NIHIWATU, Sumba, Indonesia (CNN) -

"This has been voted one of the best left-hand breaks on the planet. But watch out for the reef if you get dumped -- try and shallow fall."

The surfing instructor knows who he's dealing with -- an uncoordinated, naturally ungifted sportsman on the wrong side of fit and very embarrassed at being Australian yet unable to surf.

And totally in awe of the view back to the beach and surrounding coastline while floating impressively ungainly between wave sets.

A scene like this, of the beach, gardens and hillside of the unassuming Nihiwatu resort on Indonesia's eastern island of Sumba island, makes a morning of shallow falling (read: tumbling like a drunken cat in a washing machine) totally palatable.

The beauty is immense and the urge to dole out "paradise"-riddled cliches is equally immense.

Yet, there's something more tranquil about this setting, a sense of harmony in the way the resort blends in effortlessly with its surroundings -- even with this surfer wannabe in the frame.

Finding the 'perfect place'

The hotel is the remarkable result of a vision of colorful resort founder Claude Graves, who in 1984 with his wife, Petra, packed up their life in Africa to go in search of the perfect wave.

The ambition, he says, was to create a "perfect place" around that perfect experience.

It has so far proven a story well worth retelling.

"I wanted to create something totally experiential that didn't detract from the area," says Grave. "The best travel is around the best experiences."

After four years, and finding what has become known locally as The Wave, he and Petra ended up here in Nihiwatu on the southern coast of the relatively unknown Sumba, an island about an hour's flight east of Bali.

Land time almost forgot

The couple camped on the beach, an idyllic 2.5-kilometer-long stretch of sand.

The beach is still difficult to access for anyone other than local villagers, and thus serves as something of a private beach for guests.

It's hard to imagine this same sand was the scene, barely six months before the Graves' arrival, of a massive battle between 2,000 local tribesmen.

Indeed, Sumba could be easily labeled an island that time almost forgot.

That clash was an illustration of the fiercely traditional, territorial and tribal nature of Sumbanese culture -- reinforced by the swords the village men strap to their sides to this day.

It's also, by Western standards, incredibly poor with little to no utilities access and infrastructure for many, if not most, villages.

This lack of standard resources posed a challenge for Graves and his plans.

Becoming Sumbanese

Through years of assimilation, negotiation, trust and countless pig sacrifices, Graves ingrained himself with the local community.

"We always said that if we found and developed a place, it had to be inclusive," says Graves, who confesses to not being a "hotel man."

"Tourism has the best potential economically in Sumba but if locals are not connected to it, it will be a big disaster.

"We couldn't imagine building a hotel here without including the locals so that all would benefit."