Just occasionally, very occasionally, a resort is designed that brings together everything that really matters to create an experience that is quite exceptionally good. The world today offers a dazzling array of choice but equally, a slight sense of ubiquity pervades every infinity pool, urban mixologist and highfalutin pillow menu. In today’s frenetic world, people crave a place that is unusual, where immersion in a strange culture is a given and where most of all, it is possible to have, that often forgotten word, fun. Nihiwatu is such a place.
But to understand Nihiwatu, it has to be placed in context. The Indonesian island of Sumba lies southwest of Flores across the Sumba Strait. Situated in the province of East Nusa Tengara, it covers over 11,000 km² (about half the size of Wales) and has a population of some 650,000 people. This is a highly segmented society based on a predominantly animistic caste system. Infant mortality is high, access to clean water a challenge and education poor. The island is host to over 200 species of birds and it is one of the few places in the world that megalithic burials are still performed (last performed in England during the Bronze Age). It is said that headhunting has not entirely died out and the legendary game of pasola is still played, in which multiple warriors on horseback fight with spears, occasionally resulting in death.
Nihiwatu however, is unadulterated luxury. The brainchild of American financier Chris Burch and consummate hotelier (lately of The Carlyle, New York) James McBride. Between them, they have set about creating a resort that is in the wildest setting imaginable, but where the accommodation, food, service and activities are all world class. And every penny they make is ploughed back into the community through their non-profit arm, the Sumba Foundation.
The concept is simple: take advantage of one of the world’s great surf spots, build a spectacular resort of only 30 rooms and massively improve the island living conditions for the locals, of which over 200 are employed by the resort. The real beauty lies in the unstructured daily life. Feel like a surf lesson… just wander down to the Boathouse. Interested in doing some pelagic scuba diving on Magic Mountain (a massive limestone pinnacle lying just under the surface about a mile offshore)… just ask and a state-of-the art dive boat will appear as if by magic. Or perhaps start the day with morning yoga beside a waterfall surrounded by birds and flowers before riding bareback along the five mile private beach. Later on, head off in one of the stripped down safari Land Rovers on a mini expedition to see the incredible work of the Sumba Foundation and help serve up lunch in the local school. Afterwards, inspired by what you have seen, perhaps venture off with Suki if he’s around – a world class photographer (with National Geographic cover shots to his credit) to record the extraordinary tribal life on the island.
And when all is done, end the day at the beautiful jungle spa before heading down to the spectacular Wavefront dining room with its sand floor, long hardwood table and massive thatched roof. Here you will be among Hollywood A listers, captains of industry, affluent travellers and a host of fascinating individuals from the ‘Guru Village’, a residency programme for experts on all manner of skills who are there to share their knowledge. Dinner never disappoints.
A stay at Nihiwatu is unlike any other. Simply put, it is an incredible experience… and what the future blueprint of travel will look like. Adventure, style, beauty and philanthropy on an epic scale. Totally restorative. And above all, the best fun imaginable.
Red Savannah offers holidays to Nihiwatu on Sumba from £4,394 per person based on two adults sharing. This includes international flights between London Heathrow and Bali with Qatar Airways, domestic flights between Bali and Sumba (including VIP Lounge access), one night in a One Bedroom Pool Villa at Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali, six nights in a One Bedroom Luxury Villa at Nihiwatu and airport transfers. Accommodation at Nihiwatu includes all meals, afternoon tea/coffee, soft drinks and WiFi. Price based on travelling in June.
By GEORGE MORGAN-GRENVILLE