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Chris Burch’s Rustic-Luxe Resort on a Remote Indonesian Island




It is now official that the best hotel in the world isn’t in New York or London but on a remote island in Indonesia.  Nihi Sumba Island, the luxury resort formerly known as Nihiwatu, was voted the world’s best hotel by readers of Travel+ Leisure magazine two years in a row. It even surpassed the Brando, where Obama made a stop on his recent world tour.

The brains behind Nihi Resort

Back In 1988, the beach attracted Claude and Petra Graves who were in search of an impeccable wave. Interestingly, a vision emerged from this adventure— a vision to build a resort that would preserve as well as share the breathtaking beauty of Sumba. The island’s early settlers named the beach Nihiwatu (mortar stone) for its isolated rock formation along the tide.

In 2012, this cult surf destination was purchased by renowned brand-building American entrepreneur Chris Burch, in partnership with hotelier James McBride, President of YTL Hotels in Singapore at the time. They spent $30 million and transformed it into a culturally immersive enclave of great adventure as well as serious indulgence. The duo re-opened it in 2015 as a rustic-luxe resort and later changed its name to Nihi.

In an interview with Business Jet Traveller, Burch said that this acquisition was for his children to enjoy for years to come, with hopes that the resort could preserve the unique culture of Sumba and empower the local community. As he says, anyone in a place where the palette is striking can do things that he or she can’t do in other places, such as go to places where no others have been, build a spa under a waterfall, and have a butler in every room.

Reliable resources, including the Wall Street Journal, reveal that Chris Burch spends his time between Miami, Los Angeles, the Hamptons and his resort in Indonesia that is now known for attracting the elite, given its overgenerous set-up—a world class spa, one of the world’s private waves for the best surfing, and 27 villas, including Raja Mendaka (Burch’s private home). Raja Mendaka is uniquely designed, with a main house and four extra villas, each one of them with its own private plunge pool.

Since its acquisition in 2012, Nihi resort has become the island’s largest local employer. In fact, a portion of profits are repatriated to the Sumba Foundation, which funds projects to help the local community.

What sets the resort apart is, of course, its strong connection with the local people, who make up 90 percent of the hotel staff.


So what exactly can people expect when they check into Nihi Resort, the world’s best hotel?

The luxury island resort has long been a destination for some of the best surfing in the world, with unregulated freedom being the main focus. This simply means there are no awkward socializing, no buffets, and of course no time for boredom. In a layman’s language, it’s all about complete relaxation and receiving most rewarding experience.

However, no more than 10 surfers are allowed in the water at a time. A surf slot often costs up to $125 per person during the high season. Also, surf lessons are open to guests of any skill and cost $250 per person. But the sessions differ depending on the amount of experience a person has.

There are a variety of villas—from estates and duplexes to one-bedrooms. Each has a private plunge pool and an unobstructed view of the coastline. This is, without a doubt, a great way to laze away the afternoon and frame the sunset every evening.

Rates start at least $750 dollars a night during the low season. For Burch’s five-bedroom private home, be ready to shell out $14,000 a night in any season.

The large indoor-outdoor entertaining areas ensure you get the most out of your trip. There is one three-villa tree house on the resort, each bedroom connected by a bamboo bridge. Each villa has its own bedroom, bathroom and balcony. There is an outdoor living area and two private pools.  The professionally designed interiors feature local wood, native decorative objects, and traditional Sumbanese Ikat textiles.

You’ll want to take advantage of the Nihi Oka Spa Safari and take a scenic open-top safari ride from Sumba’s west coast to the Niki Oka Valley. One trip to the nearby waterfalls includes a 90-minute hike to a secluded valley, where you can jump off the rocks into a swimming hole. Guests can expect to pay $175 per person.

You can also travel by boat or safari jeep to the neighboring bays, such as Coconut Cove, which offers a calmer place to learn how to surf.

If you’re not a fan of surfing, you could opt for a beach spa experience that dreams are made of. The wellness centers are open daily to offer group yoga sessions as well as private classes, which are customized to address an individual’s needs. The seemingly endless menu of spa treatments (scrubs, wraps, and massages) can also be done in your own room. Suffice to say, Nihi Sumba Island is all about indulgence.

The resort has a team of guides to take the guests on horseback-riding trips along the beach, or up into the hills and through the forest. Guests are also taught how to meditate with horses.

No wonder Travel + Leisure readers voted Nihi as the number one hotel in the world, in 2016 & 2017! It is certainly an amazing resort for travellers seeking to get the most out for their trip and enjoy the best memories.

Future plans

Burch and McBride say that they plan to expand and build resorts that are easily accessible to the Millennial traveler, with locations closer to North America.

More about Chris Burch in this interview.

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