Since a dozen years ago I have heard about a cool resort on the island of Sumba, the name is Nihiwatu. It turned out that in 2012 the name had changed to Nihi after it was bought and renovated by US entrepreneur Chris Burch (FYI, the fashion brand Tory Burch is one of his). Nihi’s name is getting more and more famous because in 2016-2017 it won the Best Hotel in the World award by Travel & Leisure for two years in a row. Then followed by the award as the best hotel in the world by Conde Nast, The Telegraph UK, Tripadvisor, and others.

Nihi is located in Wanokaka, west of Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara province. The flight from Bali (DPS) to Tambolaka (TMC) is 1 hour. From TMC, pick up a Nihi jeep and drive for about 1.5 hours. Amazingly, there are Nihi staff who help from checking in at the Bali airport to arriving at the hotel! Arriving at the reception , we were greeted by the Captain who served as a liaison for all needs during our stay. His name is Samson, a native Sumbanese. We exchanged WhatsApp to make communication easier ( surprise , the wifi went smoothly!), then we were escorted around.

Located on the bay-shaped Nihiwatu Beach and surrounded by dense forest, Nihi has 28 Sumba-style villas spread out on a hillside. Each villa is very hidden, not visible from the outside because it is covered by trees. All buildings are connected by natural stone paths and steps, sometimes covered with vines. The architecture is specially made so that each villa faces the sea and the sunset but is not covered by other buildings. Everything is completely open – socially distant, wildly connected which is very appropriate during a pandemic. 

Quiet beach as far as the eye can see

I occupy a 1-bedroom villa named Raja Lamba. The design is rustic , thatched roof, lots of wood elements, with earth tones . All of them are made of high quality natural materials such as teak wood, marble floors, and outdoor bathtubs made of copper. The amenities are also very eco friendly : there is no single-use plastic, even the trash can on banana leaves. The yard is wide enough to accommodate soft mattresses and of course the infinity pool . During the day I sunbathe naked freely because this villa is hidden. Every afternoon we hang out watching the sunset while drinking coffee in the bale-bale.

Villa Raja Lamba

Three meals a day are included in the package price. Breakfast and dinner at Ombak Restaurant which is located on the edge of the cliff overlooking the spectacular sea view. Lunch at Nio Beach Club which is right by the beach. The system is a la carte , so you just have to choose from the menu: there are Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican food. In addition there is a Menu of the Day that changes every day. Given its remote location in Sumba, I applaud the availability of food ingredients, such as all kinds of imported cheeses and meats. Salutnya, the staff are all genuine Sumbanese with good service. There is also a minibar in the room containing a variety of drinks, including beer, vodka , whiskey andgin , also handmade organic chocolate made by Nihi. Every day the minibar is fully stocked again!

If you are bored, you can choose various free activities such as yoga, paddle boarding, and surfing – the equipment can be borrowed at The Boathouse. There are also paid ones, such as spas, cooking classes , and ikat weaving courses. I chose three activities. First, on my birthday, I joined the Half Day Spa Safari at Nihioka Spa . To this spa location, you can take a jeep for 20 minutes or trekking for 2 hours. Again this place is very spacious and hidden with a private beach. I choose 3 treatmentsfrom dozens of existing menus, namely Nihioka Signature Massage, Head Massage and Facial. The spa is in the form of an open bale which is located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. The therapists are also Sumbanese mothers. I’m the one who never sleeps while being massaged, this is the first time I’ve fallen asleep so deliciously!

Nihioka, the sexiest spa!

Second, I joined Beach Horse Riding. Sumba is famous for its endemic racehorse called the sandel horse ( sandelwood pony ) so this activity is “very Sumba”. Nihi owns a stable containing 17 horses and their caregivers. Towards sunset , after wearing a helmet and boots , I rode a mare named Bindy, 4 years old, a mixed breed of Sumba and Australian horse. I ride quite a bit, but this was the first time at the beach and in a bikini! Where else can you try this?

Bindy and I

Finally, I joined The Sumba Foundation’s tour because I wanted to know about Nihi’s CSR program. This non-profit organization has been providing clean water, education, health and economic assistance to the surrounding community for 20 years whose donations have come from Nihi’s guests. I visited a clinic promoting anti-malaria and to Kampung Motodawu to give additional food to the children. This model of cooperation between hotels and NGOs to fight poverty has won world awards from WTTC and PATA.

Motodawu Village Children

In conclusion, Nihi is indeed one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in! Do you agree to be asked as the best hotel in the world and is it worth the price? If you use the perspective of the majority of Indonesians, it’s not necessarily yes, because the hotel is not the standard of Indonesian luxury. There’s no TV. But from the perspective of Caucasians from developed countries, Nihi is sexy because it is truly private in the midst of beautiful nature that is still virgin. Privacy is the key and Nihi provides it in a very wide area without being disturbed by others.