Revered as one of Asia’s best locations for quality surf breaks, nothing is more of a dREAMSCAPE experience than checking out Nihiwatu, a superb resort now listed in the world’s top 50 according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and it’s located in my home country!
Since it was taken over by American billionaire Chris Burch in 2013, the transformation of Nihiwatu has been outstanding, luring affluent travelers from around the world to what was once a simple 10 room
laid back surfing retreat. The resort’s clientèle these days–which includes pro surfers, wealthy amateurs, Forbes magazine A-list owners and the occasional non-surfing celebrity–are all seeking splendid isolation with a sense of purpose.
The location has long been famous for its magical, consistent waves – and just 90 meters off Nihiwatu beach is one of the world’s most perfect waves. The breaks are best at 4’ and above, and the most common swells range 8-10’, reaching up to 12’ on a few occasions each year. Facing southwest into the Indian Ocean, these swells originate thousands of kilometers away in Antarctica. But it is the natural beauty that is the primary draw of Nihiwatu. With over 35 activities to choose from, including some of the world’s best surfing spots and stand-up paddle at Wanukaka River, Nihiwatu embraces an Eco-friendly, all-natural, organic lifestyle that rounds out its appeal. It is home to a dozen or so yoga retreats, day spas, natural healing programs and a culinary scene that emphasizes super-fresh ingredients such as farm-fresh produce and just-caught seafood.
This is the kind of place where a healthy crowd assembles at the beach every day just to experience the stunning sunset in a Zen-like tribute to nature. All of this has gained Nihiwatu a reputation as a surfer’s idyll, one with a surprisingly high standard of comfort yet remote enough to feel you have dropped off the map, in addition to its super luxury for beach lovers, divers, adventurers and health freaks.
Although it has recently been upgraded into a super luxury resort, Nihiwatu is special and has a soul unlike the usual luxury resorts I have stayed in. The founder of Nihiwatu has done a great job in establishing a balance in combining exotic surf with genuine local community experiences. Soon after its opening by original founder, the Graves, back in 2000, the non-profit Sumba Foundation was established to bring health-care, clean water, education and employment to the people of Sumba island.
As a result, guests can spend their time at the resort volunteering at the foundation’s clinics, visiting schools and local villages and talking to the locals and perhaps making a difference in their lives. These interactions are part of what makes Nihiwatu so unique, and has earned it such a cult-like following. The new management has taken this philosophy one notch higher by giving all its profits to the Sumba Foundation.
What I love most about Nihiwatu is that it offers zero room to pretend to be someone you are not, and it allows you to have it all during your holiday – the beach, the sunset, the adventure, the romance, the healthy pursuits, the water experiences, the local culture. Most importantly, I can have a balanced holiday owning my privacy, yet meeting other people when I want to. When I want to be on my own and enjoy my solitude, Nihiwatu is big enough to not be found without isolating myself only in my villa. If I want to mingle and meet other guests, the resort offers places just for that.
While most luxury resorts focus only on giving you full privacy, both from other guests and staff, Nihiwatu also has an activities center with a bar facing the beautiful sunset. At this picturesque place, like-minded travelers can share their common interests, whether it be their love of surfing, the sunset, the drinks, the fishing, the horse riding, the paddling…
No one asks about your job, where you’re from, all the small talk that you usually have to experience when meeting new people. It’s all about the positive, the love of life. After all, that’s why you are at Nihiwatu. During my stay, I became good friends with three Americans, one a high profile stockbroker, and the others a wonderful couple that live in Seattle. I also become friends with my Indonesian guests who were at the resort with their children.
Meanwhile, I could still enjoy a romantic dinner in private away from the eyes of people just after the sunset, then continue with the weekly resort party that Nihiwatu hosts to bring everyone in the resort together. It’s almost too perfect to be true, and yet it exists.
At the end of my five-day stay, there was nothing more pleasurable than to extend for an additional day and prolong my enjoyment. But all good things come to an end, and I finally left Nihiwatu in its open safari jeep safe in the knowledge that it would not be long until I returned. And the resort has inspired me to begin surfing, and on that next visit, and the many more after that, I will give the world’s best waves a try
HOW TO GET THERE
• Daily flights available from Bali to Sumba by Garuda Airlines.
• Continue the journey over an enjoyable 90-minute drive by open safari jeep from the airport to the remote southwest coast of the island where the resort is located.
Safari spa (minimum half day to full day): A one of a kind experience that combines soft adventure with local cultural experiences before indulging in all the spa has to offer. Guests are taken on a private trek over the rolling hills, passing through rice fields and local villages. Your destination, Nihi Oka, is your private place on the cliff tops overlooking the breaking waves of the bluest ocean. When you are done with the full range of body treatments, and a healthy lunch, have a swim off the most pristine beach in private. There is no time limit. Stay and enjoy the massages, the beach, the services, for as long as you want for the day. Now that’s what we call redefining a truly customized luxury service.
Surfing (option 1): If you are a surfer or wannabe, then Nihiwatu is an absolute must. Available for both beginners and advance surfers, Nihiwatu has the world’s most exclusive waves. Its unique location guarantees exposure to magnificent swells, but what makes it special is that its surfing experiences are reserved for only 10 guests per day, costing $100 per person. This is ensure that you will enjoy the maximum in surfing without having to wait for too many other surfers.
River stand up paddle at wanukaka river (option 2): For those who are not surfers, a scenic adventure through the Sumbanese river culture is a must. Climb on board the paddle and let the river take you through the sights and sounds of the terrain, wildlife and people along the river.
OUR FAVORITE ROOM
COUPLES: MARANGGA VILLAS comprise one bedroom (48.68 m2 ) with a private garden, outdoor shower, bathtub, outdoor dining and lounge area, terrace and decking, complete with a private plunge pool (30.8 m2 ). The spectacular Cliffside Bale elevated above the sea provides a little nook for daytime sun-gazing or nighttime star-gazing. Equipped with a mosquito net, guests can even sleep under the stars on the daybed. Marangga villas offer secluded privacy perfect for honeymoons or romantic escapes.
FAMILIES: LULU AMAHU VILLAS are perfect for families. They feature one master bedroom (30.67m2 -34 m2 ) connecting to a children’s bedroom (21.28m2 -34 m2 ) with two day beds, one en-suite sharing bathroom, spacious living room with guest bathroom, terrace and decking with an outdoor perched Bale leading to a private plunge pool (22.9m2 -40m2 ).
GROUP OF FRIENDS or VVIP: RAJA MANDAKA is the private estate of owner Chris Burch, the New York billionaire whose ex-wife, Tory Burch, is famous for her eponymous luxury fashion brand. This is the most spectacular residence at the resort and takes prime position overlooking the famous Nihiwatu waves and coastline.