A Weekend In: The Ungasan Clifftop Resort, Uluwatu
Trip duration: 72 hours
How to get there: A 30-45-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport
Where I stayed: In the breezy five-bedroom Villa Ambar, at The Ungasan Clifftop Resort. The well-known wedding destination rebranded in early 2018, marking the arrival of celebrated Australian chef James Vile of two-hatted Biota and Sundays Beach Club. The Ungasan has become a prized location for holidaying Victoria’s Secret models and vacationing celebrities since the name change due to its full-service luxury villa collection. Each come with ocean edge settings, manicured tropical gardens, wet-edge infinity pools and two butlers who are exclusive to the villa.
Villa Ambar is one of the seven top-end villas on the property. On opening the double-fronted Balinese wooden doors to the villa, you’re instantly transported to a world of understated tropical luxury. The Balinese-style design has a breezy, polished feel with natural flow from the entry koi pond, unbelievably green manicured lawn, swaying palm trees, tropical gardens of bougainvillea and butterflies which lead out to the sunken lounge and infinity pool overlooking Indian Ocean.
The villa’s bedrooms have been thoughtfully planned so each enjoys ocean views without compromising on privacy. Plush king beds, outdoor showers and tiled built-in bathtubs are present in all five bedroom suits. I beelined for the subterranean master suite. With round-the-clock service, unlimited access to Sundays and locally-sourced in-villa dining options crafted by Viles, there is no reason venture out of the resort.
How I spent my days: Watching a family of monkeys dart along the treetops on the adjacent cliffs, lounging on a daybed by the pool and hanging over the wet-edge looking out to the azure blue ocean and beach below. This activity was broken up with in-villa massages and poke bowls.
What I ate: With James Viles behind the menu I expected to be in good hands. Thankfully I was not disappointed. Viles’ signature celebration of local produce and producers is evident in everything that comes out of the kitchen at The Ungasan, down to the handmade ceramics your meals are served in. Melissa Moyle, the resorts GM, tells me he visits every six weeks to change the menu based loosely on seasons (though Bali’s are mild), and train staff. Each morning, a complimentary Morning Harvest Breakfast arrives. There’s a choice between western or Indonesian style – by day three, I combine the bits I like from both. It’s a decadent way to start the day; fresh coconuts, coffee, daily baked sourdough bread, hand churned butter, fresh muffins, fruit, homemade toasted granola for the Western spread, and expertly seasoned congee, mee goreng, pan fried fish, and a side of fried bananas dusted in cinnamon sugar for the Asian-style offering. Delicious, generous and more than you can manage. If your appetite permits, in-villa lunch options include everything from tuna poke bowls, and lobster bao buns to keto, paleo and low-carb high-protein options.
Best moment of the trip: The in-villa Biota barbecue. My travel pals and I booked this on our last night as a bon voyage to a memorable long weekend. After sunset cocktails down at Sunday’s we returned to an enchanting alfresco set-up near the pool. The usual evening scent of tuberose was overtaken with the mouth-watering work of Chef Marthada and his crew on the coals. Chef Marthada spent six months training in Biota’s kitchen under Viles before taking over the kitchen at The Ungasan. It’s a feast with obvious standouts, like giant slabs of sourdough bread made from Biota Bowral’s yeast culture, Australian 68-day aged wagyu striploin with 8+ marble score, and coal-fired lobster. The BBQ corn, served with spiced yoghurt bell peppers and shaved smoked cheddar starter and the salted caramel and chocolate tart with soured crème for dessert also went down well.
Where to spend cocktail hour: When it was time to venture out of my comfy villa bubble and try an expanded version of the poolside bites menu there was Sundays Beach Club. The trip down to the club requires a stroll down an Instagram-worthy winding path to the inclinator, which transports guests 150-metres down the cliff face to the resort’s private beach. As a villa guest, I could come and go from the club throughout day and my villa butlers arranged reserve day beds, bean bags, all water sport equipment and tables at the Robinson Crusoe-style open-air restaurant if, and when, I desire it. For external guests, it’s a once entry (AUD) $25 fee. Putra, my in-villa butler, suggested heading down at low tide when the monster waves retreat past the reef to form a protected lagoon making the conditions perfect for stand-up paddle boarding in the crystal-clear water. As the sun fades into a powdered sunset, a nightly beach-bonfire with toasted S’mores begins. My cocktail of choice with the Cucumber Roska.
Why I’ll be back: The exceptionally warm service. Along with a daily breakfast, a standby car and driver (in case you want to venture out, but lord knows why you would), the access to the in-villa butlers made the trip. At first I felt uncomfortable with the idea, but Dayu and Putra set the tone for a relaxing experience. Nothing was too much trouble, from booking day beds at Sundays to spa treatments and remembering what I liked from breakfast the day before. There’s no denying the villa was spectacular, but they created a magical and memorable experience.
Stays at The Ungasan start from $5314 a night for five-bedroom villas, for more information or bookings visit theungasan.com.
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