COMO Shambhala Estate is a short drive from Ubud set in magnificent 9.3. hectares of lush tropical rain forest and manicured lawns and gardens that showcase at least 50 shades of green, from light mossy hues through to dark colours.
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.
It is known as a Retreat for Change with resident experts including a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic doctor and residence dietician. 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. Cuisine is always nutritionally balanced while the residences, suites and villas suit independent guests, couples or families.
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 Turta Ening, which means “clear water” after the holy water that flows into the rock pool at the rear of our spacious residence.
Dark teak wood is featured 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.
As I gaze across the green landscape, punctured with brightly coloured flowers and the sweet scent of frangipani, I can’t help thinking how well named this place is.
In ancient Buddhist texts, “Shambhala” refers to a sacred place of bliss — they sure got it right.
There are two dining options here 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.
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.
The holistic approach offers signature massage therapies and beauty treatments.
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 we chat to later confirms this.
“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.
I have to agree.
Light rain is falling as we shelter under a giant elephant ear leaf beside the riverbank.
Despite huddling under what doubles as an effective makeshift umbrella, the rain doesn’t bother us.
In fact, I doubt if anything could detract from the beauty of this much-lauded wellness retreat located far from the madding crowd of Bali’s rowdy holiday destinations.
In no time at all, the rain stops and brilliant sunshine takes over as we continue our guided walk.
It’s an undulating jungle trek and, as we venture off the beaten path, you never know what you will run into. We spot a cheeky monkey spying on us from afar and lots of colourful birds with loud cries to attract attention.
Just as we are getting hot and bothered due to the humidity, we turn a corner and there’s a small pavilion where our guide, Rau, opens a box and presents us with much-welcomed chilled towels.
The view and surrounds here are amazing and restorative, inviting you to slow down, listen, look and stop.
“You can have a massage here beside the river,” says Rau as we sit in the pavilion serenaded by the gurgling sound of water tumbling over smooth stones.
He explains the spring, which is called the Source, has long been revered by Balinese locals, providing its healing water for treatments.
Just as I think how appealing it all sounds, we are off again.
What I loved
Waking up to a mist filled valley and listening to birds, gurgling streams and smelling the heady perfume of frangipani.
Lazing poolside and gazing out to the rainforest. Feeling healthy after incredible meals and wonderful yoga.