Long before Julia Roberts found passion along the pristine shores of Bali in the hit movie “Eat Pray Love,” it captured the hearts of travelers in search of beauty and bliss. This Indonesian island is a treasure trove of spectacular scenery, including white-sand beaches, stunning volcanic mountains, transcendent temples, and a picturesque countryside covered with verdant rice paddies. Plus, it is home to a wellness-focused culture that reveres the curative power of nature. For these reasons and more, it was the ideal place for the COMO Shambhala Estate, the flagship of the acclaimed holistic health company owned by Christina Ong, which also operates COMO Shambhala Retreats at Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos, Uma Paro in Bhutan, Uma Ubud in Bali, and Cocoa Island in the Maldives, as well as two COMO Shambhala Urban Escapes at the Metropolitan London and the Metropolitan Bangkok. Opened in December 2005, the Estate is located on a 23-acre property situated upon a jungle-covered riverbank near the inland town of Ubud. Formerly a private residence called Begawan Giri, the COMO Group assumed management and majority ownership in 2004 and has since updated and enhanced it, transforming it into a full-service residential health retreat.
With updates overseen by Begawan Giri’s original architect, Cheong Yew Kuan, and interiors from Japanese designer Koichiro Ikebuchi, COMO Shambhala Estate now offers 30 rooms and suites, including four- and five-suite residences and one-, two-, and three-bedroom private villas. Other facilities include Ojas, the principal treatment area that features nine treatment rooms; Shikara, where the property’s consultants and the COMO Shambhala Activity Centre are located; and Kedara, the water gardens positioned beside the Ayung River, where four additional treatment pavilions with rest areas, baths, and showers draw water from The Source, the Estate’s natural spring. In total, there are 13 treatment areas, including seven for couples, an outdoor hydrotherapy center, a swimming pool, a yoga room, a Pilates studio, separate men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas, a fully equipped indoor gym with dramatic views, an outdoor jungle gym with a climbing wall, and four consultation rooms.
“The architecture at the Estate has been universally acknowledged as the best of its kind—it features a tropical architecture that is both luxurious and sensitive to the environment it occupies,” says Monica Barter, group operations director. “Buildings are designed to create an indoor/outdoor environment that is harmonizing and in keeping with the wellness ethos of the Estate.”
Guests can sign on for Three-, Five-, or Seven-Night Wellness Programmes (starting at $1,400) with focuses like Ayurvedic, Cleansing, Get Fit Rejuvenation, and Stress Management. Programmes include an arrival wellness consultation; prescribed treatments; daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner; participation in daily activities; and complimentary use of the sauna, steam, and lap pool. “In its approach to health, the Estate represents the apogee of the COMO Shambhala philosophy, which is to help individuals find a sense of peace through the continuous process of learning and rebalancing, aided by special environments, specific knowledge, and healing therapies,” says Barter. “Unlike the conventional destination spa that usually focuses on pampering, COMO Shambhala provides a total 360-degree experience closely tailored to each individual’s needs, offering comprehensive lifestyle as well as healing programs to mend the mind, body, and spirit.”
Among the most notable highlights of the Estate is its team of experienced consultants, including nutritionist Lacey Hall and Ayurvedic doctor Deepak G. Deginal, M.D., as well as an on-site osteopath and an exercise physiologist. Visiting Masters in such fields as yoga, Pilates, energy work, meditation, and more are also on hand to help guests achieve their wellness goals. The property also provides activity guides for mountain biking, hiking, climbing, whitewater rafting, and outdoor circuit training, all of which incorporate the surrounding landscape, mountains, volcanoes, rivers, and valleys. Adding to the Estate’s healthy appeal is a selection of wholesome cuisine that is organic, locally sourced, and delivered from field to table with minimum delay whenever possible. “The menu has an emphasis on raw foods and an Asian influence—the food is light and the flavors are strong, so it leaves diners satisfied,” says Barter.
Another way guests can achieve serene satisfaction is through a selection of spa treatments, which can be performed in-room; in the main spa area Ojas, which is Sanskrit for “Essence of Life;” or in the Kedara water garden, where guests can bathe in fresh spring pools following a treatment. The comprehensive menu offers a range of services that incorporate either the property’s own COMO Shambhala line, as well as Bloom Dead Sea Mud and Guinot Paris skincare products. But most guests flock to the services that incorporate local ingredients and traditions, such as the Hot River Stone Massage ($150, 90 minutes), which uses stones selected from the Estate’s river; the Indonesian Massage ($115, 75 minutes; $135, 90 minutes) that incorporates rolling and kneading strokes; and the locally developed Taksu Massage ($115, 75 minutes; $135, 90 minutes), a strong and invigorating massage that increases blood circulation (“taksu” means the magical transference of energy between two people who connect). Other indigenous options include the Warm Muscle Wrap ($160, 2 hours), which uses the traditional medicine of Bali including crushed rice blended with warming spices, and the Balinese Cleansing Ritual ($160, 4 hours), which involves visiting a local water temple.
No matter which experiences guests choose, Barter says the property is an ideal place for those seeking balance in their lives and looking to change their habits for a healthier lifestyle. “Guests recognize the fact that the staff works hard to deliver the best experience possible,” she says. “Many choose to return, as they recognize the benefits COMO Shambhala Estate offers under the guided hands of its wellnessconsultants, nurturing therapists, and energizing activities, all in a truly unique environment surrounded by flowing water and a misty river gorge.