When you arrive on the Indonesian island of Sumba from the hustle and bustle of Bali, you realize you have stepped back in time to an untouched nature-lovers’ paradise with a sense of remoteness that is hard to find nowadays. Sumba has one traffic light, several stunning waterfalls, blue lagoons, empty beaches and lush valleys. The biggest surprise is its intact caste society and ancient animist religion, which uses megalithic burial sites for funerals with expensive animal sacrifices. The tall, conical thatched roofs you encounter while visiting the local villages are meant to provide a space for ancestral spirits to reside.
The luxurious Nihi Sumba beach resort is a wonderful home from which to explore the island. Bring a sense of adventure and a willingness to engage with the locals in meaningful ways (and good insect repellent). Even after you’re back home, you will still feel the pull from both the resort and Sumba in your heart.
I am often asked why I love traveling with my child to remote places with a distinct culture. My answers is that I aim to raise an adaptable, compassionate child who is not afraid of differences, a.k.a. a global citizen. Interacting with local communities and local children in a meaningful way is great, but the question is often how to achieve this while you travel.
Sumba provides a unique opportunity to do so due to the fact that the Nihi Sumba resort partners with the Sumba Foundation, whose mission is to empower the people of Sumba while preserving and respecting their cultural traditions. The projects of the foundation are wide-ranging and encompass nutrition, education, health, clean water and economic development programs. The foundation’s impact is vast. For example, they have built and staffed four health clinics, reduced malaria by 93% in core areas, and built 65 water wells and 260 water stations. Additionally, they support 22 primary schools and provide supplies to students, and 2,600 children receive a nutritious school lunch three days a week.
Guests at Nihi Sumba contribute to this success with donations as well as their time. Guests can volunteer at the health clinics, distribute school lunches or help with other school-related volunteer opportunities.
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Nihi Sumba, formerly known as Nihiwatu Resort, sits at the pristine, 1.6-mile-long Nihiwatu beach with a world-famous surfing break. The resort is surrounded by 567 acres of tropical forest, rice paddies and grassland, of which only 65 acres are (and can ever be) developed. You really can’t get any closer to unspoiled nature.
Nihi Sumba has only 30 unique rustic-luxe villas spread out on a hillside, all with sea breezes and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Each villa has the characteristic Sumbanese conical thatched roof, minibar, Nihi Sumba natural toiletries, canopy beds, a private garden, an outside dining area and its own private pool.
There are one- and two-bedroom villas and three- to five-bedroom estates, each with individual charm. You may decide to stay in one of the Marangga villas right at the beach, with your own outdoor bale (a pavilion that contains a king-size daybed), or you can choose a treehouse villa with an upstairs bedroom build in the style of a Sumbanese house. There’s an option for every family.
Nihi Sumba’s gastronomical heart is the Ombak (meaning wave-front) Restaurant with sweeping ocean views and a relaxed sand-between-your-toes atmosphere. Ombak serves breakfast and dinner; special dining experiences during the week include an elaborate Indonesian buffet night and a spectacular BBQ. A plus for families: The kids’ menu is varied and also serves breakfast for dinner! The Ombak Bar provides a meeting point after dinner for guests and staff alike to share their adventures from the day.
Kaboku (Sumbanese for fish) is the beachfront sushi bar, limited to six people per seating for a seven-course menu of freshly caught seafood prepared omakase-style.
Lunch is either served at Nio Beach House or at the pool, and everybody meets at the Boat House to watch the epic sunsets over a drink. Additionally, private bespoke dining experiences in remote and exotic spots can be arranged and room service is available from 6a to 10p as well.
Nihu Sumba has everything you could wish for to make everyone in the family happy, starting at the beach with watersports facilities, a beach cinema and an over-the-edge pool. Other pursuits include a spa, horse stables, a yoga pavilion, a gym room, pool and table tennis and last but not least, a chocolate factory.
I was truly impressed by the variety of experiences offered, especially the thought that went into creating the kids’ activities. You can easily spend the whole day at the pool or on your outdoor bale; however, there is so much to explore and see that it’s hard to choose. Nihi Sumba classifies its plethora of experiences as water, wellness, trekking, equestrian, cultural and kids’ experiences, and you will find many different options in each of these categories.
One of the experiences that stands out is stand-up paddle boarding on the river and getting splashed by the local kids that jump into the water when they see you. Another is horseback riding at sunrise or sunset, galloping along an empty beach. My personal favorite was the Nihioka Spa Safari, a 90-minute hike through a local village and past splendid lookouts to the spa pavilions. Upon arrival, you can indulge in breakfast and your treatments of choice.
Three kids’ experiences are included per day, and the items to choose from are fishing, a pony club, children’s yoga, visiting a local village (with a soccer ball in hand), weaving and basket making, Sumba bracelet making, releasing turtles, chocolate making, a scavenger hunt, rock painting, cookie making and cupcake decorating, and coconut beach games … just to name a few!
Our adventure started at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar (DPS) with a 60-minute flight to Sumba Island’s Tambolaka Airport (TMC). Luckily, our trip included VIP service with an airport concierge who accompanied us to our gate before the flight. Upon arrival at Sumba’s airport we enjoyed a meet and greet at the gate followed by a transfer to the resort with an open-top Land Rover that provided an Africa-meets-Asia experience. The 90-minute drive to the resort went by quickly as we relished fresh coconut milk in the car along with just-baked brownies. We really enjoyed the drive through the Sumba villages, waving back to smiling children.
Alternatively, you can also fly to Sumba from Java, connecting through Kupang.
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Editor’s Note: Nicole received a media package to review Nihi Sumba for families. As always, all opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Nihi Sumba and Nicole Schick.
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Sign me up! Awesome article – makes me want to get on a plane immediately