A villa sits between trees at NIHI Sumba, Sumba, Indonesia

NIHI Sumba
Sumba, Indonesia


Overlooking the near-endless Nihiwatu Beach from its prime position amidst the forests of its Indonesian island home, NIHI Sumba captures the imagination with its iconic images of swimming horses. But beyond equine experiences, the world-leading resort excels at giving guests that much sought-after ‘away from it all’ feeling.

There are worse places to experience insomnia than NIHI Sumba. When we lay awake here, it wasn’t because the king-sized bed wasn’t sumptuously comfortable, or because the wafting drapes of our mosquito net and the sonorous chirp of geckos weren’t deliciously soporific. We lay awake because our week in therapy at the resort had us mulling over some big questions.

At 4am, we rose to try to walk off the nervous energy. We crossed the chilly polished-stone floor and shook a tiny, red crab (which seemed to live inside our built-in rattan settee) off of our sandals. It reminded us of the singular, unexplained artwork we’ve spotted dotted throughout the resort, which crudely (in all senses of the word) depicts a crab attacking a man’s penis. We never learned why, but we did keep our bedsheets tucked in.

We exited through the bathroom, circumnavigating the 5ft-wide freestanding metal wok that represents the bathtub, slipping out of the French doors that open onto the outdoor shower.

Padding outside into our private hilltop garden, we skimmed around our plunge pool, overlooked by a shaded daybed, and walked across the grass. The dawn sea shimmered like quicksilver. We hopped downhill on a path between frangipani trees and turned the corner when we reached our private sunset cabaña, which was so far from our room that hadn’t used it all week. Yes, we were still in our own garden — it’s huge.

Each of the Indonesian resort’s 27 accommodations is unique. Most are spacious one-to-four-bedroom villas, but there’s also the ‘Treehouse’ resort-within-a-resort, which offers large communal spaces, making it fantastic for large parties (and ideal for group therapy). Then there’s Chris Burch’s six-bed Raja Mandaka Estate, if you can stretch to around £16k per night.

What they all have in common is sea views, private pools, tons of teak, a minibar stocked with cocoa treats from the resort’s on-site chocolate factory, and a WhatsApp butler on call. None of them has a TV: the hotel doesn’t offer that kind of luxury. Really, it’s a super-exclusive surfers’ retreat.

NIHI Sumba overlooks one of the planet’s most legendary left-hand point breaks (to use surfing nomenclature), called Occy’s Left. Named in honour of Mark Occhilupo, a former World Champion surfer, it’s a bucket-list spot for wealthy wave-riders. Now private, it’s limited to just ten surfers at a time.

This Basecamp review is an extract from a longer feature article, first published in print. To read the full article, click here.

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While you’re Out There
No two Indonesian islands are alike, and Sumba prides itself on so much cultural heritage, that even if there was nothing else to do, you could visit just to learn about the island’s history and traditions. The wonderful team at NIHI can easily arrange immersive excursions to local arts and crafts markets, and a tour of the Sumba Foundation, a non-profit organisation funded by guest donations. Working with the Sumbanese people, the foundation’s projects help to improve education and healthcare locally. Guests are invited on rewarding day trips to visit a school and a medical clinic, each funded by guest contributions.

Once down on the crumbling concrete promenade, we walked past the outdoor Boathouse Bar, a rustic, wooden watersports centre; the beachfront infinity pool, the turtle enclosure, from which hatchlings are regularly released into the sea, cheered on by TikToking tourists; and the gift shop, filled with local wood carvings, jewellery, and floaty dresses.

It was too early to breakfast in Ombak Restaurant, of course, not that we’d wanted to delay our walk. Open to the elements — like most of the communal spaces at NIHI — despite the balmy climate and the obvious warmth of the waiting staff, the pace of service is invariably glacial, and orders are frequently mixed up. It’s almost impossible to get annoyed about it when confronted with such relentlessly polite, smiling staff, especially since they are employed from the local community.

One of the standout aspects of NIHI Sumba is its deep connection to its place. The resort actively supports and engages with local Sumbanese people, by helping to fund community projects, employing staff from local villages, and by cultural preservation. Each building is topped by a witch-hat-shaped, grass-thatched roof, in traditional Sumba style, and NIHI hosts weekly displays of the locals’ impeccable horsemanship, with racing and mounted spear-throwing on the beach. NIHI also has its own herd of 22 horses, offering guests the opportunity to ride along the mile-and-a-half stretch of beach and into the sea.

Tumbling down a verdurous hillside into the Indian Ocean, NIHI offers a serene and secluded experience in a remote, untouched part of the island. The lengths one has to travel to get here only enhance the castaway vibes. Visitors must take a one-hour flight from Bali, and then a scenic 90-minute drive to the resort in the back of an open-topped off-road vehicle, which gives guests the sense of entering Jurassic Park. It’s no accident we’re sure, since the resort’s tagline is ‘The Edge of Wildness,’ but passing through impoverished villages in such an extravagant 4×4 did make us feel a little uncomfortable, as if we were on a human safari.

NIHI’s signature Spa Safari experience has precisely the opposite effect. A 90-minute jungle trek is rewarded at its conclusion with clifftop, open-air treatment rooms, in which guests can indulge in body wraps, salt scrubs, facials and massages. You’ll find your hiking attire and boots waiting for you — laundered, scrubbed and dried — when you finally float back to reception.

The sound of the sea crashed far below, while expert hands and warm zephyrs caressed our sun-kissed shoulders. It was here that we finally drifted off to sleep.


Photography by Read McKendree, Georg Schorschal, Tânia Araújo and courtesy of NIHI

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