“Ubud has long been a holistic mecca where indigenous healers ply their craft when Western medicine has fallen short. In a secluded area of Ubud, blending ancient healing and new science in a modern integrative approach, COMO Shambhala Estate captures the essence of nature’s spiritual tranquility while teaching guests how to achieve real results in holistic wellness…” ~ Kimberly Rosbe
The Salvation Army is playing its part in supporting those affected by bushfires in regional Australia, and Executive Edge Travel is right behind them.
Ubud after midnight
After learning I was headed to Bali, my American friends joked, “Perfect, you’ll get your own Eat, Pray, Love story,” channeling Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir.
But arriving at COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud after midnight as torrential downpours blanketed the property’s mystical, mist-covered jungle, it wasn’t Liz Gilbert on my mind. Instead, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s famous quote echoed in my head: “One cannot reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.”
Bathed in the warm Balinese rain as I descended the cliff side steps to my villa in the dark, the sense I was about to embark upon a spiritual journey in an otherworldly place was palpable. I drifted off to the sound of streaming water outside, and, as I soon uncovered, inside as well…
A river down below
Waking at sunrise, the morning light revealed my luxurious wooden stilted villa precariously hanging over a steep ravine cascading down to the Ayung River far below. The setting was old world Bali – shrines and Hindu temples with flower and fruit offerings and hand woven ornaments, moss covered grand gateways leading to stone paths along terraced fluorescent green rice fields, water gardens full of giant lily pads.
Ubud has long been a holistic mecca where indigenous healers ply their craft when Western medicine has fallen short. In a secluded area of Ubud, blending ancient healing and new science in a modern integrative approach, COMO Shambhala Estate captures the essence of nature’s spiritual tranquility while teaching guests how to achieve real results in holistic wellness which last beyond their stay.
I thought, “Who doesn’t want to achieve wellbeing and pursue balance in our everyday lives?” With this fundamental hope, I succumbed to the therapeutic cocoon of COMO Shambhala Estate. What I found was the pinnacle of exclusive escapism and a higher mind and body focus that renewed my life.
The wellness journey begins
Sally Halstead, the wellness manager at COMO Shambhala Estate, had left me a welcome note suggesting I hydrate, digitally detox and explore the grounds before my wellness journey began.
So I meandered around the estate as the sun began to slice through the mist igniting the lush undulating grounds. Embracing the ambience of a traditional Balinese village, all of the rooms, suites and villas belong to one of five sprawling sanctuaries each complete with personal assistants, sweeping views, pools, lounges, private dining areas and shaded pavilions.
Etched amongst the river and jungle, all accommodation exists within the setting of a Residence (Bayugita, Tirta Ening, Tejasuara, Wanakasaand Umabona) and each Residence is themed after nature’s five elements – wind/air, water, fire, wood and earth.
Eating well & inner peace
After an immune-boosting, mineral-rich breakfast straight from the pages of COMO founder Christina Ong’s The Pleasures of Eating Well cookbook, resident Ayurvedic expert Dr Prasanth assisted in a guided levitation meditation after a very grounding talk about ancient Ayurvedic principles.
By now, whether you lean towards Western or Eastern medicine, we can all accept that we are mind-bodies and the two can’t be separated in the treatment of overall health.
‘Thri Dosha’ theory stipulates that the elements of air, fire and water in our bodies are in perfect balance. Without this ideal state of balance of dosha, aggregations and deficiencies occur. Dr Prasanth firmly believes that if you “know your Dosha, you can change your life”.
Healing the Ayurvedic way
Dr Prasanth’s integrative medicine concept is based upon Ayurvedic science, yoga, naturopathy and conventional science and he tailors individual wellness programs for each guest based upon their Ayurveda consultation and Dosha mapping.
Dr Prasanth clarified to me that the specialty of COMO lies in the individualized and detailed approach given to each guest about their health requirements and objectives. On the first day of each stay, bespoke Wellness Programmes and a plan of treatment are developed for each guest ranging from Ayurvedic or cleanse and detox aims, to actively jumpstarting a new fitness regime or even rejuvenating the mind and soul. Nutrition is also valued as an intrinsic part of the holistic experience at COMO Shambhala Estate – raw, delicious and healthy foods that entice taste buds while complementing energy and blood sugar at both on-site restaurants Glow and Kudus House.
Continuing the path to renewal
The path to renewal persists after guests leave Dr Prasanth elaborated: “We become a part of their continuing health journey by keeping in touch through follow-up suggestions. This holistic 360-degree approach helps us to make a lasting transformation in guests’ health and lifestyle.”
COMO Shambhala is renowned for its intuitive and empowering experts, from yoga masters to life coaches to nutritionists to chakra healers. These resident wellbeing specialists are there every step of the way to activate and balance energy flow.
Speaking of flow, as a yoga advocate, I wanted to test my skills at the mother of all yoga resorts. However, my private COMO Shambhala Hatha Yoga session revealed I have completely incorrect breathing techniques. My yoga teacher abandoned the flow sequence and sat right down on my mat directly in front of me and said, “You have to learn to breathe. It will change everything.” For the next hour, he showed me literally how to breathe with his hand on my stomach monitoring the depth of each inhale and exhale. Slowly, I felt my mind and body start to open up.
The COMO Way of Life
COMO is not just a brand but a way of life. When Christina Ong, founder of COMO, opened her first COMO Shambhala Wellness Retreat at COMO Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, her aspirations weren’t to build a global wellness empire, but instead her intention was much simpler.
Christina wanted to merely expose guests to the integrated benefits of yoga. Graciously, Christina has always acknowledged those who influenced her life and her brand from her world renowned yoga teachers Rodney Yee and Judy Krupp to her dear friend, personal inspiration and fashion icon Donna Karan.
Over the years, chefs, nutritionists and healers all have contributed to COMO’s unique holistic wellness understanding. From city centres to island retreats to highland resorts, today COMO is synonymous with living a healthier, better life with a portfolio of hotels around the globe which adhere to this philosophy.
COMO Uma Canggu – Surf Spirit
COMO Uma Canggu, has brought an innovate spin on the surf spirit to Bali’s southern coast. COMO Uma Canggu’s Beach Club is currently the hottest gathering spot in Bali a mere steps from the ocean where upscale surfers and sophisticated travelers alike mingle pool side complete with live acoustic musicians and a COMO restaurant featuring healthy juices and light seafood fare.
Walking down hundreds of steps and winding jungle paths, I finally arrive at a sacred spring of mineral-rich water on the Estate’s property used to fill the resort’s Vitality Pool.
A Sacred Spring
Back in the mountains of Ubud, COMO Shambhala Estate, the flagship property, remains the source of the COMO inspiration.
Since its opening in 2005, COMO Shambhala Estate has transcended a destination spa to represent the standard by which other wellness retreats around the world aspire to. Expect your mind and body to experience harmony while striving for a fresh perspective on personal wellness. From the flawless spa treatments to the Asian therapy wellness programs, organic cuisine, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and bounty of nature activities in the lush surroundings, COMO Shambhala Estate could be the paragon of perfection when it comes to destination wellness retreats.
But it all has to start with a willingness and motivation for renewal and each individual must commit to ongoing lifestyle changes with a proactive approach to wellness.
With this lofty purpose in mind, the last day of my stay at COMO Shambhala Estate I descended alone to the spring water source. Walking down hundreds of steps and winding jungle paths, I finally arrive at a sacred spring of mineral-rich water on the Estate’s property used to fill the resort’s Vitality Pool. Surrounded by silence, the jungle setting personified absolute peace and tranquility. This water spring is revered by the Ubud locals for its healing properties and used by the villagers for a Balinese ritual and ceremony.
Legend says it’s holy water. Lao Tzu’s quote came again to my head. This time, my own ‘streaming water’ was finally still.
Harnessing this sacred water and armed with a local clear crystal around my neck, believed by Balinese doctors to be ‘the most powerful healer’, I vowed to take COMO’s practices home with me.
From hot new hotel openings and seaside bliss to authentic cultural experiences and immersive exploration, luxury travellers today are seeking more than just 5 star accommodation. Kimberly Rosbe serves up a taste of the 8 best for your 2019 travels.
‘Travel My Way’ Uganda
Executive Edge Co-Founder and Head of Leisure Yvonne Verstandig and co-host Suzy Zail, internationally published, award-winning author, have curated a once in a lifetime ‘Travel My Way’ tour to Uganda affecting real change for Ugandan girls. Let Yvonne’s ‘Travel My Way’ tour take you on a powerful, 10 night transformational journey November 2-12, 2019 to discover the real Uganda. Meet with female leaders of change, participate in round-table discussions, visit classrooms and girls’ empowerment clubs. Whether you’re searching for wild cats on safari or gorillas in the jungle, visiting remote tribal villages, meeting a Ssenga, building a mud-hut for a disadvantaged family or being trained by a village elder to weave a basket, each experience will place you beside community members who will deepen your experience through the sharing of stories and hands on participation. Discover the Africa that lives amid the heady smells of street vendors, in bustling city markets and remote jungle villages. Watch a witchdoctor at work, create art with a local painter. Dance, drum and wander the markets. Learn, grow and be inspired.
Did you know?
More than 50% of the Ugandan population comprises of people below the age of 14. It’s the youngest country in the world having the maximum number of youth, with the average age of the people going up till 50-60 years.
Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, Spain
Nobu’s sizzling new Ibiza Bay Hotel brings boutique signature service to Talamanca Bay. Bragging rights to the hottest culinary reservation in town, this laid-back refuge takes a more breezy approach to the intense club scene. Featuring hot tubs, hammocks and softer Balearic beats, Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay caters to a more sophisticated crowd who wish to avoid the all-night reveling. With an on call mixologist to make drinks in rooms, enjoy two beachfront saltwater swimming pools, a spa operated by Six Senses, a yacht, Kid’s Club and blow-dry salon. Select from three restaurants – a classic outpost of Nobu Matsuhia’s eponymous Japanese restaurant, Mediterranean fare at Chambao or healthy gluten free at Celicioso. Light and airy bedrooms designed in true Balearic style – mother of pearl features, aqua and white tones, wicker chairs and hammocks. Take a tailor-made excursion to the historic villages and pine-covered hills of the island’s interior. And, certainly, make time for Ibiza Town, where traditional tapas bars line the streets of the Old Town and exclusive boutiques fringe the promenades of Marina Botafoch.
Kokomo Private Island, Fiji
Fly by seaplane or a 20 minute chopper ride from Nadi and land on a whole new level of private island exclusivity. A retreat for families and a haven for honeymooners, Kokomo Private Island blends Fijian nuances with modern aesthetic in tropical paradise personified. Each opulent Beachfront Villa or Luxury Residence boasts striking views of the island with the utmost privacy, each with infinity pools and surrounded by gardens. Encircled by the famous Great Astrolabe Reef (the planet’s fourth largest reef), Kokomo Private Island showcases world-class diving and snorkeling. Kayak or sail around the island with dolphins jumping by your side, explore underwater caves, trek to a secret waterfall or unwind at Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary with the healing powers of holistic therapists. Embracing a dock to dish approach, Kokomo sets a new standard for Fijian cuisine where island grown locally sourced produce is transformed into gourmet dining to be enjoyed beachfront, poolside or in-villa from sunrise to sunset at your beck and call.
Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
Hidden deep in the wilderness of Cambodia’s South Cardamom National Park, daring world-renowned resort designer and owner of Shinta Mani Wild, Bill Bensley, has created a radical new concept for a luxury camp experience which touts hospitality coupled with conservation and preservation. Intent to protect 350 hectares of river valley from poaching, mining and logging, Shinta Mani Wild partnered with the Wildlife Alliance, The Royal University of Phnom Penh and the Cambodian Government to devise a new conservation model driven by high-end tourism. Channeling the ultimate luxury jungle safari, currently 5 decked out 100 square metre tents perch above swiftly moving waters while another 10 are in the making. Zipline 380 metres over waterfalls and jungle to enter the property, then embark upon adventures exploring the wild ecosystem aboard luxury expedition boats. Dine on local delicacies like mud crabs at Waterfall Restaurant and make your way to Boulder Spa, whose chemical-free treatments feature reviving Khmer tonics made from medicinal plants foraged from the rainforest and bottled onsite.
‘explora’ Atacama, Chile
Founded upon the premise of a new attitude towards travel in remote regions of South America’s Southern tip, explora Atacama, located 8,200 feet above sea level between the Pacific Ocean and the Cordillera de los Andes, is an immense area of land and mystery. The Atacama culture champions its agricultural and textile history, expressed in archeological monuments, cemeteries, churches and villages where its traditions still live in religious festivities, crafts and the local folklore. Cordilleras, volcanoes, saltpetreses and hot springs add intrigue to the environment. Accompanied by seasoned guides, set out into the surreal beauty on 40 some explorations via foot, horseback or bicycle. After all your adventures, chill nearby at Termas de Puritama, an exclusive hot-spring pool, then dine at the restaurant featuring local ingredients like quinoa and chañar. explora properties are all-inclusive so every meal, beverage and activity is included.
Rosewood Phuket, Thailand
Hidden away amid mountainous headland, Rosewood Phuket commands one of the last remaining secluded beaches in Phuket along 43.5 acres of verdant crystalline beachfront forest. Be immersed in tranquility in your tropical cocoon, while the winding coastal road still provides convenient access to authentic experiences of the island’s cultural attractions and historic Old Town. Submerge yourself in underwater explorations of the dramatic marine environments of the Andaman Sea. Innovative architecture combines with subtle Thai influences which blend naturally into the lush landscape. Rosewood Phuket’s accommodations envelope guests in the soothing ambiance of a beachside retreat with floor-to-ceiling windows opening onto individual terraces, verdant garden sanctuaries, a private infinity pool and chilled outdoor seating. Expect Rosewood Phuket’s holistic wellness concept to reenergize your mind, body and soul.
The Landmark Oriental, Hong Kong
Channeling James Bond in a 007 movie, covertly ascend the staircase to the mezzanine level of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong’s MO Bar, enter a faux phone booth and wait for a call. Startled by a ring, a secret door opens into one of the world’s latest hot spots. Shhh… please don’t tell. Yes, that’s right. The name is PDT, short for ‘please don’t tell’, a new cocktail bar concept at the hotel in collaboration with the legendary New York speakeasy PDT as a throwback to the years of Prohibition. As the first and only international outpost of PDT outside New York, PDT Hong Kong pays homage to its Manhattan roots with the notable signature style of PDT NYC including playful spins on the taxidermy, herringbone pattern wood on the ceiling, leather booths and the copper topped bar, all designed by Nelson Chow. The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, has also recently had a full room and suite refurbishment by interior designer Joyce Wang. Given creative freedom to rethink the modern hotel experience, the talented Wang envisioned all 111 rooms and suites with a cosy yet sophisticated residential ambience with all the aspirational technical bells and whistles.
Six Senses Shaharut
Enchanting and biblically proportioned, the Negev Desert is the epitome of desert landscapes. It is on this boundless horizon, often described as the nexus of heaven and earth, that the new Six Senses Shaharut will call home. Nestled into a dramatic cliff where sunsets meld into orange dunes, this inspired location named ‘Shaharut ‘ translates as ‘the moment just before dawn.’ Opening in a matter of months, Six Senses Shaharut will feature 58 suites and villas integrated into the otherworldly terrain. Villas are built from and inspired by local rock and pigments with landscaping featuring cacti and indigenous desert blooms. The extraordinary Six Senses Spa includes single and double treatment rooms, steams, saunas and hammams. Engage in overnight camel camping to extreme sports, hiking, jeep safaris and wine tours in this supernatural desert setting.