It is all in the touch here at Escape Haven, a wellness retreat in Canggu, Bali. The touch of my therapist’s hands breathing life into muscles taut with the stresses of everyday life. The touch of our yoga teacher gently coaxing my body into alien positions. And the touch of a high priestess blessing me while placing sticky rice on my forehead.
Created by Janine Cottle, Escape Haven is a beautiful sanctuary with 17 lavish rooms and suites set around a stunning, leafy and tranquil space; the sole purpose of the retreat is to pamper, support and nourish women.
The nurturing starts from the moment I arrive at my new spiritual home. It’s nearly midnight, and I think I am dreaming when I see my name written in golden frangipanis on the bed.
At the beginning of the seven-day retreat, we all gather around the ﬁre pit and Janine invites everyone to share what brought them to Escape Haven. The women, from as far aﬁeld as Norway, Dubai, Ireland, England and Australia, listen to each other’s stories. There are tears, but we all support each other; it is obvious that the other women play a part in each other’s wellness journey here.
Wellness is well-entrenched in Bali
Part of the beauty of a stay at Escape Haven is that Bali herself plays a role. One day we dress in kebaya (Indonesian traditional dress) and the Balinese staff teach us how to make canang sari (banana leaf offerings), and explain the signiﬁcance of the different coloured ﬂowers that are placed in a certain spot. The High Priestess of Canggu blesses us and our offerings in what is a meaningful experience. A cooking class with the chefs follows, and we then get to enjoy the fruits of our labour, including a spicy sambal that the chef says Balinese people cannot live without.
One morning some of us go for a sunrise bike ride through Canggu and out into the rice paddies before the heat makes its presence felt. Some guests go for a morning surf lesson, and others sleep in.
Days start and end with yoga in a beautiful open-sided shala, with whispering palms, frogs and geckos adding to the experience. Blackboards show our various treatment times, as the retreat includes unlimited spa treatments, along with other treatments depending on which packages one chooses.
The food at Escape Haven is sensational and the presentation is sublime – think floating picnic lunch in the saltwater lagoon pool.
The treatment rooms, where all the magic happens, look over the pool, and there is a large jacuzzi, sauna, and ice bath. Emboldened, most of us try the ice bath, shrieking like banshees when we get in.
On our last day we head to Echo Beach for the Letting Go Ceremony, where the High Priestess awaits to help us ‘let go’ of things that are holding us back. Emotions rise and tears fall, partly because we realise that we will be letting go of this wonderful place, and the exceptional staff.
An integrated approach to wellness
It’s all about mind, body and soul at the award-winning wellness resort COMO Shambhala Estate located in the jungle above the Ayung River. COMO Resorts are known for their integrated wellness programs and healthy menus to complement the Ayurvedic treatments, range of outdoor activities and exotic location. Start the day with yoga, go for a guided walk on the Tjampuhan Ridge, go white water rafting on the Ayung River, tour on a bike, or visit the water temple of Tirta Empul and take part in an authentic Balinese water blessing.
Beachside wellness in Bali
The Asa Maia is an intimate wellness resort near Uluwatu Temple on the spectacular Bukit Peninsula has just 10 guest suites that were once traditional Javanese homes. It’s all beautifully curated, and offers three holistic wellness programs – Exhale, Relax and Radiate, and Rest and Reset. Guests can luxuriate in the saltwater pool, meditate, do yoga and Pilates, enjoy Balinese massage and try SOMA breathwork. A bonus is it’s close to gorgeous Thomas Beach. Take surfing lessons at Balangan or watch the action from the clifftop at world- famous Uluwatu break.
Wellness with a side of music
Owned by musician Michael Franti and his wife Sara, Soulshine Bali is ‘wellness done differently’. Think yoga retreat with the fun of a resort mixed with a music venue – DJs play in the afternoons and live bands play regularly, including Michael Franti himself. The Panorama Suites come with record players, there is a new spa, and you can learn how to plant rice in the resort’s own paddy field. As for the meals, the mantra is that “you can eat 100 per cent healthy 90 per cent of the time”, meaning cocktails and cake are on the menu.