Story by Sarah Dougherty
Whether it is an early morning yoga class, a sunset surf, gourmet living foods or simply a chance to spend time in beautiful, natural surroundings, Bali is riding the wave of wellness tourism.
The Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon set many new travellers on the road to Bali but the healing traditions are nothing new. What has changed is the mindset, with many now seeking a better quality of life and wanting to arrive home feeling refreshed rather than shaking off a hangover and a few extra kilos.
What sets Bali apart, much like India, is that spirituality pervades every part of the island every day. If gratitude is the attitude, the Balinese have it in spades, from the tiny offerings laid out daily in every home and business on the island to the staggeringly beautiful ceremonies that literally stop the traffic.
In the same way, the Balinese have embraced both traditional and modern healers who play a huge part in why so many travellers are shaping their own wellness holidays in Bali. Spa consultant Judy Chapman, who curated Karma Resort’s Bali spa for seven years after her stint as editor of Spa Asia magazine, says Bali caters for both the serious devotee and the incidental wellness seeker.
“Bali offers a full spectrum of every ‘wellness’ experience possible – from a drop-in yoga class or raw juice to a fully fledged yoga retreat or even better, a luxury arrive-by-helicopter wellness retreat destination with a private butler at your beck and call. You can really do high-calibre wellness on any budget and to be frank, it would all be fantastic!” she explains.
Retreats are still considered the high end of wellness tourism and Bali has a wealth of places from the uber-luxurious Como Shambhala to Fivelements, One World Retreats, Bali Goddess Retreats for women and countless small centres where holistic therapies and healing modalities are embraced.
Others like the lofty Mandapa – a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Four Seasons Sayan and Karma Kandara offer soft wellness experiences that are spa-driven with a serious focus on a healthy lifestyle. Whether you sign up for the full experience or simply want to go your own way, Bali has it all.
Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa
When it opened five years ago, Fivelements represented something quite new in Bali. Nestled on the banks of the Ayung River, Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa, an award-winning eco-conscious wellness retreat, is deeply rooted in the ancient traditions of Bali.
“Together, we began sharing our vision of creating a beautiful place of healing, cultural preservation, and spiritual dialogue,” explains co-founder, Lahra Tatrielle, who runs the resort with her partner, Cicco Tatrielle.
While the retreats range from a few days to a week, signature programs like regeneration and replenishment, detoxification and transformation and culinary retreats introduce guests to experiences that combine Balinese traditional healing with modern therapies. There are master series talks and silent retreats, or award-winning spa therapies for drop-in guests. It’s an environment that instantly makes you feel more at peace and the acclaimed Sakti dining room will change the way you think about “living foods”.
Mandapa – A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
The stunning Mandapa opened last year and has followed modern resort trends by creating a natural environment, sustainable policies and a range of options for health conscious guests. Taking the soft approach, guests are invited to immerse themselves completely in a menu of programs aimed at health and rejuvenation or simply weave therapies that appeal, together with produce-driven meals, into their five-star holidays.
Among the spa offerings is a holistic/wellness program based on the six pillars. It includes fitness programs, which aim to get guests active outdoors, yoga classes, meditation classes and even counselling. Among the local healers who are employed is a blind reflexologist who is quietly becoming quite famous in these parts.
“We’ve embraced the location and the Balinese healing traditions but it very much depends on how deeply our guests want to get involved. We say that it takes three days to learn more, five days to change something and seven days to see a transformation. Most of our guests want to combine elements of our wellness program with their holiday and we are here to guide them if they choose,” explains Spa Director, Pilant, a trained doctor who found herself attracted to natural medicine and healing.
One World Retreats
Apart from offering some incredible Ayurvedic spa treatments to drop-in guests, One World Retreats operates from a beautiful Bali-style property in Ubud. For over seven years they have offered up to 51 retreats a year that invite guests to delve more deeply into transformative programs that centre around yoga, self awareness and health.
Operated by Claude and Iyan, who also run the popular Bridges restaurant in Ubud, One World offers retreats that include Follow Your Dreams, Ayurvedic detox and yoga retreats and Escape The World, a retreat that aims to put you in touch with yourself, practice daily yoga and meditation and enjoy a unique Bali vacation.
Guests come from all parts of the world and while some will simply book a stay in the hillside resort and join morning yoga classes, or head up there to enjoy world-class ayurvedic treatments, over 15,000 people have signed up for their live-in retreats. One World Retreats will launch their second property, a dedicated ayurvedic centre in Ubud, in the coming months.
Ubud is also home to the Four Seasons Bali Sayan, which encompasses luxury and wellbeing beautifully. With retreat programs running throughout the year, a stunning riverside spa and a whole gamut of dining possibilities from naughty to very nice, the serene environment inspires harmony and revives the senses. With Balinese healing programs, visiting practitioners, AntiGravity Yoga, guided meditation, mindfulness classes and a resident wellness mentor, it’s hard to resist.
Embracing the surf
Surfers have always embraced a healthy lifestyle and this is identified as one of the hot trends currently in wellness travel, once again placing Bali at the top of the list for travellers. Bali Goddess Retreats for women have proved enormously popular with many signing up for the combination of yoga, surf, beauty treatments and wellness cuisine. One of four retreats operated by the company, the Surf Goddess program is situated in Canggu which is home to funky organic cafés, bars and endless beaches.
Desa Seni is a beautifully conceived yoga centre and resort that offers a live-in or drop-in option. A full daily schedule offers a range of yoga modalities as well as meditation, guest retreats, teacher training and healing therapies at their spa. Built around a beautiful pool with a healthy, organic café and natural gardens, Desa Seni encompasses all that is enduring about Bali as a wellness destination.
High above the cliffs of the Southern Peninsula is another hot spot for those who enjoy a healthy lifestyle on one of Bali’s world famous surf beaches. Temple Lodge is a small family-run resort that offers spectacular views of Bingin Beach below.
The family offers a delicious and health-driven menu at their café with a few dishes to keep the hedonists happy, as well as daily yoga classes. The hike down the hundreds of steps to the beach and back up again is seen by many as a natural way to get fit, adding to its appeal.
Ayana Resort & Spa with its cliff-top perch offers a state-of-the-art Thalasso spa with a multi-jet aquatonic pool and a range of wellbeing packages. The Kubu stair challenge will test your limits while a sunset fun run takes you from the lobby to the private Kubu beach for a sunset drink.
Karma Kandara is also located on the bukit, the southern-most part of Bali. The staggering location combined with luxurious villas and a world-famous beach club is definitely part of its appeal. During her time as a full-time consultant, Judy Chapman oversaw a number of wellness programs that have been enthusiastically embraced.
The high-end spa focuses on natural anti-aging and beauty therapies, while regular yoga classes, stand up paddling and therapeutic massage complement a menu of organic spa cuisine and an air-conditioned gym, the perfect recipe for a mix of health and luxury. “Bali,” according to Chapman, “Offers travellers a unique insight into alternative ways to live your life. There is a vibration that affects people from the moment they arrive.”
This combined with the wide array of wellness opportunities, many of them incredibly affordable, makes Bali a destination that appeals to a new generation of travellers. •
Photography by various establishments.
• Jetstar: jetstar.com
Where to stay
• Karma Resort Bali: karmagroup.com
• Ayana Resort & Spa: ayanaresort.com
• Four Seasons Sayan: fourseasons.com/sayan
• Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa: fivelements.org
• Mandapa – A Ritz-Carlton Reserve: mandapareserve.com
• One World Retreats: oneworldretreats.com
• Bali Goddess Retreats: baligoddessretreats.com
• Desa Seni: desaseni.com
• Temple Lodge: thetemplelodge.com