Nihiwatu resort on Sumba island | The story of one of the best resort in the world

Less than an hour south-east of Bali and Lombok lies the spectacular island of Sumba, offering an entirely alternative landscape to its volcanic northern neighbours.

Less than an hour south-east of Bali and Lombok lies the spectacular island of Sumba, offering an entirely alternative landscape to its volcanic northern neighbours. Twice the size of Lombok, and with predominantly flat terrain, the savannahs of Sumba have much to offer for explorers looking for something new along the archipelago. Wild horses, stunning waterfalls, beautiful beaches, world class surf spots and traditional houses lived in by the small, predominantly Christian population are just some of the many reasons Sumba is finding its place on the traveller map.

Sumba Island
Sumba Island Map | Invest Islands

The government have announced that the first international airport serving the island will be approved due to its increasing popularity and growing investment from new hotels and resorts. Among those resorts is the Nihi Resort in Nihiwatu – a luxury 5* hotel opened in 2015 by Chris Burch and James McBride. The resort has been named the best hotel in the world two years running by Travel + Leisure magazine and regularly attracts celebrities due to its exclusivity and relaxed atmosphere.

Tourism may be getting more attention in the nation of 17,000 islands, where oil production usually rules the economic roost. The Indonesian government’s Tourism Master Plan calls for $470 billion in both public and private investments in infrastructure. Hotels are already on board with investments on the luxury front in both resort development in Bali, Lombok and in business-oriented hotels in Jakarta. Nihiwatu joined The Leading Hotels of the World. Located on the island of Sumba in Eastern Indonesia, Nihiwatu was developed with the intent to protect and preserve the culture of the island and to enable local residents to support themselves and their families.

Sumba Island
Sumba Island breathtaking landscapes | Invest Islands

The Sumba Foundation, all profits from the resort are fed into a various community- based projects, including access to clean water, four malaria clinics and malnutrition and school lunch program. The resort also employs ninety per cent of its staff from the nearby villages. The resort’s 32 thatched villas are surrounded by more than 500 hectares of land. All have outdoor living areas, marble-floored bathrooms, private pools, and Indian Ocean views as well as such comforts as round-the-clock butler service, unlimited Wi-Fi access and quality cuisine.

The story of Nihiwatu is one of both humanitarian efforts and unmistakable luxury. Located on Sumba, a 11,200 square kilometres Indonesian island that is inhabited by 700,000 people, the location for the resort was originally chosen by American builder and surfer Claude Graves and his German wife Petra in 1988. It took years of negotiations to get the rights from the tribal landowners to start building, but the hotel eventually opened in 2001, becoming fully operational in 2005. Yet, despite investing time and money into the business, Graves and his wife even set up the Sumba Foundation, which provides locals with healthy school meals, better access to potable water and diagnosis of and treatment for malaria.

Sumba Island
Nihi resort in Sumba Island

Graves had always planned to sell. He eventually did in 2013, to American billionaire Chris Burch (ex-husband of Tory Burch), who visited Sumba on holiday, and James McBride, the former president of YTL Hotels and former general manager of the swanky New York hotel, The Carlyle. The duo joins the growing number of ultra-wealthy individuals, including billionaires such as Richard Branson and Dietrich Mateschitz, who have over the years began to invest in luxury resorts located in some of the more remote places of the world. As for Nihiwatu, Burch and McBride embarked upon a $15 million upgrade of the resort.

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