The story of NIHIWATU® is a rare and fascinating tale that began when Sumba’s ancestors, the ‘Marapu,’ landed on its secluded beach centuries ago. Beliefs about their powers vary, but the Marapu spirit has remained a benevolent force on the island, protecting the way of life and attracting custodians whom honor and carry forth the heritage and stories of the Sumbanese people, past and present.
The same beach attracted Claude and Petra Graves in 1988, in search of the perfect wave. From this adventure emerged a vision to create a resort that would preserve and share the breathtaking beauty of Sumba with those who would truly appreciate it. NIHIWATU® beach, meaning “mortar stone,” was named by early settlers for its isolated rock formation along the tide. The Graves aptly called the resort Nihiwatu for its surrounding legacy.
By 2012, stories of the unregulated freedom and beauty of NIHIWATU® reached renowned brand-building American entrepreneur Christopher Burch, who was told Claude was looking for help to expand the resort. Burch called on a friend from New York’s The Carlyle Hotel—South African-born hotelier James McBride, who was President of YTL Hotels in Singapore at the time—to visit Sumba.
Later that year, Burch’s trip with his three sons proved to be a milestone, as he acquired NIHIWATU® in partnership with McBride. The acquisition enabled substantial investment with the single priority to evolve NIHIWATU® into one of the best resorts in the world, an example of a sustainable operation in harmony with the environment and the Sumbanese people. Travel + Leisure readers globally have voted NIHIWATU® as the number one hotel in the world, in all categories, in it’s annual 2016 World’s Best Awards.
Maintaining its deep-rooted philosophy, and through the generosity of Burch, a portion of profits are now repatriated into the Sumba Foundation that Graves and Sean Downs (President of the Sumba Foundation) jointly founded in 2001. With the enthusiastic support of hotel guests, NIHIWATU® is a philanthropic vehicle dedicated to fostering community-based projects. During their stay, guests are introduced to the Foundation’s efforts through an impactful presentation and short film. Many guests subsequently become benefactors to the Foundation. The result is a rare collaboration between a resort and its local community that today co-exists with compelling interdependence: the resort has become the biggest employer on the island and the Sumba Foundation gives back to the local communities.
Over the last fourteen years, the Foundation has set up 4 Medical Clinics, a Malaria Training Center and has developed over 100 wells and water stations.
The Sumba Foundation currently feed 80 small children in its malnutrition program; it supports and has refurbished 15 primary schools. It also provides school lunch for 1,100 children twice a week.
The spirit of Sumba awaits you at NIHIWATU®.