Sarah Douglas checks into Karma Kandara for 24 hours of unapologetic pampering.
Checking in and hearing, ‘Madam you have been upgraded to an ocean view villa,’ is guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of most travellers. No matter how jaded you are, this is the key that unlocks a flood of happy hormones.
Karma Kandara, perched on the edge of the cliffs of Ungasan, on the quiet side of Bali’s Uluwatu peninsula, is a treat in any language. The private pool villas are vast, the coral pathways wind neatly between them and lead ultimately to the cliff edge and spectacular views.
Karma Resorts has grown into a global company and they are built on some of the most beautiful locations in the world. Karma Kandara is no exception: this is a stunning place, whether you come for a day, a week or a month.
Best of all is that Karma embraces everyone, from jetsetters to retirees; honeymooners to wellness travellers; families and friends.
Karma Kandara is a collection of villas with one, two and three bedrooms, in addition to the privately owned luxury villas on the cliff that are available from time to time. It’s welcoming and friendly and its quirky imperfections are part of the charm. It’s never precious.
The villas combine Balinese architecture with modern luxury. There’s lots of wood, stone and glass and each villa has its own pool, courtyard, garden and private balé, and space, lots of it.
We’re thrilled that we have been upgraded to an ocean view villa. The moment the door opens on our three-bedroom pool property, the ocean greets us. Our verandah overlooks the sea, and the pool literally hangs over the edge of the ravine. Who has a horizon pool in their villa? We do!
I’ve spent a lot of time at this resort, so there is a sense of coming home for me. Most Bali expats have been here at least once and taking visitors to Karma Beach for the day is on everyone’s bucket list. It has one of Bali’s best beaches and the Mediterranean-inspired beach club with its line up of international DJs, a menu full of fresh salads, seafood, sushi and mezze plates, combine with a list of fabulous cocktails and affordable wine to make this a special day out.
No matter which villa you stay in, all have great views, and a few are extra special. We’ve stocked up for our stay and it takes no time at all to unload our duty free in the well-equipped kitchen, tune in the music, choose our rooms and make ourselves at home on the terrace for a swim and cocktails.
Karma’s globe-trotting Spa Director, Judy Chapman, is in house so she joins us for a catch up before we all head to dinner. The spa at Karma Kandara is one of the highlights of the resort, and a popular destination spa, so she makes sure we’re booked in for treatments the following day.
A brand new inclinator has been installed, making this staggeringly beautiful trip down the cliffs even smoother than before, and with a bigger capacity, there’s less waiting as well. We aren’t having our spa day at the beautiful Ocean Spa (such a treat and so romantic) instead we’re heading to the cliff top spa, which is nothing short of amazing and never disappoints. The spa menu is one of the island’s most innovative, with healing modalities offered alongside beauty treatments and heavenly relaxation therapies.
Wellness holidays are a new focus for the resort. Guests can choose to mix it up or book a package. The yoga pavilion on the beach offers some unique fitness classes, the gym is perched on the ravine and a gourmet wellness menu has just been finalized. The world’s first female yoga ambassador has just joined the Karma group and she’ll be hosting wellness days at the resort. Proving once again that you can have your muesli and your Champagne too.
Dining at Di Mare, the resort’s siganature restaurant, is another highlight. Executive Chef, Joseph Antonishek, has worked in some amazing dining rooms before coming here from LA. Taking on this job has its challenges with a host of venues, room service, wellness menus and discerning guests to please, yet there’s little doubt that he has the energy, enthusiasm and the skill to take Karma dining to new heights.
We settle in for a three-course dinner with pasta to start, beautiful pan-seared scallops to follow, and meltingly tender slow cooked beef for main course. Mixed with a soft red from California, overlooking the moonlit sea below, it’s destination dining at its best. Dinner is followed by a seductive tapas of desserts, designed to share. The menu is a great mix of East meets West and gives us a hint of the direction this talented chef is taking.
Joseph’s job includes creating the menus for Karma Beach Club, room service, Di Mare restaurant and special events in the private wine room Veritas, all of which are constantly being updated. He has become inspired by the wellness packages designed by Judy and the spa team, so the wellness menus are innovative, beautifully presented and a delicious alternative for those after something lighter.
“We are taking our wellness menus to the next level. We’re not doing Canggu-style bowls, we do elegant bowls full of super foods. The entire menu is designed for a five-star guest and Joseph has really embraced this, I am really excited by what I’ve seen so far,” says Judy Chapman.
Today’s traveller is thinking differently about their holidays these days and Karma has anticipated this trend. With the appointment of the world’s first female global yoga ambassador Karma will be hosting wellness days and retreats throughout the year. The option of continuing your exercise regime, your yoga program and healthy eating or using your holiday to get in shape, as opposed to loading on the kilos, is part of today’s Karma experience.
Our villa is waiting as we head back from dinner. Beds turned down, air-conditioning on, the lights on low. The pool glitters in the moonlight and the ocean is a breath away.
Early mornings are monkey time and following a brief encounter on my terrace, we were more than ready for a beach walk and a swim in the impossibly blue Indian Ocean. Karma Beach in the mornings, before the music starts and the crowds arrive, is really quite beautiful. The water is more like the Maldives than a Bali beach, with white sand, crystal clear water and a beach protected by the surrounding reef . . . it’s worth getting up early for.
Restored and relaxed we head to Di Mare for what has to be one of the best resort breakfasts on the island. A full à la carte menu is offered as part of your villa stay and it’s all fresh and delicious. From tropical fruit and bakery baskets to ricotta hotcakes, smoothie bowls, eggs benedict, fluffy omelettes and Asian breakfast favourites, it’s a perfect start. Looking out over the endless ocean, with the breeze offering relief from the heat, you realize how blessed you are to be here.
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