The best place to gather the really important info at a health retreat is at the communal dining table. Even if you feel, for whatever reason, that you might rather keep a low profile at one of the smaller tables, joining fellow guests at the big table is both a social and an educational experience.
One of the things I learn at the round table in Gaia’s Balinese-style dining and lounging pavilion is that we all want something a little different from our retreat experience — and we’ve been inspired by different reasons to come here. One fit young man was searching for a mountain biking place but something drew him to Gaia. A busy mum was given her Gaia experience — her first time at a health retreat — as a birthday present from her husband.
Two bubbly sisters who have been to Gaia before join the table, as does a group of four friends who’ve left partners and children at home to have a pampering girls’ weekend away. Several of us are more experienced retreat goers and Gaia, with its spectacular setting, is a hands-down favourite.
There is some discussion of the different places we’ve visited. The general consensus is we all love the flexibility here: you can participate in everything or lie low reading and relaxing. It can be an indulgent pampering experience or an action-packed interlude of yoga, circuit training, walking, swimming etc; or simply a healing time in a magical environment. The food is a major drawcard, too.
New to Gaia’s 25 picturesque rolling acres are the three Komala villas, where I have the honour of being the very first guest. These are the high end of Gaia’s range of accommodation. My villa is tastefully designed and expansive with high ceilings and a spacious bedroom that opens to the lounge room. The bedroom is flanked by two bathrooms — one with two rainhead showers, the other with a deep oval tub.
I also have my own private deck with sun lounges and gorgeous views over the Byron hinterland. Beside it is an infinity saltwater plunge pool and there’s a tiny private courtyard at the rear of the villa, behind the covered cabana with its huge daybed. There are also all the entertainment devices I could want.
It crosses my mind that with all this plush comfort and blissful serenity, even partners or friends who aren’t as interested in spa treatments and activities would love this resort aspect of Gaia, especially with the delicious meals that originate in large part from Gaia’s own organic vegie Garden and orchard but include chicken and fish options at dinner. Being able to enjoy a glass of organic wine or cup of coffee is a bonus, too.
Back at the dining table we discuss the treatments we have planned or have already had, getting informal reviews from one another. Gaia’s day spa offers an extraordinary range of treatments by healers and practitioners who seem to have well above the usual skills. That’s not surprising given that the region is an epicentre of complementary medicine and New Age lifestyles. They surely have their pick — the best of the best.
For my first treatment I’ve booked a deep tissue massage but my therapist Kita, after asking me what I want from the session, senses I might need something a little gentler than the intensive kneading, stretching and “unknotting” of the deep tissue style, so she mixes it up with some sweeping, rhythmic kahuna work. It’s a beautifully balanced blend of techniques and the blissful result is I feel looser and more relaxed than I have in a long time, ready to enjoy the rest of my stay.
The day before I leave, a fellow guest tells me about her enlightening medical intuitive reading with one of the other healers. Suddenly, I really want to see her as well, but I’ve left it too late. No matter, it’s just one more reason to come back. Next time, though, it will be with my partner, who’s not normally one to opt for a health retreat. But with its flexibility and glorious setting, Gaia can be whatever we want it to be.
- For more information, visit gaiaretreat.com.au.