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Meandering around a gorge, with stunning plunging views of the Ayung River, lies the sustainably forested reserve that is The COMO Shambhala Estate. Spilling from the heart of a Balinese village down to the picturesque flow of the River Ayung, it’s a property that is undeniably unique. This is the signature property of the COMO Hotel Group, a mystical retreat of wellness where perceptions of design and luxury are surpassed. Located just outside Ubud, this ten hectare property is the pinnacle of exclusive escapism immersed in a typical Balinese landscape.
Scattered throughout the serene environment are a selection of ultra-luxurious villas and residences that embody different aesthetics and elements. The Residences are sprawling sumptuous four or five bedroom sanctuaries, designed in Indonesian styles to symbiotically meld into the surrounding natural beauty. Each of these unique properties is based on the five elements of nature. Complete with personal assistants, private pools, spacious living areas, sweeping views and every modern convenience, these are perfect properties for families, friends or those seeking complete seclusion.
For example, the Tejasuara Residence, whose name means ‘sound of fire’ was built with stone imported from Sumba Island and finished with traditional thatched roofs to create a relaxed, rustic chic embellished with tribal textiles and black bamboo furniture. Tirta Ening Residence, meaning ‘clear water’, is spread over 890 square feet and has its own Japanese Zen garden, a floating living pavilion crafted out of yellow rock and teak, and a spectacular floating bathroom with a hand-hewn rock bath.
The majestic Umabona House was inspired by the palaces of the Majapahit Kingdom. Meaning ‘house of the earth’ it is tastefully decorated with hand carving, antiques and fine furniture all in rich warm hues.
The Private Villas on the estate were designed by Koichiro Ikebuchi to create contemporary clean lines that blend in seamlessly with the surrounding nature. Comprising of two or three bedrooms with spectacular outdoor pools, these are perfect sanctuaries for relaxation and reflection. They are located near the Ojas wellness centre, which is equipped with a full treatment spa, plus swimming and hydrotherapy pools. Providing a more modern feel, with cool white interiors, these villas also blend seamlessly with the verdant valley that the retreat is built along providing a calm compound in which to unwind from the outside world.
The restful and sumptuous rooms are designed to complement this holistic retreat that caters to the entire wellness experience. A variety of retreats and well being programmes are designed to totally renew and are enhanced by other daily activities that include physical, spiritual and cultural components. The retreats are usually yoga or Pilates based, run by masters of their art, and involve intensive practice over several days complemented by spa treatments and a healthy menu.
Wellness Programmes are created for guests depending on their length of stay and goals. There is Ayurvedic, Cleanse, Be Active, Stress Management, Rejuvenation and Oriental Medicine. All of these start with a consultation with experts who create a bespoke itinerary based around your needs. The Traditional Oriental Medicine therapy means you will see a qualified specialist who will address your individual needs and prescribe herbal medicine, acupuncture, nutritional diet and exercises like Qigong and meditation to restore health and balance. More general programmes, such as cleansing, will take you through a supervised cleanse with specific juices and nutrition to suit your needs. These last from three to eight nights.
Nutrition is seen as an intrinsic part of the holistic experience in Bali. Days start with a wonderful breakfast. During the day, the Glow Restaurant serves a menu made of a myriad of local and international flavours melded together to create healthy and exquisite cuisine. There is a selection of local dishes on offer such as satay and pepes ikan, fish cooked in banana leaves. A healthy menu of international cooked dishes is served, such as the mouthwatering Pepper Crusted Tuna with Quinoa Udon and a Spicy Lemon and Tamari Sauce. An incredible raw menu is also available that serves such delights as ‘lasagna’ and green curry with young coconut, green mango & snow peas with baby corn & sweet basil. With menus designed to compliment your wellbeing and excitingly entice your taste buds, this is one of the most innovative and interesting dining experiences on the island.
For those on a more relaxed holiday who would like to take advantage of the facilities but not stick to a regime, then there is a host of daily activities and spa therapies to help restore inner balance and relax you completely throughout your stay. Guests are encouraged to start the day with a forty-five minute guided walk around the estate. Yoga, Pilates, hydrotherapy, jungle circuit training and mini workshops are some of the classes on offer. Local Guides take treks and bike rides around Ubud are also a fantastic way to explore the area. For more adventurous guests climbing a volcano can be arranged and for those more interested in the spiritual side of Bali, a visit to a healer or a cleansing ceremony at the sacred springs of Tirta Empul.
Personally, I’ve found that the spa treatments of The Como Shambhala Estate are a paragon of perfection amongst the multitude on offer in Bali. You can choose to enjoy the serenity of the Ojas Spa or in the tranquility of your room. Their signature massage uses an in-house naturally blended oil designed to both relax the mind and rejuvenate the body. Using a medium pressure and long strokes in a therapeutic and innovative way to totally calm both body and mind. Set amidst the minimally verdant spa, this is a totally serene and sophisticated atmosphere to float away from everyday stress and strains.
Other therapies include an extensive range of Ayurvedic treatments, with Dr. Deepak overseeing Panchakarma. These can be designed to cater to your particular Prakruti or constitution under the principles of Ayurveda. Hydrotherapy is another signature of the spa. Water from ‘The Source’ a sacred spring located on the estate is used to feed the alkaline pool at Ojas. Both exercise and therapy harnessing the healing property of the water are available to make use of this incredible water. Facials, a wide range of massages and beauty treatments are also available from the amazing therapists.
You may be spending your holiday in one small spot of this vast planet, but after becoming fully immersed in the nature, food and loving care of its staff, you really will feel that The COMO Shambhala Estate is the centre of the universe.
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Electra Gillies runs the Eco Gypsy blog.