Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Is any resort worth a 25-hour trip? Check out this Indonesian escape

Nihiwatu Resort

Sumba Island, Indonesia,. 33 villas from $900 (U.S.) a night, all-inclusive.

Villas come with private pools, views of the Indian Ocean

Sumba, a remote Indonesian island where men still carry machetes (though no longer for headhunting, just cracking coconuts) is home to Nihiwatu, an exclusive flop-and-drop luxury resort smack in front of one of the world’s most famous left-hand surf breaks. American billionaire Christopher Burch and South African hotelier James McBride (who ran the Carlyle in New York) have created a true paradise. Among many other luxuries, here guests have their own personal moriuma (much more than a butler) who anticipates your every move. He’ll plan your activities and meals, hand you a fluffy towel after a swim, accompany you on walks to ancient Sumbanese villages or joins you on hikes to hidden swimming holes beneath cascading waterfalls. It’s easy to get used to this place.


If you’re flying for 24 hours to Bali, you’d be crazy not to take the 50-minute flight to Sumba, where a Nihiwatu chauffeur will whisk you in an air-conditioned luxury van to the resort, one hour and 20 minutes away. Sip fresh coconut milk and munch on banana-leaf-wrapped snacks as you pass by verdant rice fields with water buffalo and Sumbanese villages with high-pitched thatched roofs. Before you know it, you’ll see a sign, “Nihiwatu, Welcome to the edge of wildness,” and you’re in the midst of this over-the-top Indian Ocean resort.


Should the butler deliver food to your bed, your private pool deck or your private ocean-facing pavilion? Or maybe you should dine barefoot in one of the beach-facing dining rooms? Chef Bernard’s Indonesian and Western choices include fresh eggs and ingredients from the organic garden, such as water spinach and bok choy. Don’t miss the grilled fish (caught that morning by a staffer). One of my favourites was the Indonesian breakfast served on a banana leaf.


A day-trip “spa safari” to Nihi Oka valley is just 10 minutes by Land Rover from the resort. Swim in any of three private beach coves, dine on a chef-cooked hot breakfast in a treehouse and then enjoy a treatment at a bamboo spa pavilion as the ocean below lulls you to sleep. Nihiwatu plans to erect superluxe tent accommodations, and for $10,000 (U.S.) a night, you’ll have the wilderness to yourself (except, of course, for your moriuma, chef and spa therapists).


All the villas are exceptional with private pools, terraces and bales (pavilions) directly above the Indian Ocean, complete with sun loungers and king-size beds for sleeping beneath the stars. In April, a five-villa compound facing the Indian Ocean also became available.


In 1993, two surfers searching forthe perfect wave came to Indonesia, found the left-hand break in Sumba, and opened a 10-room surf resort that is now Nihiwatu. Only 10 surfers may shred the break at one time, but I wish surfers didn’t have to pay $100 for the privilege.

The writer was a guest of the resort.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at