The English Oxford dictionary defines retreat as withdrawal ‘to a quiet or secluded place.’
Nowhere could this be more true than at Devaaya. Tucked away on the uppermost corner of Divar Island on the Mandovi River in Goa, Devaaya is a colourful resort, surrounded by wetlands, tiny villages and glorious countryside.
The three mile journey from the ferry, transporting you across the river from Old Goa, is a feast for the eyes, with endless rows of palm trees, a few shops, lots of brightly painted houses and literally hundreds of wandering dogs. Don’t worry about being tempted off your healthy path unless you fancy sneaking out on a push bike at night, as there is nothing nearby.
Instead you have views of water, marshes and fabulous tropical shrubbery to calm your soul. The gentle buzz of dragonflies, hummingbirds and all manner of other noisily chattering birds provide visual entertainment, especially as it seems to be mating season!
Sixty spacious rooms are scattered along the circular roadway, in a vivid array of oranges, yellows, pinks and blues. It’s easy to see the Goan heritage in the tiled floors and the ornate balconies and stairways.
There’s plentiful wardrobe space, air conditioning and a bathroom complete with bathtub, if you feel the urge to soak, and each room has a balcony or terrace overlooking either the wetlands or the resort.
I recommend you request a water view, preferably in the pink or blue building as they are just too cute! Manager Mabel tells me it is not uncommon for repeat guests to request those rooms, and I must confess every time I walk past, I feel a slight twinge of envy of the lucky guests who bagged these gems.
Whichever room you get, you won’t be disappointed by the views. Whether it is far-reaching views over the shimmering water to the jungle foliage beyond, or views over the lush grounds, it is a far cry from the drab greys of wintery Britain.
Our room has a partial water view and each morning on waking, I feel drawn to the balcony to gaze upon the glistening morning mist rising above the water. What a great antidote to a 6am start!
The complex is well appointed with a gym (not air-conditioned, and only a few cardio machines and weights, so probably not much use for hard core gym bunnies!), a library, games tables, a tennis court, meditation hall and superb swimming pool which is faithfully maintained on a daily basis. It is so hot this week, it is positively bath-like!
The main facilities are located in the middle of the resort, meaning there is always a handy short cut to be had through the glorious tropical gardens. If you prefer to be more active, you can walk or run the circular road admiring statues of Buddhas, goddesses and other dieties on your travels. How heavenly is that?
The Veda Treatment centre
There are ample treatment rooms in the main Veda pavilion, and 5 charming thatched treatment huts spread throughout the grounds. These are ultra-cute and are open to the elements to allow a flow of fresh air (don’t worry, your modesty is protected).
Baring your all for a massage, with the breeze lazily tickling your body is surprisingly liberating. It makes me wonder whether I should be joining a nudist colony.
If you book a ‘Ayurveda/Naturotherapy Package (minimum one week), your stay includes two treatments daily, all personally tailored to your individual needs. The exact programme will be decided after your consultation with the Ayurvedic Doctor, and is dependent on your goals.
Treatments may include a variety of massages, wraps, steam baths and oil treatments, some of which will seem very unusual compared to traditional massages back home. Don’t let this put you off though as those therapists are practised magicians, managing to manipulate your body in just the right way to get it to release long-held stubborn tension. For someone who finds it virtually impossible to switch off, it is quite incredible how an hour under their trained hands has me melting into vivid daydreams, and softly drifting off to sleep.
I arrived with a bad back which worsened during the flight despite my flat bed , and my therapists have poured their heart and soul into curing me. Each morning, they eagerly ask:
‘madam, how is your back?’
I desperately want to respond with ‘I’m cured, you have healed me’ such is the level of their anticipation, but alas they would soon realise I was fibbing, as I have to be helped gingerly off the massage table at the end of each session.
It’s refreshingly sweet how they seem almost as desperate as me to put an end to my pain!
Yoga and Meditation Classes
Yoga and meditation is part of your daily regime at Devaaya. Thankfully it is gentle yoga designed more to lubricate all your major joints than turn you into superwoman/man by the end of the week.
It’s practised every morning at 7am on the banks of the Mandovi and is a true delight. Moving seamlessly through sun salutations, whilst watching the sun gradually emerge from the water reeds to burn away the morning haze is a sight to behold.
The sound of running water, and birds chattering in the trees above is calming in the extreme (and if I’m honest a little distracting. Who would have thought that hummingbirds could be so fascinating?!). Laying on your back in Savasana at the end of the class, gazing up into the blue sky (and hoping a coconut does not fall on my head) is certainly a blissfully uplifting start to the day.
Meditation is held in the late afternoon, and is a perfect prelude to your evening meal, and bedtime. Each meditation varies to prevent boredom, and usually involves someone having a nap! It’s held in the serene meditation hall just steps from the water’s edge.
The food is tantalisingly good, and in plentiful supply. Three meals are served daily, all buffet style so you can eat as much, or as little as you like. These are supplemented by 11AM fruits and 4PM afternoon tea.
Speaking of tea, if you like teas, you are in for a treat. This is tea heaven! There seems to be a never ending selection from which to choose, including herbal, green, masala and the oh so yummy cinnamon and honey speciality.
The food is primarily Indian with a selection of soups, dhals, curries (including the sensational banana curry) and Indian breads. The diet is not strict Ayurveda, making allowance for weary Westerners with porridge, toast, and other European dishes. This makes Devaaya a great option for people unaccustomed to Ayurveda, who may wish for a gentle introduction.
Personally I love the food. Its spicy, healthy and vegetarian and I don’t feel remotely guilty about indulging. There should be something for everyone, although you may struggle if you don’t like Indian food!
The service is fabulous. Not pompous high end hotel service, but quiet and unassuming. No sooner has your glass emptied than a waiter soundlessly refills it. Your empty plates are whisked away before you have barely had time to lower your cutlery. Sometimes it is so quick, you barely notice it happening!
We had a few minor issues in our room with blown fuses and bulbs, which I reported at 7am and by 8am they were fixed. Service with a smile indeed as our room man gleefully informed us.
Mabel the manager, becomes a familiar figure over the course of the week, as she wanders the resort chatting to guests, asking them about their stay, and answering random questions. A personal touch indeed!
In the area
There isn’t much to entice you from the resort, but if your itchy feet get the better of you, you could easily while away an afternoon in Old Goa or an hour on the adjoining island.
Old Goa is a Unesco World Heritage site, and is rammed full of majestic white churches and cathedrals dedicated to a variety of saints. It’s a real draw for locals, so expect to be the centre of attention.
Alternatively jump on the ferry across to the neighbouring island. Grab a free bike from reception, and explore narrow, potted lanes criss-crossing the island, connecting this tiny community of 40 homes. Turn right at the crossroads to admire the dilapidated blue and white church glistening in the sun.
Overgrown and deserted, it has seen better days, but it stands as a majestic reminder of the area’s past. The trip is worthwhile, even if only for the superb views back to Devaaya. I definitely had one of those ‘wow, I’m so lucky to be here’ moments stood on that jetty waiting for the return ferry.
You could also check out Goa Beyond the Beaches for more ideas for things to do in the area before or after your retreat.
We stayed on a Ayurveda/Naturopathy package for one week. Including treatments, all meals, activities and airport transfers, the cost was €1,323. We secured a 20% discount in exchange for this review, but as usual all views are our own.
17 Euro per night for a villa room
34 Euro per night for a suite
100 RPs each for a Neti pot for yogic cleansing (around £1.05)
Any additional medicines at the end of your stay
What I liked
The fabulous location. These are views I will never tire of!
The food – oh my, what can I say? Banana curry and pineapple soup…I’ve certainly found some new inspiration for food recipes back home.
The treatments – daydreams galore!
The gardens – just to wander the gardens is a journey into tropical Narnia
What I liked less
The tennis court is in need of a little TLC, however this wasn’t really an issue for me as my back put an end to any thoughts of chasing balls around!
If you seek rest and relaxation in beautiful surroundings, maybe combined with a few days on Goa’s long, empty beaches, then look no further. Devaaya is truly a divine escape from reality, and medicine for the soul. Frankly I don’t want to leave….
As for the back?
Well I haven’t had the miracle cure I was quite hoping for, but months of accumulated stress is hardly going to disappear in a week! However I’ve gone from plenty of teary moments earlier in the week, feeling like an octogenarian, to having a breakthrough and a definite easing of pain. Just as importantly, my mind feels clearer and my body cleaner.
I’m armed with a very thorough plan of action for the next three months (all throughly explained by the doctor in our last consultation), and about a kilo of medicines, so I certainly don’t feel like this is the end of my journey back to health, but the best thing is I actually feel like I’m on it. I feel stronger mentally, and ready to focus ‘patiently’ on my back’s recovery (mmm patience and me are not usually friends!)
Of course the best gift of all is that the doctor’s orders to Jason were to give me lots of oily massages, and for me to rest a lot. Guess I will be putting my feet up for the next three months!
If you feel sufficiently inspired to consider a visit yourself, please quote code ANNESBROOKS for a 10% discount when enquiring.
Have you ever visited Devaaya, or another similar resort? If so, please share your experience below. I’m always on the look out for recommendations for Ayurveda resorts to visit