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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Adventure Island: Bali Beyond the Waves

Adventure Island: Bali Beyond the Waves

Although Bali is known to many for its incredible waves, it also has much to offer for those wishing to seek out another kind of adventure.  Here are a few suggestions of actvities to do when you are looking for something a bit different!

November Rafting in Klungkung

Rafting in Klunkgkung - I would recommend doing this as a day trip from Ubud as it is cheaper than doing it from Kuta due to its proximity.  It usually costs around $30 / person for rafting.  This includes full pick-up & return in a nice care with AC from your hotel, rafting & all equipment and a 'buffet' lunch at the end of it.  I would recommend taking plenty of sunscreen & at least one bottle of water.  When you stop along the river there are people selling drinks however they sell for $2 for a can of coke as these people are trying to live from it.  Also, expect to see plenty of local villagers washing naked in the river!  I would recommend this for able-bodied people only as you have to duck under a few low bridges along the way! Highly recommended.
Price : $30 / person (inc. buffet lunch & hotel pick-up)
Distance from Kuta: 2 hours approx.

Our tour guide, Adiana, praying at sunrise
on Mt. Batur, with Rinjani on Lombok peeking
out in the distance.
Trek Mount Batur -  First of all, I should note that Mount Batur is not just an ordinary mountain, it's an active volcano! You can trek up it and see inside for yourself! It has stunning views from the the top and is not too difficult a climb, taking around 2 hours to reach the top.  I would recommend staying in Toyabungkah, a small village at the foot of the volcano itself, and I would specifically recommend Losmen Nyoman Mawar II (opposite the entrance to Toya Devasya Spa).  It is cheap & cheerful at around $7.50 US / night based on 2 people sharing (but possibly 3), which includes breakfast.  To climb the volcano, you have to have a tour guide (a bit of a local racket but c'est la vie) from the Mt. Batur Trekking Association.  I would highly recommend speaking to Sari or Putu who work at the losmen.  They can organise a guide for you for the correct price (around $25 US / person, which inc. torches, water and a small breakfast).  Some of the members of the 'Association' are out to rip-off tourists (I heard they charged one guy $100 for him and his son).  DON'T book directly through them as some of them are quite clearly pocketing some of the cash, and, ironically, it is actually cheaper to book through an agent.
Price: $25 US (inc. small breakfast, torches & water)
Distance from Kuta: 2hrs 30

Snorkelling - there are 3 main places I think are the best for this - Amed (Gemeluk Beach), Tulamben (Liberty Shipwreck) & Menjangan Island (Nature Reserve).

Firstly, Amed is about 2h30mins from Kuta by car.  It is a quiet coastal town which relies solely on tourism & fishing.  There are lots of places to stay & restaurants to eat at along Gemeluk Beach but it has not been over-developed and still maintains its natural feel despite catering for many tourists.  Both times I have been, I stayed at the Villa Coral and it was very nice & right on the beach, tucked in at the foot of the headland at the southern end of the bay.  It cost around $25/night based on 2 sharing with A/C and including breakfast  (a bargain I think for most tourists!).  There, you can swim just a few metres out to sea and find stunning coral in the 'Coral Garden' or alternatively take a boat for the day to the 'Japanese Wreck', a few kilometres away.  Both are good fun and easy to do, the 'Coral Garden' is especially good for kids or less confident swimmers as it starts practically on the shore.

Snorkelling the reef shelf at Menjangan Island (this photo
doesn't do the colours justice - it is stunning!)
Secondly, Tulamben is about 10km further up the coast from Amed and is home to the 'Liberty Shipwreck', a US Navy warship sunk by the Japanese during World War II.  This is, as far as this author knows, unique in that it is the only shipwreck which you can snorkel in relative close proximity to the shore (about 50m from water's edge).  It is pretty impressive and you will see some big fish around the area.  Admittedly, diving it would be better as it is quite deep but snorkelling alone gives you good views and is much cheaper!  I would recommend staying at Amed and going up for the day (you can easily get transport).  You have to pay to snorkel there but it is minimal (maybe $1 / person).  Also, the accommodation options there seem a bit limited and it does not have the same character or beauty as Amed.

Finally, Menjangan Island (or Pulau Menjangan to the locals, meaning 'Deer Island' in English) is a nature reserve and so there is no development whatsoever on this tiny yet arid lump of land.  It is, however, what lies below its lapping shores that will enchant you; a coral reef teeming with vibrant colours and life as striking as any I for one have witnessed.  However, visiting Menjangan Island is not as straightforward as the other 2 spots I have listed above for several reasons.  First, its location means it is not well connected with South Bali and other tourist hotspots so it really requires you to stay in North Bali for the night & is not a day-trip option like the other two. Second, you have to hire a boat, guide & boat driver at the port upon arrival as well as pay an entrance fee to the national park. This sounds worse than it is but I would advise trying to get people together either before going or at the port as the boats can take a maximum of ten people and that is the main cost. The boat hire is a flat fee regardless of how many people so if you share with 9 others it will save you a fair amount! Also, the same goes for your transport out there from wherever you are staying so, depending on the numbers in your group, the price can vary quite a lot.  Even in a small group, it is not extortionate but a bit pricey by Bali standards.
Price: $30 US (based on 2 people sharing with transport from Lovina and all costs at Menjangan itself)
Distance from Kuta: 5hrs

Bali Treetop Adventure Park - I should point out that this is the only one I haven't been to myself but it looks interesting all the same.  The only downside I can see from it is that it only allows your 2hrs30mins on the various 
courses and the like.  A good afternoon activity if you are planning to go to Bedugul or even Lovina as it's not far from either.  They seem to have a good variety of course and things to do and I think it caters for varying levels of difficulty.  I should also note that it is situated inside Bali Botanical Gardens, which is definitely worth a look around. It is not the most spectacular park of its kind but the cooler climate, due to its altitude, and lack of motorcycles make this an ideal spot for a family picnic or simply a leisurely afternoon stroll.  Try their website for more info -->

Distance from Kuta: 2hrs 30

OK, so this isn't an exhaustive list, just a few ideas for things you might not have thought of! Some things to do in or near Kuta include Waterbom waterpark, AJ Hackett Bungee Jump (which is open 24 hours!) or maybe some water-sports at Benoa like the Flying Fox or trying the Banana Boat.  There's lots to do so get out and have fun!



Adventure Island: Bali Beyond the Waves


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