For travellers who seek the finest that the world has to offer

This Thai wellness retreat holds the secret to a longer life

Kamalaya Koh Samui is hosting a life-enhancing Blue Zones group retreat in May 2024. This innovative program, based on 20 years of research by Blue Zones, offers an immersive experience to discover the secrets of longevity and wellbeing from the world’s blue zone regions. You will discover principles from the blue zones such as nourishing plant-slant meals inspired by diets from the Mediterranean; Okinawa, Japan; and Costa Rica’s Nicoyan peninsula. The menu created by Kamalaya wellness chefs and Blue Zones cooking classes ensures optimal nutrition and a mouthwatering culinary experience. Physical activities undertaken at the retreat include gentle yoga practices, Qi-Gong, meditation and invigorating movement workouts.

What are blue zones?

Blue zones are regions where residents enjoy exceptionally long and vibrant lives, with high rates of centenarians and low rates of chronic disease. The five original blue zones regions are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.

When is the Blue Zones Group Retreat?

Open to guests aged 18 and over, the Blue Zones Group Retreat is taking place from 5 to 11 May 2024 and is available as a 6-night program, priced at 246,173 THB, approximately AUD $11,000, per person.

The comprehensive retreat includes 26 invigorating treatments and activities, as well as three daily meals. Accommodation is additional and starts at 8,500 THB (AUD $380) per night in a Hillside Room based on single occupancy. Kamalaya’s Blue Zones group retreat promises to transform, inspiring individuals to lead healthier, happier and more purposeful lives.

Kamalaya Koh Samui wellness retreat

Cathy Wagstaff checks into the dreamy Thai wellness retreat of Kamalaya with tension and trepidation, and leaves on a spiritual high.

Like most international travellers, I’ve arrived at Kamalaya Koh Samui in a long-haul flight daze – compounded by the fact I’ve come off back-to-back deadlines and haven’t switched off my phone or computer in as long as I can remember. I believe the term for my state of being is ‘burnout’. But checking into this wellness cocoon along the coast of Koh Samui is an instant salve for the soul.

Ganesha – the jolly elephant-headed Hindu god of new beginnings – greets me on arrival by the lotus pond where dragonflies dance; a staff member hands me a cup of blue butterfly pea tea. Wind chimes tinkle in the distance, in melodic harmony with the ebb and flow of the Gulf of Thailand. The warmth of the morning sun wraps around me like a tropical hug and the earthy aroma of lemongrass and frangipani provides instant calm. My Inbox doesn’t matter – my inner being does.

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Island views © Kamalaya Koh Samui

A healing location

Indeed, providing a place to forget about the rest of the world was the goal of Karina and John Stewart when they opened this retreat in 2005. ‘Synergy’ is a term Karina repeats when describing her intentions for the property’s design, which, quite honestly, taps away tension even before you consider the holistic wellbeing programs on offer.

The grounds are the perfect union of wild and manicured, a place where palm trees create just-so shadows on pebbled paths, and mulberry, tulsi and moringa provide fantastical colour – and also add to the spa’s botanical bounty. John and Karina could have chosen any number of similar settings for Kamalaya along the Koh Samui coast. But this particular location comes with something extra special – a centuries-old monk’s cave.

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Soma Restaurant © Kamalaya Koh Samui

Feng shui-driven wellness retreat

It was the only sign John – a former monk – and Karina – a longtime practitioner in Asian healing, spirituality and Chinese medicine – needed to unite their passions here. The result is a feng shui-driven holistic haven where bedrooms and villas are tucked amid granite boulders, ponds, waterfalls and lush jungle, tumbling from the top of a hill toward a private beach. ‘Minimal impact’ was the catchphrase when building, but that doesn’t come at the expense of niceties. Like my private pool with horizon-bending views, similar to those I enjoy from my bed. But I won’t be spending much time in my room – a packed roster of diversions await.

Wellness programs

There’s a near-endless parade of multiple-day wellness programs to choose from at Kamalaya, ranging from improving your gut health (because the answer to many health issues lies right here, I discover) to resetting sleep patterns, losing weight and providing emotional healing. I’m booked in for the seven-day ‘Balance & Revitalise’ program, which promises to help me reconnect and restore radiant vitality. And over the next week I’ll work with a naturopath, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner and life enhancement mentor to do just that. A massage soon after I check in is a good place to start in my quest for healing.

Thai wellnesss retreat Kamalaya Koh Samui's Wellness Programme Relax & Renew
Relax & Renew © Kamalaya Koh Samui

Therapies, treatments and tests

The spa setting is truly magical. From the mosaic-tiled steam caverns, thermal plunge pools and infrared sauna to the thatched-roof yoga pavilion. And therapists are on call to deliver acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping (all TCM practices) alongside Ayurvedic Shirodhara therapy, lotus-blossom body wraps and rose lymphatic facials. That’s just where the wellness begins. There are IV drips to boost your metabolism or give you a glow; ozone therapy to fast-track the healing of whatever ails you; physiotherapy to realign your posture; naturopathy to cleanse your insides… and that’s before you look at the options to get you moving: qi gong, reformer pilates, yoga, muay Thai, stretching, and aqua aerobics.

Meditation and medical practitioners

Meanwhile, the monk’s cave is now strung with candles and a place for meditation and quiet contemplation. Karina and John have also enlisted a stream of visiting practitioners who offer a host of wellbeing therapies and treatments to improve your life; medical practitioners perform blood analysis and genetic tests; and Body Bioimpedance Analysis reveals cellular health, metabolism and toxicity. I’m here for seven days, but there’s enough to fill two weeks without ever repeating an activity. Small wonder many visitors extend their stays.

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Meditate in the Arjan Cave © Kamalaya Koh Samui

Mealtimes at a wellness retreat

While I had expected mealtimes here to be limited-calories blended and served in a shot-glass, it’s anything but. Kamalaya’s superfood-laden dishes are worth the trip alone. Inventive organic salads deliver an explosion of unfamiliar flavours, created using the principle that food is most healing when close to its fresh, natural state. Plus cooked meals that are prepared gently and slowly to preserve the wealth of vitamins and nutrients. It lifts your mood and supercharges your mindfulness.

Finding inner peace

In between eating, exercising and being exfoliated, I swim laps in the hilltop pool, paddleboard around the glassy bay, and meet fellow Kamalaya converts – some who are here for the nth time. Not dissimilar to Kamalaya’s general manager, East German Pierre Lang, who visited on three occasions before accepting the job. Pierre exudes the same effortless energy as Karina and John, a calmness that comes from the soul. It’s addictive – I know I’ll be leaving with a piece of this place in my heart as well.

Thai wellnesss retreat Kamalaya Koh Samui Tea Sharing At Alchemy Lounge and Kamalaya Koh Samui_Signature Detox Rolls_what you eat at a wellness retreat
Fueled by nature © Kamalaya Koh Samui

Accommodation at Kamalaya Koh Samui

Your own private sanctuary awaits. Situated amongst granite boulders, trickling water streams and tropical flora, you’ll feel nature’s restorative touch in your accommodations at this wellness retreat.

Designed with natural furnishings, Asian natural textiles and modern amenities, stay in a tropical hillside room, villa or suite. Each space features a private semi-open bathroom and an outdoor terrace or balcony. For extra indulgence, opt for a villa or suite that includes a private pool.

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Villa Sea View Bathroom © Kamalaya Koh Samui