Waves of Bliss ~ Nihiwatu, Sumba, Indonesia
If the wait time to ride the waves at popular Bali swells like Dreamland and Uluwatu begins to remind you of a Friday-night traffic snarl in Kuta, then it’s time you checked out other surfing options in the Indonesian archipelago — specifically Nihiwatu. This seven-bungalow, three-villa eco-resort lies 250 miles (400 km) east of Bali on the southwest coast of Sumba Island and overlooks the Indian Ocean. Its draw? Some of the fastest curls short of Oahu’s iconic Pipeline, and a policy of allowing only nine surfers to enjoy them at a time.
Not everyone is happy with the decision to limit access to the left-breaking waves — known as “God’s Left” — that hit this stretch of Sumba’s pristine coast, right in front of Nihiwatu at a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) beach. But many surfers applaud the decision taken by Nihiwatu’s owners, Claude and Petra Graves, arguing that it protects not only the surf but Sumba itself from overcrowding.
The husband-and-wife team spent seven years developing their resort on Sumba, locating the facility amid lush pandanus and rice terraces. All accommodation is sea-facing, supplied with luxurious amenities and finished with indigenous textiles. The smartest villa, the Haweri Villa, comes with a private pool and a detached bungalow featuring an additional bedroom. In the cliff-top spa, all-female staff knead with expertise gleaned from the resort manager’s training at California College of Massage & Bodywork. Dining takes place in the beachfront restaurant and open-air pavilions.
It is Nihiwatu’s relationship with the local people that is particularly noteworthy, however. The Sumba Foundation, a charitable institution established by the Graves and some of the resort’s first guests, has virtually eradicated malaria in the surrounding area. It has also built clinics and schools while supporting hospitality training at Nihiwatu, which employs about 150 locals. Many guests tour these philanthropic programs, while others roll up their sleeves — among Nihiwatu’s high percentage of repeat visitors are doctors, dentists and nurses, who bring much-needed pharmaceuticals and perform basic procedures. Equally memorable are visits to surrounding villages led by Nihiwatu staff, with whom most guests quickly find themselves on a first-name basis.
The island’s environment merits a similar level of care. All Nihiwatu’s waste is recycled (metal and glass are shipped to Java and sold, while food is composted), a program to plant 160,000 trees over the next seven years is underway, local wildlife is protected, and a newly completed bio-diesel factory produces fuel from locally grown coconuts.
The Graves plan to erect a tented camp on a nearby uninhabited beach for romantic overnight excursions. But there’s already plenty to do. Besides hanging ten, you can ride horses along the beach, trek to hidden wat
erfalls or take day trips to the three seashell-strewn coves of Konda Maloba Bay. “We are born here so we are the lucky ones,” says longtime staffer Andy Heingu, standing in his simple multigenerational family home built of bamboo. As you plunge barefoot into the caramel-colored sand on Nihiwatu Beach, it’s impossible to disagree.