Nihiwatu now has a legion of faithful guests who return to surf Sumba's world-class breaks and to relax in comfort and isolation, far from modern society. However, says Graves, "It is the Sumbanese culture that is truly incredible. The people are friendly and welcoming [even though] they endure difficult hardships every day. Through it all they maintain a level of dignity and joy we can all learn from."
The resort is mostly staffed by locals, and other community members benefit from the non-profit Sumba Foundation, an organization Graves co-founded with friend Sean Downs. The foundation works on education, sanitation, and health projects. Guests of the resort can visit local villages to spend the day learning about the daily life of the Sumbanese. Some also volunteer in the community or make donations to the foundation. Lucky visitors may be invited to attend special rituals, such as Pasola, a controlled battle in which riders on horseback fight with spears.
"The real highlight for us every time we go back is to see the changes in the health and the well-being of the families and children in the surrounding areas," says Melbourne native Lynda Lim, who's been coming to Nihiwatu with her husband for seven years. "When we first came and visited the villages, we were looking at sick children and families living in almost Stone Age conditions. Now, with income, healthcare, food, and education being made available, it is a real pleasure to see many happy, smiling healthy babies and children."
Aside from the culture, guests can surf, go sportfishing, ride Sumbanese horses, and take yoga and meditation classes in Nihiwatu's open-air studio. There's also a spa, a restaurant that serves dishes made from local produce and freshly caught fish, and a cabana bar. Travelers stay at luxurious bungalows or private villas with canopy beds, oceanview balconies, and antique Indonesian decor.
Trip planning:The resort is open from March to early January and requires a minimum stay of five nights. Prices are based on double occupancy and include bungalow or villa accommodations, airport transfers in Sumba, all meals, a village visit, and a full-body massage. Airfare and other activities are extra. Round-trip October fares from Los Angeles to Denpasar, Bali, where the nearest major international airport is located, start at $1,135, including taxes, on Continental. From Denpasar, Nihiwatu runs weekly charter flights to Sumba at a cost of $290 per adult.
Desert elephants, mountain zebras, and oryx, oh my!
Lodge:Damaraland Camp Price:from $354 per person per night
Most Americans don't know much about Namibia—other than it's where Brad and Angelina had Shiloh—but this country that sits above South Africa claims some of the continent's most stunning landscapes. It's also a relatively safe and stable travel destination. There's plenty in Namibia to keep adventure travelers engaged: the Skeleton Coast, where white sand dunes tumble down into the sea; Fish River Canyon, a gorge second only in size to the Grand Canyon; and semi-arid plateaus where desert-adapted elephants, oryx, and other arid-adapted wildlife roam.