It lies on a jungle covered peninsular on the outskirts of Ubud, and is one of the most spectacular properties you'll ever see. If you're committed to wellness and want to achieve it in absolute luxury, while still being immersed in nature, then Como Shambhala is the place to do it.
The sound of water is everywhere; roaring and falling, gurgling and flowing. From the jade green rock pool to the startling blue hydrotherapy pool, Como Shambhala is not only built around water, it’s built on water. The property sits on top of a natural spring called The Source (or Sumba in Balinese), which is revered by the locals and still used in traditional ceremonies. Even the Estate’s perfectly manicured lawns are like water, cascading into one another like a waterfall, each level looking out over dense jungle and impossibly green rice terraces.
Como Shambhala aims to change your whole approach to wellness – physically, spiritually and mentally – and it’s got the staff to help you do it. On hand are specialists including a dietitian, ayurvedic doctor, psychologist and acupuncturist. During my two night stay, I signed up for a fitness program as part of my research for a story I was writing on Bali fitness retreats.
My first consultation was with the estate’s activities manager, where we chatted about my overall health and a couple of injuries I have. Then I was presented with a range of options for activities I could do during my stay, which ranged from easy hikes to full on mountain climbing. I opted for something in between; a hike through the rice fields followed by a two hour mountain bike ride.
The 2 1/2 hour hike took us to Como's sister property Uma, and then we biked back to Como. I've previously done a couple of downhill mountain bike rides in Bali, so I was half expecting to cruise all the way back. Let's just say I was sadly mistaken in that belief. I battled on through several uphill climbs (which seemed practically vertical to me) before the last one got the better of me and I finally got off and walked. Luckily my guide still had enough energy to push my bike up the hill while I caught my breath.
The next day I was more than a little stiff, so I signed up for an aqua therapy class. The treatment was part aqua aerobics, part underwater massage as I sat in a series of custom made seats with jets targeting different areas of the body. It ended with me being wrapped up like a mummy in warm towels. I was so relaxed by the end I could barely make the movements necessary to unwrap myself.
After managing to finally extricate myself from the fluffy white mummy wrap, next on the itinerary was a yoga session. The yoga room was open on two sides, with tranquil pools on one side and outrageously beautiful views of the jungle and rice terraces on the other. The practice was gentle and flowing, which suited me fine, as I couldn't have handled anything more vigorous.
Also on my itinerary was the Estate Walk which took me all around the property, including down to the Ayung River where I watched the whitewater rafters hurtle past. I was told there are about 200 steps at the end of the walk, and with legs still suffering from my biathlon the day before, it felt like there were a lot more. Luckily, the stone staircase was so beautiful, and the views so breathtaking, I didn't really mind the climb.
Other activities on offer as part of a fitness retreat included rock climbing, tennis and personal training sessions, but after my marathon bike ride, I just wasn't up to it and opted for a massage instead!
The property is divided up into 5 main residences, each with its own theme – wind, fire, earth, forest and, of course, water. Each residence has 4 or 5 suites which are rented individually, or if you’ve got the (mega) cash, as a whole. There are also 9 private villas. My residence, Tejasuara (Sound of Fire) had a primal feel to it, inspired by the Indonesian island of Sumba. In the spirit of authenticity, 1200 tonnes of stones from the island were used in its construction.
The main pool has a ring of fire set in it which is lit every night. My suite was absolutely stunning; all dark wood and stone, glass and bamboo. The enormous glass sliding doors could be opened up to reveal the jungle surrounds, which gave me the feeling of being in an enormous (but extremely luxurious) tree house.
Como Shambhala has a day spa which was understated and elegant. Each of the treatment rooms had a glass wall looking into a private garden, complete with an outdoor shower. The Como Shambhala signature massage was one of the best I’ve had in Bali and the list of other treatments available was impressive, with over 20 to choose from. And if you’re not too worn out after all that pampering, there’s also a sauna and gym.
The Estate also has two fantastic restaurants serving Como's signature dishes. Breakfast was served in the beautiful Kudus House which is an elegant 150 year old Javanese residence. The views are nothing short of stunning, and if I didn't have a fitness regime to keep up, I would have liked to linger at the breakfast table all morning. We ate lunch and dinner at Como's other restaurant, Glow, where the menu features many healthy, raw and organic options. Everything I ate was absolutely delicious (although I wasn’t game to try some of the juices which included broccoli, cauliflower and garlic).
After three days of eating well, exercising and even a bit of relaxing at this incredibly serene and luxurious retreat, I definitely felt I’d been put back on the path to wellness. The good news is if I fall off that path, it will be a great excuse to go back.
Como Shambhala is about a 20 minute car ride out of Ubud, and about an hour and a half drive from Denpasar airport (depending on traffic).
Guests can choose from several programs or stay on a full board or BnB basis.