The island of Sumba, Indonesia
The island of Sumba, Indonesia

Island Life: We talk tribal traditions, white sand beaches and salt water lagoons with the founder of Cap Karoso, Sumba  

Globetrotting French couple Fabrice and Evguenia Ivara will this autumn open the newest addition to Sumba’s hotel scene — Cap Karoso — a 47-room unique hotel in the pristine south-west of the island. With a mission to protect the Indonesian island’s natural treasures and share them with like-minded explorers, we caught up with Eve to find out more.

Cap Karoso hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

What brought you to Sumba initially? What did you want to achieve with Cap Karoso?

We first came to Sumba in 2017, to explore the mysterious island we heard about when we were in Bali. When we arrived the wild, untouched feeling of the place was such a refreshing contrast to the world of globalisation. There were buffaloes on the road, piglets running free, indigenous tribal traditions and pristine beaches. There was something that we’d never encountered before, but at the same time, that we’d both always wanted to experience: the sense of being a true explorer, that felt far away from today’s world and today’s time.

Sumba, Indonesia

The idea of Cap Karoso came from this emotion — we wanted to share it with other like-minded travelers. As the project unfolded, our objective grew into creating a new kind of hospitality, an alchemy of undiscovered destination, authentic culture, sustainability, and, of course, the finer things in life.

What is it that makes Sumba so unique?

Sumba is home to the last megalithic culture of the world. Local people worship the spirits of ancestors, in a unique Marapu cult. For us, this well-preserved culture is one the most interesting things to discover in Sumba. Visiting the traditional villages, encountering the locals, learning about their wedding or funerary rituals is probably the thing worth crossing the world for. Kodi, the region where Cap Karoso is located, if particularly known for the tightly preserved traditional way of life.

Sumba, Indonesia

You’ve worked hard to ensure Cap Karoso has close ties to the local community. Can you tell us more about this, and the history and traditions of Sumba?

Sumba is an island that was never truly colonized and experiences very little influence from the outside world. Because of this, it’s remained very authentic, keeping its strong Marapu identity. Villagers are still living in traditional houses with tall roofs that are supposed to host spirits of the ancestors; their homes are surrounded with the tombs of their deceased family members. Ratos (local shamans) make all the important decisions, for example, when to start planting or harvesting, they pray for the rain, predict future and heal.

Cap Karoso hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

For us it was tremendously important that our project is understood and accepted by the local community. We started by requesting ancestral approval, which was luckily granted by the local ratos and village heads during a long traditional ceremony that hosted 600 guests from the villages all around Karoso.

All the operations are also imagined in close collaboration with the local community. The Cap Karoso team will mostly be from Sumba, thanks to our partnership with Sumba Hospitality Foundation, a local NGO providing education, skills and career opportunities to underprivileged students.

We want to create the same spirit of cultural connection, curiosity, and authentic exchange found in a typical laid-back French bistro, where the guests genuinely engage with staff. It’s about getting to know the place through its people.

Cap Karoso hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

How would you describe Sumba to a first-time visitor? What are the highlights we shouldn’t miss?

Sumba is an island of an incredibly diversity: you can see hills and plains, tropical forest and savannah, breathtaking cliffs and white-sand beaches… The must-sees are the traditional villages like Rattengaro; the amazing salt-water lagoon Weekur; the ikat textile weaving in the east of Sumba… There are so many!

Cap Karoso hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

What inspires you?

We both share a passion for craftsmanship. The most inspiring moments that we lived while working on our project were our encounters with the passionate artisans – be it an Indonesian master of Ikat, a French perfumier, an Italian ceramist. The magic of the perfect gesture, the amazing creativity of those artisans is what was driving us all the way in the creation of Cap Karoso.

Cap Karoso hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

How important is travel to you?

With our project, travel is a big part of our lives. But despite the frequent trips, we try not to live them as a kind of routine. When we travel, it’s a moment to learn something new about the places we go to, a moment to confront ourselves to a different mindset or lifestyle, to celebrate new encounters and the new ideas that grow out of them.

Fabrice and Evguenia Ivara, owners of Cap Karoso Hotel, Sumba, Indonesia

Find out more about Cap Karoso here. Follow @cap_karoso

Up next on the blog — artist and winemaker Alexandra Manousakis reveals the pull of Crete.

Shop new luggage for that long-awaited trip, with new colours for summer in suitcases, here.