Marta reports back from Bali

June 2008

Getting there
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Malaysian Airlines at 13H40. Just before takeoff we were handed warm towels to freshen up before the flight that would take nine and a half hours across the Indian Ocean to Kuala Lumpur. After takeoff we were served refreshments and some nuts. Shortly after that we were served dinner. We had a choice of either chicken or beef . We landed at 05H40 and made our way into the exceptionally modern Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Our luggage was checked in direct to Bali. We transferred through passport control and made our way to the counters for our flight connection to Denpasar which was scheduled to depart at 09H50. After an enjoyable flight we landed at 12H50 in Bali. We were met by a cheerful Deddy the representative of Bhara Tours and Travel. Our luggage was packed into the comfortable air conditioned van and we were handed towels and mineral water. We travelled for a half an hour from the airport to our hotel in Nusa Dua.

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Bali is known as the island of the Gods and Morning of the World. It is world renowned for its complex Hindu culture, colourful ceremonies, magnificent volcanic and coastal scenery. It is one of the world’s most diverse tourist destinations. There are endless rice terraces and stunning beaches which have attracted visitors for decades. Activities in Bali include a range of water sports, such as scuba diving and surfing, while on land activities include trekking and quad biking. You can participate in bird watching walks, Balinese cookery classes, down hill cycling tours, study puppetry and batik making. White water rafting is also available and you can horse ride on the beach or through the rice fields.

Located just 8 degrees below the equator, the island enjoys a tropical year round climate with an average temperature of 28 degrees Celcius. Bali is a province within the republic of Indonesia, the capitol city is Denpasar. The main tourist areas are Kuta and Semiyak. Kuta became famous for its white sandy beaches, great surfing and dramatic sunsets. Those in search of quieter regions can head to the more demure resorts of Sanur and Candidasa on the East coast or Lovina in the North. Nusa Dua in the South houses many popular 5* resorts.

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa - Tanjung Benoa

The Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa is one of the island’s premier resort set in magnificent gardens filled with showering bougainvilla and hibiscus of every colour. We were offered welcome drinks and a private check in at the Palace Club. The Palace Club is a small hotel within a large hotel. The rooms offer open verandahs and luxurious en suites. The guests here enjoy private executive club facilities for breakfast, complimentary high tea and evening cocktails. There is an extensive magazine and DVD library. Overall the accommodations are richly designed to provide all modern comforts with an authentic Balinese atmosphere. There is a magnificent spa where one can enjoy traditional Balinese massage designed to leave you completely relaxed and rejuvenated. There are five restaurants ranging from Balinese to Italian cuisine and the resort has won “Best Culinary Team “ for the forth consecutive year. The high teas were stunning with a variety of small cakes, fresh salmon, egg and meat sandwiches, mini pizzas, quails eggs and small sausages all beautifully presented on the buffet. The evening cocktails offered premium brand drinks as well as lovely Australian wines served together with a variety of exquisitely presented snacks.

The swimming pools are a feature of this beautiful property and overlook the wide stretch of white sand beach and the ocean beyond.

One can walk along the beachfront and enjoy eating at one of the many restaurants located along the seafront. After having spent a wonderful 3 days at this resort we were going to the Maya Ubud. The trip takes around 2 hours through scenic countryside. We managed to stop in Sanur to have a look at two lovely 4* hotels namely The Puri Santrian and The Puri Griya. The Puri Santrian offers the concept of a small hotel within a large hotel and this is ideal for honeymooners wanting the privacy yet still being able to enjoy the facilities of a large hotel.

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Ubud is known as the heart of Bali. It is situated between Kuta and the Kintamani peaks. Ubud is considered much cooler than Kuta. Apart from being home to a vast array of modern art galleries, craft shops and studios, numerous temples and palaces to be visited. There are a number of up market art galleries and museums for even the most discerning art collector. For “shop till you droppers “ Ubud offers a great range of quaint little boutiques, with quirky yet elegant designs

It also offers some of Bali’s best dining experiences. Some of the local restaurants are considered to be the best in Bali. For the outdoor type you can try biking, walking, bird watching, herb gathering, kayaking and rafting amid the phosphorescent rice paddies, lush tropical gorges and palm waving rivers so typical of Ubud.


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Maya Ubud Resort and Spa

The resort is situated high above the Petanu River and is a haven of tranquillity set in 10 hectres of verdant hillside gardens. The entrance to the resort was beyond my expectations. It is not a surprise that the resort was voted Top 100 Hideaway Hotels in the World by Conde Nast. The furniture is made out of railway sleepers brought from Indonesia dating back to 1948. Our room was in the main building and overlooked acres of rice paddies and tropical vegetation. The room décor was minimalist, the floor tiles jade in colour and the linen a crisp white. The rest of the room décor had sprinklings of yellow, punctuated by black and white art works. The spacious garden villas which are ideal for honeymoons, blend in harmoniously with the surrounding nature. They all have their own private plunge pool amidst a private garden.

There are two infinity pools, set high above the Petanu River. At both pools you are offered the beauty of the valley and the villages in the distance. The spa is located near the lower pool area and is set against the tropical foliage overlooking the mountains. I enjoyed a relaxing long stroke Balinese massage and felt really wonderful. The spa offers body scrubs and natural facial treatments, all provided by superlative expert local staff.


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The river café is located opposite the Spa. Here you can enjoy spa cuisine, with the likes of grilled prawns on lemon grass or deep sea tuna steak with lemon pepper, the emphasis being on healthy living. Dinners are taken in the Maya Sari Restaurant renowned for its fusion Western and Asian flavours. The breakfasts were gorgeous, the selection of fresh fruits, breads and beautifully served yoghurts were amazing. The omelette was fluffy and enjoyed with the best cup of tea. We loved every moment of our three memorable days at this perfect hide away resort and vowed to come back.

After our check out we began our journey towards the coastal area of Candidasa with Bhara Tours. We drove through the scenic back roads. We found this very interesting as all along the way there are temples on both sides of the winding road. One is surrounded by rice paddies as far as the eye can see.We incorporated a tour along the way to Kintamani where Mount Batur is located. We stopped at a fruits, coffee and spice plantation, where we were able to enjoy local coffee whilst tasting some of the local fruits. The winding roads through spectacular scenery took us to a restaurant were able to enjoy our luncheon whilst taking in the superb view overlooking the two volcanoes side by side with Lake Batur at the bottom. We spent over an hour just enjoying the views before we continued on towards Candidasa. After about an hour we arrived in Candidasa.


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Candidasa is a small fishing village on the east coast of Bali which has developed into a popular resort destination far away from the hectic tourist areas. You can arrange to go trekking in the mountains, fish, scuba dive or snorkel. There are numerous restaurants and small bars where one can enjoy fresh Indonesian or Western style food at reasonable prices. In the heart of the village there is a gorgeous lotus lagoon and also some fascinating temples you can visit. In fact many interesting places are within walking distance. The Bali Aga Village in Tenganan is worth a visit and is especially famous for its (double ikat) cloth woven by the women. For many decades people have been attracted by this living museum. The village is only 500 meters long and is surrounded by its original walls with only three gates. You can see how the people live according to their ancient traditions and culture, whilst continuing to practise traditional arts, like basket making and lontar leaf books.


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The Watergarden

We checked into The Watergarden. This hotel is famous for its prize winning lily pond gardens. The accommodation is in a thatched cottage with a blend of natural materials combined with Balinese craftmenship. Our room was comfortable, with a pretty table and chair set up outside on our private wooded deck. Private breakfasts can be ordered on your outdoor deck, whilst watching the Koi fish in your private lily pond. Lunches are also served at the pool and dinners could also be enjoyed under the stars at the pretty pool area. TJ’s Café at the Watergarden offers a wide choice of Western and Indonesian dishes freshly prepared whilst you wait. We found the staff very caring and friendly. I began the first of my dive safaris from here. I was fetched promptly by Aquamarine Diving just after breakfast at 08H00. Aquamarine Diving is the only British owned dive company in Bali. We drove up the coast towards Tulamben. This took about 2 hours through the scenic countryside. On route we stopped to collect another couple from the Mimpi Resort. I had a look at the hotel and found it to be newly refurbished with a lovely small infinity pool overlooking the rocky beach. We stopped at Ahmed, Ghost Bay for our first dive which was shore entry. The diving was easy and we found many small unique creatures in the black sand. I saw the tiniest stone fish I had ever seen. This is an excellent site for macro photographers. We had a nice lunch which we could order off the menu at the small restaurant near the dive site. The staff washed all our gear and packed everything for us into the comfortable van. We travelled to Tulamben for our second dive of the day. The highlight of this area is the 120m USAT Liberty shipwreck. The wreck itself lies from between to 12 – 40 metres and is abundant with coral growth. We spotted a 1.2 meter barracuda, an enormous napoleon wrasse and suddenly encountered a vortex of jack fish. We swam inside the wreck and enjoyed the exciting swim through, whilst enjoying a kaleidoscope of abundant reef fish. The day ended on a wonderful high after an excellent day’s diving. The second day’s diving we went back to the Tulamben area to dive the drop off. This is also excellent site for macro photography. Aquamarine’s dive master Angky was excellent at spotting small life and I was so excited when I saw my first little sea horse, this was a first for me. I had requested to dive the wreck again and found it to be wonderful once again. That evening we had a great dinner at TJ’s,fresh prawns surrounded by basmati rice, most divine.

We departed the next morning to the Alila Manggis where we were to stay for three days.


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Alila Manggis

The Alila Manggis is situated in Candidasa. On arrival we were offered welcome drinks in the lobby. The entire property exudes an airiness of outdoors meeting indoors all around. The style is minimalist with simple lines and Balinese touches and the beauty took our breath away. The rooms are all sea facing and overlook the pool which is surrounded by palm trees. The deluxe rooms are gorgeous, having a verandah with a day bed to rest on whilst your mind takes in the space. The honeymoon suite has an enormous bathroom which is filled with petals for the lucky couple. The Seasalt Restaurant was voted as first of Hello Bali’s best restaurant awards in 2007. The restaurant is set in a traditional Balinese pavilion on a lotus pond and the dining concept is dedicated to fresh healthy cuisine featuring Balinese specialities with a fantastic seafood selection. We enjoyed a fabulous a la carte breakfast , consisting of freshly prepared fruit juice, scrambled eggs using the whites only with basil and wild mushrooms. Everything served is organic from the local organic farm. High teas are served near the pool and we enjoyed ours at a little table on the edge of the sea, listening to the sound of the waves. The dinners were splendid with an excellent choice of fresh seafood and Balinese food. You can choose to dine either at the restaurant or a table by the sea. If you want extra privacy you can reserve dinner in the Bali overlooking the ocean, very romantic.


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One of our days were spent relaxing around the beautiful pool where you are served cold mineral water which is refreshed continually. On the second day I went diving again. This time it was to Padangbai which is approximately 15 minutes from the hotel. I was collected from the lobby and we arrived at a traditional restaurant on the beach at Padangbai, whilst waiting to board our 20 meter Aquamarine Divers day boat to explore the Nusa Penida area. All the gear was carried for us on board and we were given a thorough briefing as to where we were going to dive. The ride out to the site was exceptionally smooth passing stunning scenery on the way and we arrived at the Manta Point after around 45 minutes. We kitted up and did a backward roll into the crystal clear water. We swam to the viewing point at remained at a depth of around 13 meters whilst waiting for the mantas. In no less than five minutes, 11 mantas swam past, most graceful creatures with wing spans of at least 5 meters. The whole dive was spent observing these magnificent creatures. This was a truly moving experience for me. The dive was over and we got on board and were served a lovely lunch which we had ordered from the menu at the restaurant. We moved on to the next spot at Nusa Lembongan to do a fast drift dive along a wall. I found this to be so exciting travelling along with the current, suddenly the current reverses and you gently drift in the opposite direction. The corals were exceptionally rich with an enormous variety of fish. I found a moray eel at 30 meters down the wall. This dive marked the end of a perfect days diving as we cruised back to shore. I found the services of Aquamarine Diving exceptional throughout, and this contributed to a superb diving experience throughout the entire trip.


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Candi Beach Cottage

This lovely 4* property is located directly on the tranquil beach of Candidasa amidst swaying palm trees. It offers two types of accommodation such a cottages and hotel rooms. We chose to stay in the hotel room area and found we had a view onto a secluded palm tree garden with the ocean in the distance. The room is spacious and has been recently refurbished in contemporary style. We enjoyed our meals in the open air hibiscus restaurant. This provides the perfect setting to enjoy fresh seafood and Indonesian cuisine whilst overlooking the blue ocean. Our days were spent either relaxing on the beach or in the stunning infinity spa pool which overlooks the sea. We found the staff to be most friendly and welcoming. The hotel is excellent value for money and does offer a variety of activities including traditional massage, yoga and cycling. The hotel has a perfect setting for those on honeymoon. After having spent two relaxing days here it was time to transfer back to the hills in Ubud where we would be spending our last night in this glorious country.


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Ubud Hanging Gardens

This exquisite jewel is built on a steep terraced hillside, facing an ancient temple, is a magical retreat for those seeking privacy and tranquillity. There are 38 villas all with their own heated private plunge pool which overlooks the lush tropical terraced gardens. The romantic king size bed overlooks the valley with the songs of the birds in the distance. There is a private deck with an outdoor shower and bathtub, there is also a shower and a bathtub in the spacious bathroom. The mode of transport to and from the dining and pool area to the rooms is by a private funicular manned by an elegantly dressed in white man. The spa is really gorgeous with an airy feel as it overlooks the Ayung villa with the sounds of nature as you enjoy one of the indulgences they offer.

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The highlight of this retreat are the two infinity pools which are an architectural feat in themselves. There is fine dining at the Beduur restaurant which serves both authentic local and international cuisine. The deserts were so artistically presented, it was a pity to eat them, however the taste was worth every mouthful. We did not get to use the complimentary shuttle into Ubud as we wanted to spend every moment in this heavenly paradise.


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Kuala Lumpur

We flew back to Kuala Lumpur and after that to Johannesburg after having spent a wonderful 12 days on Bali.

In Conclusion
Bali is a truly amazing destination offering a wide variety of interests and activities. The visitor can enjoy a number of land activities including trekking, quad biking, white water rafting, surfing, bird watching walks, Balinese cookery courses, cycling and batik making. The white water rafting is available on both the Ayung and Telagawaja rivers. The guides are most knowledgeable on the fauna and flora, whilst you speed through the rapids and the breath taking rainforests in the area. Bali is also known as the Spa capital of South East Asia. It is also well known world wide for furniture shopping and also for art. There are numerous cargo companies to assist in freight. On the educational side, there is the learning of Balinese culture. The ceremonies are fascinating and you are able to visit the most spectacular temples which are scattered all around the island. The scuba diving is world class, especially as Bali is situated in the Indo- Pacific, the worlds richest biogeographic zone. The dive sites offer vertical walls, sandy slopes, shipwrecks, volcanic outcrops, ripping currents, shallow sea grass beds and big coral bommies. Certain areas are known for Mantas and Mola Molas ( the weird and wonderful oceanic sunfish ) which can be sighted in certain seasons. This destination has to be the next to do on anyone’s list of travel.

With Special Thanks
This trip was made possible by the assistance of the following:

A special thanks to Mr Herman Rukmanadi Managing Director of Bhara Tours and Travel, for the kind hospitality, complimentary accommodation, transfers and tours.
A special thanks to Loekie of Aquamarine Diving for the complimentary diving.