Sumba: Indonesia’s “Lost Island.” A jagged coastline of volcanic rocks eternally washed by waves, giving way to archetypal white sand beaches that stretch for miles. An interior jungle replete with waterfalls, revealing hilltop settlements that house the villages of a thriving native culture. It’s said that as recently as the 1970s the practice of headhunting still occurred on Sumba, but we’re willing to bet that’s a rumor encouraged to keep tourists away.
EXPLORING THE SPACE
A two-time recipient of Travel & Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotel” award, NIHI Sumba claims to be “luxury at the edge of wilderness,” and what a wilderness it is, especially if you know anything about surfing. The resort sits on prime real estate above one of the world’s most celebrated and consistent left-hand point breaks, known colloquially as “Occy’s Left.” Before the introduction of a luxury resort on the island, surfers would camp on the wild beaches for weeks at a time, waiting for optimal conditions in the tide and rhythm of the waves coming in off the Indian Ocean. This one particular wave became a household name after former World Champion Mark Occhilupo was filmed riding it in the 1992 cult classic ‘The Green Iguana.’
While the breaks across Nihiwatu and Sumba’s other beaches do a good job of attracting travelers seeking legendary surf, NIHI Sumba offers more than just a soft place to crash after a day in the swell. More a collection of independent structures than a traditional “hotel,” NIHI offers 28 individual villas and estates—each with their own private pool—ranging from one to five bedrooms. If surfing isn’t for you (or your travel companions), NIHI offers a variety of outdoor experiences from snorkeling to horseback riding, depending on the season, as well as Indonesian cooking classes and cultural tours.
The “crown jewel” of the resort is the Raja Mandaka “Owner’s Estate,” consisting of a main house and accompanying one-bedroom villas. Each structure on the property reflects a modern style of island architecture through which local materials find their highest application. Traditional craftsmanship techniques are favored over mass production; walls and windows slide away to let the sweet island breezes flow uninterrupted through the space. Kick back on your private patio overlooking the waves before walking down to dinner at Koboku, NIHI Sumba’s intimate Omakase style sushi bar, one of four restaurants on-site.
The remote, relatively undisturbed beauty that attracts travelers to Sumba today has also encouraged a preservation of the native island culture, and a trip to NIHI Sumba isn’t complete without gaining an understanding of tourism’s impact on the local’s lives and livelihoods. Today the hotel employs roughly 450 Sumbanese, and its original owners Claude and Petra Grave founded the Sumba Foundation to help alleviate poverty in the region, providing education and medical care for the native peoples.
You won’t find Sumba on any direct flight plans, but if you can get to Bali there are 50-minute puddle jumpers daily.
NIHI Sumba “Voyages” offer the opportunity to charter a yacht and cruise the Indonesian waters, visiting pristine natural locations truly off the grid.
Looking for serious privacy? Book the “Secret Villa” to feel like you really have the island to yourself.