You wake up just after sunrise, step out onto your patio and listen to the sounds of the jungle waking up. Gazing out over a misty river gorge, you may have to pinch yourself. If you need to make sure it’s not a dream, just jump in your private pool looking out over the jungle and watch squirrels and birds going about their morning routines. This paradise is called Uma by COMO and can be found in Ubud, Bali. Visiting the COMO Shambala Estate had been a dream of mine since I first heard of it; looking at pictures, it truly felt like a unique experience and their focus on wellness and culture is what makes me love their brand. However, we were on quite a long trip and couldn’t afford to spend our whole budget on a week at the Estate, but the nearby Uma by COMO in Ubud was in no way a compromise. It was absolutely perfect, a peaceful respite from the rest of the world with amazing food and enough activities to keep the most ambitious traveller busy – just like they call it: an adventure retreat. At this hotel, they prioritise engaging with the local community, the surroundings and culture, as well as an holistic approach to wellness. In one day, you can go for a village and rice field walk, join in a yoga lesson and in the evening see traditional Barong dancing in a nearby village after a cheeky martini in the Uma Bar. This place is not about depriving yourself, or days filled with pointless meditation on your own ego, but having a balanced and enjoyable holiday – that can involve amazing wood-fired oven pizza and a great cocktail too. However, if you are after a real health kick, this is the best place for it as their COMO Shambala cuisine menu has the tastiest clean food I have ever eaten; you can even have a raw food diet and be catered for here. Other activities include white water rafting, freewheel biking tours, volcano and temple tours, cooking classes and lots of different treks; the daily morning walks and yoga sessions are all complimentary and the other activities are reasonably priced. If you fancy visiting the Estate, they will drive you there for free – we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant and even got a guided tour of the whole Estate and a couple of the villas. It is wonderful over there, so I absolutely recommend doing that, perhaps book in a SPA treatment as well (although the SPA at Uma by Como was brilliant too). Oh and another thing; if you fancy staying at the hotel for a whole (bunch of) day(s), then that is ok too ;)
I can’t really give this place enough praise, everyone working here is absolutely lovely and the quality of everything is so high – from the often locally sourced food to the SPA treatments, the amazing COMO Shambala products in the bathrooms and all furniture and textiles in the rooms. A great example of how helpful they are is the fact that I fell ill during our stay, and within an hour of us calling the front desk, a doctor was in my room examining me, and just a short while later medicine was delivered too. As unfortunate as it was to be ill during my holiday, I couldn’t have picked a better place to be ill in as we could get everything we needed delivered straight to our villa and I could recuperate in the most comfortable of surroundings. It does mean I didn’t have time to do all the things I would have liked around Ubud, which turned out to be my favourite area in Bali (so far) so another visit may be needed in the future. I had a fantasy of Bali I had conjured in my head after seeing photos (and yes, Eat Pray Love), with endless rice paddies, temples, jungles, quiet villages and so on; that might not be the whole truth of Bali as it can be quite busy, with massive traffic jams, and many restaurants around the touristy areas feel like they could just as well be in Melbourne or New York (which, of course, can be a good thing too), and the number of tourists sharing your moment by a temple can be distracting to say the least. However, once you adjust to this new reality, the busier parts of Bali absolutely have their charm, but if you want something quieter, the area around Ubud (and, I am sure, further up North), will offer a more serene experience. Certainly, after a stay at Uma by COMO, surrounded by the beautiful foliage and wildlife, you can’t help but feel more grounded, peaceful and incredibly grateful, regardless of the amount of yoga you did during the stay.