In the heart of Bali, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, lies an oasis that defies the ordinary. Originally envisioned by Swedish Magnus Falk as a couple’s retreat, this haven has transformed into a sanctuary for creativity, spirituality, and rejuvenation. What sets it apart is not just its location in the wild, natural beauty of the jungle, but the mystical aura that surrounds it. Nandini Jungle Resort and Spa is a place where ancient traditions and nature’s wonders meet.
From chance encounter to dream resort
In the late 1990s, while living and working in Hong Kong, amidst his travels across Asia, a twist of fate led Magnus to this small village near Ubud.
“I used to travel to Bali a lot, especially this region around Ubud. I would go up the mountain and then I’d bicycle down. Every time I would take a different route. One day I’d pass a temple and the next a waterfall etc.,” Magnus shares.
What started as a chance encounter with a villager, who graciously invited Magnus in for coffee as he was on one of his trips down the mountain, turned into an unexpected venture that would transform his life forever.
“I like to think that the land came to me rather than the other way around. I had no intention of buying land here at that time, but it just came up and then the idea about the hotel came to me.”
The late 1990s and early 2000s brought both challenges and opportunities. The Indonesian financial crisis of 1998 presented a chance to invest in the land, while the disaster of 2002 paved the way for construction at a discounted cost.
“There was a big disaster here in 2002 and nobody had work. Bali was dead. That gave me an opportunity to actually start to build something at a discounted price,” Magnus adds.
Armed with a vision inspired by the dramatic architecture and fertile land of the region, he started building Nandini Jungle Resort and Spa from scratch.
Not without challenges
The journey was not without its trials. The steep, mountainous terrain demanded innovative construction techniques, resulting in a resort supported by numerous pillars, each standing strong against the test of time. Despite the challenges, the resort officially opened in 2005.
Since then, the resort has expanded, adding more modern villas in 2019, bringing the total number of villas from 18 to 34. The dream, however, continues to evolve. Magnus still aspire to add more villas to embrace the spirit of his magical place.
A spiritual awakening
What makes the place magical is the river flowing just below the resort. This is not just any river. For years this river remained a local secret. A place untouched due to its perceived inaccessibility. But this specific river is renowned by the locals as more than just water and stone; it’s one of the islands strongest channels for the spirits of Bali.
“Back when I first bought the land I didn’t bother to go down there. I just assumed it would be the same as to the north and to the south of us. That you could not access the river because it would be too narrow, too much water and too many rocks. That you wouldn’t be able to get into the actual water. Even after I opened the resort, I still hadn’t been physically down by the river. ”
“It’s also a long way down. Back then we didn’t have the stairs that we have now. We build those in 2007 and we opened the resort in 2005,” Magnus shares with excitement.
200 steps. That is how far down the river is. 200 steps, after you pass all the original villas at the resort – build down the mountainside. This leads to even more steps to be taken, if you walk the distance. After he experienced the river himself, Magnus did not only have the stairs build, but also a lift, that can take you some of the way.
“But the last 200 steps down. The steep ones that we build under the resort. You will have to climb them to experience it,” he explains.
The river of spirits
Local folklore intertwines with the testimonies of travelers, speaking of spirits that originate from the island’s volcanoes and mountains and are channeled through the island’s elaborate network of rivers. The river below the resort has become a sanctuary where the spirits dwell. It’s a place where water and earth meet. Where Vishnu and Shiva converge and creates a sacred space.
“It all started with the locals around here coming up to me to tell me how nice it is down there. How there’s a little riverbank and waterfalls. Several told me how they would climb down the mountain side to assess this exact area, because for them it’s a holy place, where the bathe and pray. So, I finally went down there and I said wow, my goodness. It really is like an oasis down there.”
He then started the work of building the many steps down to the magical river.
“And being Bali, of course, we had to have the blessing from the priest before we could officially open the area,” Magnus adds.
Blessed by the local priest
Following the blessing by the local priest, the river’s hidden wonders were unveiled. Even the priest, attuned to the spiritual essence of Bali and went to Magnus to acknowledged the exceptional presence of spirits by his place.
“The local priest came up to me after he did his blessing. He came up to me and thanked me for letting him bless the place. I was just like ‘Pemangu (Balinese for priest), you’re the one blessing my place. I’m the one thanking you.’ He then said ‘no, you don’t understand, I have to give thanks, because I’m a holy man. I’ve been everywhere in Bali where there’s holy places, but I have never been anywhere in Bali where the presence of spirits is so high and so dense as just here by your place by the river.’”
The priest then shared the Balinese beliefs with Magnus. He explained that according to Balinese tradition, all spirits in the region originate from the mountains and volcanoes. These spirits then flow into the rivers, which are abundant in Bali due to the island’s volcanic nature and heavy rainfall. The significance of these rivers lies in their role as channels for the spirits. The priest described Bali as a volcanic island with numerous rivers, emphasizing how these waterways served as canals for the spirits.
The river underneath Nandini, is narrow and enclosed by 100-meter rock walls on each side. This natural formation acts like a lagoon, restricting the movement of the spirits. Consequently, the spirits will find themselves trapped in this area, resulting in a notably high presence of spiritual energy. The phenomenon remains consistent regardless of the season, as the river is sustained by waterfalls originating from inside the mountains. These waterfalls ensure a continuous flow of water, making this exact spot sacred.
The meditation guru’s similar experience
“Sometime after the priest gave his blessing and told me about this story, we had another group coming here from Belgium to meditate. After they had a meditation down by the river, the leader said to me ‘look man. I need to tell you something. I am a meditation guru. I’ve been anywhere in the world teaching meditation. I’ve been to Bhutan, Himalaya, Peru, you name it, I’ve been there. I can tell you that I’ve never been anywhere in the world, where the meditation is as good as down by your river place,’” Magnus shares with a sparkle in his eyes.
The guru thereby proclaimed that the meditation experience by the river underneath Nandini was unparalleled. The guru told Magnus of the unique combination of the river’s powerful energy – a result of the water smashing against the rocks – and the release of negative ions, creating an atmosphere beneficial to profound meditation. The union of these energies was a rarity, making this place a haven for those seeking inner peace and looking for the ideal location for breathing exercises.
“Then I remembered the priest. When it comes down to it, the priest told me the same story as the meditation guru, but from different schools. One is talking about spirits, the other one is talking about ions. At the end of the day, I don’t know which one is the correct one, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is that they share the same experience. They both feel the energy,” Magnus says with pride in his voice.
The puzzling monkey-mystery
But the energy of the river is not just felt by humans. As Magnus explains, a peculiar mystery remains.
“We have a lot of monkeys in the area and they won’t go there. It doesn’t matter what I do. Even if I put food down there, they still won’t go,” Magnus tells.
This mystery has left the locals to believe that the spirits are telling the monkeys to stay away.
“Nobody knows why. The locals are sure it’s because the spirits won’t allow them to go down there. The monkeys can sit five meters from the river, but they never get closer than that. Maybe because the energy is too strong. I don’t know. Weird things are going on there. Bali is like this,” he adds.
A sanctuary found, not advertised
Magnus has never actively marketed his sacred place. Instead, he shares how it seemed as though those who were meant to experience its energy were guided here by themself. Yoga practitioners, meditation enthusiasts, and seekers of spiritual enlightenment have found their way to Nandini for years. Speaking of their experiences and creating a word-of-mouth phenomenon that has drawn like-minded people to the five-star jungle gem.
“This place has been given to us by nature. I’ve just been lucky, because you cannot assess the place anywhere else but through the resort. It’s impossible,” Magnus adds with a subtle smile.