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  • Varied terrain from mountains to beaches to volcanic hillsides to rocky coastlines and a spectacular blue ocean offer visitors a stunning natural backdrop on Bali in Indonesia
  • The reefs, rich with a diversity of marine life, and a varied underwater landscape make Bali a premier scuba destination
  • Bali is a surfer`s dream with waves that are among the best in the world.
  • Bali`s lavish accommodation and first-class resorts offer abundant luxury.
  • Virtually unlimited activities and areas of interest including exploring archeological sites and ancient temples, shopping for Indonesian art work, sampling world-class dining, enjoying water sports of all kinds, participating in cultural festivals or simply relaxing under a palm tree

Guide

Destination – Bali

Bali is an island province of Indonesia lying 3.2 kilometers east of Java and covering about 5800 square kilometers; a tropical paradise surrounded by coral reefs with a varied landscape of hills and mountains, sandy beaches, rugged coastlines and fertile volcanic soil that supports productive rice terraces.

World class surfing and diving, a colourful and deeply spiritual culture as well as many historic and archeological attractions have made Bali one of the most popular island destinations in the world.

Beaches are varied and spectacular.  In general the north of Bali offers black sandy beaches and the south end of the island the beach sand is white.  Water and wave conditions vary from the rip and swell surfers enjoy to the serene and tranquil more appropriate for swimmers and a family day at the beach.

Bali Hindu Temples and ancient monuments are abundant, a testament to the spiritual nature of the people of Bali, and well worth exploring.

Must Try Restaurants

Restaurants on Bali range from 5 star international gourmet to local fare in grass roofed cafes.  You will find a mix of Indonesian and western food in most of the more popular restaurants… and there are hundreds.

Here are a few of the best known establishments:

Indus in Ubud.   Modest looking on the outside, inside the view of the forest and Tjampuhan river are striking.  Set on two dining levels the restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating.  The atmosphere is laid-back and relaxed.   The food selection is varied from Italian pizza and pastas to Middle Eastern Chinese and Thai as well as traditional Indonesian Nasi Campur, Gado Gado, and Balinese “Smoked Duck Feast” — highly recommended.

Mozaic in Ubud is run by Franco-American Chef Chris Salans.  Indoor and outdoor seating is available and you can expect excellent service and creative cuisine that changes daily depending on what fresh ingredients are available.  Various menus include a Chef’s Tasting Menus consisting of six courses with three choices.  Or choose the “Classic” Menu, “Vegetarian” or “Experimental” versions.  — a fine dining experience.

The Dirty Duck, (also known as Bebek Bengil) is located at Padang Tegal about one kilometer south of Ubud`s main street and has been a reliably popular spot for years.  Offering a range of Indonesian and Western dishes in a relaxed garden setting live background music creates magical atmosphere in the evening.

For traditional Balinese food try Made’s Warung in Seminyak.  The restaurant is an icon mainly catering to tourists and travellers but nevertheless the food is both authentic and delicious.

Delectable Local Cuisine

Most of Bali’s local gastronomy is familiar (and delicious) Indonesian fair like satay, gado gado and nasi  goring but here are a few dishes indigenous to Bali cuisine that are well worth trying:

Babi guling or roast suckling pig is full of complex tastes: turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir and chili are all present.  The meat is tender and succulent and the pork skin salty, crisp and caramelized.

Babek Betutu is slow-roasted duck wrapped in a banana leaf or betel-nut bark.  The best Babek Betutu is infused with a charred spice paste that gives off hints of lemongrass, turmeric and pungent ginger.

Bubuh Injin (Black Rice Pudding) is a desert made from black glutinous rice, served hot in a sweet sauce of palm sugar and coconut cream.

Brem is a traditional alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mash of black or white glutinous rice.  Brem was originally used in Hindu temple ceremonies but is now more widely enjoyed on its own or in cocktails.   It is sweet to semi-sweet, acidic, and alcoholic content varies from 5% to 14%.

Must See Local Attractions

Beside the many excellent and varied beaches for which Bali is famed, there are so many attractions to see and enjoy you could be busy for years.  Some of the highlights include:

Casa Luna Cooking School — is surrounded by rice paddies and overlooks the Campuan River.  Here you can learn to recreate Indonesian dishes as well as the particulars of Balinese ingredients and food preparation.  Classes are held at the Second Honeymoon Guesthouse and courses are available for cooks of all levels and interests.  Choose from regular cooking classes or cooking classes that include a market tour.

Nusa Lembongan — is a small island off the south-east coast of Bali.  Away from the hawkers and traffic of more the populated main island this is the perfect place to enjoy the natural scenery and clear aqua blue water.  Of the two main beaches on the island, the sheltered cove of Mushroom Bay is the nicest but the beaches either side of the Devil’s Tear outcrop, Dream Beach and Sunset Beach, are lovely as well.   There are many spots on the island that make for excellent diving and snorkeling, with abundant marine life and healthy coral.

Uluwatu Cliffs are famous for their tranquility and natural beauty.  The beaches below are world-renowned to surfers for their challenging waves.

Ubud, the centre of Balinese painting has a number of museums that feature modern works of Balinese art.  Balinese paintings are still made and sold at Neka Museum.

Pura Besakih — is known as the “mother Temple of Bali” is the biggest and holiest of all the Balinese temples.  It’s over a thousand years old and can be found on the slopes of Mt. Agung.

Tanah Lot is built on a huge rock surrounded by the sea.  Built in the 16th century by priests who came from Java it is said to be guarded by poisonous sea snakes found at the base of the island.

Kuta toward the Bukit Peninsula is the place to go for a thriving nightlife.  Mainly a young person’s destination it has a popular surfing beach.  Restaurants, shops, discotheques and bars abound.  Regular performances of Balinese music and dance are staged nightly.

The Best Watersports, Tennis, Golf and Spas

Beaches

No doubt, Bali got a reputation as a beach destination from the surfing culture of the 1970s.  Beaches, though beautiful are not consistently the relaxing tranquil beaches pictured in the brochures and it’s necessary to plan your day(s) at the beach around your skill level in the water and the activities you enjoy the most.

Dreamland Beach is a surfer’s paradise and located on the Southeastern coast of Bali. Inexperienced swimmers should stay on the beach, because the ocean currents are dangerous.  Food is available and pool loungers are available for rent.

Sanur Beach is on the coast next to village of Sanur, on the West side of the island.  The sand is golden and covered with thousands of small shells and snails, very collectable.  The ocean current is weak here and perfect for children and non-swimmers.

Geger Beach is a stretch of stunningly white sand toward the Nusa Dua peninsula.  The ocean is calmer than Kuta and swimming is enjoyable.  However, the ocean current can sometimes become strong in the afternoon and swimmers should check with locals to make sure it’s safe.  Surfing is allowed throughout the day.

Kuta Beach is along the city of Kuta.  Waves are high and ocean currents are strong, so this is definitely not a swimming beach.  It is however perfect for surfers who congregate in large numbers.  The beach is full of locals and tourists looking to “hook up” so nobody stays lonely for long.  Restaurants, souvenirs shops, discos and bars line Kuta beach and the nightlife is lively.

Lovina Beach is not well known and is on the North of the island.  The beach is covered in black volcanic sand, soft, but very hot when the sun is at its height.  Ocean currents are absent and it’s a good spot for children and non-swimmers.  The beach edge is ringed with palm trees that protect well from the sun. It’s a quiet beach with a fisherman’s village close by, rice paddies and vineyards right behind the beach.  The main attraction however is the dolphins that come into the shallow waters every night at sunrise.

Nusa Dua Beach — has an offshore reef that provides protection from swells and swimming is great for both children and adults.  There are no ocean currents, waves are low and the water is crystal clear.  Great for snorkeling and diving on most of the beach, however the South and North ends of the beach are reserved for surfers because the waves are high.

Water Sports

All of the usual water sports are available on Bali: paddle boats, parasailing, jet skis, water skiing, sailing, banana boats and kite surfing.  The best beach area for all of the above is Nusa Dua

The Waterborn park at Tuban Beach is a great place for family outings with waterslides at the park

Kuta Beach has plenty of beach activities and water sports and is a good place to shop for swimwear or aquatic sports equipment.

Golf

There are a number of excellent golf courses on Bali to suit any level of golfer.

New Kuta Golf Club is located at the southern tip of Bali at Dreamland Beach and is among Asia’s best and most challenging.   This spectacular course is carved out between white limestone cliffs and the Indian Ocean and is surrounded by stunning sea views with waves crashing at the base of many of the holes.  New Kuta Golf Course was awarded the Best New International Course by Links Magazine in 2008.

Bali Golf & Country Club is located near Nusa Dua and is a A Robin Nelson and Rodney Wright designed Hawaiian-styled golf course.  Three distinct areas are designed into the course.  The first nine holes play through hilly terrain with lush tropical vegetation and spectacular views of the Indian Ocean.  Holes 10 through 16 play through 100 foot coconut palms, lakes and highly coloured flora.  The final two holes play over sand dunes along Nusa Dua Beach.  It’s a superbly maintained golf course with stunning views.

The world class Nirwana Bali Golf Course lies along Bali’s southwest coastline at Tanah Lot and is a visual masterpiece.  Designed by Greg Norman, the course is a 30 minute drive from Kuta Beach and the Bali Airport.   Ocean views, verdant Balinese landscapes, towering palm trees along with a spectacularly challenging course make playing here a unique experience.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

There is excellent scuba diving on Bali and the dive season is year round with conditions varying by season and location.  December to March is rainy season.

There are many dive centres around Bali.  Most of the coastal towns have dive shops for equipment rental, instruction or guided tours.   Nusa Dua, Kuta, Sanur, Padang Bai in Krangasen are among the centres that cater to divers.

As for where to dive, conditions, ocean life and topography vary around the island.  Here are a few stellar dive sites:

Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan — are three islands of the East coast of Bali and have some of Bali’s best diving.  Toyapakeh, the channel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan has excellent visibility, rich coral life, both large and small fish–triggerfish, regal angelfish, emperor fish, parrot fish, barracuda, moray eels, white tip sharks, ocean sunfish and more.  Manta rays can be seen at Crystal Bay and Manta Point southwest of Nusa Penida

Menjangan Island — is part of West Bali National Park and has great diving and snorkeling.  It’s a long drive from the airport, but there are many shallow spots near shore where kids can see Clown Fish, Moorish Idols, Puffer Fish, sea turtles, Star Fish, Yellow Tang and others.

East Bali: Candi Dasa and Padang Bai — At Padang Bai, marine life  is plentiful and includes reef sharks, Leaf Scorpionfish, nudibranches, moray eels, stonefish, Napoleon Wrasse, Emperor Angel Fish and Stargazers.  Great snorkeling as well among the shallow reefs.  Waters here are calmer here than at  Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan where there can be strong currents.

Tulamben Bay — is one of the most famous diving areas on the north-east coast because of the more than 2500 different species of fish and 700 corals that live there.

Padang Bai — has some of the best diving in Bali.  Sharks can be seen on almost every dive, ocean sunfish are regularly spotted and fish life is exceptionally rich.  The coral is healthy and the water is crystal clear.

Spas

Bali is full of wonderful spas that offer health, beauty and relaxation treatments.  Every high-end hotel has spa facilities and most are open to non-residents.  Day spas are particularly common in Ubud, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak but need to booked in advance during busy periods.   Here are some of the best spas differentiated by region

Kuta/Legian

Mandarin Spa is part of the Hotel Padma Bali and is decorated with water features and stone sculptural reliefs.

Jamu spa at AlamKulKul Boutique Resort has indoor massage rooms that open onto a pretty garden courtyard for your enjoyment.  Treatments use tropical nuts, coconuts, papayas often in fragrant baths.

Seminyak  is the centre for high-end spas offering abundant luxury in a sophisticated setting.

Prana Spa at The Villas is the most lavishly decorated spa on the island; themed as a Rajasthan Palace in palatial Moorish splendor.

The masseurs at Jari Menari are all-male and use massage techniques that emphasise rhythm.  Recognized as one of the best places for a massage in Bali.

Ubud

Zen can be found down a little lane and has a remarkable reputation.  It offers body scrubs, 90-minute mandi lulur (Javanese body scrubs) and a spice bath among its sensual pleasures.

Ubud Sari Health Resort offers ‘total tissue cleansing’ with organic and natural ingredients.  A spa that leans to the no-nonsense and therapeutic.

Alternatives to high-priced and elaborate luxury spas can be discovered all over the island.  A few are:

Air Panas Banjar where hot springs percolate down through a series of pools.  Soak in the top pools, or get a “water” massage as it falls from the higher into the lower pool.

Lovina is a relaxed and low-stress beach area where you can get Balinese or Ayurveda treatments in simple, soothing settings.

Nusa Lembongan an island off the east coast of Bali is not so much a spa as a serene oasis.  Simple rooms on the beach, amazing sunsets — the perfect antidote to stress.

Tennis

The Canggu Club is a family friendly sports club and facility located in the village of Banjar Tegal Gundul in the Canggu district just north of Seminyak.  The facilities are extensive and offer state-of-the art tennis and squash courts, a pool, lawn bowling, beach volleyball, full gym facilities and a professionally turfed sports field if you’re inclined to play Cricket, Football and Rugby.  Also includes a full restaurant, pub, bar and pool lounge.

Most of the luxury hotels and resorts also offer excellent tennis courts and sports facilities.

The Best Time to Visit Bali

Bali has a wet season from October to late March and a dry season from April until late October.

During the wet season it rains every day with high temperatures (between 30 to 45 degrees C) and extreme humidity.

The dry season offers more bearable temperatures as well as the best waves if your visit centres around surfing.

Peak season is the month of August as well as from December 20 to January 9th.  High season is in July as well as the first two weeks in September and during Chinese New Year and Easter week.  Low season runs from the middle of January until the end of June and from the middle of September through to December 20th.

During low season the best rates can be negotiated.  In peak season Bali is bursting with tourists and the price of accommodations doubles.

Some events worth taking in when visiting Bali :

Sanur Kite Festival: Held over 3 days in July or August near Sanur depending on the wind in Kesiman.  Open to children and adults as well as international kite fliers and tourists.  Thousands of teams compete and the sky is filled with colourful and fanciful kites that can be up to 4 meters wide and 10 meters long.

The Rice Harvest Festival is held in Bali from May 1 until June 30 and celebrates the end of harvest season.  Visitors are free to join in as well as sample the food cooked in honor of Dewi Sri, the Rice god.  At the Negara Bull Races water buffalo decorated with ornate headdresses compete in races.

Bali Arts Festival from June 13th to July 11 in the Renon Square of Denpasar features Balinese performers as well as international guest ensembles.  Includes a cultural parade, stage performances, interactive seminars and a handicraft exhibition.

Local Shopping and Crafts

Bali markets offer high quality crafts at generally inexpensive prices.  Cash is king here, especially at smaller markets and stalls and Asian style bargaining is the rule.

Denpasar is the centre of market activity for local people.  The enormous Pasar Badung central market is where people do their daily shopping. Four storeys of goods range from ready-cooked food to fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, preserved foods, spices, cakes, buns, biscuits to a wide range of items for the kitchen and household on the fourth floor.

The huge Pasar Kumbasari art market is across the river from Pasar Badung and has countless handicrafts including sarongs and wood carvings, vibrant fabrics, and costumes decorated with gold.

The markets in the tourist centre of Sanur are not as large, but great for souvenirs — Sanur Beach Market has a wide selection, as does Pasar Sindhu Art Market, Shindu Beach Market and Jaya Kesuma Art Market.  All have numerous stalls selling T-shirts, sarongs, woodcarvings and other souvenir-type items.

If you’re looking for higher-quality handcrafted items Canggu, Kerobokan, and Seminyak have a variety of boutiques and furniture and jewelry showrooms.  Many of the same or similar goods can be found in in Legian, Kuta, and Tuban at lower prices.

Clothing boutiques in upscale Seminyak, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, and Sanur have fixed prices marked and accept credit cards.  Ask the salesperson before you start haggling.

The best place to purchase wood carvings, stone carvings, and iron and bronze works straight from the craftspeople are the villages around Ubud.

Bring the Family

Bali has so many varied accommodations, restaurants, activities and beaches it’s not hard to find family friendly anything.

Beaches on Bali vary widely from great surfing beaches with plenty of waves and rough deep water to beaches with shallower water and gentle swells.  It’s a good idea to know which type of beach you’re heading to with the family.

Sanur beach has placid waters protected by a reef and a long stretch of sand where adults and children can enjoy swimming or building sandcastles.  The beach is ringed and dotted with trees that provide some respite from the sun and there are a great variety of restaurants close by for meals and snacks.

Jimbaran beach south of the Denpasar airport is one of the best swimming beaches on Bali.  The sand is powdery and white and the calm waters are a treat for swimmers, both children and adults.

Kuta tends to be a crowed touristy spot and the beach is the centre of activity.   With all the action it’s the kind of place older kids might enjoy.  There’s lots to do there flying kites, surfing, body boarding, or just playing in the sand.

There are many other activities on Bali with appeal for families beyond a quiet beach.

Older children who want to surf can take instruction at the many surf schools.  Kite surfing instruction is also widely available.

Waterborn water park is great fun with 21 water slides with varying degrees of adrenalin pumping excitement.   Bungee jumping, tropical garden fish spa and onsite food facilities complement the slides.

Ubud has a wonderful artistic and cultural life and is quieter than the busier beach resorts.  There are a number of venues with nightly showings of different Balinese songs, dances and traditional performances… very colourful and theatrical… great for the whole family.

Bali Tree Top Adventure Park provides tree top circuits of platforms, jumps and walkways.  Safety gear is provided and there are a number of levels of difficulty appropriate for ages 4 to 12+.  Great adventures to challenge kids physically in the middle of a botanical garden.

More adventures can be found at Menjangan Resort where safari jeeps with rooftop seating take visitors around the estate to view the deer, monkeys, and wild boar in the hedgerow.  Other activities include snorkeling at Menjangan Island, horse riding, trekking, and bird-watching.

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- Exploring Bali -

Bali has been a storied destination for western travellers for decades.   Mountains, volcanoes, rolling hills, bountiful rice terraces, a rugged and rocky coastline and sandy beaches endow Bali’s natural landscape with an arresting quality unique in the world.

But Bali has even more to recommend it beyond its spectacular beauty (as if that wasn`t enough):  an open and welcoming populace with a unique culture and deeply spiritual nature; the surrounding reefs and nearby islands with their diverse flora and fauna; world class scuba diving; and, perhaps the major draw, stunning sand beaches that vary from the soothing and serene to a surfer’s paradise with breaking waves that provide some of the best surf conditions in the Pacific.

Bali is located about 3 km off the Island of Java in Indonesia, one of 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and designated as one of 34 provinces in the country.  The climate is surprisingly temperate for a tropical destination, with temperatures varying from 20 to 30 degrees Centigrade.   Monsoons bring heavy rains and humidity from December through March with the dry season being from June until September.

Varied accommodations and amenities that appeal to a wide range of visitors, from sandal-clad bohemians to well-heeled sophisticates, have made Bali one of the most popular island destinations in the world.  July and August are the busiest months.

Five star resorts, with all the comforts, facilities and services you would expect of a luxury destination, can be found most notably in the South part of the island (Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak) and central region (near Ubud — the art and culture capital of Bali).  Fine dining opportunities tend to be clustered around these high-end resorts and lean towards French cuisine with mainland Chinese influences and, of course, Indonesian staples.

Bali is renowned as an exceptional scuba diving and surfing destination.   There are dozens of accredited dive centres in the coastal towns and most will offer rentals, sales and guided tours to dive sites around and off the island.   Indonesian waters have one of the richest marine environments in the world and dive sites offer a variety of reefs, marine life and underwater landscapes.

Bali has been a legendary surfing destination since the 1970`s when North American surfers discovered it and spread the word.  Surfing is year round on the island driven by ocean swells that are unbroken by any land mass and originate in the South Pacific.

Three stellar golf courses are among the best in Asia:   New Kuta Golf Club south on the island at Dreamland Beach, Bali Golf & Country Club, near Nusa Dua and Nirwana Bali Golf Course at Tanah Lot.

It`s thought that Hindus arrived on Bali in 100 B.C. and the island has a plethora of fascinating religious shrines and monuments.  Thousand year old Pura Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung is the holiest of the Balinese temples.  Tanah Lot is built on a huge rock surrounded by the sea… spectacular.

LaCure Villas offers retreats in some of the most spectacular locations on Bali. Near Seminyak, on the Buhket peninsula and at Nusa Dua villas offer spectacular riverfront or cliff side locations with stunning views combined with unparalleled luxury.

Bali is called the Island of the Gods.  It`s no wonder. Experiencing the beaches, the water, the warmth of the people, the landscape, the food and the culture offers a glimpse of paradise.

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