Imagine a place where mountain, jungle and beach come together and luxury lies at the centre. Now tell your imagination it’s a reality, and you’ve discovered the Amankila Resort.
Amankila translates as ‘Peaceful Hill’ and you couldn’t find a truer name. Overlooking the beautiful Lombok Strait and presided over by the 3142-metre Gunung Agung (Mother Mountain), the resort offers a serenely personal and pampered experience like none other.
I know I’m in for a special stay as soon as I enter the front gate. A stillness descends and I am in awe while driving through the grounds via a steep hill filled with lush greenery and glimpses of the deep-blue Lombok Strait.
Even though it’s my first time here, in a funny way it feels like coming home. And this is what Adrian Zecha, founder of Aman Resorts, seeks to create. “I want people to feel as if they are in the home of a dear friend,” he explains. And his plan is working. Aman Resorts remain intimate (the average resort is 35 rooms) and dedicated to a simple elegance. Zecha wants his guests’ first impression to be that of a warm, unpretentious welcome.
The buggy that is the resort’s main transport takes me to my Pool Suite and I officially check in to paradise. My room is traditional Balinese style and features complimentary wifi, water, vegetable crackers, chocolate and oat cookies, of which I ate too many. But then indulgence is encouraged here.
The suite’s pool is enclosed within a large, walled courtyard to ensure privacy and the outdoor area features a desk, daybed and two sunbeds. If you love the sound of waves crashing, request a room close to the ocean. Every night, on your bed you will find a bedtime story (and treat) that talks about traditional Balinese rituals and traditions.
The customer service, staying true to the cultural and natural environment the resort is built in, is what sets the Aman experience apart. The staff-to-guest ratio is high and staff are caring. They discreetly attend to your room a minimum 3 times per day. Approximately 90% of staff have been there since Amankila opened 23 years ago. That goes to say a lot about the company and this resort in particular.
Renowned US architect Ed Tuttle, has designed a fair few of the Aman resorts and his work here is as inspiring as ever.
The remarkable three-tiered signature pool is a main attraction, where water flows from one into the other. It was inspired by the Royal Water Palace of Ujung (located approximately 5kms from Amlapura, the capital of Bali’s Karangasem Regency) and designed to resemble rice paddies. One of the great pleasures during my stay was listening to the sweet sound of the many beautiful birds here, singing and chirping then flying by the pool for a quick dip and playing a game of chase with the butterflies.
There is also a 41-metre lap pool at the resort’s beach club where you can either relax in bales (cabanas) or take advantage of the beach activities on offer, such as canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, hobie cats and boogie boards.
I spent a day on the resort’s wonderful Aman XVI (designed after the jukung, a traditional Balinese fishing craft) 40-foot vessel, snorkelling the magical blue lagoon, a great experience and one I highly recommend. The various colourful fish not only swim under you, but by your side and right behind you.
If water sports are not your preference, there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained, such as cycling, trekking, climbing, cooking classes, tours and visiting temples. Holistic programs are on offer too, from hypnotherapy and transformational coaching to yoga, pilates, fitness workouts and tennis. I took a yoga class with yoga and pilates guru Chae Hirano, who will be at Amankila for the next three months. On top of her teachings, Chae mingles with guests throughout the day to answer any questions they may have and to ensure their stay is a good one. It adds a charming personal touch.
And when it comes to luxury stays, nothing gets more personal than the dining choices on offer. At Amankila, the food is sensational. Executive chef Shane Lewis has created a wide variety of delicious dishes for the various menus throughout the hotel, as well as plenty of dining experiences, from private dinner on the beach or a candle-lit poolside bale dinner to a satay evening in a local village 15 minutes away. My standout meals included the Middle Eastern Breakfast (consisting of labnah, zaatar, cucumber, mint, tomatoes and grilled sourdough), Moroccan doughnuts with spiced custard and espresso cream, and Babi Guling, crisp roast suckling pig with Balinese sambal.
Amankila offers 34 free-standing suites in 3 different categories (Garden Suites, Ocean Suites and Pool Suites). In addition, there is the Kilasari Suite (featuring a 12-metre infinity pool), Indrakila Suite (featuring a lounging bale and private pool) and Amankila Suite (2 separate bedrooms, 2 bales, private pool and butler service).
During my stay, I got talking to some Aman junkies, repeat visitors who love it so much they stay at Aman Resorts around the world. All said their favourite is Amankila. I can understand the loyalty to this luxury Balinese ‘home’ – even though I have just left, I cannot wait to return.
I stayed on behalf of Luxury World Traveler as a guest of Aman Resorts for 2 nights, and loved it so much I paid to stay longer.