On the South coast of Ecuador, in the Manabi province, lays the sleepy coastal village of Ayampe. The stunning beaches are hugged by rich green hills and the friendliest of locals. In this village lays Otra Ola, a surfing, yoga and Spanish school situated right on the coast! This unique little school offers the chance to feed your mind, body and soul, and to really reconnect with yourself. The location provided the ideal backdrop for experiencing colourful Ecuador whilst investing time in healthy, mindful and sometimes challenging opportunities.
The yoga school is situated in an open roofed studio within a charming garden, where the ocean can be heard and humming birds spotted as they fly between vibrant flowers. Akhanda yoga is practised here daily and was a new branch of yoga for myself on arrival (combining elements of the four traditional yoga paths- Bakhti, Karma, Jnana and Raja). I was unfamiliar with the meditative elements and breathing techniques that Akhanda yoga offers and I was afraid it may compromise on the ‘burn’ felt from a challenging session on the mat. I was wrong and the experience has emphasised to me the unparalleled importance of the mind and breathing in yoga. The holistic approach not only provides a fulfilling workout, but the benefits are enhanced through a calming and clearly explained introduction to the mindfulness yoga can achieve.
Another perk of Otra Ola is their organic cafe! All of their food is made with fresh and locally grown ingredients. One dish that particularly caught my eye was the ceviche, a classic South American dish of raw fish cured in lemon or lime juices. In Ecuador it is traditionally served in a sauce of fresh raw tomato, red onion and green peppers… It made the perfect dish for a hot day by the waves.
Fruit is also in abundance and varies from the familiar, every-day options we find at home to the more exotic! Not only is it exciting to try new fruity flavours, but the availability means new smoothies and recipes can be experimented with almost daily. A particular favourite of mine is the Granadilla fruit. Shaped like a plum, it features a yellow shell like exterior that you crack open to expose a seedy pulp that resembles a passion fruit. Its subtle sweetness made a great topper for smoothie bowls and yogurts in the mornings.
This beautiful stretch of Ecuadorian coastline is blessed with incredible sunsets and a refreshing sea breeze. This time of the evening makes for a spectacular opportunity to go running on the beach, barefoot style. If you’re more inclined to make use of the scenery, then the surf is the place to go. Not quite a surf goddess yet? There’s no need to worry, surf lessons are available for all ranges of ability!
It is possible to observe humpback whales between June and October but you can also spot other wildlife all year round. Many spectacular sea birds live along the coast, and the best way to spot them is by taking a rewarding hike on the nearby island ‘Isla de la Plata’. Blue footed boobies (most famously known from the Galapogas Islands) and other wildlife keep you entertained whilst hiking too. The close proximity to the Galapogas Islands also makes it possible to combine the two trips really easily.
If you enjoy travelling, exploring a new and vibrant culture, whilst also dedicating time to your wellbeing, this is a wonderful option without the price tag that comes with many yoga retreats.
Plan your visit to Otra Ola here.
words by Rebecca O’Rourke