way the resort operates is not so surprising perhaps, but the fact that all Nihiwatu’s profits are invested in a foundation to benefit the people of Sumba is.
Set up in 2001 by the Graves and a regular guest, the Sumba Foundation has funded numerous schools, clinics and wells on the island, supplying close to 200 villages with clean water and reducing malaria by 85 per cent in the neighbouring areas. It also runs organic farming, scholarship and humanitarian projects that aid people on one of Indonesia’s poorest islands, and all of them exist in symbiosis with the resort, which is also the biggest employer on the island. Nihiwatu organises visits to some of the projects it supports so that guests can see the work being done. Most leave generous donations; some even return as volunteers.
True to the resort’s focus on sustainability, a high proportion of the produce served up is grown by villagers. The fish, too, are freshly caught by local fishermen as far as possible, and the food is cooked in a kitchen helmed by former Amanresorts chef Bernard Prim. Food and drink are offered on an all-inclusive basis, and meals can be taken whenever you like by dropping by one of the restaurants or using the walkie-talkies provided to summon your personal butler. Unlike most luxury resorts, Nihiwatu is very sociable, and we end up getting to know our fellow guests better over sundowners or dinner most nights—although privacy is not hard to find.
Numerous activities are included in the price at Nihiwatu, with others available for a surcharge, and there’s no shortage of ways to spend your time. In addition to surfing, there is excellent snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, fishing and spearfishing, while pleasure cruises are an option for the less adventurous. On land, there’s horse riding on the beach, yoga classes and opportunities to learn about the local culture—as well as a host of secluded daybeds and hammocks for naps between exertions. A dedicated staff photographer can be on hand to professionally document your activities. Perhaps most interesting of all, however, is the resort’s guru programme, through which visiting experts in fields as diverse as yoga, meditation, photography and surfing give guests the benefit of their knowledge. To this end, the resort has created a “guru village” complete with space for 12 experts as well as a pool and barbecue area.
The accommodation for guests, as one might expect, is even more alluring. Surfers tend to snag the Wave Front Villas, but we had the pleasure of road-testing the prototype for the next generation of villas, a tree house of sorts based on traditional Sumbanese homes. Downstairs features a private infinity pool, lounge and gardens, while upstairs consists of a large bedroom with stunning ocean views and an open-air shower room. Everything is handcrafted from local materials such as teak and rattan. The highlight, however, is the elongated chimneylike expanse that stretches up some six metres above the bed—a space that would play host to the ancestor shrine in a Sumbanese house—which seems like a pathway to infinity when the bed is enclosed by its white drapery.
Impressive as Nihiwatu may be, many of its greatest attractions are not in the resort at all. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Wanukaka waterfall, an incredible site of natural beauty at the end of an hour’s trek through the jungle. Cascading into a wide natural pool enclosed by a small canyon, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in The Lord of the Rings, and to have it virtually to ourselves made it doubly special.
Likewise, a visit to Nihi Oka beach is highly recommended. A secluded spot a few kilometres along the coast, Nihi Oka is set to be developed into a miniature resort. For now, it features a cliff-top platform set up for a romantic breakfast or barbecue lunch, and a tree-house mini-spa to up the bliss factor. It’s these kinds of touches that ultimately define the Nihiwatu experience; just when you think you’ve seen all it has to offer, the resort has a knack of surprising you anew with novel twists, bright ideas and forwardthinking philosophies. Like its signature wave, it’s quite simply a force of nature.
THE STUNNING NATURAL BEAUTY OF SUMBA ISLAND