Cradled in mother nature’s arms on a deserted white-sand beach fringed with palm trees as the sun kisses your skin and the ocean laps at your feet, you realise that this romantic version of a Robinson Crusoe dream is indeed reality. You’re at Nihiwatu, “the edge of wildness”.
Nestled along a secluded beach on Sumba Island in Indonesia, Nihiwatu marries unspoiled nature and adventure experiences of a lifetime with the most exquisite luxury one can dream of.
After a one-hour flight from Bali and a 90-minute drive through the thick Sumba forest and Rijewa mountain range at 500 metres above sea level, you finally arrive at the entrance and very top of the estate, where an unspoiled vista of pristine coastline and lush green jungle unfolds in front of you. Taking in this serenity-inducing view and gazing across the glistening ocean, you can’t help but be lured to explore the 560 hectares of this exotic and verdant fairy tale-esque playground.
The 28 rustic, luxurious thatched-roof villas at Nihiwatu are tucked away behind trees, offering secluded privacy and undisturbed views of the Indian Ocean, creating a beautiful oasis. The pools and al fresco bathrooms call for midnight swims and showers under the stars, and you are naturally invited to spend most of your stay outdoors, as the resort blurs any lines between the guest and the wild.
All adventures and excursions are curated in a way to include the rawness of the natural surroundings, leaving you immensely fulfilled, on a physical as well as emotional and spiritual level, as you bathe in the beauty of nature.
Its down-to-earth attitude, once cultivated by husband-and-wife team Claude and Petra Graves, who pitched a tent on the shore of Sumba Island back in 1988 and went on to build Nihiwatu, can still be felt throughout the entire resort. In 2013, the couple sold the property to American serial entrepreneur Chris Burch, the co-founder of Tory Burch, who brought on veteran hotelier James McBride as his business partner, and together they’ve given Nihiwatu a luxurious overhaul and revamped it to the point where it started to gain attention from travel journalists around the world and garnered the much-deserved title of No. 1 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure magazine earlier this year. Without sacrificing any of its philanthropic or conservation efforts, the resort stays true to its original idea to keep areas of the 560 hectares of tropical forest undeveloped, allowing guests to resonate with and marvel at the wondrousness of this untouched speck of land.
Activities abound. You can enjoy romantic walks along the 2.5-kilometre-long beach; indulge in fresh seafood lunches at Nio on the shore or dinner at Ombak perched atop a cliff; volunteer at the local school; explore the Sumba Foundation which aims to eliminate malaria and offers eye operations, clean water and education to the islanders; surf one of Indonesia’s best breaks at The Wave; hike to the Blue Waterfall for a chilly dip in the lagoon; go spear fishing or diving; welcome newborn turtles at the hatchery; opt for horseback riding along the deserted beach as the island slowly wakes from its slumber; or treat yourself to an epic evening yoga class while you take in an almost 360-degree view of a colourful Sumbanese sunset in cobra pose.
However, the highlight of your trip will be a 90-minute trek over rolling hills and through villages to the breathtaking final destination of Nihi Oka, where the Spa Safari pampers you into oblivion. Flanked by lush rice paddies and nestled between two private beaches, this tropical paradise invites you to enjoy lunch in a treetop setting overlooking the ocean and spend the afternoon channelling your inner Adam and Eve as you frolic on the beach or receive spa treatments in your personal clifftop open-air pavilion and relax during a body massage to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below.
Since June, guests who come to explore Nihi Oka for a day can now also stay overnight at this remote destination in its only villa, allowing you to fall asleep and wake up to this magical vista. Uma Izzie is a luxe one-bedroom Sumbanese-inspired property that offers secluded privacy from the rest of the world,coupled with nature’s untouched beauty. Your personal butler will cater to your every whim and, on arrival, you will find that your overnight belongings have already been delivered and that you have the freedom to enjoy the day in whatever way you desire: in the crystal-clear ocean, by the beach, in the infinity pool, being pampered, doing yoga or meditation, or simply enjoying the tranquil and soothing views from the veranda of your villa, knowing that you have this corner of the earth all to yourself.
Once you’ve explored every inch of this magical piece of land, it’s time to savour the signature Sumbanese sunset before indulging in a romantic tête-à-tête dinner perched high on the cliff, surrounded by a thousand candles and the soothing sound of the ocean.
As if Nihiwatu wasn’t already romantic enough, the Overnight Uma Izzie Villa and Spa Safari Experience propels your paradisiacal ideas of utopia to a completely new level, making it the ultimate addition to any honeymoon or the perfect setting to pop the question. This memorable night in heaven is everything you could ever ask for. And to top off this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll rise to a breathtaking view overlooking the ocean and a bush-cooked breakfast, complete with healthy pressed juices and freshly brewed coffee.
As you take in the sunrise and the unspoiled scenery one last time, removed from the burdens of society and rejuvenated and nurtured by Mother Nature, you can easily return home with a reawakened vision and renewed goals, resting well assured that the world is once again your oyster.