Nihiwatu Resort

Nihiwatu Resort

Luxury Exclusivity Philanthropy

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There’s Sumba, and then there’s the other Sumba, Nihiwatu. Luxurious and exclusive, but also at its core philanthropic. To be honest, at first we found it difficult to feel comfortable in a place where the price of one night in the cheapest room equates to five months’ local wages. But the discomfort lifts when we delve further into Nihiwatu’s philosophy.

Travelfish says:

Many a tourist spot has been ruined by overdevelopment. Mass tourism often drives up prices for the locals and very few of the profits filter down. The poor get poorer, and their environments get ruined. And the tourists lose out too as they have no connection with the local culture, which probably made it a tourist spot in the first place.

Rather gorgeous. : Sally Arnold.
Rather gorgeous. Photo: Sally Arnold

From the start Nihiwatu wanted to do things differently and help develop Sumba in a sustainable way and give tourists a way to connect with the local people. The original owners felt that the best way to do this was by exclusivity. Create a luxury resort, limit numbers and channel profits into the local community.

Of course there are critics. And we’re sure little of the tax money paid by Nihiwatu ever gets back to Sumba, but that’s often the case in Bali too. Nihiwatu is the largest employer on the island — 90 percent of their staff are local. It’s a sought after job. And since they opened, millions of dollars in profits have been used to open schools, clinics and provide clean water in poor communities through Nihiwatu’s charity The Sumba Foundation.

Not your average beach shack. : Sally Arnold.
Not your average beach shack. Photo: Sally Arnold

Security is tight. That exclusivity thing means you’d better be either a paying guest or have a very good reason for being there, or you just won’t get in. But if you do get in, boy are you up for a treat. The beach is perfect and the perfect wave that started it all, Occy’s Left, is only open to 10 surfers (hotel guests only – a practice we do not condone as nobody owns the waves) per day at US$100 a go. Exclusive.

The resort is everything you would expect. Infinity pools, comfortable spaces, exquisite restaurants, relaxed and understated luxury. You can surf, fish, do yoga, have a spa treatments, ride a horse, trek, partake in cultural activities like cooking classes, or get out and meet the locals on village excursions and trips to the magnificent natural attractions of Sumba.

Your jaw may drop. : Sally Arnold.
Your jaw may drop. Photo: Sally Arnold

The environment gets looked after here too. An on-site turtle hatchery buys turtle eggs from the locals at higher prices than they can sell at the market. Nihiwatau has its own organic vegetable garden. And they don’t take water from the local farmers’ valuable water table, importing it from elsewhere.

Twenty eight villas from one to five bedrooms, all have private pools and staggering views. The style appropriates local architecture and symbols, down to the names of the villas. Natural textures, antiques and local crafts are features of the well-appointed rooms. Each has its own layout and interior design. We loved the Mamole Tree House — interconnecting double-storey round rooms with, as the name suggests, huge trees growing through the middle, connected with a rope bridge.

Just another week please. : Sally Arnold.
Just another week please. Photo: Sally Arnold

At Nihiwatu you are appointed a personal butler, but no penguin suits here. Draped in traditional ikat, the style is relaxed and personal. Nihiwatu offers a choice of four restaurants to eat your included meals, or you can dine privately.

It goes without saying that Nihiwatu is the best hotel in Sumba. It’s won a stack of international awards. This is the sort of place though where if you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it. But if you have the cash, your scruples can remain intact staying here. Do however make the effort to get outside the resort to experience Sumba outside Nihiwatu’s rarefied surrounds, or you’ll otherwise just be staying at another fancy resort.

Pricing is just a sample only – please see their website for full details.

Nihiwatu was not reviewed on an anonymous basis.

Contact details for Nihiwatu Resort

Address: Nihiwatu Beach
T: (0361) 757 149;  F: (0361) 755 259  
Email: info@nihi.com
Web: http://www.nihiwatu.com
Coordinates (for GPS): 119º22'34.68" E, 9º46'39.82" S
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: over 2,500,000 Rp

Room rates

What we were quoted as a walk-in.

Standard double room
1 bedroom US$
US$650 US$1,100
Superior double room
1 bedroom US$
US$850 US$1,800
Deluxe double room
1 bedroom US$
US$1,500 US$1,800
Deluxe Suite
3 bedroom US$
US$2,100 US$4,000

Reviewed by

Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.

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