To hear owners Matt and Gabby Holder tell it, they started Atmosphere Resorts because they wanted more from a dive resort. They visited resorts around the world and found that all of them were lacking in one or more areas. The diving may have been great, but the food was sub par. Or the service. Or the hospitality. Since they couldn’t find what they were looking for in other resorts, they decided to build their own.
They chose the area south of Dumaguete on Negros Island because of the area’s premiere diving, as well as its location near the famed Apo Island. With unwavering hospitality, pristine beaches, spacious accommodations, an award-winning spa and food to die for, Atmosphere is setting a new standard for luxury in the Philippines and dive resorts across the world in just under eight years of operation. Oh yeah…and the diving is pretty great too.
The Lap of Luxury in the Philippines
Let’s start with where you’ll rest your head after diving all day. Atmosphere offers three different room sizes, all of them spacious, clean and stylish. All of them feature eco-friendly air conditioning, large beds, flat-screen TVs, and plenty of room to unpack fully if you like. Stone floors and walls, mixed with bamboo and thatched roofs, make for a natural look and feel. The spacious bathrooms feature rainfall showers, as well as double sinks to avoid family or couple crowding. Large couches on the patio round out the room by giving you the option to relax outside.
After you settle into your room, you’ve got an entire resort to enjoy — especially the resort’s Sanctuary Spa, an award-winning oasis of peace, serenity and rejuvenation. The spa offers all the services you would expect, and a few that may seem new to you: various types of massages, body scrubs, facials, body wraps, baths and the famous Watsu water treatment offered by only two other Philippine resorts.
Though the spa is smack dab in the middle of the resort, when you’re within its bamboo walls, it feels as though you’re in a different world. Serene background music blends with the sounds of the flowing waters in the pools and fountains, and each secluded massage area still feels open and spacious. Both the Watsu treatment and milk bath that I received made me want to move in to the resort permanently, not to mention causing me to forget all about my aching muscles and numerous jellyfish stings. The Watsu treatment alone was an incredible, almost spiritual experience that felt like being taken on an underwater dance. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.
Yoga with a View
If you feel the need to get bendy, yoga classes are conducted at sunrise in a cool treehouse overlooking the sandy beach. That kind of setting should make even the yoga-skeptic willing to at least give it a try. Group and private yoga sessions are available for all levels of yogis, including first timers and kids.
Food to Die For
A self-described foodie and wine lover, Matt wanted the food at Atmosphere to be beyond reproach. Anyone who has eaten at their restaurant, Blue, will tell you that they succeeded, and then some. They source the food locally and the menu is full of options for nearly every palate including vegan, gluten-free, kids and healthy entrees for those counting calories. For those of us not counting the calories, their dessert menu has options that are sinfully exquisite — I’ll be dreaming of that ménage a trois mousse for many weeks to come.
The food may be good enough for an upscale restaurant, but at Atmosphere you’re on a beachfront patio, so beach casual applies. Guests can also eat poolside, at the fully-stocked bar, at a private table for two to 10 guests in the treehouse, or in your room. Flexibility is the name of the game here.
The resort hasn’t forgotten about oenophiles, with a wine cellar stocked with 500 bottles from wineries across the world, including boutique wineries. Last but not least, there’s a full-service coffee shop and bakery with cookies, cakes and other desserts next to their smaller pool.
Okay, the rooms are great, the food is delectable, the views are inspiring and the spa makes you want to move in. But the hospitality…wow, what can we say here other than hands-down, the hospitality at Atmosphere is the best we’ve ever encountered. Service at the restaurant and bar is prompt, friendly and casual. Water is refilled before you ask, chairs are pulled out, napkins are placed in laps, and anything you ask for is delivered promptly. This goes for all the staff in every regard — reception, the boutique, the spa, housekeeping, maintenance, the restaurant, bar, and dive teams. Across the board, the staff made everything effortless and we never felt as though we were an imposition. Either the entire staff is made up of really good actors, or they all actually enjoy working the resort. I’m banking on the latter, and that in itself says a lot about how well the place is run.
With a Conscience
Behind all the luxury that Atmosphere offers is an eco-conscience. All hot-water heaters are solar, and they only launder towels left on the floor and change bedding every two days. They don’t use disposable shampoo and soap containers, opting for refillable ones instead. All of their waste is separated for recycling, and their AC units have energy-saving inverters. Their two crystal-clear pools are a mix of chlorine and salt, which greatly reduces the need for pool chemicals. Whenever they can, they use recycled and/or local materials, and they don’t provide any disposable plastic products, including water bottles. So, while you’re pampering yourself, you can still feel as though you’re doing so with an eye to aiding the environment. They don’t stop with just eco-friendliness, however; the resort is also community minded, an aspect I will cover fully in a separate article.
For a glimpse of the resort and all that it offers, check out our video here.