Sarah, one of our Asia Consultants writes about her time at the luxurious and remote eco-lodge of Nihiwatu in Indonesia…
Best described as a place of unregulated freedom and beauty, there is definitely no place on earth comparable to the spectacular Nihiwatu. The totally unique concept combines raw natural beauty, an ancient and rich culture untainted by the western world, luxury accommodation among the jungle landscape, a promise to train and employ predominately local Sumbanese people and the touching Sumba Foundation; providing daily meals and healthcare for more than 2000 local villagers.
Nihiwatu helps fund the Sumba Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, committed to alleviating poverty on the island and giving hope and opportunity for a better life, for this and future generations. Through this and its strong ties to the local community, it has made a real impact on the lives of thousands of people. Consequently the local staff have a passion and love for the place, which is reflected in their service and their genuine and touching enthusiasm. They are assisted with learning English where necessary and are trained in their various professions, taking enormous pride in their work. This refreshing work attitude is inspiring and manifests itself in an eagerness to share the beauty of their island with you.
Where else in the world can you trek through jungle, paddy fields and waterfalls, paddle board down a river meandering passed buffalo and local villagers, surf on world class break, take a sunset ride on one of Indonesia’s finest horses along a 2.5km stretch of breath-taking private beach or enjoy an afternoon of unlimited massages perched above the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean.
The island of Sumba is accessed by a 1 hour direct flight from Bali’s Denpasar International Airport, also known as Ngurah Rai International Airport. The contrast between the two Indonesian islands is dramatic. Bali has an influx of 3.27 million tourists a year visiting the island, compared to a mere 15,000 tourists to Sumba (roughly). With reportedly more than 18,000 islands in Indonesia (and only around 8,844 of them actually being named) this may not be that remarkable, however for those wanting a more authentic experience, it speaks volumes. In fact, Nihiwatu is one of very few hotels on the island open to Westerners, and certainly the only luxury option, so has opened up the opportunity to see a more pure side of Indonesia.
Tourism is not the only disparity between the two islands. Bali is majority Hindu, while Sumba is a mix of Marapu religion and Christianity. An estimated 35 % of the population practises the animist Marapu religion, while the remainder claim to be converts to Christianity. Sumba still retains many of its ancient traditions and unique cultural practises. This can part be explained by the fact that they have not been warn away by western influences, but this does not discredit their cultural significance. This is a place where men still wear a short sarong (Hinggi) around their hips and a belt with a sword attached, while women wear long sarongs. To this day people participate in a pre-harvest fertility ritual, the Pasola, a traditional fight with spear throwing and hundreds of horsemen. They have unique funeral rituals which often involve the slaughter of animals. For my short stay I was able to be immersed in this fascinating world that appears to have been passed by in time.
All this makes it a profoundly unique, memorable and magical place to stay and I would challenge anyone to find somewhere else on earth that offers quite what Nihiwatu does. You will make friends, be touched by the remarkable local traditions, positive attitudes and inspiring natural warmth of the local staff and leave with a promise to return.
For more information please call one of our Asia Consultants on 0203 603 3555 or visit scottdunn.com