Tested: Checking Out Rote Island and its "User Friendly G-Land"

21 Mar 2018 38 Share

COASTALWATCH | TRAVEL

Rote is an island of Indonesia, part of the East Nusa Tenggara province of the Lesser Sunda Islands. According to legend, this island got its name accidentally when a lost Portuguese sailor arrived and asked a farmer where he was. The surprised farmer, who could not speak Portuguese, introduced himself, "Rote". But what's that got to do with surfing? Nothing. And Rote particularly the area of Namberala, is well known for its surfing, (think perfect tubes formed by the shallow reefs and off-shore winds). Not knowing a heap about the region and its picturesque waves, Coastalwatch flung a bunch of questions at one of the tour operators in the area, Sean Murphy of Nembarala Beach Resort to find out as much as we could before we paddled across the Timor Sea and felt the waves under our own feet.

	A sensational lefthand line-up as seen from the sky. T-Land, Rote. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

A sensational lefthand line-up as seen from the sky. T-Land, Rote. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

CW: What's the best time of year to go to score great waves?

Like the rest of Indonesia, the full season really runs March through October into Early November looking for those good SW swells. The biggest most consistent swells historically hit June through September which also corresponds with the peak of the SE trade wind season. These SE trade winds are off-shore at Nemberala Left and generally groom the swells and open up the barrel sections.  There are quite a number of waves in the area and some of the others like The Bommie and Suckies also take this wind as an off-shore, but some of the other really good right handers in the area take the SE trade as a side shore or onshore. If you want to score the long walls of Nemberala left and some hollow pits at Suckies, June, July and August are prime months.

For the first part of the season and starting again generally sometime in September, the SE tade winds go more slack or light and variable. Nemberala Left is a super consistent wave and handles various wind conditions, so is generally a good option for the entire season, however during these “shoulder months” when the winds are light and variable there are a bunch of other very quality waves that become much more consistent – mostly right handers... mostly.

What are the waves like and what kind of board should I bring?

All the waves in the various parts of Indonesia are much more similar than they are different, but having said that there are some differences in this area. The main wave Nemberala Left is similar to a much more user-friendly version of G-Land, which is why many call the wave T-Land, short for Timor Land.  Like G-Land, the reef is a long straight reef with the SW swells hitting at an angle and running down the reef. Also like G-Land, there are a few different take off sections from top to bottom which makes for a big surfing arena. Nemberala Left can handle any size swell and will never close out. Unlike G-land, the wave will roll in for a while allowing plenty of time to take off; it does not jack and throw like its much heavier cousin G-Land. The wave does produce some barrel sections which are typically very predictable, you can see the section coming and have plenty of time to set up. The reef at Nemberala has a more gradual slope and is rarely consequential except for the very top or very end at low tide.

Given the more gradual slope of the wave, on bigger days a bigger board with more volume is often helpful getting into the bigger sets; but in general Nemberala Left is the type of wave one can ride any type of board they prefer: performance short board, fun shape, long board or fish.

The other waves in the area tend to be much more standard Indonesia style waves with shorter impact zones and steeper drops making a standard shortboard or step-up a typical board of choice.

Sucky Mamas. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

Sucky Mamas. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

What's the weather like during the swell season?


This region of Indonesia, East Nusa Tengarra, is SE of the Wallace line and much more arid than the rest of Indonesia. The region is still very warm, boardies for walking around or surfing, but much more dry. One of the benefits to drier climate is the noticeable lack of mozzies. After April, most everything has dried up from the rainy season and the region turns from green to a mix of subtropical greens and browns mixed in with palms and pandanis.


The coolest months of June/July can see air and water temperatures drop to 25 celsius, so occasionally you will see people wearing a light layer of rubber on top in the morning if the SE trade is blowing. Early and later season both water and air temps will be in the higher range of 27-28.

What's the crowd factor?

Crowd factor is quite variable and seems to change season to season. There are a number of budget properties and home stays in the area that have been popular with backpacker surfers for a number of years. The main wave, Nemberala Left, on a busy day could have as many as 50 people in the water at 9:00am, but as few as 10 at 2:00pm that same day during the midday heat. Given the length of the wave and various take off zones the wave can comfortably handle 20-25 with no problem on an average swell.  The wave breaks about 750 metres off shore, so many of the budget surfers wait until low tide when they can walk out on the reef and paddle out from the edge. Nemberala Beach Resorts includes boat transfers to Nemberala and all other waves in the area by boat all day at all tides.


The many other waves in the area are mostly accessible by boat and are far less crowded, often just the group in your boat.

Deep blues and Rote empties. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

Deep blues and Rote empties. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

Is food provided at the resort and what's it like?


Yes, all meals are provided in the Nemberala Beach Resort package, and it is super good and there is lots of it. Typical daily meal program goes like this: Early breakfast starts at first light with coffee, juice, cereals, toast, peanut butter, jams, vegemite, fruit, yogurt. Second full cooked breakfast starts around 8:30 and runs through 10:30/11 and includes eggs any style, omelet bar, bacon, sausage, banana pancakes or Indonesian noodle breakfast. Lunch comes up around 1 and is buffet style and could include burgers, sandwiches, fish, pasta dishes and always carbs and fruit. Appetisers are served at the bar around sunset as people gather after a day of surf, if you surf until dark you may miss appetisers.  Dinner comes up around 7 and is also buffet style which includes a soup of the day, salad and a theme of some sort like Italian night, Indonesian night, Mexican night, surf 'n' turf night or any selection of carbs, protein and vegetables. Dessert is served plated every night and seldom passed up. Nemberala can easily cater to any dietary requirements with advanced notice, and will always hold a plate of food for anybody out surfing or enjoying time way from the resort exploring the region.


Is the resort on its own isolated island or can i walk around and check out the area?


The resort is located on the large island of Rote off the coast of West Timor. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive the length of Rote and closer to six hours if you wanted to drive around it. There is one main road outside the largest town of Ba’a that is paved much of the way (all the way between Ba’a and Nemberala), but most other roads on Rote are still dirt.

An excellent dog. Photo: WaterWays Surf Adventures

An excellent dog. Photo: WaterWays Surf Adventures

If there is no surf, what else can I do? 

That is one of the nice things about being on a larger island. With the dry weather and miles of dirt roads and trails, Rote has excellent mountain bike riding (bikes provided) either on long flat roads with no traffic or hill climbs to the lake on the interior of the island. There are hiking trails to beautiful lookouts, SUP tours to the mangroves, visit the local farmers market, island hopping, great snorkeling and fishing, cruise the local village and enjoy a simi cold beer at one of the local establishments, purchase local hand made tapestries or stay on site and enjoy the pool, massage in the spa or daily yoga on offer.

Are there day/boat trips to other waves if we want to go somewhere else or the main break isn't working?

Yes, Nemberala Beach Resort includes unlimited surf transfers by boat or vehicle to all the best waves in the region, with the furthest being approximately 35 minutes by boat. Nemberala has four boats and is happy to split groups up between breaks that best suit their ability and desires based on conditions.



IN A NUTSHELL


Why Go?
It’s in the title, a wave called T-Land.


What you’ll tell your mates
Wave-wise it’s like the rest of Indo, but with a couple of waves that are less critical. Also its drier than the Indonesia you might be used to.


Lowlights
You might, maybe just a little bit, need a wettie top for morning sessions in the cooler months of June/July. And Nembara Left can get crowded.


When To Go
The best season for waves is between March and October, with the best swell usually hitting between June and September.


Make Sure You...
Book accommodation that provides daily-boat trips to different breaks in the regions to make the most of the area.


What Exactly Is It?
Rote is an island situated in the far south-east of the Indonesian archipelago, just a ferry ride south-west of West Timor’s capital Kupang.

Other things to do aren't a problem, neither. Nembarala rest day SUPing as seen from the sky. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

Other things to do aren't a problem, neither. Nembarala rest day SUPing as seen from the sky. Photo: Joli/WaterWays Surf Adventures

This story was presented in partnership with Atoll Travel

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