The US$639 billion wellness-tourism industry is growing fast, and it’s an exciting time for state-of-the-art resorts and hotels that are ideally placed to own this space. Nihi Sumba is one such hotel based in Sumba Island, Indonesia a mere hop from the popular wellness-tourist hotspot of Bali.
Voted as the world’s best hotel by Travel + Leisure two years in a row, Nihi Sumba by Chris Burch is a luxurious barefoot-chic resort in Indonesia that takes hospitality, wellness and community to the next level. We’re diving deep into all aspects of the luxury wellness resort below so you can explore the island we’ve come to know and love.
Nihi Sumba is located on Sumba Island in Indonesia, and the nearest airport to the resort is Tambolaka Airport, an hour and fifteen-minute flight from Denpasar International Airport in Bali, where all international flights to Sumba are routed through. Hotel staff greets you upon check-in at Denpasar, escort you onto the plane and collect you upon arrival for the 90-minute drive to the resort. It’s beautiful to visit year round (we went in mid-October), but the best season is June and July.
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Every effort has been made to give back to the community on the island, which is evident in the awarded efforts of the Nihi Sumba Foundation. Tourism on the island supports the local community, and the two coexist with compelling interdependence. The population of the island is impoverished with little running water and electricity all of which Nihi Sumba helps to improve via donations and Chris Burch’s generous personal support.
The property is made up of 26 residences with one, two, three, four, and five-bedroom options available. All of the villas come with their own private pool (bar two, which share), and are located a short stroll from the beach, bar, restaurants and activity centre. They’re grouped into eleven estates containing one to five villas each, making it perfect if you’re travelling in a group and want to be close together, but still have your own personal space. The one-bedroom villas are great for solo travellers, and couples travelling together should opt for the Marangga honeymoon-villas, Families will be very comfortable in any of the spacious multi-room villas.
The jewel in Nihi Sumba’s crown is founder Chris Burch’s five-bedroom Raja Mandaka estate. It features large and beautiful communal dining and lounge areas including a library, infinity pool, and the best view overlooking the property and beach.
Two organic gardens ensure that the menu always features an abundance of local fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Dining is available all day, and the options are delicious. Breakfast and dinner are enjoyed at Ombak Restaurant and lunch are served at Nio Beach Club. There are Western and local-style favourites on the menu, and healthy highlights include the Sumac Prawns as a starter, barbequed catch of the day with a side organic salad, and the delicious fruit platter. Popcorn is a healthy alternative to chips, and fresh coconuts are a refreshing change from alcoholic beverages if you’re abstaining during your stay like I was.
Like everything here, personalisation is key, and all intolerances, dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences are catered for. I ate a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit (especially mango which is delicious in this part of the world) during my stay and asked for my room to be cleared of alcoholic and carbonated beverages, nuts and chocolate and swapped for healthy snacks like toasted coconut shavings and popcorn. If there’s something you’re really craving a simple request in advance can ensure your favourite food is available.
There are a few unique dining experiences that are unmissable at Nihi Sumba and can all be edited into healthy renditions. The Floating Champagne Breakfast (sans alcohol) is a fun way to kick start the day in your own private villa pool. A bi-weekly specially themed BBQ is a beautiful way to meet other guests, and Koboku Restaurant serves Omakase-style Japanese food and can be booked in advance if you’re craving fresh-caught seafood and sushi. Every Saturday there’s a Sumba Foundation BBQ Night that’s a lot of fun and private dinners can be arranged anytime you wish at exclusive locations around the resort.
For something organic and sweet, Nihi Sumba has its very own chocolate factory that produces Chris & Charly’s Chocolate. The chocolate has very few ingredients and is free of anything artificial. The 70% dark chocolate is delicious, and the factory offers fun, interactive sessions for children and chocolate lovers. Wellness-inclined chocoholics should try the Chocolate Yoga Experience, which involves a spiritual-forest tour, heart-opening yoga session, followed by an all-natural chocolate facial.
Staying mentally and physically well at Nihi Sumba is both an active and relaxed affair. From surfing the famous waves that are limited to ten surfers per day, to enjoying daily sunrise and sunset yoga with the resident yoga teacher and going on spa safaris, the choices are endless. The laid-back nature of the island lends itself well to meditation, especially walking meditation along the quiet strip of beach in front of the property. Space is something that there is an abundance of and with many private enclaves and hideaways, you can interact with other guests as much or as little as desired. There is even a Wi-Fi-free private villa at the Nihoka spa section of the resort that is popular with writers, honeymooners and anyone looking to unplug for a few hours or days.
All of the wellness retreats and activities are created by yoga and wellness director Mary Tilson, who is a 1,000+ hour certified yoga teacher. She’s exceptionally well versed in Hatha, Power Vinyasa, Restorative, Y12SR (Yoga for Addiction Recovery), Spine Dysfunction and Anatomy, as well as Yoga Therapy.
Nihi Sumba‘s dedicated wellness programme, the Nihi Sumba Yoga Experience, is available all year round for 3, 5, 7, 14, and 21-night and includes yoga, pilates, stand-up paddle-boarding, snorkelling, and a trip to the Nihi Sumba Foundation.
The resort additionally offers unique, set date retreats, led by high-profile wellness practitioners from around the world. Previous retreats have been led by yogi influencers Sjana Elise and Rod Cooper, and the next one on October 27th, 2018 will be the Nihi Reset Retreat led by the founder of Sculptology and the author of ‘The Model Trainer Method’, Tatiana Boncompagni Hoover. This programme is an intensive strength training, cardio, yoga, hiking, trekking, meditation and spa retreat designed to help you reach your ideal weight and reshape your body. The programme includes cultural excursions like trips to local villages, working with the Nihi Foundation and horseback rides on the beach. There is no set meal plan, and instead, guests can enjoy organic fare from both Ombak restaurant and Nio Beach Club.
Aside from the fitness and spa activities, a big part of the Nihi Sumba experience is visiting the Nihi Sumba Foundation and viewing their work that has touched more than 40,000 Sumbanese locals. The goal of the foundation is to ease the burdens of poverty for the coastal communities through improved health and education. Chris Burch covers all administrative and operating costs of the foundation, allowing 100% of any donation guests make to go directly to the projects benefitting the community. The foundation is currently focusing on projects across six core areas including nutrition, education, health, economy, water, and the future of the community. Make sure to set aside one morning for the 10am tour and support the country by donating in the form in your room before you leave.
Wellness at Nihi Sumba happens very naturally. The lush villa lawns, pristine beach, and famous surf waves make you want to move from the moment you wake up, and with fresh coconuts and tropical fruit on tap plus a multitude of vegetarian options, eating well is easy.
The beauty of Nihi Sumba’s retreat programmes is that they’re perfect for solo travellers, couples and guests travelling with children thanks to the inclusive nature of the island, exceptional guest services and staff.
For an exceptional, once in a lifetime experience, keep an eye on the board at the boathouse for the baby turtle birth announcements that are updated daily. If you’re lucky, some hatchlings will appear during your stay, and you can release them into the ocean at 5.30pm—it’s a magical experience for children and adults.
Guests are advised to book a personal surf lesson in advance to avoid disappointment as only ten surfers are allowed on the wave per day.
The sunrise horse ride along the beach is perfect for a holiday snap and perfect for beginners who can go with a walking guide and advanced riders who can enjoy more freedom and gallop along the water.
If you’re craving a more active excursion the hike to the blue waterfall is a little more challenging, and the views at the end are worth the effort. For something a little bit more relaxing try out the Spa Safari, which involves a gentle hike via a local village, breakfast and three spa treatments at Nihoka.
There is often a fantastic resident photographer on site who can take professional photographs of your trip. Ask the team in advance for resident and local photographer information and book a sunrise surf shoot or sunset session during your horse ride along the beach.