The passion project of Maddalena and Giovanna Morandi, Navutu Dreams Resort & Wellness Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was founded in 2012, seven years after the success of their first resort opening, Navutu Stars Fiji. This eco-chic resort, surrounded by Khmer heritage and the renowned Angkor Wat temple complex (voted this year as the world’s number one landmark by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards), offers up an excellent mix of wellness retreat and cultural escape. Compare Retreats catches up with the founders to talk wellness trends and sustainability practices.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: were you always into wellness, how did you end up at Navutu Dreams, what is the scope of your role? We are both originally from Italy and in 2005, we moved to Fiji where we opened our first hotel, Navutu Stars. After six years living on a tropical island and inspired by our experience, we were drawn to Siem Reap in 2010 and opened our second property Navutu Dreams in 2012. We have always been into wellness: Maddalena has practised yoga for many years and we have been really inspired by the wellness offerings of Southeast Asia. Currently, Maddalena is living in Chiang Mai, while Giovanna lives close to the hotel in Siem Reap. We’re both involved in the property on a day-to-day basis.
Navutu Dreams is an eco-resort: what does it mean to be an eco-resort in 2018? As well as practising sustainable policies such as solar power and using refillable water bottles, we also need to be aware of and engage with our local surroundings and community in an ecological way. One of our unique eco activities at Navutu Dreams is Forest Bathing, which is essentially a walking meditation in the Angkor Archaeological Park. We are blessed to have this beautiful and ancient park on our doorstep and whilst the Park is much more widely known for Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, the park itself is stunning and full of history and spirituality. This activity allows our guests to reconnect with nature and appreciate the beautiful and tranquil surroundings of our local area.
What environmental policies do Navutu Dreams have in place as an eco-resort? We use solar panels throughout the resort and we strive to reduce the use of plastic by having removed all plastic straws and making refillable water bottles available to guests. We donate our used cooking oil to a local company who recycle it to create bio-diesel and as much as possible, we source our products from the local markets and suppliers.
What wellness retreats are on offer at Navutu Dreams? Being the leader of wellness travel in Cambodia, we offer a broad range of wellness retreats including Yoga Mini Breaks, Detox for the Mind or the Body, a Gentle Fast Detox and a more intensive six-night TCM Detox Fasting Retreat.
What goes into the planning of a retreat programme? Each retreat has been created by our resident practitioners together with the Navutu team. Each guest will get a dedicated practitioner who will conduct the initial wellness consultation and monitor progress throughout the retreat. They are available throughout the course of the retreat to answer any questions or concerns the guest may have.
We are a small boutique property so we are lucky that we are able to tailor each retreat to the guest’s needs. Our in-house retreat programme is constantly evolving with the international community of yogis and healers that are being drawn to Siem Reap. Since we’ve been here, we have watched our little town grow to become a real magnet for wellness practitioners and it’s so exciting to watch this evolve as well as to be able to harness the new skills they can offer to our guests. Right now our yoga teachers at Navutu are from France, India, Ireland and the US. Our four-night Yoga Mini Break retreat (which is our personal favourite) benefits hugely from this with guests able to experience a variety of styles and teachers during their retreat.
What kind of person is Navutu Dreams Resort best suited to? We’re very lucky with Navutu Dreams: with three different room categories ranging from entry level to vast 100-square-metre suites, three swimming pools, spacious gardens and a tranquil location, our property really suits a wide range of people. We host many solo travellers but also friends or couples, and even have families coming to stay where one parent will be doing a retreat but also getting to spend time with their loved ones. This is a trend we’re seeing this more and more, as with limited annual vacation, people may not want to sacrifice precious family time but at the same time also want to focus on their own personal wellbeing. We have a mix of the first-time yoga retreat guests and serious yogis who come to practice with Francois, one of our teachers who previously worked at Chiva-Som.
A big trend currently in wellness travel is cultural immersion and connection with the local community: what programmes or activities do Navutu Dreams offer that showcases Siem Reap’s heritage? We’re blessed to live in a magical destination with such a rich history and this is something we have always incorporated into our wellness activities. One of our signature activities is the “Sacred Sunset Meditation at Wat Svay Romeat.” This is a guided meditation led by one of our yogis in the beautiful space of Wat Svay, close to the hotel.
We can also arrange a private yoga class at an Angkorian temple or Pradakshina, a spiritual forest meditation experience in the ancient Angkor Park. There are daily community tours to show our guests the beauty of our surrounding area and our local community, which include visits to local NGO’s producing sustainable products, functioning pagodas to see the daily way of life, and the local rice fields for a prime sunset viewing spot. Each Monday we offer a Khmer community yoga class that is free for locals: it’s Navutu’s contribution back to the community.
What is coming up for Navutu Dreams in the next year? We’re about to host a yoga teacher training group for three weeks followed by a retreat group from the UK who’ve made Navutu their Siem Reap base for the last few years. We’ve just met a new yogi whose just arrived in town who we plan to start working with… more details to be revealed soon!