and air package from Los Angeles or New York for about $3,500 giving 10 days at the resort and 2 days in Bali."

What those days will get you is accommodation at a brand-new resort that is tropically modern and comfortable, and access to an island that is still as wild as when Captain Bligh and his desperate crew passed by hundreds of years ago. Roti has empty, sandy beaches for walking and thinking, 60 feet visibility for diving, world-class sportfishing and plenty of time to read the Bounty Trilogy.
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