Sumba, Indonesia

Photo: Nihiwatu
Photo: Nihiwatu

Bali, Lombok, Raja Ampat, Komodo National Park . . .  your Indonesian wish list is endless. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful islands and white-sand beaches. But your travel decision isn’t going to get any easier. In fact, it’s only going to become more and more difficult. Especially once you’re introduced to Sumba.

Sumba is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands in eastern Indonesia. It’s twice the size of popular Bali and full of limestone hills and sweet-smelling sandalwood. The Portuguese arrived in 1522, and the Dutch later colonized the island in the mid-18th century. But traditional tribal life still hasn’t disappeared. Wooden houses have pointed roofs made of alang-alang grass. Men wear conventional sarongs and turbans. While it isn’t surprising to see them walking around with swords. Needless to say, Sumba is not overdeveloped.

Which is why you’re surprised by the pure luxury at Nihiwatu. To reach the resort, you flew to Tambolaka, drove into the Rijewa mountain range, passed teak and mahogany plantations, crossed through the thick deciduous forest and valleys of rice fields, and, finally, caught a glimpse of the Indian Ocean. Nihiwatu sits “on the edge of wildness” and a two-and-a-half-kilometer beach.

Photo: Nihiwatu
Photo: Nihiwatu

You move into—that’s right, you’ve already decided you aren’t leaving—your villa, which is decorated with rattan furniture and a bamboo bed. Sliding glass doors open to the terrace, which has a plunge pool and a panoramic view of the turquoise water. You’re tempted to hole up in the stunning villa, but there’s a surfboard with your name on it.

Nihiwatu’s west coast location makes it the ideal place to catch the swells that develop during Southern Ocean storms. The surf season lasts through October, so you’ve arrived at the perfect time. Plus, only ten surfers a day—that’s right, less than a dozen people each day—get to ride the monstrous waves. Today, you’re one of them.

After spending the day in the water, you’re exhausted. Returning to Nihiwatu, you stop at Menara Bale for afternoon tea and warm banana bread. You jump in your plunge pool and stare at the amazing view. Then you accidentally fall asleep on a really comfortable daybed. You’re awoken by a golden sunset and the smell of grilling fish in the distance. The chef at Ombak, the sandy floored restaurant, is inspired by the garden and the catch of the day. You devour your dinner, sip a cocktail at the Boathouse, and watch the stars appear around the fire pit. It’s only your first day on the island, and you’re already in love with Sumba.

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