Welcome to the jungle
Nothing quite prepares you for the awe-inspiring scenery of Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, as you walk through its stately entrance. A panoramic display of Ubud’s verdant hills, resplendent with jungle greenery, rises up to greet you before plunging steeply into the Ayung River, then gently flattens out into fertile rice paddies. It’s enough to silence the most jaded of Bali regulars – even those who complain that the island no longer holds any enchantment.
That idyllic sense of having arrived at a sanctuary, albeit one with a touch of raw, refreshing wildness to it, is just the sort of magic that permeates this beautifully preserved estate. Constructed with the intention of embracing – as opposed to disrupting – the natural landscape and its dynamics, the Reserve feels very much like Ubud in its purest state, minus the traffic and the tourists. It’s not unusual to spot local Balinese laying an offering at Mandapa’s ancient on-site temple, while on particularly hot days, village children leap from nearby boulders into the river’s tumbling rapids.
There are only 60 suites and villas available at Mandapa, and you’ll often feel as if you have the grounds entirely to yourself – how you choose to explore them, of course, is up to you. The default option – being thoroughly cosseted in the privacy of your villa by your own butler or patih – is an opportunity to soak in the views of the surrounding rainforest, rice terraces, or the Ayung River below. (A one-bedroom pool villa starts from IDR13.25 million/RM4,250, while a three-bedroom pool villa with its own sauna, fitness facilities, and private garden starts from IDR62.25 million/RM19,970.)
Each of the 25 private pool villas comes outfitted with opulent Balinese interiors by Jeffrey Wilkes, a spacious and flatteringly lit marble bathroom, and an outdoor rain shower for guests brave enough to bathe alfresco. Those in serious need of an energy boost can take an early morning buggy ride to Mandapa Spa for a complimentary sunrise yoga class, where you’ll be coaxed into various contortions as the rainforest begins to awaken. Afterwards, plunge into their heated vitality pool to soothe any sore muscles, and reward yourself with a balancing rose quartz crystal head massage (IDR900,000/RM290) or a signature Mepijet massage (from IDR1.2 million/RM385).
A riverfront dinner at the bamboo-covered Kubu is another essential part of the Mandapa experience, especially if you’re seated in one of their nine private cocoons. Sip an expertly muddled mangosteen caipiroska as you wait for Executive Chef Maurizio Bombini (who you’re likely to spot harvesting herbs from the estate’s organic garden) to dazzle you with his modern Mediterranean-European cuisine. Kubu’s six- or eight-course degustation menus (from IDR750,000/RM240) work wonders with meat and seafood: an Alaskan scallop turns piquant with a touch of kaffir lime, while a Wagyu beef rib eye’s richness is amplified by braised tongue and truffle jus.
A picnic in the middle of Mandapa’s rice fields – as simple as it may sound – is just as much of an experience to treasure. Seated in a charming wooden hut with a lunch basket filled with salads, sandwiches, and the most addictive rempeyek crackers you’ll ever risk eating, it’s impossible not to feel completely at peace within that jade-green expanse. The Reserve is wonderfully adept at creating those rare, ever-elusive moments that you’ll savour for a long, long time – and indeed, what could be rarer than serenity itself?