If Instagram’s algorithms haven’t already satiated your wanderlust with NIHI Sumba’s resident horses galloping along the pristine sands, maybe you should indulge a scroll. Tucked away on one of Indonesia’s most unexplored islands, and regularly voted one of the world’s best hotels, NIHI Sumba is a luxury resort with a conscience, and Sumba’s surreal natural landscape sets the scene for a far-flung romantic escape.
Couples who favour a boho style, with an anthropological curiosity angle and an interest in environmental issues will love NIHI Sumba’s vibe. The resort offers honeymooners the perfect blend of alone time in its private villas, and social interaction, with sundowners at the Boathouse offering an opportunity to mix with like-minded fellow guests.
Set the scene
The first thing you see upon reaching NIHI Sumba is a rough-hewn wooden sign decreeing ‘Welcome To The Edge of Wildness.’ Lush jungle on one side, golden sand beach and crashing surf on the other – NIHI Sumba’s setting is other worldly. It’s the ultimate barefoot luxury escape with a purpose-driven edge.
Food and drink
Ombak is the main sandy-floored restaurant and bar, from which couples can watch surfers attempt one of the world’s best breaks. Occy’s sits to the left it this, with its from-the-sea grilled rock lobster, and Indonesian plates such as satay and nasi goreng. Just footsteps from the beach, Nio Beach Bar is the lunch spot, with its fresh and delicious salads filled with organic kitchen garden ingredients, wood fired pizzas, and the freshest fish tacos and catch of the day poké bowls. At sunset, visit the Boathouse for snacks and drinks, entertained by live music, and the incredible NIHI sunset.
The 27 villas come in all shapes and sizes, but all have ocean views, large terraces, four-poster beds and private pools, and all guests are introduced to their own private butler, who looks after their every need throughout their stay. Villa interiors are rustically stylish, featuring teak floors and ikat soft furnishings. The minibars are stocked with a good selection of drinks, (from bottled gin to lychee juice), and snacks include chocolate from the estate.
In 1988, surfers Claude and Petra Graves were searching for the perfect wave, and found it at the pristine beach where NIHI Sumba is now perched. They had the idea to create a small resort that would preserve and allow others to enjoy this remote area of the beautiful island of Sumba. The resort was named Nihiwatu, the same name early settlers had given to the beach. At the same time, the Graves also set up The Sumba Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to empowering the welfare and advancement of the local people. In 2012, entrepreneur Chris Burch and hotelier James McBride acquired the resort with the desire to turn it into a world renowned retreat by weaving luxurious comforts with the spirit of Sumba, enabling a close relationship between The Sumba Foundation, NIHI Sumba, and the guests of the resort. The result of this relationship is a unique collaboration between NIHI Sumba and the local community, which today co-exist with compelling interdependence.
Sumba’s culturally rich heritage is available to all guests who want to find out more, with pre-arranged tours to water projects, health clinics, and school lunch programmes. The resort has become the biggest employer on the island, with over 90% of NIHI Sumba’s staff hailing from the local area. The profits from the hotel and individual benefactors fund The Sumba Foundation, which, in turn, supports medical clinics, schools and communal farms on the island. Today, NIHI Sumba offers guests a world-class beach-chic experience, alongside a responsible focus on social and sustainable development.
A highlight of NIHI Sumba is the Spa Safari. To reach Nihioka Spa, guests trek for 90 thrilling minutes through lush jungle, rice paddies and waterfalls, passing traditional houses whose peaked roofs are designed to connect with the spirits, and megalithic Marapu stone tombs where generations of villagers are buried. What sounds like an effort is in fact a real highlight of any stay here; treatment rooms are open-fronted stilted huts built into a cliff overlooking the sand and rock strewn peninsula, with mirrors cleverly angled underneath the treatment beds to optimise views of the ocean and sky. Treatments are offered on a ‘bottomless’ basis, with therapists tailoring them to individual aches and pains. From Sumbanese Lulur Exfoliation and traditional healing massages to natural facials and reflexology, expect hours of first-rate pampering. If that wasn’t enough seclusion and relaxation, guests can even arrange to spend the night at the spa’s remote Villa Rahasia (Indonesian for ‘secret’), perched above the beach with its own wooden staircase leading directly down to the sand. If falling off the edge of the earth together sounds appealing, we highly recommend a surreal sleepover here.
From Kids’ Pony Club with the NIHI Sumba horses, to chocolate-making workshops at the estate’s Chocolate Factory, children are welcomed with open arms at NIHI Sumba. The NIHI Wildlings activity schedule transcends the usual Kids’ Club options, with activities that encourage sensory learning, cross-cultural exploration, and imaginative play – and all of this alongside an endless stretch of sand, jungle, and private villas, enabling children to safely romp, roam and explore this paradisiacal landscape without the crowds to contend with.
Responsible luxury is the guiding principle of NIHI Sumba’s eco-friendly approach. Much of the restaurants’ produce is grown in the estate’s organic garden, fed by a clever composting and water-recycling system. The hotel’s green ethos extends beyond its walls with The Sumba Foundation’s community projects, a turtle hatchery, and measures to protect the quality of the water and the island’s plant life. In a world where hotels pay lip service to the overused, poorly defined vocabulary around conscious travel, NIHI Sumba stands out as an original, a trailblazer with green principles and social responsibility at its very core.
NIHI Sumba describe their location and spirit as ‘The Edge of Wildness’ for good reason. For travellers visiting from the UK, the journey is pretty epic, with a 17 hour flight to Bali, followed by a 45 minute hop from Bali to Sumba. A 90 minute jeep transfer cross-country to the resort allows guests to absorb the unique landscape of Sumba, where teak and mahogany plantations give way to kampung villages. Schoolchildren wave and shout hello, then the final leg of the journey serves up magnificent views of the river delta, and rice paddies, before abruptly turning at a clifftop road, where the lush, jungle-meets-sea beauty of NIHI Sumba unfolds, with those famous horses pounding the shoreline in the distance.
Rates at NIHI Sumba start from £875 per villa per night on a full board basis excluding alcohol.
To book visit: nihi.com
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