Nihiwatu, Sumba, Indonesia: Is this Paradise?

Nihiwatu, Sumba, Indonesia

Surfer’s talk a lot about finding the best breaks. Many of these passionate surf aficionados travel the world, trying to find the best ride, the ride to own them all. To the east of Jakarta, there may just be the longest left-hand break in the world. Claude Graves- the founder of the Nihiwatu resort wanted to create something unique, by building a place to stay around an experience, that of the world’s finest wave.

Stunning location


Claude and his wife quit their jobs to go in search for the perfect wave. They ended up in Indonesia, on Sumba Island, about an hour’s flight from Bali. The beach on the island is an idyllic 2.5 kilometre sandy stretch, which remains difficult to access for non guests of the resort. The resort is in the direct firing line of the Southern Ocean storms, travelling in for thousands of kilometres through the Indian Ocean, creating unrivaled swells.

Months before Claude arrived in 1984, the beach was a scene of a massive battle between local tribes, some 2000 fighters were involved.

The battle is a reminder that culture and tradition is incredibly important on the island–and tourists need to mark that with respect. The Nihiwatu resort is a product of collaboration between locals and Claude. He employed and trained locals to work at his hotel, and earned their respect after many pig sacrifices.

Conscious of not tarnishing the environment, like has occurred in places like Bali, Mr Graves established a limit on the number of surfers allowed to stay at any time. 600 acres were initially acquired but only a portion of that was developed, to make as little impact on the natural landscape as possible.

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The Sumba Foundation

A U.S businessman, was inspired by the story and the people of Sumba and set up the Sumba Foundation in 2001. The trust has reduced malaria by 85 percent in the 120 square miles around the hotel. The foundation set up health clinics and nutrition programmes, with the $5 million received to date. Although the fund and the hotel are separate, many of the residents of Nihiwatu, donate generously during and after their stay. The hotel has been the recipient of numerous responsible and sustainable tourism awards, and is an example of how to operate ethically and sustainably in a tropical paradise.

Life after surfing


22 villas designed with local materials are carefully integrated to make a low impact on the environment. There is life beyond surfing also, with day trips to local villages and markets.  The surfer limit is strictly set at 10 surfers at the break per day, so there is plenty of opportunities to enjoy spas, biking, scuba diving, horseback riding and many other adventure activities. Paddleboard trips can be organised. Nihi Oka Spa Safari is a once in a lifetime experience. It combines a 90 minute trek, through lush hills into rice fields and eventually reaching the summit, where you will be offered fresh coconuts and unlimited treatments, to ease any pain you might have.

When to visit

Nihiwatu is closed in January and February. Daily flights (three per day) take place to Tambolaka airport on the west of the island. Flight connections are through Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. High season is from mid June to mid October. The minimum stay is either three or seven days depending on the season.