Suki Sebastian Belaustegui
Suki Sebastian Belaustegui

Nihiwatu Resort presents a documentary photography workshop retreat with Sebastian Suki Beláustegui

The Essence of Traditional Life in Sumba

Imagine if the photos you took on your next holiday could do more than just document your trip. The renowned Nihiwatu Resort on Sumba Island, East Indonesia, is gifting aspiring photographers with the incredible opportunity to observe and record life in Sumba under the watchful eye of one of the world’s most exciting and dedicated documentary photographers.

The resort is welcoming National Geographic Photographer Sebastian Suki Beláustegui to host a 7-day documentary photography workshop retreat entitled “The essence of traditional life in Sumba” from the 23rd to the 30th October, 2014.

The photographer

Aspiring photographers will nurture, gather and ripen their skills under Sebastian’s brilliant technical and artistic talent. Upon a privileged group, he will impart some of the knowledge he has learned from years of working as a documentary photographer.

It was on a trip to Morocco after graduating from college that Sebastian discovered his passion for photography, and he has been dedicated to the art ever since. Subsequently, the Argentinian born artist has travelled across 8 countries and lived in 25 native communities, documenting Latin America since 1991 for his book “Guardians of Time, Portraits of the Spirit of Latin America” (2003).

Moreover, his works have been published in the L.A Times, Newsweek, UNICEF, Travel & Leisure, The Sunday Times, as well as on the cover of National Geographic. Some of Suki’s work can be viewed on his site,

Sebastian recently moved to Bali where he continues to develop his talent as a photographer, capturing the moments and beauty of Indonesia. He is currently working on a new editorial project, “Sumba tribal people” on Sumba Island, home to Nihiwatu. For Sebastian, capturing the magic of the island it is a tribute to one of the most beautiful places in the world. The location, with its traditional and tribal culture and communities, is the perfect fit for his documentary photography style.

The location

The Nihiwatu Resort serves as a beautiful location for the retreat. Surrounded by a tropical forest, rice terraces, grasslands and two and a half kilometers of beachfront, the resort’s villas are the definition of private. In the serenity, guests can truly appreciate the spectacular scenery and captivating culture that is hidden within the sanctuary.


The resort is located on the edge of the Island of Sumba, which is positioned 400 kilometers west of Bali. The indescribably beautiful island is twice the size of Bali but is only populated by approximately one sixth (650,000) of its neighbor’s inhabitants. Due to the isolated location, the majority of the population still follows the traditions of their ancestors. The language, religion and traditional lifestyle of the local culture has been well preserved, which is almost unheard of. Many fascinating rituals are still celebrated by the locals throughout the year conserving the rich and raw culture of the Sumbansese.


Nihiwatu is passionate about preserving and protecting the uniqueness of the Sumbanese culture. The hotel is supported by the Sumbanese in exchange for the benefits it provides to local communities. For its efforts, the resort is rewarded with access to nature’s best; unimaginable sport fishing; hiking through breathtaking waterfalls, ancient villages and butterfly trails; and stand-up paddling down the Wanukaka River. Fervently celebrated is the resort’s access to world-class surfing, with Nihiwatu‘s left-hand break said to be one of the best in Indonesia. The limited access to the beach has facilitated its attainment of cult status adding to the essence of the island.

Guests are encouraged to visit the local villages surrounding the resort. Some are even lucky enough to be invited inside homes due to the friendly relationship between the Sumbanese and Nihiwatu. It is an exceptional opportunity to capture life in its most pure and raw form.

The workshop


During the one week retreat, under Suki’s expert guidance, students will develop their photography skills and notice distinct improvements in their shots. In learning to seize the timeless moments and recognise the wonder that can be seen through the lens, guests will mature as photographers.

Nihiwatu’s documentary photography workshop retreat aims to inspire guests in the art of documentary photography, so the world can be captured through the lens of the camera, in an intimate and artistic way. This is achieved in learning under Suki’s unique way of approaching documentary photography, which encourages introspection, engagement with the surrounding culture and immersion into the traditional world. “I like to help my students to develop a visual ethic photography work and with human commitment, where the participant will be in an introspective and integration experience with the subject and the community that we will be working,” says Suki.


Sadly, Suki also notes that the ways of life in Sumba are being threatened by modernisation. “My challenge is to lead students to learn, observe and capture the essence of the place and the local traditional people. Learning about local customs while photographing the community increases the meaningfulness of the photos taken. This is how the photographer is serving to preserve the island’s traditions.”

The opportunity to view the local culture from a more passionate and creative point of view is open to photographers of all different levels. All is made possible when learning from a talented and experienced professional. Suki is there to advise on the technical side which will include learning about the sunset and sunrise, beach shots, night scenes, low-light, landscape, motion and travel photography, as well as in-the-moment street shooting and natural light portraiture. These skills will enable students to take advantage of the quality of the natural light, as it filters through foliage, creating contrasts and shadows, illuminating features, making photography in Sumba a pleasure. All that is required from guests is a camera that one is familiar with and, most importantly, a passion for photography.

Take a moment and inhale the sweet-smelling aroma of the sandalwood forests. Let the grains of sand warm the soles of your feet and realise the magnificence of this opportunity. Under the observant eye of an extraordinary and devoted National Geographic Photographer you can document the beautifully fascinating life in Sumba. Let these shared words of the artist resonate within – “The most important thing is to allow a personal transformation that will immerse you deeply into the authentic Sumba culture around you.

To find out more, e-mail or visit

Nihiwatu Resort Photos (Flickr Autostream)

Nihiwatu Resort Videos (Youtube Autostream)

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