Updated: Feb 26
"The best hotel in the world and a surfers dream on Occy's Left"
Nihi Sumba (AKA Nihiwatu) was voted the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure for the second year in a row and it deserves to keep on going! Just recently taking its title for a THIRD YEAR in 2018!
NIHI Sumba - Travel and Leisure's Best Hotel in the World 2018!
This luxury island resort is located on Sumba.
Even after Travelling throughout Bali for a week (Sumba's only Flight Route), Many had never even heard of the Island.
Upon arrival, I explained that I hadn't met one person who knew where or what it was. Many thought I was referring to Sumbawa.
Please note: Sumba and Sumbawa, are two different islands! The locals of Sumba are well aware that not many have found this secluded paradise and it seems it might stay this way : )
Nihi Sumba was recreated by Chris Burch. Chris, together with hotelier James McBride, bought a beach hostel on the island in 2012. They spent US$30 million renovating the hostel, then reopened it as a five-star resort in 2015. Before Arriving at Nihi Sumba, I spent 2 nights on the island at The Sumba Hospitality Foundation and exploring the island.
How did I do it?
You may have found yourself looking up Nihi Sumba already, seeing that price tag and wondering what on earth is going on... Your eyes are seeing correctly, and you're certainly reading this properly.
After months of deep research for unique destinations, I came across NIHI Sumba. Wow! Could this be paradise? I wondered Googling the name further and more hours of research, I still didn't find much about the resort or island of Sumba.
That's when I knew I had to go. Having to rearrange my plans for my last week anyhow, I reached out with a last-minute pitch.
Nihi Sumba Island, named the world’s best hotel two years in a row at the time by Travel + Leisure, certainly captured my interest.
Where is it? How do you get there? I hardly think when telling someone the best way to get around Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, and Bali.
But now I had to look at a map. Nihi is on Sumba. It’s an island one hour, 400km's from Denpasar, the capital of Bali in Indonesia.
Then, when you land, it’s a 90-minute drive with no local transportation from Sumba’s Tambolaka Airport (TMC).
So okay this isn't an easy hop on the boat and arrive in the Gilli's kind of trip. It’s not supposed to be a weekend jaunt either!
But with only 3 nights to make the most of my trip, I pushed myself to do it anyway.
Surely we'd arrived and the airport was of the smallest I have ever seen!
From a designer's eye, here’s the layout; one rectangle room divided by doors with a tiny conveyor belt in the middle and offices, bathrooms etc.. surrounding the perimeter...
On the other side of those doors were a few families awaiting each other and a few individuals with a name on a sign.
My bag was one of the last off because I checked in so early. Fear of missing a flight. After crossing the doors I saw my name and a student from The Sumba Hospitality Foundation. Standing with another lady from my flight, who worked as a volunteer at The Hospitality Foundation, we introduced ourselves and loaded large packages and our bags into a mini looking Honda Ridgeline.
THE SUMBA FOUNDATION The Sumba Foundation is deeply committed to lessening the consequences of poverty on the island of Sumba. Their aim is to provide humanitarian aid through village-based projects that measurably impact local health by establishing access to clean water, creating educational programs, and lessening the effects of Malaria. While these are their top priorities, so too is preserving and respecting the fragile culture and traditions of the Sumbanese people.
Through the generous support of Chris Burch, owner of the Nihi Sumba Resort, all administrative costs of the Sumba Foundation are maintained, allowing 100% of donations to directly fund these meaningful projects.
At the Sumba Hospitality Foundation, they have hope in tourism helping their land. They teach their children the world of hospitality and The foundation campus includes 5 bamboo pavilions and 4 deluxe guest houses. The hotel facilities provide the opportunity for our students to practically apply their theoretical knowledge.
Despite the Indonesian Tourism Office’s solid efforts to promote tourism in the last three years, Sumba is still firmly unknown to most. Even to hardcore travellers. Yes, it is remote, but in the sense of being untouched by tourism or development and having remained pure, not in the sense of being hard to reach. Sumba still is today, what it has always been. Many say it is still what Bali once was.
If you’re travelling to Nihi please note: Nihi Sumba can organize the international and domestic flights from Bali for you or you can book your own directly on the airlines’ websites. If you avail of Nihi’s service, you will get access to the lounges in Bali and Sumba, or book your flights and give them the info. I was even able to skip the lines at the airport! Their booking also comes with extra baggage allowance, something worth noting since Wings Air allows only 10kg so you will have to pay extra luggage at a dollar a kilo. Bring Indonesia Rupiah for the payment in Sumba as they do not take any other form of payment.
We drove for an hour or two and arrived at the gates. That was one thing I noticed from this car ride. Nearly every yard was surrounded by some type of gate. I wasn't sure what to think of it... They escorted us in and I was escorted to a beautiful Traditional Style Home, this was the front office/greeting room. They explained why these homes were built the way they are and welcomed you with a cold glass of fresh papaya juice.
Ground-level is where they keep the animals, the raised main bamboo floor is the living area, and upper loft for sleeping and/or storage. The student who welcomed me and gave me a tour of the area and was fantastic with hospitality. Extremely polite and definitely cut out for the hospitality industry. This proves The Sumba Hospitality Foundation is great at what they do! Having rushed my plans to visit Sumba, I had to quickly find a local guide to help me decide what to do next, which was in the morning!
In my room, I found an incredible book filled with useful information on the island and locations to visit. I determined a route for the next morning and arranged a driver. Unfortunately, the driver didn't speak English whatsoever. This became a hassle later on. He was very happy and friendly, but I will admit I felt rushed and awkward with the communication barrier.
That first evening they took me to a restaurant, again in the middle of nowhere. Then to a beach for sunset.
I opened the gate to that beach and my first instinct was that there was something wrong…. There was a little tiki hut here a true tiki hut! Built of bamboo and those straw style roofs. But no one else in sight, just me on a pristine sand beach at sunset. Finally, after an hour I saw signs of life.
An older couple had arrived in a car to watch the sunset, they were from Australia and sold everything to retire and travel the world.
My first stop was The Local Village of Ratengarro. This community is incredible, and their location couldn't be any better. Perched upon a small cliff, overlooking a lagoon next to the Indian Ocean 😍
Upon arrival to the village, I noticed an elderly hanging their laundry up on the line. She was familiar, like I knew her from somewhere, as a heroic figure. Surely towards the end of my visit, I remembered her name is Berta. Her story was shared in the documentary above, She lost her husband to Malaria. Therefore, she has seen herself, how the Sumba Foundation is helping the local sumbanese culture and nature.
The Sumba Hospitality Foundation prepared me a cute "lunch box" for my day trip, it was adorably packed and my favourite local meal "nasi goreng" aka chicken fried rice...
We arrived at Pantai Mandorak and I couldn't believe the scenery. I felt like I had the whole island to myself.
Not once did I run into tourists yet.
Pantai Mandorak is a pristine white sand beach from a fairytale. Encaved on the rocky edge, waves crash and you hear the echo from below your feet, distributed through all the mini holes leading down to the cave below.
No one to look out for.
Nowhere to be.
Nothing to do.
and secluded in paradise.
From Pantai Mandorak, we took a quick drive over to Weekuri Lagoon. This is a stunning natural swimming pool. When I arrived there were a few locals swimming already. It took no hesitation to join them!
Before Arriving at NIhi Sumba, I spent 2 Nights and a few days on the island at The Sumba Hospitality Foundation. On my last evening, I enjoyed a dinner cooked by one of their wonderful guest chefs teaching the students that month; he was well known From Japan.
I had joined a group at the Tiki bar. I was wondering what brought them to Sumba, but it turns out they all worked there!
Which made more sense because, There's no local transportation remember? And you can't just show up and ask for help, because very little even speak English! Here’s where I met Clayton - the gentlemen who built the majority of Nihi Sumba! He was working and helping at the Foundation.
He gave me so much information on the place and its history. It was great to speak with someone who found this island years ago and could never leave. You will meet incredible people and learn so much about the island.
ABOUT THE RESORT Nihi Sumba - The name means “mortar stone,” and the beach was originally named after a rock formation on the tide.
It has become the largest local employer on the island. I was told it employs 500-700 employees every year! After my visit, I can see how that's possible now!
They have someone different to help you for everything! Something else I found interesting was that they all use What's App for communication. Upon arrival, I was given the number of a few different people around the resort to message if I needed anything at all.
A portion of the hotel’s profits are also given to the Sumba Foundation, an organization that funds projects to help the local community.
There are two, two-story tree houses on the resort; connected by a bamboo bridge. Both villas have a bedroom, a bathroom, a balcony and the main treehouse also has a living area and private infinity pool.
Traditional Sumbanese antiques, local wood, and Ikat prints are featured throughout the resort and Villa's.
At the entrance, there is a gift shop filled with beautiful items made by the locals. I was told the resort even helps them make a brand!
They invite local sumbanese women from the village to work and create items right there at the resort! this allows you to watch and learn with them.
There is a beach spa as part of the resort - NIHI Oka, A phenomenally beautiful Hike away, making it well worth it!
Although keep in mind, treatments can also be done in your own room.
The wellness center hosts daily yoga sessions, and you can also hire an Instructor to tailor your specific needs.
The beach has always been considered a surfer’s paradise.
I was told the gentleman I met, who helped with the building process, once lived off the land on these very beaches. Surfing some of the best waves in the world.
You can book excursions to nearby waterfalls, traditional villages, Lagoons, and so much more.
One trip includes a 90-minute trek to a blue lagoon where guests can jump off the rocks and swim, sometimes with the locals!
Prices for a one-bedroom villa start at US$750 a night during the low season. Burch’s five-bedroom private estate costs around US$17,000 a night throughout the year.
Crazy! but I'd say it's worth it.
Nihi has 32 private villas, including Raja Mendaka, Burch’s private home. That particular section has a main house and four additional villas, each with its own private infinity pools.
MORE ABOUT BURCH and THE RESORT
During an interview in 2015, Burch said, “I bought it for my children and as a piece of something that I hope we can preserve and give back to the community. When you’re in a place where the palette is so beautiful, you can do things that you can’t do in other places: build a spa under a waterfall, go to places where no others have been, have a butler in every room.”
Nihi Sumba was born of a vision to protect and preserve the unique culture and empower the local communities to support themselves and their families and give them the opportunity to improve their own standards of life.
My stay was Mendaka 2; My arrangements with the hotel allowed for one night and I had an early flight out the next morning. So let's call this barely even a night...
This forced me to arrive extra early the day before. My initial booked villa was not ready and at the very last minute as we approached the villa; they advised that they upgraded my stay complimentary.
Here's Mendaka 2! A guest house of Burch's Raja Mendaka
Every day, they release the horses from their stable for "free time" - When they run the beach and bath in the ocean....
Now summing it all up... Is Nihi Sumba really the best hotel in the world?! It is. Definitely!
NIHI Sumba is a LUXURIOUS RESORT on a SECLUDED island. if that isn't enough. Simply stepping off the plane into Sumba you will be breath-taken by the nature and culture.
NEWER VIDEO EDIT FEATURING SUMBA
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