A cluster of rustic-luxe villas perched above a stretch of unspoilt Sumbanese coast, Nihi Sumba hotel feels perched on the edge of the world. Preserved from urban development, this off-the-beaten-path Indonesian island is an idyllic setting for once-in-a-lifetime romance. Unplug and explore acres of luxuriant valleys, a vibrant local culture and world-famous surfing breaks. Like what you see? This hotel is one of the luxurious stays in our Indonesian adventures…
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A bottle of wine on arrival. SilverSmith and GoldSmith members receive a free room upgrade subject to availability; GoldSmith members also receive a 60-minute massage for each guest
11am. Check-in, 1pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from $1095.04, excluding tax at 21 per cent.
Rates include all meals (American breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon teas and coffees, soft drinks and bottled water from the minibar). A minimum 3 night stay applies for Nihi Sumba.
Staff can also organise torch-lit dinners on the beach, treehouse barbecues and in-villa lobster feasts – just give them a day’s notice. The resort’s legendary surf break is just off the coast; for a gentler splash in the waves head to Tranquility Beach, a 15-minute drive away.
At the hotel
567 acres of land, private beach with watersports facilities, spa, equestrian centre, beach cinema, ping-pong table, pool tables, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Minibar, free bottled water, tea and coffee-making facilities, Nihi Sumba natural toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Right on the cliff edge, Marangga villas have jaw-dropping ocean views and an outdoor bale where guests can sleep overnight. Built in the style of a Sumbanese house, Kanatar Sumba Houses have an upstairs bedroom with a terrace and bathroom among the trees. Crowned by distinctive conical roofs thatched with local Alang Alang grass, all the villas encourage breeze-cooled outdoor living, with private gardens, pergola-shaded bales and sweeping ocean views.
Take a dip in Nio Beach Club's pool, or retire to your villa: each has its own freshwater private pool.
In a sheltered creek framed by pandanus trees, Nihi Sumba’s open-air spa pavilions look out over the beach and crashing waves. Worthy of its name, the Sumbanese Dream treatment combines a mineral-rich foot bath, relaxing massage, lavender-scented scrub and aloe-infused body mask. For an out-of-this-world experience, book a babysitter and embark on the Nihi Oka Spa Safari, a journey to a secluded valley where four bamboo-clad couples’ treatment rooms await. Pick one of the home-made aromatic oils and indulge in a stress-busting massage with views of peaceful paddy fields.
Bring your own riding gear to make the most of Nihi Sumba’s sweet-natured horses. Serious surfers should bring their own boards too, but they’ll need to be shorter than nine feet for the flight.
The resort’s rocky paths make it unsuitable for wheelchair users. If a visit to the beach spa doesn’t float your boat, in-room massages are available from 9am to 8pm.
Two under-5s can stay free. Extra beds for 6–11 year-olds cost US$90 a child, each night; 12–16 year-olds are charged US$195 a night. The restaurants have high chairs and a children’s menu. Babysitting is available for US$7 an hour.
Close to Menara and with easy access to the beach, the two-bedroom Pantai Villas are ideal for older children with energy to burn. The living room in Lulu Amahu villas can be turned into a bedroom and has its own bathroom.
There’s no kids club or crèche, but staff can tailor activities to suit your little Smith’s whimsy. They’ll set up beach games, supervise splashing sessions in the pool and babysit in the evenings for US$7 an hour.
Borrow a board and embrace your inner surfer dude: confident swimmers over eight can take lessons at Nihi Sumba Island. In calmer weather, snorkel around the beach or test your balance on a paddle board. Families with over-5s can set out on horseback to explore the estate from bush to beach.
Each villa has its own unsupervised pool, which can be fenced off if you’re travelling with little ones. The beach is watched by lifeguards from 7am to 6pm. Some villas have unrestricted access to the sea, so keep a watchful eye on wandering tots.
Children are welcome at all the restaurants. Picky eaters will love the kids’ menu with its crowd-pleasing burgers, fajitas, toasted sandwiches and banana splits. For more authentic fare, book a rijstaffel (rice table), a family-style Indonesian feast. Purées for tots have an exotic twist: pick from papaya, pumpkin and avocado or the more traditional peas, carrots and potatoes. High chairs are on offer, though little ones may prefer playing on the sandy floors; if they get too fidgety, colouring books and games can always be brought over from Menara.
English-speaking babysitters can look after a brood of little Smiths for US$7 an hour; book a day ahead.
No need to pack
Highchairs, car seats, swimming aids, beach bags. A baby monitor can be handy if you’re planning on spending a lot of time enjoying your villa’s luxuriant gardens and private pool, but you’ll need to bring your own.
If you’re travelling with curious toddlers, ask for plug covers in your room. A pram is useful for navigating the airports, but quite impractical along Nihiwatu’s rocky paths. Bring a baby carrier to make the most of a stay with a babe-in-arms.
Responsible luxury is the guiding principle of Nihi Sumba Island's eco-friendly approach. Much of the restaurants’ produce is grown in the resort’s organic garden, fed by a clever composting and water-recycling system. The hotel’s green ethos extends beyond its walls, too, with community outreach programmes in local villages, a turtle hatchery and a foundation working to clean water and reduce malaria on the island.
Perched in a treehouse platform over a rugged stretch of coast, the Nest is a one-of-a-kind spot for leisurely lunches. Ask to have dinner at Nio Beach Club – dressed with flower garlands and pretty hanging lanterns, tables there are impossibly romantic.
Luxe friendship bracelets, fringed shorts and tousled manes.
Sheltered beneath a spectacular thatched roof, laid-back Ombak is the resort’s gastronomic hub, blessed with sweeping ocean views. Set right on the sand, tables for two are romantically lit with lanterns recalling lobster nets. Chef Bernard Prim makes the most of the garden’s organic produce and the island’s line-caught fish: don’t miss his archipelago menu of Indonesian fare flavoured with lemongrass, sambals and palm sugar. Just steps from the sea, Nio Beach Club serves simply grilled fish, sizzling satay and pizzas fresh from its large clay oven.
Open-air Ombak Bar serves fruit-infused daiquiris, rum-addled caipirinhas and an excellent mojito made with home-grown mint. Open in the early evenings, the Boat House bar is an upmarket surfer’s hangout, complete with a bonfire on some nights; both offer fresh-off-the-boat sashimi to nibble on with a sundowner.
Ombak serves breakfast 7am–11am and dinner 7pm–10.30pm. Lunch at Nio Beach Club is noon–3pm, after which light snacks can be ordered at the Boat House until 6pm.
Order in-villa meals from 6 am to 10pm from a tempting menu of Indonesian classics (nasi goreng, fried noodles and grilled fish with a fiery chilli sambal) and international favourites such as burgers, grilled tuna salad and comforting chicken soup.
Nihi Sumba Island is a secluded private estate clinging to a hillside on Sumba’s south-west coast, surrounded by acres of lush tropical forest, unspoilt valleys and rugged coastline.
An hour’s flight east of Bali, Sumba has two airports, served by domestic flights from Denpasar, Jakarta and other Indonesian islands. The closest is Tambolaka airport in West Sumba, a 90-minute drive from the hotel. The resort can arrange return travel from Bali, which includes flights, taxes and service, use of VIP lounges in Bali and Tambolaka, and airport transfers to the hotel from US$500 (plus 21 per cent tax and service charges) for economy class. Private return airport transfers from Tambolaka cost US$470 (plus 21 per cent tax and service charges) for up to four guests; shared transfers cost US$275 (plus 21 per cent tax and service charges) a couple.
The condition of the island’s roads can be unpredictable: leave driving to the professionals. Nihi Sumba Island can organise a car with a driver and a has a fleet of open-top Land Rovers for off-the-beaten-path exploration.
Worth getting out of bed for
Kick off your shoes and spend carefree days exploring Nihi Sumba Island's winding paths, tropical greenery and organic gardens. With its games, pool tables and beach cinema, Menara is a laid-back hangout for idle afternoons. Stretching over 2.5km, the resort’s private beach is a rugged but pristine crescent of white sands. In summer, its wild, crashing waves have earned it cult status among surfers: only 10 surfers are allowed on its world-famous break at any one time. A serene hilltop pavilion offers yoga and Pilates classes with breathtaking ocean views. The resort runs daily excursions to explore local villages and spectacular landscapes on foot, mountain bike or horseback – the sort of exertion best rewarded with a lengthy visit to the open-air spa.
With its dramatic waterfalls, tranquil valleys and golden coastlines, Sumba has bags of lost-world appeal. Rooted in tradition and ancient animist practices, local life is colourful and vibrant: visit off-the-beaten-path villages to discover festival rituals, exquisite Ikat weaves and monumental megalithic burial sites. Guided hikes through the valleys take in the national park, sheer cliffs and a miraculously blue lagoon – the perfect spot for jumping off the rocks and devouring a well-deserved picnic. A tour of the Sumba Foundation makes an enlightening day trip: working hand in hand with the local communities, this unique philanthropic setup is responsible for much of the island’s preservation successes.
Back and forth we go with our butler and a tuk tuk(for good measure) in tow. We scale up and down flights of rocky stairs and negotiate walkways between the thickets for the fifth time. This Smith family has an impossible decision to make on arrival at luxury resort Nihi Sumba Island. Although we initially booked the Wamoro villa we now have a choice between Lulu Amahu and Wamoro – both junior Smith-friendly, secluded and jungle-clad abodes, but sufficiently different in design and style to put us in a dilemma, resulting in a massive workout for our quads.
Wamoro is a luxurious duplex, shaded by hibiscus and palm trees, with a soaring ceiling and a plunge pool offering full-frontal sea views. The living room transforms into a kids’ room (adequately separated to allow us to sneak off for some Mr and Mrs Smith time), while a master bedroom downstairs leads to a semi-open, jungle-esque bathroom. Lulu Amahu, on the other hand, is a one-bedroom villa with an adjoining living room that converts into a second bedroom with its own ensuite bathroom. Alang-alang grasses, stone and teak make up the exterior, while the interiors are styled with contemporary flair. The massive garden hosts an outdoor dining area, a pool that overlooks the ocean, a freestanding charcoal-coloured bath tub (that could fit us all with a bit of a squeeze) and… are those snake tracks?! I fly into a hissy-fit pointing at anything that looks remotely tubular until I am told they were etched by a monitor lizard. In the end, the size of the pool at Lulu Amahu and the proximity to their sleeping parents (oh well!) wins the junior Smiths over. Our butler nods in approval and reassures us of our decision as Mr Smith collapses on the bale after such an extreme workout – those steps are burn-baby-burn!
We had arrived on the island earlier, and woven through some seriously undulating roads flanked by lush tropical jungle towards Nihi. Wild horses stared at us nervously and a grasshopper hitchhiked on our windscreen. Driving past villages of uma mbatangu (peaked-houses) in our open-top safari jeep attracted the most deafening screams from local children. We chalked it down to some peculiar welcome ritual… After all, the island is so remote, steeped in tradition (think head-hunters till the early 20th century) and has been untouched by visitors for so long. On our descent to the glittering seaside, a wooden sign silently welcomed our arrival to ‘the edge of wilderness’. Before long, with chilled coconuts in hand, we unwind and immerse ourselves in the paradise-isle-ness of it all.
At breakfast, I don’t care what I’m served (admittedly it’s all delicious) because I am at Nihi’s mesmerisingly beautiful dining spot. My bare feet are buried in the sand, and we’re overlooking scattered rocks on a deserted beach lapped by foamy-white waves and an aquamarine bliss beyond. Here, unpretentious luxury can be awfully soul-soothing.
A short walk past the boathouse brings us to an infinity pool with equally spellbinding views; while Mr Smith plays silly aquatic games with the kids, I find a quiet corner in the shade. This Smith loves a great seascape but is quite the vampire when it comes to avoiding the sun – give me porcelain skin and a thatch-roofed pavilion on the beach any day… In fact, I end up with a splendid, pampering refuge, complete with a swinging day-bed, a massage table, two lounge chairs and a dining table all to myself.
By now our butler is a permanent fixture in our lives. Outfitted in a hinggi (sarong) and turban, armed with a sword and a gentle demeanor, Manase shadows our every move at a comfortable distance lest our sunhats are too heavy to carry or the junior Smiths need a milkshake top-up by the pool. Manase is also a peace-keeper and an all-round manager of the family’s well-being, so he gently reminds me to allow the kids an early visit to the chocolate factory. Thus far, every time our tuk tuk has passed Chris and Charly’s Chocolate Factory the kids have just squealed in anticipation. Yes, a chocolate factory in a Sumbanese jungle. Can Nihi get any better for junior jetsetters?! The kids are comfortably at home on the island – busy chocolate-making, baking, horse-riding, swimming and popping into the turtle hatchery to check on the eggs.
The tide swells to a surfer’s paradise in the morning and recedes to reveal golden shores for afternoon strolls. Beyond the reef the water is a still, blue basin – ideal for kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkelling; further afield are diving spots. A short drive away is Nihi Oka Spa Safari, which offers us sea-turtle sightings right from the breakfast deck. Strictly speaking, Nihi Oka is an adults-only, pampering spa in the quiet seclusion of a private bale, set somewhere between sky and sea. However, our little girl is curious to see what all the fuss is about. We let the spa-newbie join us in treatments, which are received with occasional giggles and later described as ‘almost-naked tickling sessions’.
The junior Smiths are in on our secret review, and Master Smith even has a parting shot for the manager as we wave goodbye: ‘The duck confit is your star dish and Manase was never idle and looked after us well. I think you got right what a lot of places haven’t!’
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