If you have been following my series on Bali you would know I spent twenty days exploring the island and it’s nearby counterparts in search of all of the best adventures. After day fifteen, although I had been to all of the best beach clubs, resorts and other hotspots, I kinda felt like I still hadn’t gotten a complete view of the island. All of that stuff was ‘nice’, but very much an Australian developed part of the island. I wanted a more authentic experience and to know what happens behind the scenes. Enter Sharing Bali – the simple luxury Bali health retreat with a truly authentic Balinese experience.
Going on holiday to exercise is actually a thing. These days we live busy lives in front of the screen trying to cram in exercise and healthy eating in between. A lot of people I know don’t want to go on a massive bender-based holiday and undo their hard work – they want a holiday where they come back looking leaner and healthier (and perhaps more tanned!) than ever. I was lucky enough to be enrolled in the Might & Power Fitness Retreat package – five days of boot-camp style exercise set in a rural Bali village close to the jungle. Sounds like my kind of fat camp.
The property is owned by Karen Willis, an ex-retail manager genius who worked as head of departments in a variety of roles for companies such as Country Road and Colorado. After meeting a local called Wayan, Karen fell in love with the Island and transitioned into making her holiday into a full on lifestyle.
My humble abode – rooms and grounds
Wayan is an artist and restorer of Balinese bungalows so every little hut on the property unique. They’re unlike any hotel in Bali – forget boring white linen, loud air conditioners and mini bars – these are the real deal. Inside the beautiful wooden huts are mosquito net draped beds with mish-mashed textiles (mine were checks!), a sink, a couch and a door which leads to the outside bathroom.
The outside bathrooms are an elevated classic Bali design – showers made from Bamboo, shell curtains, a large bucket with a ladle made from a coconut (for washing hands, refreshing face etc) and lush native plants over pretty smooth pebbles. Out the front, each hut has it’s own porch with seats overlooking the property, a large cooler of chilled water, and my absolute favourite feature of the entire camp – a two-litre thermos of lemongrass and ginger tea which is refilled at your pleasure.
It is paired back simple living but you have everything you need. I loved unwinding in my room at the end of the day – it was great to feel at one with the surrounding sounds and to see the stars every night.
The rest of the grounds were phenomenal. The large rice paddy fields were often being tended to by locals, meals took place at a huge outdoor dining table surrounded by lily ponds then there were several fields for working out and a raised open aired yoga studio. Actually bliss.
The five days of fitness.. AKA welcome to the gunshow..
Most days started with a one and a half hour session starting at 6.30am with trainer Dave Biondo. After a large cup of lemongrass and ginger tea I would head down to the field where we would work out using our own body weight, coconuts for kettlebells and fences made of bamboo for climbing. These sessions were usually pretty hectic but Dave knew what he was doing. I suggested he change his business name to “Above and Biondo” but he wasn’t keen. Hmm.
During the day we did a whole range of adventures including:
- A trek through the rice fields and jungles with lunch served from a jungle hut.
- Bike ride through the villages with Luwak coffee tasting and a visit through an authentic Balinese home – it was fascinating going through all their traditional customs.
- Waking up at 3am one morning for a hike up the volcano Mount Batur for a sunrise breakfast followed by a lovely morning at Toya Hot Springs where I tempted fate for a daring headstand.
- An afternoon with dinner luxuriating at Jungle Fish pool and resort where my pal Ben and I lol’d taking underwater GoPro pictures.
- Balinese cooking class where we made all of the delicious Sharing Bali dishes.
- An intensive ab workshop with Dave and a gentle yoga class with a local tutor.
Most of the activities are designed to bring you to the present moment and to encourage mindfulness, a philosophy Karen lives by.
The no-diet diet
After working out each morning we would head to the dining room for a buffet breakfast of fruit, dairy-free yoghurt, boiled eggs and the best gluten-free coconut and banana pancakes evvvvver. Recipe here BTW. You’re welcome.
Karen is a big advocate of living holistically so most food is sourced from local farms and made fresh on site sans any nasties. She will tell you that she doesn’t believe in diets – just clean whole food. I absolutely loved her philosophy and couldn’t agree more. I was in heaven. Most food served was gluten-free and dairy-free as the Balinese culture is pretty much based around that anyways.
Most dinners were a large variety of share plates at the dining room with all sorts of tasty plates such as Bergedel – spicy potato or corn fritters, Pepes –fish and spiced wrapped in banana leaves grilled on the fire and Sate Lilit – traditional chicken and coconut sates. Karen actually has an e-cookbook as well. Doesn’t she do everything?
Downtime was spent eating snake fruit in the bale – a large open cabana with pillows and lots of great books to read. Often her cute dog Cantik would come hang out and demand to take selfies.
But what about coffee?!
Oh… I forgot to mention… Balinese coffee was most definitely served! If you were lucky, there would be coconut water and smoothies too. Actually the tastiest time I had in Bali. Kinda awks as I think I ate way more than everyone else…
The whole camp was absolutely delicious for the mind, body and soul. The five days went way too quickly. It was all of the little touches that made it so rich. For example one day we came back from an outing and were given banana leaves full of Balinese body scrub for our following shower. Karen is very involved and attends most workouts and dinners and loves to share her story and learn those of the guests.
I would go on, but really you have to go experience it for yourself. As Karen says “you can trip advisor these things to the enth degree and nothing is a surprise’. Even as I write this though, Karen would be thinking up new experiences to chop and change and keep Sharing Bali more interesting than the competitive market place developing in this travel area. I wouldn’t worry if I were her though… she has something absolutely truly special going on here.
So I came out of Bali in much better shape than when I entered and I am glad I found a place such as Sharing Bali where their philosophy aligned with my goals. Dave even gave me some solid advice about heading through customs on my way out ‘don’t forget to declare those guns’. Good job Biondo. Good job.
Sounds nice, but hectic exercise isn’t for me… what else can I do?
There is actually a variety of retreats including ones focused on yoga, meditation, barre and even book writing. Check the retreats out here.
What about dem abs though?
You will most likely lose weight if that is your goal. The clean eating paired with the exercise and relaxation is the perfect fat busting combination.
Is it awks if I go there alone?
The people I met on the trip were all amazing – a wide range of ages from 27-65 from mostly Australia but also one from Budapest. I went to the camp alone but we all quickly bonded while screaming through Dave’s intense workouts. There was a varying range of body types and fitness levels and they accommodate for all.
But I’m demanding and need extra pampering…
You can purchase massages, facials, Bintang (beer) or get your laundry done for an extra cost. It’ll be ok love.
Will I get hangry?
Don’t worry about food you will be well fed. Lots of people bought their own snacks but I didn’t have time to organise anything. If you need something extra and have nothing just ask – there is also fresh fruit hanging around for anyone to take. Try the weird spikey thing. It good.
Can I wear my favourite brunch workout outfits?
Duh. Sharing Bali will brief you on everything you need for the weekend. I wore my Lululemon workout gear and Nikes during the day and normal clothes to dinner etc.
Can you pick me up bae?
The grounds are located in Singaprang, a forty-five minute from Ubud.
Sharing Bali will arrange transport to and from the property to and from the airport and most hotels. If you are somewhere super crazy or far away you will need to coordinate with Karen your plans.
How do I get Biondo in my life?!
Because each bootcamp experience is different, Karen actually flies different trainers over from Australia. Dave Biondo is based in Melbourne with several training clubs across the country. His contact details are below.
Tell me more about Karen…
Read my interview on Karen Willis, owner of Sharing Bali, she’s amaze.
I demand amazing gluten-free pancakes at home!
We stole the recipe for Gluten-Free Rice flour and Banana Pancakes for you. Once you have made those, try my take, a Deep-Dish Gluten-Free Caramelised Banana Pancake.
Want to get fit and healthy for 2016? The Unimpossibles and Couturing are giving you 30% OFF ANY 2016 SHARING BALI HEALTH RETREAT
Terms and conditions:
30% off Sharing Bali retreats 2016
Usual retreat terms and conditions apply. (included on every retreat itinerary)
Not valid with any other offer
Not transferable or redeemable for cash
Retreats are guaranteed to run once minimum numbers are reached.
Expires: 2nd February, 2016
To claim the discount simply email Karen at [email protected] quoting the code: BLISS