East Indonesia – Nihiwatu, Sumba
Located on mystical and tribal island of Sumba, east of Bali, is Nihiwatu Resort. Scattered over a private glistening bay, this sustainable hideaway is redefining barefoot luxury amidst wild and untamed landscape. Fronting onto one of the best surf breaks in the world, pristine shores and hidden amongst these rugged hills full of history, this is an enclave of eco utopia far away from the modern world.
The landscape of Sumba is reminiscent of Africa’s rolling savannah, here wild horses roam and tribes preserve an ancient way of life that is steeped in magic and mystery. The infamous Pasola, a violent and colourful horseback tournament takes place nearby. This is one of the few megalithic cultures remaining in the world, and as you drive down to Nihiwatu from your charter you will see these massive tombs dotting the landscape. A mere hours flight from Bali and you are in another, far more ethereal world.
Nihiwatu is a sacred beach that is said to be one of the landing points of the marapu, ancient gods of an animistic religion that is practiced throughout the island. Initially founded by The Graves who were drawn to its world-class left hand wave that now has become legendary amongst surfers around the world. In 2013, Brand Maven Chris Burch was enchanted by the resort and took over to create the ultimate responsible chic retreat in a reimagined Nihiwatu with 21 luxurious villas and a jungle spa. In the future all profits will be put back into The Sumba Foundation that was established in 2001 to continue their invaluable work in the surrounding villages. It will become one of the few Eco Escapes globally that is run purely for philanthropy.
Villas nestled amongst the hills and shore are the ultimate in understated elegance, drawing from open-air tropical architecture and local artisan skills; they are a meld between modern amenities and rustic Sumbanese sophistication with views over the stunning seascape that surrounds you. Looking out on to two and a half kilometres of white sand beach, unrivalled surf, scuba and fishing in this cobalt ocean. Nature blends into the interiors throughout Nihiwatu, playing on the symbiotic relationship between man and environment that is echoed through the responsible luxury resort and the myths of the island.
The villas have a unique look and feel, catering to any taste in a casually luxurious setting. Hidden along the sparkling sands of the private beach and the hillside you are ensured total privacy and comfort. The two bedrooms Lantoro Beachside Villa sprawls around the central pool and looks down to the azure ocean below. Decorated in a sumptuously simple style to mirror the ocean hues. The rooms contain both modern and antique with elements of unique Sumbanese style. Ikat textiles are draped throughout the interiors, an art that is cherished and renowned. Ikat from Sumba is in high demand from collectors due to the weaving and dyeing skills on the island. These beautiful fabrics compliment the spacious tropical style of the villas. Perched on the hillside you can retreat into your private haven nestled in this unspoilt paradise.
Suku Villas are perfect for families, with natural thatched roofs that reflect the unique hat like Sumba roof shape. Local materials are utilised throughout the property in harmony with traditional building methods. Lulu Amahu 1 has interconnecting Master and Children’s bedrooms with spacious modern living areas overlooking the garden and pool. A private balè (pagoda) with a traditional alang alang roof overlooks the pool and sparkling surf beyond. Laze the days away in this magnificent setting in the many outdoor areas that surround the villas. Soaking up the sun or floating in your private pool, this is the ultimate hideaway set in eco desert island chic heaven.
Sauntering over the sand you can enjoy a sunset drink in the open air Ombak Bar enjoying the dramatic myriad of reds and purples of the sunset over the plunging shoreline. Dining in Menara draws from the natural abundance of the sea, with fresh fish, prawns and lobster alongside fresh vegetables and herbs from their garden or freshly purchased from the cottage gardens of the surrounding villages. Head Chef, the renowned Bernanrd Prim, naturally incorporates Indonesian dishes but also draws from his experience in Mexico, Thailand, The Middle East and Europe to create delicious fresh and innovative culinary concoctions. Different nights see anything from beach barbeques, open-air cinemas or impromptu white parties dancing under the infinite stars at Nio Beach Club. For something completely catered for you dine over the waves or take a picnic to a waterfall. Nihiwatu is designed to create and craft any dream experience for their guests.
Really relaxing into the tropical island fantasy is easy in Nihiwatu. The Jungle Spa is the ultimate place to unwind and float away to the sound of the ocean and breeze, with a traditional massage or invigorating scrub using natural ingredients. Unwind with yoga in the bamboo pavilion with group classes twice daily or private sessions that are tailored to suit your individual needs. All the experiences are specially crafted to cater to individual guest needs. A new addition is the polo ponies and a pitch for matches. Wild horses roam the hills of Sumba and have a free spirited nature that is perfect for this dynamic game. Originally used in the dramatic Pasola their potential as polo ponies has become a reality harnessing their speed and agility. This will truly be one of the most exclusive, unique and scenic clubs in the world.
The truly breathtaking beauty of Nihiwatu lies in its location, hidden in a naturally exquisite and dramatic bay. Immersing yourself in this pristine environment is a transformative experience. Surfers the world over dream of being one of the few to catch the iconic left hand break in front of the property. The wave is limited to only ten surfers a day, making this one of the most sustainable waves in the world. Other world famous spots are becoming increasingly crowded and attracting droves of people who can negatively impact the environment through an increase in building, waste in the water and other pollutants, such as has happened in parts of nearby Bali. The limiting of surfers means that this wave will always stay the same and the people who ride it can revel in the almost spiritual symbiosis that happens between man and sea in solitude.
The ocean in this area is fantastic for sports fishing and scuba enthusiasts alike. Experts can take you on an aquatic adventure of your choice to indulge in this incredible untouched stretch of coastline. Or just make the most of the tranquillity of the private beach and swimming in the glistening turquoise waters. Excursions inland to the villages can also be arranged to explore this fascinating and unique culture. Witness the incredible megalith tombs scattered amongst the thatched peaked roofs of the traditional houses. Supporting local artisanal skills and craft is vital to the local economy so purchasing one of these beautifully intricate handmade pieces supports the local community. A trip to one of the The Sumba Foundation projects can also give an insight into the vital work that Nihiwatu supports on the island.
Nihiwatu is committed to maintaining the sustainable luxury ethos it has built upon. It has become the biggest employer on the island, with 90% of the staff coming from Sumba. This employment supports a large network of families around the island, as well as the healthcare, education and malaria eradication programmes offered by The Sumba Foundation. Over the last thirteen years, the Foundation has set up over 15 primary schools, built 48 water wells, five clinics; supplied 172 villages with clean water and reduced Malaria by 85% in neighbouring villages to Nihiwatu. Although now different parties own the foundation and the resort, Nihiwatu maintains its commitment to continuing the work and donating all profits from the resort to the foundation in the future.
Conservation of turtles is also part of the property plan to preserve this incredible environment. The beach is a haven for the turtles to lay their eggs, often the local villagers will dig these up for food, but the property pays them to leave them or bring eggs they have found on other beaches so the hatchlings survive. The main species that nest on the beach are Hawksbill and Olive Ridley, but there are also a few Leatherbacks also visit the beach. Nihiwatu consults with some of the top hatchery experts in the world to ensure that they are preserving the eggs problem for as high a hatch rate as possible. If guests are lucky enough to be visiting when the baby sea turtle hatchlings arrive they can help release them into in the ocean, a truly mesmerizing and practical way of preserving these gentle and endangered species.
Rarely do you find a sustainable haven such as Nihiwatu of laidback luxury, sublime seascapes, cultural mystery and an equally strong commitment to the environment and the ultimate desert island exclusive escape. This is a place for the little more adventurous at heart that want to experience something beyond their imagination. An unrivalled journey into responsible escapism awaits for those who travel across seas and time to arrive in this mystical island and magical Nihiwatu.
Photos Courtesy of Nihiwatu