Amatara Wellness Resort review, Phuket, Thailand

THE LOCATION

The resort is high on a cliff face over the ocean at tranquil Cape Panwa, 30 minutes' drive from the busyness of downtown Phuket, and just 55 minutes from the airport with direct flights from Australia. Rooms facing one side look out to the pretty bay and sunsets. Guests on the other overlook the ocean and extraordinary sunrises. Villas and rooms are hidden away in a lush frangipani-perfumed tangle of forest and towering bamboos, with the soft babble of brooks and paths littered with hibiscus petals. There are steps down to a private sheltered beach.

THE SPACE

Everywhere you are at the resort feels incredibly secluded and cocooned. The paths lead to a choice of three restaurants, the main reception area with a well-stocked library behind where there are also computers to work and afternoon tea is served every day, and the infinity pool with loungers and a bar for drinks and lunch orders. Nearby is the main spa building, a stunning edifice dotted with still ponds, a yoga pavilion where early morning sun salutations are performed looking out over the ocean, and the gym beneath, with glass doors onto the greenery. For those wanting to exercise there's a whole timetable of classes like Pilates, Thai boxing, flexibility-training and stacks of weights and plenty of machines; while for the leisure guests who aren't so interested in health, there are plenty of places to relax, as well as lots of beach and water activities. Oh and yes, great Wi-Fi throughout.

THE ROOM

My ocean-view villa was vast and enormously comfortable. The bed sits on a platform, along with the desk, and then down two steps is the main lounge room with a sofa and comfortable chairs and coffee tables. The bathroom is massive with a high vaulted ceiling and a feature free-standing circular bath and separate basins and dressing areas on opposite sides of the room. From both the bathroom and lounge there are glass doors out to the veranda, with its own private pool, loungers and table and chairs. It's all so discreetly arranged, skinny-dipping is the order of the day. There's also a range of smaller rooms but all are a variation on the villas, with slightly less space, fewer chairs and some without pools. All have espresso machines but when you're a leisure guest, there's chocolate in the mini-bar fridge; when you're a health guest, it's best not to know that. You make do with dates, nuts and dried fruit.

THE FOOD

There are three separate restaurants dotted around the resort, all with wonderful elevated views of the water. The Retreat is set beside another pool and is exclusively for those of us on a health program, offering "wellness cuisine" which was actually quite delicious; think great juices, curries, quinoa risotto and beetroot an astonishing four ways! The Restaurant is for everyone and anyone, with both healthy options and "soul food" like burgers and pizza, and Thai food. The Grill is the fine-dining restaurant with beautiful seafood and meats, spectacular smoking nitro-sorbets between courses and a lengthy wine list. On its roof is a cocktail bar looking out far over the Andaman Sea and nearby islands.

STEPPING OUT

There are regular complimentary shuttle buses to the centre of Phuket, to Patong beach, the nearest big shopping mall which is 15 minutes away and the night markets. Meanwhile the little golf carts that trundle around the resort picking up guests who prefer riding to walking, also take you to the ATM just outside the resort and the little village centre beyond. There are also world-class golf courses within a 25-minute drive. Boat rides, paddle boarding and water activities are all organised around the beach, also with its own bar.

THE VERDICT

I stayed three nights and lost two kilograms, most likely  as a result from  all the exercise, yoga, treatments at the spa and good, healthy food. It felt pretty effortless and extremely relaxing too.

THE ESSENTIALS

AMATARA WELLNESS RESORT, Phuket, Thailand. Package rates for four days and three nights, including accommodation, wellness consultations, three meals a day, treatments and activities, start from Thai baht 41,800 ($1791) per person twin-share (excluding VAT, tax and service charges). There are two special offers currently running: bonus nights for stays from November 1 to December 25; or free flight with minimum five-night booking now till December 25. Phone (+66) 7631 8888; See amataraphuket.com.

HIGHLIGHT

I'm hopeless at yoga but while I didn't quite learn to love it, it was a hell of a lot more pleasurable having expert tuition in a pavilion in such an incredible setting looking over the shimmering Andaman Sea and watching the boats through downward dogs.

LOWLIGHT

Little Red Riding Hood couldn't have got more lost than me every day following the tangle of paths through the resort's enchanted forest. A few more signs pointing to where the villas and main buildings are wouldn't go amiss.

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Sue Williams travelled courtesy of the Amatara Wellness Resort.

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