With an adventurous spirit and a style inspired by the laidback charm of the French Atlantic coast, The founders Of cap karoso hotel and villas are forging a new kind of hospitality – an alchemy of undiscovered destinations, authentic cultures, sustainability, and, the finer things in life.
As their vision really comes to life, we thought it was about time we caught up with Fabrice and Evguenia Ivara to hear more about the community of discerning explorers they’re creating in wild Sumba.
Which one of you had the idea for Cap Karoso?
F: Well, at its inception, Cap Karoso wasn’t really an idea as such, but rather a dream or even, an intuition – an intuition that we both shared! On our very first trip to Sumba, we both sensed that the island had a unique vibe. It had something that we’d never encountered before, but that we’d both always wanted to experience: the sense of being a true explorer, far away from today’s world and today’s time.
The idea of what our resort could actually be like started to unfold from this shared emotion. Each of us “added” elements into the puzzle of this perfect experience – what the food would be like, what the rooms should feel like – with each answering the same question: how could we create a place where our guests could truly live the vibe of Sumba?
What was the inspiration behind Cap Karoso in SUMBA?
F: We both share a slightly nostalgic ideal of travelling, looking back to a time when taking a trip to another country was rare, and when being a traveller, by necessity, meant being somewhat of an explorer. There was an elegance to that kind of travel. And it’s that combination of style and adventure that we want to recreate at Cap Karoso.
Are you a mindful traveller or are you a hedonist? Are you looking for something authentic or do you want to dress up for cocktails in the evening? I am both; I want both.EVGUENIA IVARA
E: For me, the inspiration was really in the emotion of being who you want to be. We holiday for just a few weeks of the year, and I’ve always thought that it’s such a shame we have to choose so decisively who we want to be during that time. Are you a mindful traveller or are you a hedonist? Are you looking for something authentic or do you want to dress up for cocktails in the evening? I am both; I want both.
Speaking more generally, I’m also seeing this desire for versatility in the people around me. In the last few years, the trend has been to push people into defining themselves through radical choices – a no-booze health retreat, vegan restaurants, HIIT boot camps, or super-glamour luxury. But not everyone finds pleasure in these extremes.
What sets you apart as owners?
E: Probably, that we’re doing this project as a family. Cap Karoso is with us in our daily conversations. And every nice experience we live together (be it a particularly good meal, or a cool expo, or a great tune) becomes a source of inspiration for Cap Karoso.
F: Both Eve and I are obsessed with details. I spent over a week trying to find the best pizza oven in Napoli, and countless hours figuring out the best way to organise the in-room bar; Eve obsessed for weeks over the choice of artwork… We don’t simply want to build a place that works, but create one that inspires in every way.
What experiences do you create for guests that are unlike other resorts?
E: I like to think of travel as a quest where we search out and experience new places, new things in order to understand their deeper meaning. And this is exactly the sort of quest that guests can embark on at Cap Karoso. Here, each element is filled with meaning – first you see the beautiful object, but then behind the beauty, there’s the process of how it’s made, its history, its symbology… In Sumba, symbology is an incredibly important part of local life, so there’s no better place for such a quest.
You often talk about Cap Karoso as a community, can you explain this?
F: From the very beginning, we knew that our concept couldn’t speak to everyone – that’s not the aim of any luxury resort. But in our case, we wanted the “filter” to be, not the price per night, but instead the common interests shared between us and our guests – sustainability, culture, gastronomy, art.
When we started to work on the project, we instantly recognised that both Sumba and our concept had the power to attract a certain type of mindset. The first experts came on board with the project simply following their own genuine interest in the island and the pioneering spirit of Cap Karoso – and that’s how the concept of community appeared.
E: Yes, we don’t bring people into our project simply for their expertise – there’s always a personal connection. And that’s important to us because our working process is collaborative. It’s a mix of ideas and knowledge from everyone, from our agriculturalist who came from the South of France to set up our organic farm, to the local shaman who has helped us understand the meaning of the Marapu symbols we use in the interior design, to our art consultant who is guiding us through the world of contemporary Indonesian art.
Once open, Cap Karoso will continue to function in this way, with new ideas constantly being added by the chefs, DJs, artists in residence, etc., and with everyone involved in the project feeling like they’re part of a community. This also extends to our villa owners. We’ve met each one personally to ensure there’s a connection that goes beyond a business relationship. We don’t consider the owners as investors, but rather as our future neighbours and actors in the project, just like the chefs and DJs.
And what about Covid? How did it affect the project?
F: There’s something quite incredible (not just incredibly complicated) about facing such an adversity when building a project. It reveals a lot about who you are as an entrepreneur and how solid what you’re building is. And, as much as Covid has delayed the opening of Cap Karoso, it has also confirmed a lot of our intuitions. What began as personal conviction, or a niche travel trend, has become a kind of evidence. People now view being able to travel as something truly precious; they see that the possibility to connect with nature and experience the feeling of freedom deserves the extra flight. Covid was also a turning point for many in understanding the value of sustainability and traceability of food, which for us, were pillars of the project from the very beginning.
What do you think the effect of the pandemic will be, not just in the short term, but on the long term future of travel?
E: Luxury travel is being redefined. People want to be part of things, to give rather than take, to return home feeling changed. And they want to feel that their footprint on the place they’ve come to is positive.
I think travellers will become more selective in terms of accommodation, looking for places that respect the environment and local communities. They will probably take less trips, but give more of their time to really explore and understand the places they do visit. And these new aspirations will reshape the tourism industry into a more sustainable and less promotion-driven model.