Journey with Coco Shambhala, Goa
Goa is the perfect place to let your hair down and unwind but it is also becoming increasingly popular for its wellness scene. Between the lush paddy fields, palm trees and the Arabian Sea; it has the perfect recipe for a wellness sanctuary. Instead of visiting the sunny state for its parties, I like to go there for vegan food, massages, surf lessons and to delve deeper into my yoga practice.
When I was introduced to Coco Shambhala, I was very excited to visit because I had heard so much about it. Coco Shambhala has two properties, one in Nerul and the other one, on the Konkan coast in Sindhudurg. Inspired by the works of the Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, the owner Giles has worked tirelessly with his team to bring the Coco Shambhala villas come to life.
I was invited to visit the property in Nerul and this couldn’t have come to me at a better time. I needed someplace quiet to collect my thoughts before I set off on my first wellness retreat in Goa. As you already know, attending a retreat is a wonderful experience but curating one from scratch is a difficult task which seemed insurmountable to me at the time. The pressure was adding up and I was desperate for a little breather.
The next morning, I woke up in Candolim to a call, that a car had arrived to take me to Coco Shambhala. Upon entering the resort, I was greeted by the staff with smiles, hugs and tender coconut. After a quick look around the property, I checked in to one of the villas before my massage. The spa, albeit small, comes highly recommended because the therapists are trained to knead your worries away and mine helped me with my sciatica pain as well. I had almost fallen asleep when I was woken up for a dry scalp massage. A quick steam later, I walked up to eat lunch.
Coco Shambhala has four villas with two bedrooms in each villa. The rooms are shabby chic with wooden accents and kind cosmetics in the bathroom. The pantry is fitted with all the amenities and the fridge is stocked with beer, soft drinks and wine for the evenings. The residents have privacy because they are quite far apart and beautifully appointed so everyone has the views of the pool and the lush verdant landscaping around the property. The rooms have air conditioning and have reasonably fast wifi connections but the best part is yet to come. Each villa has a gorgeous tree-house themed balcony with a dining table, a couch with fluffy cushions, a tea and coffee maker and books. It was my favourite spot during my stay at the property and I would spend many hours curled up with a coffee and a book.
The property is located in Nerul- a sleepy fishing village close to Candolim and Calangute. Guests love that it is nestled on a quiet stretch in Nerul- far away from the madness that becomes Goa in the winter months. The villas are beautifully appointed to guarantee privacy and also allow the residents and kids to enjoy the pool. The property is very lush and verdant with beautiful landscaping and you can practice yoga to the sounds of the birds in the morning and against the crickets in the evening post sunset.
With enough foliage, the sound of the birds and crickets at dusk and a serene landscape, this is the perfect spot to meditate and do some inner work. While most people choose to do yoga twice a day when they are here, some guests also like to retreat to a quiet corner to meditate. A lot of yoga instructors have chosen to conduct retreats at the Coco Shambhala at Nerul so you might want to check their website for retreats around your visit. However, if you are not new to yoga and looking to deepen your practice, please let the staff know beforehand so they can assist you in your journey. Yoga mats and blocks can be provided and a private instructor can also be organised, upon request.
I could dedicate a whole blog to the food philosophy and cuisine at Coco Shambhala. The chef Shagun Mehra prepares meals that are a feast for all the senses. Her food is wholesome, nutritious and easy to digest. You don’t need to worry about your allergies or dietary preferences when you are staying here. The kitchen is very well equipped to handle egg free, dairy free, sugar-free and vegan meal requests. While Goa boasts some of the freshest seafood, you will be spoilt for choice when you dine here because you can enjoy grilled kingfish, a juicy steak or order bangers and mash for the kids. There’s something for everyone here- all you’ve got to do is speak to the staff and let them know your preferences beforehand. The ingredients are seasonal, locally sourced and whenever, possible organic, so as to ensure the health of the guests and in regard to the environment.
In all my years as a travel writer, I am yet to experience such service at any resort in India. The staff is excellent and they think of the little things that will make your holiday, a memorable one. From the private dining options in the resort, babysitting services and the phone with all the emergency numbers fed in- the attention to detail is marvellous.
Verdict-If you are looking to escape the crowded streets and late night parties to someplace quiet and private where you can catch up on your reading and find your Zen- this is it. The delightfully curated Coco Shambhala retreat in Nerul is a real gem in North Goa that provides the perfect escape for dreary city goers, families, young couples wanting some peace and quiet. In fact, with the customised dining options, the lovely pool and the afternoon massages, I would be very happy to park myself here with a nice book and not leave. The best time to visit is between October and March but do book early to avoid disappointment.
Photos- Jonathan Pinto