The perfect detox holiday resort

June 18, 2014

There is part of me that thinks that perhaps we take on a bit too much. For most of us, an average day is spent either in the office, commuting, dealing with life admin, or trying desperately to squeeze in some time with friends and family. These days, it seems we can only dream of the nine-to-five working hours that Dolly Parton once had the audacity to lament about. Surely, we were put on this earth for a much simpler and less stressful purpose – like gathering berries or herding goats up and down a mountainside. But, that said, if we’d never progressed from that lifestyle, we would never have experienced the Sha Wellness Clinic. A few weekends ago I was in dire need of a professional ‘time out’ to help recharge my batteries. Having mainly been running on caffeine and beige coloured food for several months prior, it made sense (for research purposes only, of course) for me to throw out my diary, jump on a plane and jet off to the five-star health resort nestled in the Spanish mountains near Alicante. Four days of pampering and lounging by the pool in the winter sun of Spain’s south-eastern coast, far away from the traffic and chaos of big city life. Or so I thought. Although, Sha Wellness Clinic is a secret getaway for the world’s fashion elite – John Galliano had just checked out the day I arrived – and wealthy and businessmen looking to reverse the damage of a life of rump steak and pinot noir, it is far from being a glorified day spa. sha_en_entrance02 The cool, contemporary and minimalist building appeared out of nowhere as the airport chauffer – in an Audi A7, no less – weaved our way through the quaint seaside town of Albir. Right from the off, there was no need to question the centre’s luxe credentials. The reception’s clinically simple interior added to the cutting edge element of the place, while every corridor is decorated with plants bursting from flower beds; water gushing from delicate pools and hidden speakers emitting karmic muzak. The roof terrace is the property’s main social area with a stunning infinity pool (a bit too cold for a December dip); relaxing cabanas; perfect rectangles of neon green grass – even the grass is healthy! – and  a putting area, for keen golfers. The view is also a bit special, overlooking a dramatic mountainscape – Dubai-esque skyscrapers to the left and the stunning sun-drenched Albir Bay to the right. It’s as if Apple got bored of the technology world and fancied a brief stint in designing a hotel. Speaking of Apple, upon checking in I was handed an iPad and explained that everything I needed to know I could find on there: health tips, workout routines, an in-house events schedule, macrobiotic recipes and my scheduled timetable. _DSC6499 b Wait a minute, a scheduled timetable? The whole reason I came here was to avoid such devious devices! After being shown to my room – and encouraged to change into the acceptable guest uniform of a billowing white robe and some fluffy slippers – I inspected this “timetable”. General medical check up; consultation with nutrition expert; personal training session; deep tissue massage treatment; morning hike and an acupuncture session – that is when I started to understand. Sha isn’t just a place you come to unwind by the pool for a weekend; it’s where busy (and wealthy) people come for a strict health detox via a combination of diet and natural therapies. In layman’s terms, Sha is a five-star luxury health rehab – with a view. As all guests are required to have a series of consultations on their first morning, I set off – somewhat apprehensively – to meet up with both the resident GP and a nutritionist. I needn’t have worried. The educational chats were simply to establish what health goals I wanted to achieve, which all starts by establishing a dietary plan. SHAMADI Restaurant 06(1) At the centre of Sha is its macrobiotic diet regime – which its owner credits for restoring his own health after he was diagnosed with cancer. Contrary to other nutrition trends, the macrobiotic diet requires the consumption of a whole lot of grains (spelt, barley etc.), cooked vegetables, seaweed, beans and only occasional animal protein such as fish. Coffee is outlawed, and in its place are many nutritional and detoxifying teas. Despite my brief four-day stay – the recommended minimum is one week – I am assigned the biolight menu, one of three provided menus, and like anyone who recently signed up for a diet, I expected to be surviving solely on shredded kale and unseasoned couscous. I was shocked that my first meal – and every subsequent one after – at the elegant Shamadi restaurant would consist of three, decent-sized courses – including dessert. Throughout the stay I gorged on dishes such as seitan stew with saffron basmati rice; grilled polenta with sweet and sour kidney beans; spiced millet in a curried chick pea stew; and my body weight in miso soup. Never has ‘health food’ been so appealing. Although – full disclosure – I was not terribly fond of the sweet seaweed tea, that was medically assigned to accompany my every meal. SHA Infinity pool 04 While it’s hard to deny that the stay at Sha revolves around meal times and maintaining a healthy diet, the guests are not merely sat around counting down the minutes until the kitchens open. Aside from the aforementioned massages and acupuncture, reflexology and postural therapies available, the clinic also caters for cheeky, modern shortcuts such as Botox and minor aesthetic procedures. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the continuous cycle activies on offer including educational talks, cooking classes, a full gym with personal trainers on hand and even yoga and tai chi classes. Every morning, before breakfast, the staff organise walks to nearby landmarks – the 5km hike to the Albir Lighthouse for sunrise being the highlight of my stay – and the surrounding countryside. And for those who fancy, literally, pushing the boat out you can book a sunset cruise or go catamaran sailing; or even tee off at one of the five nearby golf courses. As long as you stay true to your diet, the brilliant staff is more than happy to organise whatever you need. Although, for four days of eating good food and happily booking up my timetable with massages and health treatments, I’m pretty sure I got exactly what I needed. [gallery link="none" ids="3618,3619,3620,3621,3622,3623"] Details: visit