About Rote

Villa Tunggaoen, Tunggaoen beachfront
Rote Island, Indonesia

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Not all days are the same and they vary depending on the interests of the guest.  Here is a typical day of the author at Villa Tunggaoen, with a few variations also described.

5.30 am

YogaDaylight in Rote starts early and so does my day.  After crawling out from under the sheet (that's all the cover that's needed with the generally stable warm temperature), I have a quick look at email and over-night markets, before going out onto the balcony for yoga overlooking the beach.  That's after I've checked out the waves through the twilight.

If I'm going for an early morning surf I do a quick yoga session to limber up before grabbing surf gear and heading out on the scooter to the boat in Nemberala harbour. The boat captain will have been forwarned by Sani, the villa manager, the night before.  Our boat captain, unlike some of the boat captains I've used elsewhere, is very punctual.  It's not fun to be standing on the beach at dawn waiting for the boat to get you out to the waves.

If I'm not surfing early, then its a longer yoga session before a hot shower.

It's then off downstairs to read the newspaper (downloaded to an iPad), while waiting for breakfast.

7.00 am

BreakfastBreakfast is served at 7.00 am unless instructions are given for a different time.  The kitchen team brings breakfast from their kitchen about 20 metres from the villa.  Breakfast varies daily.  My favourite is probably pancakes with fruit, although I did very much enjoy the pancakes with chocolate filling; very filling!  If there are special requests for breakfasts or other meals, then its best to tell Sony, the cook, ahead of market day on Tuesday. (Going on a trip to the weekly market is a fun, colourful experience.) Breakfast also includes a variety of juices.

Sony will also prepare coffee or tea but I prefer to prepare my own coffee.  There is a kettle, percolator, coffee pluncher and benchtop gas cooker in the villa dining room and a fridge in which milk can be kept.  Indonesia produces some excellent coffee and I normally have coffee from Flores, which is another island in East Nusa Tenggara province.

After breakfast the housekeeping team move in, first cleaning upstairs, making beds and collecting any washing and then downstairs.  When they come down I go up and typically finish reading the paper on the sun lounge on the upstairs veranda.


DeskAfter reading papers, I'll usually settle down at my desk for some work.  The desk has a great view out to the reef, so I can keep an eye on the surf.  If the wind, tide and swell are right, there is a surf break pretty well in front of the villa that I can keep an eye on from my desk - very distracting!  It also offers a good gauge of how the surf will be at T-Land or Boa.

Internet connectivity used to be an issue in the villa.  This was fixed by erecting a very large antenna mast with two MIMO antennas pointing at the Nemberala cell phone tower about 5km away.  The antenna is at the back of the property, and the signal is amplified into the villa by range extenders.  More recently, 4G has been added to the Boa tower, which is line of sight from the villa and provides good internet without an antenna.

Now, with multiple ways of accessing the internet from the villa, I can hold international videoconferences with Skype, Zoom, etc., generally without difficulty.


Boat rideAt some time during the day, unless there are no waves, or, very infrequently in the dry-season, unless the wind is wrong, I'll go surfing.

Sani provides a rental motor scooter with surf carrier for guests who want one. I grab my board from the rack, downstairs in the villa, go out the back to the parking area, hop on the scooter and head off, generally to T-Land, although occasionally to Boa.  I enjoy the ride through the villages of Tunggaoen, Oenggaut and Nemberala.  It's only a ten minute ride but I normally pass a variety of animals roaming freely and locals going about their business.  The Rotenese are generally very friendly people and I usually get a few smiles or waves along the way.  Depending on the time of day, there can be large numbers of children walking or riding to school - no parents' school run here!  I read a travel article on Rote in an Australian paper in which the journalist said that the children hold out their hands for money. Talk about misunderstanding.  The children often play the game of seeing if they can high-five with the Bule (white person) on a motor bike.  Childish fun, not begging!

At the end of my ride, I turn into the Nemberala harbour area, which is often buzzing with surfers, fishers and locals going on an inter-island ferry.  I spot the villa boat, which the captain will have ready as close to shore as he can get (depending on tide) and head out to the boat and the surf.

I enjoy the ride out to the reef. I can check out the distant waves getting closer and just enjoy the beautiful environment, sitting in my deck chair on the front deck of the boat.

On the way out to the reef we pass "Squealers", a good beginners break named, it seems, after the squeals of delight as people catch their first wave.  You can paddle to Squealers from the shore.

After Squealers we pass the Bommie, which breaks right and left in the right conditions.  I've only surfed it once and found it difficult to be in position as its quite out in the middle of nowhere.  The wave though often looks beautiful.

SurfingWe then reach the T-Land reef and pass through the boat mooring area. If I'm lucky, there aren't too many other boats (=surfers) out there.  There are essentially three breaks on the reef, the Mountain, the Pyramid and the Peak, in order away from the boat channel.  I normally surf the Mountain or the Pyramid.  The Peak is way down the reef and while it can offer enormously long runs along the reef, on a big day, if I come off early, I can end up being swept along the reef with multiple hold-downs until I get to the boat channel, hundreds of metres later.  For a similar reason, on a really big day, I will usually end up at the Mountain.  On a big day with the swell direction and wind right, the Mountain can offer up magnificent waves that are easy to slide onto and can offer 200+ meter rides.

While I'm surfing, the captain will moor Mane Tua Sane with the other boats.  I'm not sure how he spends his time, although on a good day he may catch a mackerel or similar for the villa kitchen.  Whatever he's up to, he remains very observant of when I'm ready to leave and, with a bit of arm waving from me, he'll let go of the mooring and head in my direction.  Common sense dictates that I have to paddle out of the region where the waves break to meet up with the boat.  Sani has told me of boat captains who have not been so cautious and have been swamped.

I enjoy the ride back to shore even more than the ride out. It gives me time to contemplate the surf session, wind down a bit and admire the approaching shore line.

On the way back to the villa I might stop at Indika for one of their excellent smoothies or just a fresh coconut to rehydrate and get some energy back.

Back at the villa I'll use the outside shower to freshen up.  The water in this shower is not heated but is reasonably warm anyway.


PizzaLunch is normally at 12.30 pm.  It can be any of a variety of dishes and a fresh juice.  The serves are plenty big enough for a hungry surfer.  One of my favourite lunches is pizza, cooked in the traditional, wood fired pizza oven.  Best to order pizza the day before, as Sani will light the fire when he does his rounds in the morning. That way the hot coals are ready for lunchtime cooking.


BeachIf I haven't been surfing in the morning, I'll go in the afternoon, conditions permitting, or maybe just have a swim in front of the villa.  At mid- to high-tide, there is great swimming in the warm protected waters of the lagoon.  At low tide, the water isn't very deep close to the shore and it's ideal for children playing or learning to swim.

The best time to surf depends a lot on the tide.  I've heard various opinions about when it's best to surf at T-Land but for me, after a number of years of experimentation, it is around low tide and probably best on the in-run, although wind and swell direction play a role.  I used to worry about being swept up on the reef, which stands out quite distinctly at low tide, but after many surfs, the worst I've done is grazed my foot in shallow water in the channel.  There is a strong push-back of water from the reef when waves hit it.  The low tide reef also provides a platform for surf photographer, Danny Balelang, to take great surf photos (such as the one above).  Danny's shop, where he also repairs boards, is right next to Indika.  It's worth dropping in to check if there are any photos of your surfing feats. You can also check out occasional videos from the reef on YouTube at Rote Island Wild Life

One of the most atmospheric times Low
            tide sunsetto go surfing, when conditions permit, is sunset.  Seeing the waves coming in from the direction of the setting sun is magical.  As sunset surfing will generally clash with dinner time, so dinner needs re-scheduling, or I use it as an opportunity to eat at one of West Rote's other excellent restaurants.

Of course, you don't need to surf to enjoy the sunset from the boat.  Sani will organise for the captain to take you on a sunset cruise to watch the sun setting and the surfers having fun while you enjoy a few drinks.

After a few days of surfing and yoga, I look forward to a therapeutic massage.  There are a number of places to go for a massage, including having one at the villa. The nearest place with proper massage rooms and tables is Narrow Restaurant, about 5 minutes scooter ride away.  Narrow also has good food and drink, including home-made gelato.  I can definitely recommend a massage followed by a gelato.

If there are no waves, or if you are not into surfing, there is great snorkeling in a number of locations, including down one end of Tunggaoen Beach.  I also enjoy just strolling along the jalan in front of the villa, taking in the sites and then walking back along the beach, or vice versa.

If that is all too energetic, then I'll just lie out on the balcony or patio of the villa and read, maybe sipping a fresh coconut water, which Sani keeps a supply of in the villa fridge.  I also enjoy a beer and peanuts, while watching the sunset from the balcony or down on the beach.  Beer is readily available and cheap.  Wine can also be purchased but is pretty expensive in Indonesia generally and Rote in particular.


Sunset on
              way to UtopiaDinner is normally served at 6.00 pm and consists of a main course and desert.  I especially like some of Sony's deserts, made with fresh local ingredients.

It's well worthwhile trying some of the restaurants for dinner.  A particular dinner attraction is New and Full Moon gatherings at Utopia: Beautiful location, great food and a perfect place to sit under a full moon or watch the stars on a dark new moon night.  The sunset photo opposite was taken on the way up the hill to Utopia.  Also noteworthy is 81 Palms Restaurant, my review of which you can read here: Trip Advisor review

After dinner, I'll read or watch some internet television.  Streaming programs from your home subscription service can take some technical jiggery pokery, which Sani can assist with.

 By the time dinner is finished, it's dark and I go to bed early.  While dinner is being served the housekeeping team arrange the mosquito net on the bed, deliver any laundry and make sure there is drinking water in the bathroom.  I have seen very few mosquitoes in my time in Rote during the dry season but use the mosquito net to keep out anything else that might be flying around!  I took malaria tablets on my first visit to Rote but haven't subsequently, although people need to get their own advice on such matters.

The sound of the waves on the reef helps me get to sleep quickly and I sleep soundly ready for the next day at Villa Tunggaoen.