Ensconced amidst paddy fields off the Pernem main road, the Samata Holistic Retreat Center is a multi-faceted venue. The facilities are spread across three properties just a few hundred meters from each other - Mango Tree, Tamarind Tree and Cashew Tree; all named after the prominent flora in their respective centers.
Between them, each center with its unique atmosphere integrates into the local community serving specific purposes. These spaces have calming landscapes with visible South-East Asian and Himalayan influences. Crisp pathways meander through well manicured gardens. Stone statues adorn the swimming pool decks. Interiors and furniture are minimal in appearance, and are hand carved wooden objects.
This is the first and the main center developed by Samata - a social community and networking hub for like-minded individuals. It has the Samata and Dunagiri offices, a boutique, the Tamarind Cafe, the Matsya Freestyle Kitchen, a temple-shaala for yoga and a treehouse.
This center, with its serene and quieter environment, is home to the more private groups from overseas who want to focus inward into their souls during their retreat. A studio is designed specifically for yoga, dance and choreography. The property also has accommodation facilities for 40 guests and a tear drop shaped pool for relaxation.
This is the third property in the pipeline to be developed as a considerably affordable option to accommodate the interests of a yoga enthusiat. It is scheduled to start operations from the 2015-2016 season.
There are three types of accommodation facilites at Samata each with its distinct look and feel.
The treehouse is located in the Tamarind Tree center at the backyard of the property. It is set about 20 meters above on an old banyan tree. It was built by a group of young volunteers who grew up in the spiritual community of Auroville. The treehouse overlooks paddyfields and offers a wilderness experience for guests.
COTTAGES & VILLAS
Mango Tree being a private retreat offers elaborate accommodation facilities usually catering to longer stays. There are 8 cottages and 2 villas which can between them, accommodate 40 guests. All structures are built using recycled teak wood in traditional Indonesian village styles with a rustic but elegant architecture. Hand carved motifs and elements on the wood project a temple-like outlook.
Overlooking paddy fields, coconut grooves and the garden, each room offers either a king-sized bed or twin beds, en-suite open air hot showers, basic amenities, wi-fi and private sitouts.
TAMARIND CAFE GARDEN & POOL AREA
Tamarind cafe caters to lunches for all of Samata's international retreats. For the general public, a set menu is prepared. Chef Kaoru Kawabe showcase a unique style of macrobiotic cuisine - a healthy, organic and vegan approach, incorporating ingredients providing her Japanese twist to dishes. 12:00 - 15:00 daily
MATSYA FREESTYLE KITCHEN
Located on the rooftop terrace of the Tamarind Tree property, Matsyle has its own private access. Chef Gome Gaily is committed to surprise guests with a creative and inspired menu from high quality local produce, most of which comes from the property's organic garden. The dishes have Mediterranean, French and Asian influences; mostly based on the five elemental system of flavour. Open all day for general public | Dinner by reservation only.
MANGO TREE CAFE
This is a fully stocked communal kitchen with an assortment of teas, coffee, coconut water and dried fruits for snacks in-between classes and sessions.
Samata welcomes and facilitates all kinds of retreats - yoga, meditation, dance and others. The wellness center at Samata is under construction and will be ready by season beginning November 2014. A team of clinical and massage therapists have been providing their services and the array of therapies is slated to expand.
The holistic center is fully equipped to run cleansing and detox programs starting with the one week general cleansing.
The temple yoga shaala is available to practice yoga, meditation and dance. The organic kitchen is where daily meals are prepared, the menu of which can be customised to guests' program requirements.
The Samata boutique at the Tamarind Tree property is the reception area of the retreat, with a raw and earthy decor. It represents a spread of fashion and accessories from local designers and hand woven textiles from Nagaland. The boutique also retails cottage industry handicrafts from Himalayan villages. Guests are encouraged to bring home a souvenir which will help support the Himalayan populace.
Ben 'Vajra' Ashara is the founder, director and managing trustee of Dunagiri Foundation. He has built Samata in Goa in 2013, as a fundraising project for the foundation in a quest to preserve Himalayan flora, a significant number of them which are now endangered.
The journey to his keen interest and dedication to the Himalayas began on a trip to the Maha Kumbh Mela back in 2001 and then across teh mountains around Dharamshala. A series of interesting incidents later, which had taken him through near death, was rejuvenated by the herbal medicines that are rare and exclusive to Himalayas. He has since studied numerous traditional and healing modalities and is now a cleansing specialist and wilderness survival expert.
In 2009, he founded the Dunagiri Foundation with a vision to conserve and cultivate high altitude Himalayan medicinals. Vajra also put together a diverse team of volunteers who share the same passion for his vision.
We reached out to Gome to talk about himself and his passion by answering 6 simple questions.
1. What is your guilty food pleasure when no one's around?
2. What is your favourite family recipe or a meal you like you to enjoy at home? (please name the dish)
Spaghetti, Bottarga, Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (Garlic, Chilli,Olive oil, Bottarga) with Parmesan, I’m not Italian but this is what I cook at home!
3. Who is the person (alive or dead) that you would like to prepare a meal for and what would you cook?
Wow! This one is difficult, there are a few! Love to cook for I guess it would be a vegan exotic meal for Mister Bob Marley!
4. What are you top 5 ingredients currently enjoy working with. Are any of them new discoveries?
Bottarga (dry fish roe) - not a new discovery, but lately I am learning to put it together with other ingredients to create an unforgettable dish!
Fresh Jalapeño, because it is the best chilli and lately more and more easy to get it fresh everywhere! Newly discovered!!
Kale, not only extremely healthy, but also with the right treatment, extremely delicious!!! This year we are growing kale at Samata organic garden!
Coconut, as the time passes I just love coconut more and more!
Hamachi (Japanese Amberjake) absolutely the best fish to eat raw!
Matcha green tea - very healthy, delicious in dessert and in savory dishes (my ex favourite ice cream ;) and increases energy levels!!!)
5. Which is your favourite place to eat in Goa other than your own restaurant?
There is great restaurant in Goa , if I go for the food, I guess it would be Bomra’s (Candolim)!
6. What new venture are you working on now or have on the horizon?
I’ll be satisfied when MATSYA, my restaurant will be rated in the top 50 in Asia! And on a TV show on Goa lifestyle in the restaurant point of view! Shopping for fish on the bike :)