For surfers, Indonesia has never been better
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For surfers, Indonesia has never been better

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guest article

Sumba Island

With its world-class waves, warm waters, and tropical weather, Indonesia is a surfer’s dream. Yet among the country’s remote island communities, malaria, infant mortality, and a lack of access to clean water persist. But good news is afoot. Grassroots, surfer-led organizations are springing up in the archipelago. Keep Bali Clean spearheaded a local surf competition last April to benefit beach restoration efforts, and the established international nonprofit SurfAid is working to improve health care in the world’s most remote surfing destinations. Luxury resorts, too, are leveraging their platforms to engage travelers. Two in particular are leading the charge. Kandui Villas, a 12-bungalow hideaway in the isolated Mentawai islands, works in collaboration with Waves For Water to bring clean water access to those who need it most.

And Nihiwatu, a 33-villa resort on Sumba Island, has launched a sizable nonprofit, the Sumba Foundation, to improve local health-care access and feed underserved schoolchildren. The total impact: $850,000 in 2016, and $7 million over the past 16 years. Thanks to a constant trickle of donations, the Sumba Foundation has been able to reduce malaria rates by 85 percent on the island and provide health care to 25,000 locals. Their message is clear: In Indonesia, surfing is being used as a conduit for good. And travelers keen to ride the waves can help shape the change.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide To Discover The Exquisite Sumba Island In Indonesia

Sunset at Nihiwatu

On a recent spring evening, local Sumbanese children gathered with their horses on Nihiwatu’s mile-and-a-half stretch of private beach, waiting to race across the sand. It’s emblematic of the many activities Nihiwatu uses as fundraisers; here, guests were invited to bid on potential winners over canapés and drinks. On this night they raised only $400, but out here, small-scale events make a deceptively large impact.

Great waves make a great resort

Surfer Claude Graves knew he was looking for three things when he set out to create Nihiwatu: a location with good breaks, easy ocean access, and rich cultural appeal. “Sumba was uncharted at the time. The best map I could find was from 1883,” he said. It checked all the boxes.

Fit for surfers or honeymooners

In addition to 33 serene villas with private plunge pools, Nihiwatu now has a three-bedroom treehouse atop a cliff, a boathouse, and private stable with Sumbanese horses—a cross between local ponies and those of Arabian breeding. There’s even an artisan chocolate factory, nodding to Sumba’s native cocoa plantations. The resort’s chocolate sales—at roughly $5 per bar—also benefit the Sumba Foundation.

Luxury with a conscience

Nihiwatu’s clientele—who pay upward of $1,000 per night at the resort—are well positioned to make a difference. “They surf here, they spend a lot of money, but then they double down and put the money in the foundation because they get emotionally invested with the community,” said Graves. Here, some of the many Sumbanese children that benefit from the resort’s giving.

Real problems, real solutions

Malaria is a big issue in Sumba, said Kenny Knickerbocker, general manager of the Sumba Foundation. But it’s getting better, thanks to efforts that range from prevention (via mosquito nets) to diagnosis (via nurse training and expanded clinics, such as the one shown here). But awareness is also a big part of the equation: Rather than accepting the disease as a death sentence, Knickerbocker is out to prove that “malaria can be treated quite easily.”

A true sense of place

Guests of Nihiwatu can visit Sumba Foundation projects, from water pumps to schools, or a Sumbanese village. On arrival, locals rush forward, peddling beaded jewelry and traditional swords. But the sales push isn’t strong, and the smiles feel genuine. Despite the arrival of visitors, many locals keep going about their day. Here, four men play a game of cards. Two have pig jaw bones dangling from their ears, a “punishment” for losing two hands in a row.

Tackling “Occ.’s Left”

Only 10 individuals can register to hit the waves at Nihiwatu daily—and the privilege costs $100. What surfers get in return is a true rarity: a nearly empty wave and one epic ride, with consistent sets, a stable and clean top just before the wave break, and an empty ocean stretching out toward Australia. “Occy’s Left, Nihiwatu’s private surf wave, has a lot of character,” Antonella Mascimino, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said. “When you catch it at the right time, the reward is a 200 to 300-meter-long, thrilling ride down the line, through sections of ripple walls and heaving barrels.” It’s a challenge for even the most experienced surfer.

Article source: The Jakarta Post – For surfers, Indonesia has never been better

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