COMO Shambhala Estate is located in Begawan Village, a 15-minute drive away from Ubud in Bali.
The much-lauded wellness retreat, spread over 9.3 hectares, is far from the madding crowd of Bali’s rowdy holiday destinations.
The magnificent grounds feature untamed jungle – in 50 shades of green, deep gorges and streams and everywhere you look soothes the soul and promotes a feeling of wellbeing.
The estate is located on the property formerly known as Begawan Giri, created by Bradley and Debbie Gardner in 1998.
The sacred river Ayung winds its way through the grounds, which now features manicured lawns, frangipani trees as well as unrestrained jungle.
It was purchased by the COMO group and opened in December 2005 as a world-class wellness retreat and holiday resort.
Since then it has attracted everyone from A-listers and movie stars to those who want to make changes in their lives or take a break in immaculate surrounds.
Some guests just want to chill out and recuperate from a busy lifestyle while others embark on a vigorous wellness plan with resident experts including a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic doctor and nutritionist.
General manager Paul Linder says he can see the effects the estate has on people soon after they drive through the front gate and are shown to their accommodation.
“There’s something about the grounds, spectacular views, treatments, cuisine and the Balinese customs that make people stop and take stock,” he says.
A Sydney businessman who heads here regularly certainly agrees.
“Spending a week here every so often puts things in perspective and gets me to listen to what my body tells me — I also realise work isn’t everything and the food is to die for,” he says.
Rooms and interiors
Our home for several nights is one of 30 residences, villas and suites of varying sizes on the property. It is named Tirta Ening, which means “clear water” after the holy water that flows into the rock pool at the rear of our spacious residence.
The sprawling residence features dark teak wood along with sumptuous Balinese fabrics, carved chests and copper basins.
There is an outdoor pavilion, shallow rock pool with a tumbling waterfall and a huge pool that we share with the next residence. We are assigned a personal assistant to help organise activities and provide information and bookings.
The estate’s architecture was overseen by Cheong Yew Kuan, who designed the original Begawan Giri, combining local stone, wood and traditional Alang-Alang roofing with the entire concept taking 10 years to complete.
Our verandah opens onto a deep gully shrouded in mist in the early morning that soon clears.
It’s a perfect retreat to relax, read a book or do some jungle spotting – don’t be surprised if you catch sight of a cheeky monkey – well away from the retreat.
Dining is an adventure at COMO Shambhala Estate.
There are two dining options including Kudos House, a 150-year-old former Javanese residence with lots of carved teak that serves breakfast and dinner showcasing the diverse flavours and spices of Indonesia’s regions.
A corner table is prime position at breakfast overlooking the jungle ravine.
Glow, with its open kitchen, offers all-day dining showcasing the noted COMO Shambhala cuisine, created by executive chef Amanda Gale.
Originally from Sydney, she was an apprentice at Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurant and has spent a decade developing the cuisine that focuses on fresh and healthy food bursting with flavours.
There is no calorie counting here but the menu fosters balanced eating with delicious dishes showcasing strong, deep flavours and many raw foods.
Soy milk and yeast-free breads are offered and raw, unprocessed honey replaces sugar while little salt is used in cooking.
It is all about fresh tastes and flavours.
We start lunch with a Waterfall juice that is made with cucumber, parsley, celery, fennel, pear and mint, followed by a Green Goddess soup with seaweed and sunflower seeds, then seared spiced salmon with chopped cauliflower, quinoa and pomegranate salad and eggplant puree.A pineapple sundae with cashew nut milk, young coconut and vanilla and pineapple sorbets provide a sweet finale to a delicious dinner that leaves you feeling fantastic.
This is a wellness retreat but you can order some sumptuous juices and soft drinks.
The wellness programs are outstanding offering time out to relax, rejuvenate and rethink your lifestyle. Massages can be done riverside where you are serenaded by the gurgling sound of water tumbling over smooth stones. A stream known as the Source, that has long been revered by Balinese locals, provides healing water for treatments.
The holistic, 360-degree approach offers signature massage therapies and beauty treatments. A state-of-the-art gym and outdoor activities such as hiking and climbing make the most of the Estate’s unique location.
The wellness programs are designed for stays of different lengths—three, five or seven nights—with therapies focused on different.
A guided estate walk and yoga sessions are complimentary. It is suitable for singles, couples and families.
The main lap pool is impressive as it wraps around the side of a hill and there is also a vitality pool. Residences and many of the villas have their own pools.
What I loved
Sheltering under a giant elephant ear leaf beside the riverbank as light rain is falling and watching the jungle come to life. Chilling out after an amazing massage riverside and being overwhelmed by the sweet smell of frangipani.
Dining on fresh healthy gourmet food, the great staff and friendly villagers.
In ancient Buddhist texts, “Shambhala” refers to a sacred place of bliss – a perfect name for this retreat.
For bookings and more information visit comoshambhala.com
Wellness program packages and daily rates are available.
© Copyright The Finer Things