Wild wellness at legendary surf camp turned luxury resort Nihi Sumba

The property is leaning into its Indonesian roots for a new spa programme

As we enter the small village of Wehola, we follow a narrow path between traditional wooden houses – distinguished on the eastern Indonesia island of Sumba by their peaked and thatched roofs – where colourful woven fabrics hang on lines, buffalo horns decorate the walls, and cattle peer out from the space beneath these stilted homes.

This path leads to the heart of the village, where some of the residents have gathered to display their handmade ikat fabrics and basketry. My small group is passing through on a hike from Nihi Sumba, a resort on the island’s southwest shores that began its life as the surf camp Nihiwatu in 1989, when Claude Graves built a retreat beside Sumba’s most famous surf break.

It was transformed into the luxury hotel it is today in 2012 by American financier Chris Burch and South African hotelier James McBride. We pass through farmland and forest, up hillsides, past buffalo herds and between rice fields, until we reach the clifftop location of Nihioka, the remote resort’s oceanside spa.

I’ve signed up for the Spa Safari, which combines venturing across the neighbouring valley and glimpsing local life with a raft of wellness therapies in one of the clifftop spa suites. The experience includes sumptuous breakfasts and swimming in the ocean from a private cove – all of which combine to create a wonderfully indulgent itinerary.

At Nihioka, bamboo bridges connect wooden platforms, which are built amid the rocks and trees, featuring an ocean-view pool and open-sided breakfast pavilion. From the cliff, I watch waves crash against the curved sandy shores and local fishermen spear fish off the rocks.

Horses graze in the nearby paddy fields backed by banana trees and palms, and flowers grow along the winding pathway to each spa suite.

After breakfast and a swim in the ocean, the subsequent hours are spent sampling a sequence of relaxing treatments, from Sumbanese Lulur exfoliation using rice powder, green tea extract and spices, to a facial incorporating coconut oil, mint leaf, green tea, rosella tea and red rice.

Island inspiration

The Nihi Spa Safari is one part of the resort’s inspired wellness offering, which has been enhanced this year with the launch of its Wild Wellness concept.

Curated by luxury spa consultant Melissa Mettler, the new developments include four immersive retreats and the installation of treatment spaces, such as The Butterfly Meditation Lounge, where indigenous butterflies flutter as part of its conservation programme.

A reflection of the overall ethos behind the secluded resort, this Wild Wellness concept is designed to heighten your connection with the surroundings, transcending a typical spa experience by making it entirely distinct to this magical setting.

A leading inspiration for this wellness offering, and one of the aspects that really sets this property apart, is its picture-postcard setting on an isolated stretch of the island’s coastline. Nihi Sumba backs the 1.5-mile crescent of pristine sandy shores making up Nihiwatu Beach, perhaps best known among the jet set for its population of wild horses, often seen cantering along the shores and in the surf.

During my time at the resort, I’m taken on a beach walk with the horses while learning how to connect with them, and I watch the sun go down from the back of one as it swims through waves that shimmer in the lowering light.

Transformative programmes

Sunset rides and swimming with the horses have long been a feature of the Nihi experience. Now, as a part of the new Wild Wellness offering, the opportunities for interaction with the Sumba ‘sea horses’ have been enhanced by an equine therapy programme and the creation of a five-day Sumba Sea Horse Equine Experience.

Expert-led activities with the Sumbanese horses are designed to provide insight into their emotions, communication styles and behavioural patterns in interaction that builds trust, asserts boundaries and embraces vulnerability.

The seven-day Wellness FX programme, promising lasting transformation, then focuses on building strength and flexibility through daily activities such as hiking and surfing, personal training, brain-body methods and a series of rejuvenating spa treatments.

Activities are curated according to a consultation and this is complemented with a nutrient-dense meal plan.

The Sumba-7 Detox instead focuses on inducing a deep purification and detoxification of the body, combining yoga, the Sumba Detox Wallace Line Diet and active medications in a treatment regimen that’s supported by the island’s indigenous botanicals.

Led by renowned instructors, the five-day Yoga Immersive, meanwhile, aims to deepen your understanding and refine techniques of your current practice or build a foundation to begin your yoga journey.

Twice-daily yoga sessions are complemented with nourishing cuisine and the half-day Nihi Spa Safari.

Additional experiences brought into the Wild Wellness programme, joining existing transformative treatments such as singing bowls therapy and reiki, include Underwater Seabed Rock Running and Aqua Lung, which combines yogic stretching and breathwork beneath the water’s surface.

Beachfront living

At the resort, 27 individually designed villas – encompassing a total of 33 properties with private pools in one, two, three, four or five-bedroom layouts – nestle in the lush landscape climbing up the hillside from Nihiwatu Beach.

The peaked thatched roofs of these villas and other shared spaces peer above the verdant flora. Frangipani and bright-pink bougainvillea grow alongside the stone steps leading between the villas and down to the indoor-outdoor main restaurant Ombak, Japanese omakase dining space Kaboku, the shoreside Nio Beach Club, and beachside sunset meeting point Boathouse – all facing the ocean.

The high-ceilinged Menara living area provides a gathering lounge space at the top of the hill, with a standalone gym, boutique and chocolate factory.

Pools dot the landscape, which is also home to an organic garden growing aloe vera, butterfly pea flowers and tomatoes. The Experience Centre, a setting-off point for surf lessons, is found at the Boathouse and horse rides are led from the beachside paddocks and stables.

Chocolate-making classes are offered in the whimsically designed chocolate workshop, while guest can learn how to make popular Indonesian dishes at cooking classes, using ingredients from the garden.

Excursions on land include hikes through Wanukaka Valley to a blue lagoon at the base of Matayangu waterfall, a drive into the rural highlands to follow a trail between villages, and a paddleboard or canoe trip along Wanukaka River.

A stay at Nihi Sumba is undoubtedly about more than the in-resort experience. While the Wild Wellness concept allows guests to restore and reset, it also provides a glimpse into local life on this rugged island and its unique flora.

Sumba foundation

A significant part of any stay at Nihi Sumba is the chance to visit a local health clinic and school through the impactful Sumba Foundation.

Born from the vision of Nihiwatu founders Claude and Petra Graves, and now funded by Nihi Sumba and the donations of resort guests, the non-profit initiative was set up to tackle issues local communities had long faced, from a lack of access to water to malnutrition, widespread malaria, limited education and an absence of health facilities.

Owing to the efforts of this foundation, the island now benefits from the work of a series of health clinics and improved access to clean water through the creation of water wells and stations.

Malaria cases have been reduced by as much as 93% in target areas, and students receive school supplies and regular school lunches. During a stay at Nihi Sumba, guests have the opportunity to sign up for a complimentary Sumba Foundation tour, including volunteering with the school lunch programme, and to contribute to the English classes of a nearby school.

Book it: Elegant Resorts offers one night at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and seven nights at Nihi Sumba on a full-board basis from £20,669, based on an August 20 departure and two adults sharing.

The price includes economy flights with Malaysian Airlines from Heathrow, domestic flights, private transfers and UK lounge access. elegantresorts.co.uk


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