On 29 June, Capella Ubud, the tropical sanctuary burrowed deep in four hectors of rainforest outside of Ubud, opened its doors – or should we say flung open its tents.
We tend to bandy about with the term “exotic”; but leaning stylistically on the elegances of early Dutch settlers along with flashes of genuine Balinese curios, this adjective seems tailor-cut to the vibe at Capella Ubud.
“Architect Bill Bensley created this sensational tented camp in tribute to their spirit of adventure”, says General Manager Simon Dornan of the European colonial influence. The romantic property has a spa, restaurants, tented gymnasium, communal living room, saltwater pools, bar and 23 individually styled tents and lodges – each of which are named after the professions of the original explorers (i.e., The Cartographer’s Tent, The Naturalist’s Tent etc.). Some tents are even styled with antiques curated from the private collection of owner, Suwito Gunawan. Gunawan, an avid art collector and prominent businessman based in Jakarta, is planning on opening up an on-site art gallery.
Yet with mass tourism booming in Bali, it’s imperative not only to provide individuality with injections of unique, historical décor, but also to deliver a true Balinese setting – which is is why great care has been taken to ensure that no tree was cut during the construction of the property.
“Indigenous plantations were conserved so that the ultra-luxurious camp would remain a hidden sanctuary from afar”, says Dornan. “It captures the imagination of those who aspire to a truly unique experience that allows them to enjoy the essence of Bali’s untouched natural surroundings.”
The result of constructing around such a wild and verdant patch of nature – rather than through it – is dramatic, magical and enrapturing. Swaying suspension bridges lead from the individual retreats to oversized outdoor decks, and several of the tented retreats perch high up on densely forested, steep terrain amid lush rice paddy fields and the sacred Wos River. “[It’s] a total jungle immersion experience that is set to redefine adventure travel in Bali and Indonesia”, Dornan says.
[It’s] a total jungle immersion experience that is set to redefine adventure travel in Bali and Indonesia”
Simon Dornan – General Manager, Capella Ubud
With redefinition as a crucial objective, Capella Ubud curates one-of-a-kind guest experiences. When asked to describe one such experience, Dornan paints a dreamy picture: “Gather around the campfire for our bedtime ritual of pulled hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows, and listen to fascinating tales of a local storyteller.”
“We are blessed with Bali [as it’s] steeped in history, and Ubud [is] renowned for being the centre of healing and famed for its rich arts, crafts and cultural heritage”, says Dornan. “Capella Ubud offers a refreshingly different choice of experiences, such as a spiritual wellness programme.”
Capella Ubud welcomes its guests to participate in cleansing rituals and water blessings at Camp Pura, an on-site temple next to the sacred Wos River that was carefully restored with help from the residents of Keliki Village – the place where the retreat has laid its foundations. Both locals and guests have access to the temple.
Capella Ubud also orchestrates sessions with highly specialised local wellness healers at Auriga Wellness, the property’s spa, which is named after a constellation of stars in the northern hemisphere, presenting a distinct spiritual approach in line with local Balinese and Hindu mind-meets-body wellness traditions.
Guest can also participate in curated culinary experiences through the surrounding working farms, as well as within the retreat’s own honey, coffee, tea and cocoa gardens. (Growing food on-site is in the plans for the property’s next phase.) There’s also plenty of high-energy adventure to be had, like mountain biking, jungle boot camps and nocturnal trekking adventures.
For additional local immersion, Capella Ubud works closely with Keliki artists to deliver art and culture journeys, as there are many artisans’ workshops nearby, such as I Wayan Ariana’s studio – a teacher and artist renowned for creating Keliki-style art that depicts traditional Balinese daily life.
Many of these experiences are possible only because of Capella Ubud’s close connection with the existing community. “We are supporting and contributing members of society,” says Dornan. “Seventy per cent of our skilful team members are locals from Gianyar Regency (the surrounding province in which Capella Ubud is located).”
Capella Ubud aspires to forge these same deep connections with its guests: “[Our] team of well-trained, multilingual personable assistants place their guests at the centre of everything”, says Dornan. “They are curators of The Capella Experience, connecting with guests prior to their arrival, during their stay, and after their departure. This ensures that their stay has been arranged according to their exact preferences, resulting in a truly memorable and enriching experience.”
Welcome to the jungle.
[Photos are courtesy of Capella Ubud.]
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Nicole Trilivas is an American writer based in London covering high-end travel and food and drink. She’s a luxury lifestyle contributor for Forbes.com and a restaurant reviewer for Time Out London. Her work has appeared in NYTimes.com, Condé Nast Brides, Men’s Journal, Fodor’s, Yahoo, HuffPost, Wanderlust, Afar, Suitcase, and Country Life (upcoming). She’s the author of the travel-theme novel, Girls Who Travel (Penguin Random House, 2015).