The Sanubari – the Sumba Resort of your dreams

I’ve finally experienced the magical Sumba resort, The Sanubari



Sumba, for many people, including myself, evokes images of a faraway and wild place. An untouched paradise of cliffs, hills and forests. Traditional villages and horse jousting. A step back in time. 



I’ve lived in Bali for some time now and although some people do visit Sumba, it’s certainly hasn’t been on the main tourist radar.  Our wonderful nanny Annie is from Sumba and had told us many stories of village life and the amazing natural environment. Our friends had been building a luxury Sumba resort there for years and had regaled us with tales of Sumba life. 

I’d just read a book on Indonesia called Indonesia – Exploring the Improbable Nation (Elizabeth Pisani), where the chapter on Sumba began with “Arriving in today’s Sumba from today’s Jakarta, you feel like you have travelled through time as well as space”. I wanted to experience this for myself. 



I’d even been there on a quick shoot last year, but I knew I had experienced a mere fraction of the island. There was so much more to see and do. 



With school holidays approaching and me dreading the thought of trying to entertain my munchkins during a Bali rainy season, the timing was right to return. 

the sanubari resort
bedroom at the sanubari

The Sanubari is definitely one of the best hidden Sumba Island resorts


Sumba feels far away but it’s just a one hour flight, followed by a fascinating drive through the winding roads to your accommodation. There was greenery all around us, and we stopped a few times to allow a herd of buffalos and their guardian to cross the road. Watching village life from the street was a pleasure. Kids walking home from school waving and smiling as we passed. 



Yet, by the time we reached our accommodation, it had taken us the same time as thought we were visiting the Gili islands. In Sumba Island, the resort was further away in my mind than in reality. 

the sanubari hotel sumba
buffalos at the sanubari
barefoot luxury resort in sumba

As soon as we arrived at our boutique resort, The Sanubari, we knew this place was special. Our gorgeous villa was secluded and private. It, like all the 6 villas in the complex, was built facing the ocean. From our swimming pool we could walk across the sand into that crystal clear ocean water. The endless beach was completely empty. This was the perfect beach paradise of my dreams. Heaven on earth.


The first morning we were greeted by a herd of buffalos walking on the beach. I have absolutely adored buffaloes since my first travels in Asia 20 years ago as a wide-eyed backpacker. My affection for them has only grown so to see them and be able to pat them was so special. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure!


The villa itself was spectacular. Newly-built, each villa is spacious and beautifully decorated to subtly highlight Sumba’s culture and traditions. Big comfy beds that look onto the epic white stone veranda and private infinity pool, as well as that endless empty beach. It’s a hot part of the world so the cold air cons are a blessing in the nights. The bathrooms were beautifully done, super spacious. Our two bedroom villa had 2 large bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, one with a bathtub and the second bathroom even had a double shower. As well as that, the living room area overlooked our drop dead gorgeous view.

the villa at the sanubari resort sumba
the room view at sanubari resort sumba
bath tub at the sanubari hotel
the bedroom at the sanubari resort sumba
room at the sanubari hotel sumba
the bathroom at the sanubari resort

The Sanubari, a newly opened boutique luxury resort that my friends Misha and Rowan had been working on for years with their business partners Allan and Roger Thomas, who are long-term Bali hoteliers. Their son, Marlow, has been playing with my kids since they were all in kindy together. 



What a great place for them to explore and play! Marlow showed my two kids around his island home. The 3 rode bikes and went sightseeing. Marlow’s curly blond hair is easy to spot and all the locals love him. Sometimes they ran into the waves where he played surf instructor and showed my two how to stand up. The joy and freedom we saw in the kids is contagious. 



We also explored this part of the island on a scooter. Cruising through local villages and along deserted roads. With almost no other vehicles on the road, riding 2 abreast and chatting made a very pleasant change from the stresses of navigating Bali traffic. Local children asking for high fives as we cruised past was a lovely feeling.

sanubari resort sumba owners
the fisherman in sumba
swimming with horses in sumba
the sanubari resort staff

But most of the time we stayed within this Sumba luxury resort. Hours spend in the open plan restaurant gazing at the waves, playing in the water, or reading a book next to our villa pool. Pure relaxation. This was heaven. Due to its remoteness, the internet is not as reliable as in Bali, but to be honest we welcomed it with open arms. To disconnect from work was a welcome relief. We were “forced” to fully relax. Making space for swimming, surfing, reading, and connecting with nature, something we all need to do more often. At night, due to the resort’s remoteness, millions of stars flickered in the sky.



An exceptional part of our stay were the experiences that The Sanubari offers. Riding off to a secluded cove with transparent water? Check! Swimming with horses in crystal clear water? Check! It almost felt like a dream! There are other experiences that they offer but we did not have time to do them, such as traditional pottery making and textile weaving. Oh well, I guess I will have to come back and immerse myself fully into The Sanubari life!


Sanubari means Heart & Soul and there is no doubt that it matches the feel and philosophy of the experience. You feel the heart and soul of the place when you are there, you enter the Sumba rhythm and your heart expands with gratitude and your soul thank you for giving yourself an experience of a lifetime. 


You can receive a complimentary massage & swim with horses at The Sanubari by mentioning ‘Bali Interiors’ upon booking! The offer is valid for a minimum of 3 nights stay.

For single booking, the offer is valid for 1 person & for a family booking, the offer is valid for 2 people.

the restaurant at the sanubari hotel
restaurant by the beach in sumba
the living room in the sanubari hotel
the restaurant at the sanubari sumba
the view in the sanubari hotel sumba
the sunset in sumba
the room in sanubari hotel
the people of sumba
the sunset at the sanubari sumba

Are you planning to come to Bali anytime soon? Check out our upcoming Bali Interiors Retreat in 2023!


Looking for other places to stay in Bali & surrounding islands?

Photography by Sheila Man for Bali Interiors


  1. Curt Burgess May 3, 2023

    Where did you eat while you were there?

    1. Wayan May 4, 2023

      They have their own restaurant on-site at the Sanubari! Lots of delicious Western and Indonesian food available.


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