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Six Senses Vana Q&A with Ampersand Founder James

Six Senses Vana Q&A with Ampersand Founder James

*I have been visiting Vana regularly since it opened in 2014. My visits have varied, stretching from quick five-day escapes to indulgent nineteen-day retreats. My first stay was in August 2014, and I’ve recently returned from my latest stint, from 15 to 22 March 2024 – marking my first experience of Vana under the new stewardship of Six Senses, which started in January 2023, a little more than a year ago.

Over the past year, I've gathered a host of queries from fellow regulars and intrigued friends, all curious about how Vana has evolved with this transition. Here, I'll share my candid thoughts and observations, answering those burning questions that seem to pop up time and again.*

1. Has Vana changed since management has been taken over by Six Senses?

In a word, no. There’s been no seismic shift since Six Senses took the helm; the essence of Vana remains untouched. This marks my sixth visit since 2014, and I must say, the place retains its familiar spirit but with an added zest. There’s a palpable buzz amongst the staff who seem more buoyant than ever—Vana truly seems to be in its prime now.

The culinary team at the Retreat continues to delight us with extraordinary dishes. The treatments, which were always a cut above, now surpass themselves in consistency and excellence. Gone are the days of any miscommunications with Wellness Services; it's all as smooth as silk now, with treatments scheduled like a well-oiled machine.

A decade in, and Vana’s maturity is evident. The team, ever so seasoned, has embraced the infusion of Six Senses’ world-renowned excellence, elevating the whole experience. It's as if everything at Vana has been given a fine polish, ensuring that the already high standards are now surpassed.

2. Who are the GM and Retreat Director?

During my stay at Vana, I had the chance to get to know the General Manager, Jaspreet Singh, and see him in action. Jaspreet took the reins at Vana in October 2020 and reopened it after the first COVID lockdown. He admits that running Vana during the pandemic was very challenging, but that it also made him bond with the property in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Prior to joining Vana, Jaspreet worked with Asaya Beach Resort in Goa and Andaz Delhi, following an impressive 14-year tenure with Oberoi.

I don't think I have ever met such a dynamic GM who is so deeply committed to his property and what it stands for. People often use the term 'passionate', but Jaspreet takes passion and love for his work to a new level; he genuinely eats, lives, and breathes everything that Vana stands for and is excited to see it evolve with Six Senses while staying true to its values. Veer Singh, the owner of Vana, could not have chosen a more capable and dedicated person for this role.

The Retreat Director is Saranpreet Suri, who has been with Vana for 8 years; prior to this, he too worked at Oberoi. He says, "Vana has become a way of life for us. Working here does not feel like working for a livelihood; it feels like a desire to constantly better oneself." He fell in love with the retreat when he first saw the back of house and the great care with which the team are looked after. The way the guests are cared for is a continuation of the care for the team, environment, and local community.

There has been a very positive shift in mood at Vana, and I think these two remarkable and inspiring individuals can take a lot of credit for this.

3. Is the food at Six Senses Vana as good as before?

Yes, absolutely. Chef Rajesh, the culinary maestro, along with his team of wellness-oriented chefs, are very much present and serving up the fantastic food he always has.

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4. Are the treatments at Six Senses Vana the same as before?

Since opening in January 2014, Vana has always evolved its treatments to stay current, while keeping its core offerings largely unchanged. With Six Senses now at the helm, this approach continues, combining innovation with tradition to remain a leader in wellness. Notably, favourites like Watsu therapy have made a comeback, now supported by six specially trained therapists. Additionally, Sound Healing has been introduced as a new offering, further expanding the retreat's comprehensive wellness experiences.

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5. Has Six Senses given Vana more of a party vibe?

Far from it. Six Senses Vana has faithfully preserved its core essence, a sanctuary dedicated to wellness, peace, and tranquillity. There's been a spot of confusion, it seems, regarding the new Alchemy Bar. Let's set the record straight: this isn’t your typical “bar” but rather a space for concocting personalised body scrubs.

Moreover, the opportunity to enjoy a beverage in the library between the hours of 5pm and 10pm is a new addition, yet the selections lean heavily towards health and wellbeing. We're talking about decoctions that dazzle the taste buds, alongside infusions, teas, and tisanes. True to Vana's spirit, a modest serving of wine, champagne, or beer remains, capped at two glasses per person per day to preserve the tranquil atmosphere we've all come to cherish.

6. Are children allowed at Six Senses Vana?

For many, including myself, the inclusion of children at Six Senses Vana has been a topic of concern. The answer is yes, children are now allowed, but the setup is such that their presence goes unnoticed.

Families with children aged 0-14 are accommodated in the two and three-bedroom 'Casas' and Residence 3, of which there are 3 situated lower on the property, close to the tennis and paddle courts near the retreat's arrival point. These self-contained units are strategically placed out of sight and earshot from the rest of the property, ensuring a serene atmosphere is maintained – it has its own grounds and dedicated dining room. Children in this age group are not permitted in public areas or the main parts of the retreat, including the swimming pools. These younger guests are engaged in a newly developed facility, Grow With Six Senses, a separate and dedicated space for programming and food and beverage facility in the lower section of the property. Those aged 15 and above are welcome throughout the retreat but are not eligible for treatments, while teenagers aged 16-18 have full access to the retreat and its comprehensive wellness offerings.

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7. Have the prices gone up now that it is Six Senses Vana?

Yes, the prices at Vana have seen an adjustment, but it still continues to provide exceptional value when compared to other top-tier international wellness retreats. The original pricing strategy was naïve. It was priced in such a way to ensure that it was affordable to as large an audience as possible. But let’s be honest, such generosity, while noble, was not sustainable in the long run without some form of recalibration.

I do get upset when I hear individuals, many blessed with wealth most can scarcely dream of, bemoan this necessary adjustment. It's as if the concept of fair exchange for value received is lost on them. We were extraordinarily fortunate to have enjoyed the unparalleled offerings of Vana at those rates for as long as we did. The essence of the matter is this: if we genuinely appreciate Vana - for the tranquility it bestows upon us, its commitment to our wellbeing, and its diligent efforts towards sustainability - then we ought to be the first to understand, even applaud, this change. Supporting Vana, and by extension, Veer’s vision, means recognising the true worth of what we receive in return for our patronage.

With Six Senses now steering the ship, this price revision is part and parcel of ensuring Vana continues to excel in its mission for many years to come. And let us be clear, the value proposition remains as compelling as ever. It’s high time for a bit of perspective and gratitude; to appreciate the richness of experience Vana offers rather than quibble over the necessity to contribute a fair share towards its continuation.

8. What’s new at Six Senses Vana?

There are a number of new additions, most of which are not obviously visible. In addition to the impressive community and environmental efforts mentioned below in Question 8, there are also the following:

New programmes that focus on detox, weight loss, Ayurveda, Tibetan medicine, weight management and living with menopause.

New scheduling software that ensures each guest’s treatment timetable is perfectly planned and delivered – it used to be good but now is excellent.

The Earth Lab, where one can repurpose and recycle waste material into fun and usable crafts.

The Alchemy Bar, where one can make tailor-made scrubs using herbs and plants from the garden.

Health and healing beverages from 5-10pm at the newly designed Library.

The Mushroom Hut, which organically grows mushrooms that are served at meals.

Sound healing - an impressive treatment using the beneficial sounds and vibrations of specially chosen instruments.

New hikes, including some more challenging ones in the surrounding mountains.

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9. What is Six Senses Vana doing for the local community and environment?

Vana has always been very concerned about the local community and environment, and Six Senses Vana continues to be so. The key efforts and projects are:

Stronger sustainability drives: Six Senses Vana is a zero-emissions property and the best-performing of its kind in India. These improvements also extend to its suppliers, who have been helped to operate in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.

A sustainability fund which helps with a number of new environmental and community efforts, which include:

A cow shelter which provides shelter, food, and veterinary care to approximately 1000 sick, injured, and abandoned cows. With the use of new solar technology, this is now also almost off-grid, making it self-sufficient from an energy point of view.

An Asiatic Elephant protection programme helping local communities coexist with the local elephants.

Helping local artisans through training and skill development to produce a range of crafts which they can sell and earn a living with.

Cleaning the local river and finding new sources of water, such as from local disused springs which they restore so that they once again become productive providing multiple sources of water. This is a long-term project which is in its budding stage wherein the Retreat team is working closely with a non-governmental NGO to define scope and study for this water conservation initiative.

A state-of-the-art composting system which turns food waste into compost, which is used in the gardens and also shared with their fruit and vegetable suppliers. This is a remarkable closed loop system that recognises the nourishment taken from the soil and does everything it can to give it back and often even add to it.

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I hope the above Q&A answers most questions you might have, but if you have any other questions that have not been answered please feel free to email me at james@ampersandtravel.com


Client Testimonials

I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka

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