A bril­liant point break is only one of the sub­lime at­trac­tions of lux­u­ri­ous In­done­sian re­sort Ni­hi­watu.

Belle - - Contents - Words CARLI PHILIPS

In­done­sia’s Ni­hi­watu is a surfer’s – and sybarite’s – nir­vana.

An­cient lore refers to the pris­tine In­done­sian is­land of Sumba as the ‘Cow­boy Is­land of the South East’, a place where fierce war­riors be­lieve in the spir­its and live by the law of the land. Guided by the cy­cles of the moon, not much has changed since the dawn of time. Perched on the edge of wilder­ness, Ni­hi­watu was founded in the 1980s by Claude and Pe­tra Graves as shacks sur­round­ing ‘God’s Left,’ the world’s only pri­vate left-hand break. It was nir­vana for surfers then, and even though the re­sort is five star now, cashed-up eco-purists and pros have come along for the ride (the ex­clu­sive wave is lim­ited to 10 peo­ple at any one time). A spear-car­ry­ing but­ler staffs each villa (for­get pas­tiche, this is the real thing), and I am paired with Jo­han who greets me with a mega-watt smile and con­jures co­conuts di­rectly to my deckchair in the jaw-drop­ping Men­daka es­tate.

Since its ac­qui­si­tion by en­tre­pre­neur Chris Burch and South African-born hote­lier James Mcbride in 2012, Ni­hi­watu has ex­panded to in­clude 11 new vil­las and a whim­si­cal tree house com­plete with thatched bales and a Robin­son Cru­soe-style bam­boo bridge. Ar­chi­tect Wal­ter Wag­ner of Habi­tat 5 and in­te­rior de­signer Su­san Col­ley upped the re­sort’s luxe fac­tor but its in­tegrity has re­mained in­tact – “no glitz, no pre­ten­tion – un­der­stated in its sim­plic­ity, beauty and spirit and, most im­por­tantly, its soul,” says Su­san of the au­then­tic decor that hon­ours the in­dige­nous way of life. “Prac­ti­cally ev­ery­thing has mean­ing, re­flect­ing the rich cul­ture and tra­di­tions of Sumba. Cer­e­monies, sym­bolic rules and rit­u­als are re­flected through­out the vil­las in dec­o­ra­tive tex­tiles, wood and stone carv­ings – typ­i­cally they rep­re­sent wealth, pros­per­ity and fer­til­ity. Sumba is a wealth of in­spi­ra­tion.”

The is­land’s seclu­sion and lack of in­fra­struc­ture proved chal­leng­ing (de­liv­er­ies that should have taken 10 days could quickly turn into a month), but Su­san was al­ways “mind­ful of a sense of

place. We wanted per­fectly im­per­fect – cosy and re­laxed. The goal was for our guests to dis­con­nect with an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment [and] re-con­nect with na­ture ... bring­ing a sense of calm and seren­ity in­side the vil­las while the feel­ing of ad­ven­ture out­side the door is al­ways present.”

Ac­com­mo­da­tions are se­cluded and there’s a sense of peace and quiet. A 90 minute trek through palm and pa­paya trees, rice pad­dies and graz­ing buf­falo leads to Nihi Oka, the ho­tel’s new spa nes­tled be­tween two per­fectly pre­served beaches.

It may be mind-blow­ingly beau­ti­ful, but Sumba is not just a pretty face. The ho­tel’s eco and so­cial con­scious­ness is in­ter­twined with the Sumba Foun­da­tion, a not-for-profit ded­i­cated to em­pow­er­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. The foun­da­tion’s im­pact res­onates through­out the is­land, not least with the re­sort’s staff, most of whom are Sum­banese. You wouldn’t know it, but many ho­tel guests are young, re­peat vis­i­tors with phil­an­thropic ties to the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Low-key donors mix anony­mously, but word gets out about a half a mil­lion-dol­lar fundraiser by a cou­ple in our midst.

Ni­hi­watu used to take three days to reach and, while still re­mote, it’s now more ac­ces­si­ble. Flight sched­ules re­quire an overnight stay in Bali and the Alila Seminyak makes for the best stopover (just in time for a spa and sun­set drinks). All it takes is a short flight to the is­land, two-hour drive along a rocky road in an open-air, sa­fari-style Jeep and you’ve reached par­adise.

For more go to ni­hi­; sum­bafoun­da­

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