Sumba Island is rooted in an ancient mystique. Locals live surrounded by their ancestors, in houses with towering thatched roofs that cluster around megalithic tombs. It’s an island that still lives by the beliefs of animism; where wild horses wander at the shoreline, occasionally rounded up to partake in a brutal game of pasola, where hundreds of horse riders fight with spears.
Nihi Sumba has taken these elements into consideration when creating what it bills as “a luxury resort with a conscience”.
Surrounded by acres of tropical forest that sweep down into valleys, the resort has an interesting backstory. Surf enthusiasts Claude and Petra Graves travelled to the Indonesian island in the Eighties, primarily to find waves. Starting as a simple shack, the property was then bought by billionaire Chris Burch and James McBride, who developed it into a series of private villas.
Nowadays, the high-end collection of villas reflects local Sumbanese culture and architecture, merging grass-thatched menara roofs, locally-woven ikat cloths, and a beach-chic mentality. The 27 villas and treehouse come in all shapes and sizes but all offer big windows, open lounges, ocean views, four-poster beds and private infinity pools.
Straight out of The Faraway Tree is the Mamole Tree House, three separate but conjoining villas wrapped around a tree trunk. Ideal for those seeking complete jungle seclusion, each villa comes with a personal butler if one wishes to venture into the outside, who organises hikes and spa safaris.
Though luxurious, eco principles still guide the property, with produce grown on-site and fed by a water-recycling system.
When it comes to food, Ombak is the resort’s gastronomic hub. Sat on the sand, with sweeping ocean views, Head Chef Bernard Prim serves up a mixture of produce from the garden and fish from the sea, fused with an Indonesian flair. Next door is Nio Beach Club, perfect for chilled days in the sun whilst gorging on grilled fish and pizzas straight from the clay oven. There’s also a boathouse by the infinity pool, which serves sundowners and canapés.
Nihi Sumba is not a place to simply sunbathe and switch off. Experiences are in abundance, from sunset horse riding to sunrise yoga, island trekking, and visits to the resort’s cocoa factory to learn how to make (and eat) chocolate.
Water-based activities include stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, diving and surfing with Tropicsurf at the infamous Occy’s Left break, or the quieter Coconut Cove.
After activity, comes serenity. As well as open-air spa pavilions, an interesting shake-up of the traditional resort spa experience comes in the form of a safari – a journey to a secluded valley where four bamboo-clad treatment rooms await. Pick one of the homemade aromatic oils and indulge in a deep tissue massage, looking out over the peaceful paddy fields.
From the concierge
Nihi Sumba Island is home to one of the world’s most coveted private waves. Known as Occy’s (after Australian surfer Mark Occhilupo), the wave is notorious for its sensitivity – changing as it does in tides, size, strength, and direction. The team caps the amount of surfers to ten a day, adding to the experience. More beginner-friendly waves can be found at Coconut Cove, where surfers can spend half a day with breakfast or lunch.
Trek Nihi Oka
6:30am heralds the start of a two-hour trek, to nearby Nihi Oka valley. Hike through thick palm tree jungle to explore settlements of thatched traditional clan houses, before descending into a valley of cascading paddy fields full of maize and cassava. Upon arrival, breakfast is served in the treetops.
The Sumba Foundation
The Sumba Foundation came about after Claude and Petra Graves first developed the resort, a period when they and the local Sumbanese people struggled with frequent bouts of malaria and access to clean water. Now, guests can visit a local water project, a Malaria-combating health clinic, or volunteer one morning with the school lunch programme.