Off the Beaten Track x Nihi SumbaBy Olivia Bardy, OB Luxury Travel
Olivia Bardy, travel extraordinaire, offers an insight into Nihi Sumba in Indonesia - an incredible, secret destination perfect for your honeymoon or a bit of R&R.
Very few people know of this stunning, five-star property and the different features that make it so
completely unique and special to its visitors. The hotel was taken over from its original owner, Claude Graves in 2012 by Chris Burch and South African hotelier, James McBride and they’ve continued his vision over the past 8 years to create a paradise commonly referred to as “The Edge of Wilderness”.
Nihi Sumba is an Indonesian island approximately 300 kms east of, and a one-hour flight from, Bali, in the Lesser Sunda Islands. Once you arrive in Nihi the journey to the property is approximately 90
minutes, however you’re welcomed into your open-safari jeep with fresh coconuts and home-cooked treats that make the drive to the hotel just as luxurious and pleasant as the rest of your stay.
Upon arrival at our Villa, ‘Kanatar’, my husband and I needed a moment to take in the incredible views in front of us. Despite being one of the smallest villas on the property, it was exactly what we were looking for; complete privacy, a private pool, a beautiful lounge area (with a fully stocked mini bar!) underneath the main bedroom and panoramic views over the island and 2.5km beach. We particularly loved the rustic décor and cosy furnishing - it made us feel completely at home as soon as we arrived.
We quickly freshened up in our outdoor jungle shower and sought about going to explore this
wonderful paradise we had arrived in. We discovered the Surfer’s Beach Bar and introduced ourselves to the team here, who would soon become friends, and later enjoyed some delicious lunch on the beach. The food from breakfast to dinner was always delicious. Most days we indulged in ceviche and other fresh fish as well as crunchy, home grown salad options. The evening menu is a la carte and slightly more gourmet. You will also come across the hotel sommelier who is one of the best, we were consistently thrilled by all his suggestions!
Privacy at Sumba is important. You don’t stumble across other guests too frequently, unless of course you want too! We ended up returning with a whole hoard of new friends who we are still in contact with now. Whether you are enjoying a drink whilst watching the stunning sunsets at the surfer’s bar, watching the horses galloping on the beach or taking part in a group surf lesson, you’re guaranteed to make wonderful new connections from all over the world. We found that everyone has travelled to Sumba looking for the same type of experience and that makes a lovely common ground.
Sumba is especially famous for its famous wave, ‘Occy’s Left’. The wave was named by the professional Australian surfer Mark Occy and is regarded as one of the best private waves in SE Asia, drawing in visitors from all over the world. That said, by far (for me) the most special part of Nihi Sumba is the Sumba Horses (Sandalwood Ponies). The horses roam free along the beach and fields throughout the day and are tame enough to ride and even swim with. I went swimming with the horses several times and it was truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I can’t recommend it more, even if you aren’t a horse rider! I managed to drag my husband for a few beach gallops during sunset.
The activities on offer at Sumba are endless. Indulge in paddle boarding down local rivers, releasing baby sea turtles into the ocean (dependent on the team of year) and the opportunity to visit the local Sumba Foundation. We didn’t have a chance to do everything, however we did experience the 7km Spa Safari Trek. You head out in the morning and walk across the local rice fields and surrounding jungle, finishing in the most beautiful private ocean-side retreat dedicated purely to pampering you all day whilst you relax on the side of the ocean. Just bliss!
We were lucky enough to be visiting at a very rare time of year during the Pasola. Every February and March, colourful ritual displays known as the Pasola are held by the Western Sumbanese to herald a good harvest. On horseback, villagers on opposing teams engage with blunted spears to dismount one another, demonstrating skilled riding and accuracy. The Pasola is deemed successful when blood is shed to fertilize the soil, “making the spirits happy.” It was truly one of the most incredibly things to watch, albeit rather dangerous being a spectator! The event traditionally begins when Nyale, a certain kind of sea worm, swims to shore, signifying the end of the wet season and the beginning of crop- planting. Early in the morning the marapu priests and their entourage descend onto the beach to perform a prayer. They sacrifice a black cock to the gods and check the heart of the cock to read the signs from the gods as to whether to proceed with the pasola. They approach the sea afterwards to collect the colourful sea worm, then proceed to the field where the pasola will be played.
Everything about this beautiful part of the world is magical. All the rooms are different in their own
specific way, we were lucky enough to view quite a few (whilst planning out future stay!) and each has its own charm that makes it unique. We were upgraded into the Mandaka Villa for our final night, which was incredibly spoiling. The service is faultless; the hotel managers Julien Laracine and his wife Cara being completely brilliant as are the entirety of their staff. Someone was always on hand to help or just to have a good old chat over a cocktail! Ruben was also the best Butler we could have asked for and completely amazing. I can’t recommend this property as a honeymoon getaway more highly particularly if you are looking to do something a little different or even nothing at all.
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