Bali’s Ayana Resort & Spa has no trouble attracting visitors, in fact its occupancy rates are sometimes quite the envy of other Bali based properties. Perched high on a cliff at Jimbaran on the island’s southwest, with the Indian Ocean spectacularly laid out before it, the property has been a favourite for visitors to the Island of the Gods for quite some time. And that was kind of the problem. Not only is it an extremely swoon-worthy romantic resort, with a singularly unique Aquatonic Spa experience and possibly one of the most famous bars on the island (the Rock Bar), the resort is also extremely popular for weddings and conferences.
The Ayana’s visionary Indonesian owners have had a solution to their popularity in the works for some years, the preparation for which was quite incredible. Using eight of the 77 hectares the resort owns, Ayana opened the very eco-conscious Rimba (which means ‘forest’ in Bahasa Indonesia) just this week.
I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Rimba towards the end of construction which left me suitably impressed with the ingenuity of design, and equally excited in anticipation of the opening of this very imaginative translation of an eco-resort.
The first thing that struck me as we meandered through the freshly landscaped path on the approach to Rimba from Ayana was the feeling of space. The open sided golf buggy allowed me to appreciate the silence among the thousands of trees that we weaved through, the only sound coming from their leaves as they danced along with the ocean breeze. Upon arriving at the entrance, designed to mimic the front of a ship, I’m rather awed by the beauty of the wood incorporated into its design. A massive wooden ceiling soars above the lobby and it’s one of those moments where you don’t quite know where to look. Open living style on a massive scale I catch sight of the multi-tiered swimming pools and forest laid out in all it’s glory beyond.
I was greeted by the chief architect and his crew who were clearly very excited about this project and eager to tell me all about it. This was unlike any other construction site I’d been to, it was possibly the largest group of smiling workmen in hard hats I’d ever seen.
“Five years ago, when the ‘seeds were planted’ for the idea of a new hotel at Ayana, our farmers planted 40,000 fast-growing albesia ‘silk’ trees at Ayana’s farm in central Bali,” said Rimba Project Director Wayan Widhiada. Around 10,000 of these very pretty trees, which appear a little unusual in Bali, along with a mix of tropical trees and fruit plants, have been used to create the beautiful forest surrounding Rimba.
Japanese architect, Seiki Torige, (who is also a famous glass artist based in Ubud), quickly explained the pile of old wood sitting in the corner.
“Each piece of wood has been sourced from Sulawesi,” he tells me, while showing me the photos from their trip and dozens of pieces of scattered old wood along with washed up old fishing boats. “We cleaned up the town!” he laughed. “All the wood was discarded but we could see the beauty of incorporating it into the walls of Rimba. We also scoured the beaches for driftwood and local artisans have hand crafted a different piece of ‘eco’ art for each guest room.”
In fact the details are quite mind blowing. We see many eco-resorts popping up in the world of hospitality but the detailed attention that has gone into the creation of Rimba goes far beyond energy saving lighting and towel re-use.
Thoughtful decorations made of banana paper, vanity sets constructed from recycled glass, handmade bricks in the lobby and stunning the To’ge (‘bean sprout’) restaurant, a roof top bar made from recycled glass bottles combined with locally sourced marble and a two kilometer jogging path also made from recycled glass bottles connecting Rimba to the Ayana Resort. Operationally a water recycling plant processes ‘grey’ and ‘black’ water for use in lavatories and to keep the ponds and gardens well watered. The showers operate undre a reverse osmosis system which recycles rainwater and salt-water from the sea.
Sky-lights (again, recycled glass) are incorporated into To’ge to capture the natural lighting, and to keep business motivated, there are three ‘day-light’ meeting rooms with glass walls to maximise the light and surrounding beauty.
The innovation in design translates also to To’ge, the resort’s signature restaurant. Chef Jusman So, former owner of Singaporean restaurant Sage and Ayana’s Executive Chef, has applied his philosophy of ‘reinvented cuisine’ to a decidedly unique menu combining Asian flavours in a most creative manner.
While Rimba is conscious of its Balinese surroundings, they’ve managed to produce a property with an identity all its own, in an edgy and eco-innovative style.