Story by Anita Surewicz. Photos courtesy of Fivelements Retreat Bali
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives, including opening our eyes to new healthier lifestyles. Be it boosting our immunity or practicing mindfulness, we seem more motivated than ever to take responsibility for our mental and physical wellbeing. John Nielsen, General Manager of Fivelements Retreat in Bali, Indonesia and World Wellness Weekend Ambassador for Bali, is adamant that our newfound appreciation for leading healthier lives is also changing travel patterns. He also believes that this recent trend has had a positive impact on Fivelements Retreat, which blends the wisdom of traditional Balinese healing and innovative approaches to wellness.
Despite the pandemic, Fivelements Retreat forged on. In fact, while many other resorts closed their doors, the luxury retreat just outside Ubud remained open as a place of respite throughout the pandemic. “This period gave us an opportunity to re-market and refocus our retreat programs,” says John. “When Fivelements Retreat first opened in 2010 as a unique wellness concept, we only had five rooms, and we focused on hosting retreats. Today, we have 20 suites — including the newly opened Hillside Pool-Suites — and focus on both individual customers and hosting bespoke retreats for groups.”
Rooted in the island’s traditions, Fivelements Retreat is based on the Balinese Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which loosely translates to “three causes of wellbeing and prosperity.” These three causes are Harmony with God, Harmony with nature,and Harmony with humans. According to John, this philosophy played an important part in why the retreat’s management team decided to keep it open throughout the pandemic. “The key was keeping our 70-plus staff employed. Around 80% of our team is from the local area and rely on us,” he says. “We take our guests on a life-transformative journey so not being able to support our most valuable asset, our team, would have gone against our philosophy of ‘being good to humans.’”
The Fivelements’ mission is clear. The retreat strives to offer its guests an experience of a lifetime complete with unique wellness treatments, regional cuisine and local experiences. Set in a bamboo pavilion, the Sakti Dining Room serves 100% plant-based gastronomic creations made with produce sourced from the Ubud area and the local villages. The rejuvenating spa treatments — administered by Balinese healers and utilize products made from the ingredients grown in the resort’s garden. According to John, one of the retreat’s most unique treatments is Watsu. “It’s a water healing therapy performed in our specifically-designed pool, which is heated to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F), that involves our therapist gently gliding the guest through the warm water,” he says.
While the Fivelements Retreat isn’t completely off-the-grid, the retreat is taking concrete steps to minimize its carbon footprint. “We recycle around 95% of our waste. And since plastic is still a huge challenge in Bali, we have monthly river and village clean-ups where we often collect between 100 and 150 kilograms (over 200 pounds) of plastic waste that otherwise would have ended up in the sea,” says John. “We currently allocate 0.5% of our revenue to regenerative and sustainability activities, which include a tree-planting program, a 3,700-square-meter (close to 40,000 square feet) permaculture garden, water conservation, increase in solar usage, and sponsorship of children through the Bali Children’s Project.” For more info on Fivelements Retreat Bali
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Currently based in Berlin, Anita is an Australian journalist and editor. Over the years she has worked for the Jakarta Globe newspaper and the DestinAsian magazine in Indonesia. Anita has written travel and food-related articles for the Lonely Planet, SilverKris, Going Places, Asian Geographic, Mabuhay, Tigertales, and Oryx.