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For far too long tourism has primarily benefited travellers and the developers of the tourist destinations they went to. Given its destructive nature, in many places, the environment and the people often suffered or saw little benefit from this generally accepted model of destination tourism. For us building a purely for profit tourism venture did not make sense at all. In 1988 we set out on a journey to find a site at which we could develop an environmentally and socially friendly business, one that would be a valuable tool for conserving bio-diversity and culture in a responsible and sustainable manner, a venture that would strive to give more than it takes.
At that time we did not have all of the answers but we did know that at Nihiwatu there would be two priorities, the environment and, more importantly, the people.

To address these goals it has been our philosophy to:

  • Do all we can to ease the oppressive impacts of poverty for our neighbours.
  • Strive to provide our neighbours with at least the basic needs everyone everywhere deserves to have, clean water, functioning health facilities and opportunities for at least a basic education.
  • Be a supportive force for peace in the community.
  • Ensure that Nihiwatu is the vehicle that improves the quality of our Sumbanese neighbours’ lives.
  • Make it priority that at least 95% of our staff must be from the island.
  • Create income opportunities that benefit all of our Sumbanese neighbours, not just those fortunate enough to be able to work at Nihiwatu.
  • Be the stewards of the land and oceans nearby Nihiwatu and to educate and encourage the local people to join us in preserving their many environmental gifts before they are lost.

Prove by example that tourism can be an important component in the global war on poverty.
In the early years of the Nihiwatu development the owners tried as best as they could to help their neighbours in the villages but the scale of need in the area was overwhelming. Frustrated by not being able to make any real impact towards solving the problems of the community they sought help from the few hotel guests they had at the time. Many were willing to help but it was clear that much more was needed. In 1997 the idea of establishing a foundation, one that could deal with providing water and health care in the area, was set out by the owners in a formal community development plan that could be shown to interested guests.

Three years later one of their surfing guests, Sean Downs, read the 10 page plan and offered to help. Together they co-founded The Sumba Foundation as a separate entity from Nihiwatu, one that would dedicate itself to lessening the consequences of poverty on the island of Sumba.

Since then many foreigners vacationing at Nihiwatu have been eager to help fund and get involved in the Foundations community development projects. An overwhelming majority of them have been touched by the Sumbanese people and are compelled to help. At the same time, in America, the Foundations fundraising efforts have benefited Nihiwatu as well. Many of those donors want to see the results of the projects they funded and come to stay at the resort. Many return year after year to follow the results of their donation to the local community.


Nihiwatu is an engine for change in the local community and provides a measure of sustainability to the Foundation and its humanitarian goals. We hope to be a leading example of how business and non-profit organizations can benefit each other to achieve common goals, to create positive and lasting change for underprivileged people everywhere. For more on The Sumba Foundation visit http://www.sumbafoundation.org

C. & P. Graves, owners of Nihiwatu