Rote is the southernmost you can get in Indonesia. The island is mostly popular with surfers. Super dry climate most of the year.
A key thing to understand is that you have 2 Rote : the area around Nembrala beach which is equipped with good to luxurious hotels and surf camps. Plenty of foreigners there, some of them living year round.
And then the rest of the island which is very rural and little visited.
From Ba’a to Nembrala inland
I picked up a rented motorbike directly in Ba’a harbor (details below) and drove to Nembrala following roads alongs the west-northern coasts.
It was September, rainy season was far away and the land very dry.
Some pockets of green could be found around irrigated rice fields. This one is near Namodale :
Or this one which was massive :
Getting closer from Nembrala I crossed an area with a few traditional houses left. Villagers told me they had received subsidies from the government to build new house. Which they were all doing.
Nembrala beach is surfer’s territory. The beach itself is pleasant but not exceptional either.
If the beach is public, most beachfront land is behind the (low) walls of resorts :
Plenty of seaweed farming in the area.
East of Nembrala : Teluk Nirwana
From Nembrala, drive south then follow the coastal road to reach Loedik beach (where the whole coast is already built with villa or resorts that looked empty when I was there) :
You can stop on the Batu Pintu beach (“stone door”), which is average beach for Rote but the stone itself is peculiar. A stone stairs gives access to an elevated view point :
Keep going to find very nice white sandy mangrove on the way :
Until you finally reach Oeseli beach. This beach is more like a lagoon. Some very nice pictures can probably be made at high tide.
Just across the lagoon (it’s literally a 500m boat ride) you have a path leading to a viewpoint on a very nice saltwater lake called Teluk Nirwana.
A drone view is helpful to understand how this places works.
You can either walk from the hill and reach the viewpoint (from where you can get down to the water and swim) or they also rent kayak (at higher prices than the boat ride) to paddle from the lake entrance.
Obviously, price to charter boats are overpriced (150’000Rp to cross a 100m in the bay, the guy waits for you to bring you back), but that’s how it is. If you wanna get dropped at the entrance of the lagoon it’s more expensive.
Oeseli is a good place in Rote to watch the culture of seaweed :
From there you can make your way back to Baa.
North of harbour town :
At first, I wanted to explore further the area but by the time of my visit (September) the weather was scorching hot and I gave up driving on these roads with no shade.
Coming to Rote (2023)
You come to Rote from Kupang, the main town on the island of Timor. Here it can get confusing because there are 2 harbors both in Rote and Kupang.
- The speedboat operated by Express Bahari. Leaves from Tenau harbor in Kupang and arrives in Ba’a harbor in Rote.
- The daily passenger/vehicle ferry leave from Bolok harbor in Kupang and arrives in Pantai Baru harbor in Rote.
Less regular boats like the Roro Ferry from ASDP (that goes between Ende in Flores, Waingapu in Sumba, Sabu, Rote and Kupang) and Pelni ferries also call by Bolok.
Bolok is further away from Kupang than Tenau. Both can be easily reached from Kupang via Gojek or Grab. A non-app ojek from the harbor to town costed me 50k from both harbors (even though one is further away). Both time I came back to Kupang I didn’t had the patience to order and wait for online drivers after disembarking from the ferry.
Officially leaves every day from Kupang at 9AM, arrives at 11AM in Rote then leaves Rote at 12AM and is back in Kupang at 2PM. The company is Express Bahari.
Express Bahari has a website with schedules, a smartphone app (where you get schedule but cannot buy tickets if you are a foreigner) and even a Whatsapp Hotline (I don’t know if they speak English though) : +62 811 789 200.
We actually arrived at Ba’a at 11:20 AM when I did the trip so it was pretty good in terms of timing.
I took the cheapest class (Eksekutif) which was fine with AC. Base fare is 174’000Rp (204’000Rp for VIP) per trip per adult.
In Tenau harbor every passenger has to pay an additional harbor fees that is 15’000Rp for Indonesian and 50’000Rp for foreigners. So total ticket from Kupang to Rote costed me 224’000Rp in Eksekutif class.
The speedboat was cancelled on the day of my return so I had to try the ferry.
I got told in Rote that 2 ferries are departing every day from Pantai Baru : one at 7AM and the other at 1PM. So they is most likely 2 similar departures from Bolok harbor in Kupang.
The ships would be KMP Cakalang II (operated by ASDP, also continues to Ndao island after Rote) and KMP Garda Maritim (operated by another company).
The ferry actually left Pantai Baru at 9:30AM and arrived in Kupang at 1:30PM. So it takes 4 hours instead of 2 hours with the speedboat.
Price for 1 passenger is only 66’000Rp. You can embark ferries with a motorbike or a car too (prices is 242’000Rp for a motorbike and 1’148’000Rp for a car, including the passengers).
The issue with the ferry is that in Rote it leaves from Pantai Baru which is in the middle of nowhere about 30 minutes away from Namodale / Ba’a. So you pay your ticket cheaper but you have to add the price of transportation to Namodale when you arrive.
My motorbike rental guy charged me an extra 50’000Rp to pick up the bike at Pantai Baru instead of Namodale.
Around Nembrala beach, most accomodations are expensive. I ended up at Pak Thomas Homestay. That’s the sign you’ll see on the side of the road, but it’s actually run by his son.
Simple room with fan and cold mandi. 150’000Rp per night without the meals. Super tasty meals at 25’000Rp. They usually charge a rate including all meals but I was only staying for the night so I told them to charge me only for the room.
In Namodale (the administrative capital, near Ba’a harbor) I ended up at Well Homestay. 200.000Rp per night.
You have other clusters of accomodations immediately north-east of the harbor. Price seems to be the more or less the same.
The motorbike or car rental industry is super developed and efficient in Rote. I made a quick Google Maps search and contacted Rental Calvin : +62 812 3073 9682. They were very efficient. Were waiting for me with a Honda Beat bike at Ba’a harbor.
Price was 150’000Rp per day of rental. You can get cheaper rental (around 75’000 per day if I’m not mistaken in Nembrala) but again you have extra transport to get there so I’m not sure it’s worth it.
I haven’t see any public gas station open in Rote. From what I understood, gas is delivered regularly from Kupang but is fully bought in hours and then resold by the people directly by the street.