There are few places in the world where you can straddle a surfboard aloft an ‘exclusive’ wave and watch wild horses whipping up a sea-spray haze as they canter freely along a golden stretch of beach.
Throw in a backdrop of forest-clad mountains dotted with otherworldly conical structures and there’s only one enthralling spot you could be – Indonesia’s most unexplored island, Sumba.
Located 400 kilometres east of Bali, Sumba is a rugged patchwork of undulating savannah, dense forests, rice terraces and limestone cliffs. Where its sister island has been westernised and modernised, Sumba retains strong links to its history and is a deeply traditional, soulful destination.
It is also home to one of the world’s most revered and coveted resorts, Nihi Sumba.
Originally developed as a surf retreat to provide guests with access to the region’s sought-after waves, Nihi Sumba is set on 467 acres of tropical vegetation and grasslands that wrap around the pumping Nihiwatu beach.
As the brainchild of American entrepreneur, Chris Burch and South African-born hotelier, James McBride, it has morphed into a five-star resort that has captured the hearts of travellers from around the globe.
Featuring 27 rustic-luxe villas built in traditional Sumbanese style, complete with private pools, canopy beds, and uninterrupted ocean views; the resort’s aesthetic is a fusion of tradition and luxury, free from all pretence.
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Where it stands apart from other high-end properties, however, is its affinity with local culture and community. Nihi Sumba is an example of a sustainable operation in harmony with the Sumbanese people and the resort offers plenty of opportunities to experience the island’s magnificently preserved ancient culture, such as trips to local villages to see traditional arts and crafts, megalithic burial sites and exquisite Ikat weavings.
The most rewarding experience of all, however, is visiting the Sumba Foundation, which was founded in 2001 to help alleviate the crushing burdens of poverty the locals were living under, by focusing on water, health, education and economic projects.
The foundation’s key achievements to date include treating 407,000 patients across four clinics; reducing malaria rates by 93% in core project areas; developing more than 65 wells and 260 water stations; and supplying water, toilets and supplies to 22 primary schools.
Adding to its allure, the resort also prides itself on being environmentally friendly and in addition to the use of natural building materials, its impressive sustainability practices include organic gardens that produce the majority of the resort’s delicious food and a comprehensive composting and water recycling system.
Nihi Sumba’s tagline ‘on the edge of wildness’ is more than a whimsical marketing ploy; it’s an apt description of the resort’s unique setting. For guests, it encapsulates an intoxicating way of life that stays with them – however infinitesimally –for life.
From riding majestic horses on the beach; to enjoying private breaks with no more than nine other surfers; and embarking on signature excursions including spa safaris, visits to local Stone Age sites, picnics under waterfalls and treks along butterfly trails; it is the perfect place to unplug and connect with the earth.