Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Indonesian Travel Diary Pt 2: Nihiwatu on Sumba Island

Cue Tony Bennett: "I left my heart, in Sumba Island"...

There is so much to love about Sumba, its untouched natural beauty, the culture, the people, the smiling children who wave excitedly as you drive past them in their thatched roof houses, and Nihiwatu, the only resort on the island.

 We left Bali to travel 400km west on an hour-long flight to reach this island (see Part 1 of my Indonesian Travel Diary here), after which we had the choice to ride an open-air jeep or an air-conditioned vehicle sent by Nihiwatu Resort.  We chose the jeep, which was a lovely way to enjoy the 'Sumba vibe' on our hour-long drive from the airport to the coast.

  Spread over 567 acres of land on the edge of Sumba, Nihiwatu Resort is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, from tropical forests, to rice fields and grasslands, as well as a stunning two and half kilometres of beachfront protected by headlands.  Out of the 567 acres of land only 65 acres are committed to development, in an effort to preserve the islands untouched beauty, and prevent it becoming the next Bali.  The resort itself is luxurious yet not pretentious, retaining the local charm with its steeply thatched roofs, and large kasambi tree trunks for support columns, sumbanese Ikat tapestries (which you can purchase at the resort's boutique) and black and white prints of local villagers hang on ochre stone walls.

The original founder of the resort, Claude Graves ran the resort almost as a non-profit establishment, giving back to the Sumbanese community by establishing The Sumba Foundation, aimed at alleviating poverty and eradicating malaria on the island by operating free health clinics and sinking wells in the nearby villages.  Guests often volunteer to help during at the clinics during their stay.  Burch explains that the indigenous population is in dire need. Geographical isolation and a short rainy season mean that Sumba’s inhabitants have always faced hardship. But over the last eight years financial crisis and political uncertainty in Indonesia have interrupted regular aid, and famine and disease have threatened the future of the islanders.  Over the past 13 years, the foundation has set up more than 15 primary schools, built 48 water wells, five clinics, supplied 172 villages with clean water and reduced malaria by 85 percent in neighbouring villages. The resort employs more than 90 percent local Sumbanese people and guests are encouraged to visit the villages and donate generously.

The resort was recently sold to hotelier James McBride and investor Chris Burch, who share Claude's vision. Thankfully there was no attempt to change the terms, and McBride and Burch aim to grow the foundation whilst preserving the island's beauty and its culture.

You can do anything or nothing at Nihiwatu, or both.  Cozing up and relaxing pool-side at the villa, or spending time on the sand or sea is a very inviting way to spend the day.  But there is also an extensive list of activities offered by the resort, from water sports (spearfishing, stand-up paddle boarding down Wanukaka river through the villages, snorkelling, scuba diving, and let's not forget surfing - the island is well known for its left break, attracting surfers from around the world), to their on-site and off-site spa (Nihi Oka) for those who want a pampering session, to short 'excursions' to the Rice Fields, or the Blue Waterfall (incredible!) or a Nihi Oka Spa Safari experience (scroll down for more on all three).  There is something for everyone.  There is also horse riding, and a kids' club.  I am now plotting on returning with my little ones along next time, they would absolutely love it here (as have I).

This is a place where one forges unforgettable memories...

 Seriously the bed of my dreams...

 One of the two amazing outdoor showers at my Villa

 Enjoying the view from my very own private plunge pool on the verandah...
  The view from Omback restaurant (where breakfast and dinner are served)
Beautiful food a la carte (great to minimize wastage) - mangosteen for breakfast? Yes please!

 If you feel like staying in, you can have breakfast on your verandah instead, or anywhere on the Resort.
  Dinner right by the beach...which is where lunch is also served.

 The resort is also rolling out a raw vegan menu, curated by Melbourne-based Simone Baldwin, which was oh so delicious! These falafels and zucchini pasta were just amazing!
When you don't feel like walking the Resort's extensive grounds, you can simply call for a Tuk Tuk
On Tuesdays, the Resort hosts an incredibly fun and beautiful Jungle party.
Nihiwatu's Turtle Sanctuary - this little guy hatched only a couple of hours prior, and was going to be released back into the water shortly after.

The view from the Yoga Platform at Nihiwatu is just breathtaking, wish I could start every morning like this - group sessions are held twice daily, and you can also arrange for private sessions.
(photo by Chloe Paul)

 View from the Yoga Platform
The traditional, beautiful and well-known Sumbanese 'Ikat' (hand-woven textile) - work in progress on the Resort's grounds.
You see that rightmost black Ikat on the bottom-shelf? It came home with me, along with a Sumbanese hat, also from the Resort's Boutique.
Each villa has their own 'butler', we had Robert, who was an absolute delight!  We really fell in love with the Sumbanese people and their kind, generous and warm nature...
On the private beach of the Nihiwatu Resort...untouched beauty

 The resort has numerous water activities on offer, including snorkelling, stand-up paddling, scuba diving, and fishing.  This was the fishing boat we took out one afternoon with the hilarious South-African 'waterboy' Paul...

Just a 15 minute drive away from the Resort, is their off-site Nihi Oka Spa.

Nihi Oka Spa sitting pretty

 Guests can choose from a great 'menu' of treatments, which are given in beautiful private treehouses overlooking the resort's two private beaches.
 Pristine waters...guests are encouraged to stay the day here, have lunch in one of the treehouses, wander

Couples who massage together stay together 
(photo by Chloe Paul)
 Where rice fields meet the sea...Nihi Oka Safari
 Blissed out after a deep tissue massage...

The 'love' tree on one of Nihi Oka's private beaches

One of the highlights of my stay was the trecking excursion to the island's Blue Waterfall (only discovered in recent years).  The treck through the forest and the beautiful and majestic waterfall itself are something I will never foreget.  The resort organized a picnic which we enjoyed atop a mossy rock right at the edge of the waterfall....unforgettable!

Our local guides foraging the area.

 Another lovely excursion on offer is to visit the Rice Fields, where you can also receive Spa Treatments with a beautiful view like this
The view of water buffalos in the field from my open air jeep (you can treck to 'Rice Island' or elect to go by car, I chickened out and went by jeep while hubby did the treck)

Hubby's tour guide Tiger, who is an incredibly warm hearted, resourceful and talented man...He asked whether those who trecking were thirsty, and nimbly climbed up a coconut tree to cut down some cant get coconut water fresher than that!
(photo by Mr Brigs)

Beautiful rice terraces.

Living (and lunching) on the edge...BBQ lunch organized by the resort which followed an incredibly session of reflexology with this view, amazing.

  Swing with a view...
 The incredible spread prepared by the Resort...Indonesian food at its best.  I fell in love with both the Sumbanese and Balinese sambal. I later told a lovely lady by the name of Jenny of my love for these sambals, and she kindly asked the chef to print me the recipes for both! Priceless.

Of course I couldn't resist jumping on the swing...
(photo by Jasmine Howell of Friend in Fashion)

All images taken by me unless otherwise stated .
(clicking on images will allow you to view them in a larger format)

Thank you Nihiwatu and Leading Hotels of the World for the unforgettable memories! 

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  1. Hey there! I have a friend in Bali, she posts the most amazing pictures there (the picturesque scenery helps, I am sure!) and she always tells me to come visit if I can. Seeing your pictures makes me feel like I am already there! I started searching for Nihiwatu and the Sumba island and it seems like such an amazing amazing place. Untouched beauty isn't something we find nowadays, even in places you might expect them to. Its great that the founders and the current owners of the resort could feel the natural tone and have been able to help keep the balance.

    The pictures are amazing, both from Bali and Sumba. I am certainly making plans for going there when I am able. So completely awesome.

    Take care and lots of love!

    1. Thanks Annalise! Sumba sure is completely awesome! :) x

  2. My oh my... how magical!!!! What a wonderful place! I would love to experience it one day!

  3. I had not ever heard of Sumba Island until earlier this morning and now I see your post! I think the universe is trying to send me a message. Must go!