An unforgettable journey through Bali with Lifestyle Retreats
Having been to Bali numerous times, I had quickly fallen under the spell of this magical destination, also known as the island of the gods. I had explored the busy South and the black sand beaches of the East, as well as the lush jungle around Ubud. But like with many other places, when visiting them more than 10 times, you tend to return to your favorite spots without actually expanding your map much further. This is why I jumped at the chance of visiting Bali once again when I received an invitation to be part of a group of creatives to explore the magical haven with Lifestyle Retreats. I immediately knew this opportunity would show me the beautiful island through someone else’s eyes and open up a whole new world to me. And I really couldn’t have asked for more. I had the honor to spend an unforgettable week with the most talented group of people, exploring a version of Bali I’ve never encountered before while creating memories to last a lifetime.
THE AMALA (SEMINYAK)
Our journey started at The Amala. Located in Seminyak, which is normally known to be the party destination, it is interesting to see that The Amala has a strong wellness focus, perhaps to counteract all the late nights. Either way, if you’re out and about enjoying all the latest bars and restaurants, or if you’re on a self-inflicted detox, The Amala Spa will offer rejuvenation and much relaxation. The spa menu offers a broad spectrum of treatments, ranging from a traditional Balinese massage, to a Chinese Royal Empress Ritual with jade stones and body mask, a Lymphatic Drainage Massage, a Reiki Treatment, and even Tibetan Bowl Music Therapy.
Offering 14 rooms and villas, as well as a three-bedroom residence, the intimate boutique resort offers the perfect antidote to Seminyak’s party hub.
I stayed at one of their Spa Villas, which spans 120 sqm with a private plunge pool/Jacuzzi and its very own steam shower and outdoor bath. If you open your doors, the living room quickly extends into the outdoor bath area, creating your very own spa haven. It’s easy to while away the time in your spacious villa, but do make sure you get to one of the yoga classes for a well-rounded, all-encompassing wellness experience at The Amala.
If you’re bored of Seminyak and cocktails by the beach isn’t your thing, head to Ubud for some sightseeing. The Monkey Forest will offer plenty of photo ops, as do the famous Tegallalang rice paddies.
See also: Bali Travel Guide
THE SAMATA (SANUR)
TIME TO CHILL
One of Lifestyle Retreats’ newest hotels (opened in 2016), The Samata is located in the South of Bali in Sanur. Overlooking the rice fields with the ocean in the distant background, staying at The Samata is highly relaxing and rest-inducing. Away from busy Kuta and Legian, staying at this beautiful exclusive boutique property, which offers nine suites and a three-bedroom villa, will give you downtime to lounge poolside, a chance to soak up the sun, and the opportunity to spend time in nature.
If you’re feeling restless, don’t fret. The Samata has you covered with gym, outdoor yoga classes and even a tennis court. The fitness offerings are complemented by a healthy kitchen, which serves up many vegetarian dishes and gluten-free options. Round off your wellness experience at the spa and also ask for their wellness masters. The team of experts in the fields of health and wellbeing are in residence at various Lifestyle Retreats hotels at different times of the year.
We had an amazing experience with yoga instructor/healer Ketut Budiasa who not only taught a yoga class for health benefits, but also gave each one of us an intuitive mini health reading and some sound advice with potential exercises to incorporate into our daily routine, ending it all with individual healing treatments. Do try to book a session with him, it will be well worth it.
Even if you aren’t an early bird, do set your alarm for 6 o’clock to join the Sunrise Walk Tour to the beach. Seeing the sun emerge on the horizon (if you’re lucky without any clouds covering it) is a very unique and precious moment. Return back to The Samata through the rice paddies and continue watching the sunrise as the sky starts to reflect in the water of the rice fields.
Back at the resort, opt for a hearty breakfast. The French Toast and Eggs Benedict were some of our faves.
We were also lucky enough to experience a Healthy Cooking Class in our own villa, led by Chef Anton Ventslav, Executive Sous Chef of The Menjangan, and Chef Anom Anasana of The Samata. We enjoyed Zaru Soba as the starter and Sesame Crusted Tuna as the main, along with some healthy booster juices easy enough to recreate back home.
During our four-hour car ride on our way to the next resort, The Menjangan, which is right at the other end of the island, we also got to visit a number of much-loved Instagram hotspots. Our first stop was the famous gate, which makes up the entrance to the Handara Golf & Resort Bali.
Past the Twin Lakes, we then gathered for more photo opportunities in
Sukasada for a liberating experience on one of the famous Bali swings.
And our last stop before reaching our final destination was the mystical Danau Tamblingan, which can get crowded around sunrise.
See also: Top 10 Wellness Retreats in the World
THE MENJANGAN (WEST BALI NATIONAL PARK)
THE UNTOUCHED SIDE OF BALI
Often dubbed the ultimate hideaway, the remote resort is located on the north-west coast of Bali in the sprawling Barat National Park, which spans a whopping 382 hectares of pristine nature. In harmony with its environment, the long-lost Eden-like sanctuary emphasizes a stress-free lifestyle with eco-living at its forefront. With 14 Monsoon Lodges, seven new sleek Beach Villas perched on stilts above the beach, and a luxurious 1000-sqm residence, The Menjangan simply oozes tranquility and serenity.
As opposed to a tropical jungle, which you might find everywhere else in Southeast Asia, the western part of Bali is very dry and almost savanna-like.
Make friends with the wild deer that roam the property (menjangan means “deer” in Indonesian) and let yourself be mesmerized by the undisturbed wilderness, far away from the hustle and bustle of Kuta and Ubud.
If you’ve, like us, been sightseeing on your way to The Menjangan, you should reach the property just in time for sunset, which is best admired from the Bali Tower. Up a steep spiral staircase, the lookout offers an undisturbed 360-view of the estate’s forest and jaw-dropping sunset vistas with the island of Java in the background. Get ready to take sundowners to a whole new level.
The next day we got up-close with the marine life, which turned out to be my favorite experience from the entire trip. We rose early and left for Menjangan Island, a mere 20-minute boat ride away. I had never been snorkeling before in Bali, and being out on the boat the whole morning and being able to swim here was an absolute dream. Colorful fish and coral reefs abound in the crystal clear waters, showing signs of a vital ecosystem, making it an otherworldly underwater nirvana to be explored.
Back at the resort, I was booked in for a massage at the Mangrove Spa. As the masseuse melted away the tension in my muscles, I drifted off to the lapping tide. Nestled into the mangroves, the spa is the perfect setting to let all your worries simply drift away.
Getting around on the property is a little bit like having your own mini safari experience, with a big double-decker safari buggy taking you from the Monsoon Lodge to the Bali Tower or the beach. Sit upstairs and feel the sun and wind brush against your cheeks while trying to count the monkeys in the forest.
Another memorable event was our sunset horse riding experience (the resort maintains its own stables). I used to be terrified of horses and struggled with their unpredictability. However, this experience seems to have changed everything. Each one of our horses was led by a caretaker, as we rode into the sunset towards the beach, making the experience absolutely safe and definitely worthwhile.
Communing with nature comes naturally here at The Menjangan. There are no TV channels (only DVDs), and it’s Mother Nature that takes centre stage here. With more than 160 avian species, the vast Barat National Park is a bird-watchers paradise. So relax to the natural soundtrack of birdsong and take in the soothing views of the magical forest.
You can do as much or as little as you want at The Menjangan. Some of us canoed around the mangroves, while others lounged poolside. However, we all planted a tree and joined the cycling tour through the neighboring villages and even ended up taking part in a Balinese cleansing ceremony.
Should you get hungry from all the activities, rest assured you’re in good hands here. Head chef of Lifestyle Retreats Chef Anton Ventslav also leads the two restaurants at The Menjangan. The Bali Tower restaurant specializes in Mediterranean and Indonesian cuisine with plenty of vegetarian options, and the Pantai by the beach serves up fresh seafood dishes, as well as meats from the BBQ grill. Guests dine on the wooden deck or in secluded balés hidden within the mangroves. And if you’re lucky likes us, you too, can be surprised with a private dining experience on the beach, which the culinary team can put on for couples as well as larger groups.
THE BALÉ (NUSA DUA)
A DESIGN DREAM
Located in the South of Bali, The Balé resort is Lifestyle Retreats’ most luxurious property. With its sleek, modern architecture, this 5-star resort offers plenty of Instagram-worthy backdrops. The 26 villas, which all come with their very own pool, accessible from the bathroom, offer complete privacy. Furthermore, the outdoor daybed and in-room breakfast service make it the perfect setting for any couple or family that isn’t planning on ever leaving their luxe abode.
However, anyone who would like to venture beyond their own villa will be rewarded. Make yourself comfortable (with cocktail in hand) in one of the loungers or balés at its main pool, or opt for a delicious meal at Faces Restaurant.
We’ve been lucky to experience the Balinese Cooking Class & Market Tour with Chef Nadi who took us to the Kedonganan fish market near Jimbaran one morning to select the freshest catch. It was a very raw and eye-opening experience. Let’s say it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Back at the resort, we went to work and cooked up a storm with all the acquired ingredients and managed to serve up Gado Gado (Indonesia vegetable salad), Kare Udang (prawn curry), Sambal Be Tongkol (fresh tuna salad), and Pepes Ikan (grilled fish in banana leaf).