Ombak restaurant facing the stunning Nihiwatu shore.
Sun, sea and beaches are common features that you will find in an archipelago country like Indonesia, where over 17,000 islands are offering more or less the same. However each island offers something different in way of life, culture and also tradition, making it interesting to discover.
On my recent trip to Nihiwatu resort on Sumba island, the common sun, sea and surf concept was taken to a whole new level by adding adventure onto the list as well as indigenous culture that has existed since Neolithic times.
Situated in the Southwest Sumba Regency, this stunning resort is built on the coast of Nihiwatu with white sandy beaches, decorated with gigantic coral rocks and perfect waves that would be every surfer’s dream. Originally founded by Claude and Petra Graves in 1988, Nihiwatu resort was recently acquired by renowned brand-building American entrepreneur, Christopher Burch together with his friend and well-seasoned hotelier, James McBride.
The honeymoon suite with private pool and sunset deck facing the sea.
With the new investment in Nihiwatu, it is aiming to be the best resort in the world demonstrating a sustainable operation with the environment and the Sumbanese people.
The 21 existing private villas (with 11 more coming to completion in Summer 2015) are built on private terraces and pools with large verandahs facing the dramatic sea view. Each villa is designed to follow the form of a Sumbanese house with towering thatched roofs, but with interiors offering the best modern comforts. The most important aspects of Sumbanese architecture –the four pillar concept– is also sophisticatedly incorporated into all the villas. Each pillar represents its own purpose. The two on the right side of the house are male, while the two on the left are female. And all this greatness is accompanied by true Sumbanese hospitality, as 90% of Nihiwatu staff is local and very friendly, yet polite.
James McBride, one of the owners, showcasing a polo game on the beach during sunset.
In this all-inclusive resort, not only can we enjoy delicious dishes by resident German-Mexican chef, Bernard Prim, from breakfast till dinner, but also the freedom to run your day. From literally not doing anything by the side of your private pool with a glass of champagne, all-day spa rituals (they have superb treatments), to horse riding and even high-adrenalin water sports (i.e. surfing, snorkeling, diving etc) with their resident experts – this is standard fare that Nihiwatu has for you. To get all the other fun you need to go outside the resort.
Our guide Arifin posing at the entrance of Weihola village.
Introducing the Nihi Oka excursion. Located about 30 minutes drive from the resort, Nihi Oka is an exquisite beach with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. They have built a terrace facing the ocean attached to a tree; basically it’s a tree house. Open for breakfast only, the entire breakfast is cooked on an open fire pit. This followed by a short reflexology session in the bamboo pavilion nearby will make a perfect start to your day. Now if you are feeling adventurous and love getting that morning sweat, then you can leave the resort early for a two-hour walk to Nihi Oka. This trek will take you directly through Sumba’s natural landscape and provide an opportunity to meet the locals going about their daily lives.
The majestic beauty of Lapopu Falls
Not too far from Nihi Oka you can also visit one of Southwest Sumba’s traditional villages, called Weihola, which still follows the Megalithic living tradition. Time has literally stopped in this village and there is no sign of water, electricity or any modern technology anywhere. Everything is still the same as in their ancestor’s time, except for the clothing. Here and there are big, rectangular stone tombs with large, carved stone slabs, which represent the village symbol. Some women here are half naked and weave ikat cloth. The primeval sights here really feel surreal and are almost like a scene from National Geographic. It is definitely unique and exotic. Nevertheless, when you talk to most of the villagers, you will surely feel humble and touched, as they are a very nice and friendly people.
A local woman at Weihola with her unfinished woven ikat cloth.
From the exotic scene of Weihola, we went to cool off on one of Sumba’s most beautiful waterfalls known as Lapopu Fall. As one of Nihiwatu resort’s signature excursions, the trek to this waterfall is perfect for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, families that love adventure, or even for a couple that looks for a romantic escape and an unforgettable experience. A 45-minute open-air safari by Land Rover, plus another 15 minutes on foot will bring you to this majestic waterfall that drops from a hundred-metre height into a natural pool within a small canyon. It is a stunning piece of nature.
Don’t rush your time when you are in a heavenly place such this place. I was there for four days and it still was not enough to enjoy everything. Make sure you visit the Sumba Foundation with Alexandria Wyllie as your guide to learn about how they help prevent malaria and dig wells for the local people. It’s great to give back a little to people who have shared with us their piece of heaven.
The Sumbanese people believe that their ancestors known as the “Marapu’ landed on the secluded beach of Nihiwatu centuries ago. Though belief in this story may vary, the ever-enchanting spirit will always remain. For me, Nihiwatu resort and Sumba island are definitely my new favorite holiday destination!