Getting The Best Out Of Bali
Bali – think beach bars, Bintang beers, scooter missions, snorkeling, sunsets, surfing and picture perfect foodie cafes on every corner, making Bali the perfect summer holiday destination. No doubt, your Instagram page will transform into a vibrant colourful foodie montage featuring some killer sunset shots with a cocktail in hand.
Discovering Bali and all it has to offer can be a little overwhelming, especially because there is so much to do and see. If you’re traveling from South Africa, I’d recommend a minimum of 2 weeks especially if you want to experience both Bali itself and the surrounding islands. My husband and I headed to Gili T for a week of romance and tropical island bliss before meeting up with our Cape Town crew for 2 weeks of surfing, sundowners and exploring. I must admit, Bali is the ultimate destination to head to with a group of mates, from amateur surf missions to cliff jumping into treacherous waters and beach bar hunting – it wouldn’t have been the same without them!
The weather: We travelled during the rainy season in December, which we totally didn’t realize when we booked our trip, but it didn’t make too much of a difference as the showers were very intermittent and as quick as the clouds came rolling in and the heavens opened up they were gone again and the sun was out. May to July is apparently the best time to visit Bali (dry season), but you’ll be pitting no matter what time of year you go – it’s hot as hell, like humid hot, like all the time!
What to pack: You will literally need a couple of bikinis/boardies, a sarong and some deadly mosquito spray – packing has never been easier!
The beaches: Saffas, if you’re envisioning a tropical palm tree paradise, white sand and clear turquoise waters then Bali might not be for you. Seeing that we have some of the best beaches in the world, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. I’d recommend you take a ferry to some of the outlying islands, like the Gilli’s or Nusa Lembongan for a more tropical island feel.
The food: You can find little hidden gems that not only serve traditional Balinese cuisine, but cater for all us health nuts who are in search of the perfect Nalu smoothie bowl. From vegan eateries to organic health cafes – the choices are endless. Be warned though, you will get so sick of eating Nasi and Mei Gorengs, they are on every menu and inexpensive, so it becomes your go to. I still haven’t touched a noodle dish since I got back.
Kuta: We were also warned about the Australians (no offense guys), but for some reason these guys have built up a bad rep in Bali. We were told to avoid Kuta at all costs as it would be swarming with seedy party animals – think Magaluf, in Mallorca or our equivalent, midnight at Caprice on a Sunday. We decided to steer clear of Kuta and head to the more civilized parts of Bali.
Below I’ve listed our accommodation, a few restaurants that we loved and a bit of advice for first time goers:
Accommodation: Pondok Santi
In our opinion this was the best accommodation on the island. We booked the private pool villa, which was insanely beautiful. It had a massive private pool with an outside shower, a sunbed where we found ourselves on most evenings with a few icy cold Bintangs in hand. Guests have direct access to the beach, with loungers that sit at the waters edge – it’s heaven!
It’s a two-hour ferry ride to get to the Gilli islands, which are made up of three very small islands, some being less crowded than others. The ferry trip is rough – literally and figuratively. The swell was huge and at times we thought we were going to capsize. So if you’re prone to seasickness think twice about going on a rough day. Top tip: try avoid using the bathrooms at all costs, it will scar you for life.
We snorkeled most days and even got to swim with turtles right off the beach (one for the bucket list). They say that if you want to learn how to scuba dive, Gilli T is the best place to learn. Wish we knew that earlier as we so regret not doing our PADI course there – rookie error! The rest of the time we spent cycling round the island, discovering places to eat and watching the sunsets with a Bintang or two… yes, we drank a lot of beer.
Only downer, being the animal lover that I am, was that there are only two modes of transport, either bicycles (which we rented from the hotel) or a horse and cart. These horses are working from 8am till sometimes 10 pm in the blistering heat – it broke my heart. Hence, I made my hubby lug all our bags and trek a good 2km to our hotel so we didn’t have to take one. The only saving grace is that you see the horse owners take them out for rides along the beach and let them play in the water after a long days work.
Where to eat:
- Casa Vintage Beach Restaurant: Our favourite restaurant on the island. Serving traditional Jamaican inspired food, the tables are all scattered on the beach with views of the sea and epic sunsets.
- Pituq Cafe: Serving delicious fresh veggie and vegan dishes all day – we had a few Vietnamese spring rolls to start off with and a delicious dragon fruit smoothie. All our mains were tasty and would highly recommend this spot.
- Pizzeria Regina: Naturally we managed to find the only pizza place on the island. Having our own pizza oven at home and being huge pizza fans we couldn’t fault them at all.
Accommodation: Green Spirit Villa:
This little gem is hidden amongst the vast Ubud jungle and overlooks thousands of acres of palm trees and rice paddies. It’s modest in its offerings, but clean, neat and perfectly located. It has that pretty Balinese charm and a view that will capture your heart. We would never have found this beautiful spot, if it weren’t for good friends of ours, who discovered it on their honeymoon.
Ubud is a yoga haven and on every corner there is either a class being offered or a course advertised, but in true Wellness in the City style, we ventured to markets, found hidden cafes and pigged out on coconut ice cream instead. We decided not to go to the Monkey sanctuary after hearing a few horror stories about being mugged, attacked and bitten by the little cheeky critters, so instead we hired a scooter and did some exploring.
Where to eat:
- Warung Pondok: This place looks a little dodgy, but the food is great. It’s even rated the no. 1 restaurant in Ubud on Trip Advisor!
- Kismet: My meat eating friends weren’t very impressed when I lured them into this plant-based eatery that I just had to visit after stalking them on Instagram for months. Just my luck, I had Bali belly and was too ill to have a meal – I sipped on coconut water though – that was nice.
- Tukies Café: Head to Tukies for the best coconut ice cream in Bali and anything coconut for that matter, from chips to butter – it’s a coconut lovers paradise.
This island is just a short 30 min ferry away from Bali and it’s definitely worth visiting for a few days. The water is a beautiful turquoise green, sunsets are magical and surfing is plentiful! It’s a surfers’ paradise, with breaks that are perfect for beginners and pros. We had massages most days, did a snorkeling trip around the island and spent our evenings either at our villa or at the many beach bars enjoying a few sundowners.
Accommodation: Villa Opera:
Luxury to a whole new level – this is a 5-bedroom villa with views across the ocean. A small beach is just steps away from your front door, which overlooks two surf breaks, Lacerations and Playgrounds. The rooms are all sea facing and you have access to staff who will prepare dishes off their set menu. We celebrated Christmas on our first night there with garlic butter prawns that we bought from the local market – for those few minutes we felt like movie stars.
We stayed at Villa Lago, just by default, which is literally right next door to Villa Opera, the views are just as beautiful and the staff were super friendly and accommodating. We’d suggest choosing this spot over Villa Opera for just that reason.
Where to eat:
- The Deck: Perfect for cocktails and sundowners.
- Sandy Bay Beach Club: Beautiful setting right on the beach and the food is great too. Just remember to book, tables fill up quickly.
- Hai Bar and Grill: Situated right on Mushroom Bay, pizzas were great and the strawberry daiquiris were deadly.
Nusa Ceningan: We hired scooters and explored Nusa Cenigan, which is an island right next to Nusa Lembongan. We cliff jumped and nearly drowned (no joke) and hit Le Pirate for the best tapas on the island.
Nusa Penida: This was on our list of things to do, but we didn’t manage to get there. Take a hike up the mountain for the most epic view of the cliffs and beaches below.
Accommodation: Uluwatu Surf Villas
Sadly, we didn’t get to stay at the Uluwatu Surf Villas, as the previous guests decided to let off a few fire works for New Years and it burnt the villa down – not ideal! These villas are idyllic and sit right on the cliff edge overlooking the ocean. You can literally watch Bali’s famous sunsets right from your private pool.
Where to eat:
- Nalu bowls: Serving vibrant fruit smoothie bowls – every Instagramers dream.
- Single Fin: Laid back atmosphere, great location that over looks some of the most famous surf breaks in Bali. The New Years party was phenomenal.
- Bukit Café: Stopped in for a quick lunch – great burgers!
- Sundays Beach Club: Head over to Sundays Beach Club for a late lunch and sunset cocktails. We spent the day lounging on beanbags, playing volleyball and swimming in the clear blue water.
For other Wellness in the City island getaways, follow the link: http://wellnessinthecity.co.za/kilindi-tropical-island-retreat/
Photo credit: Wellness in the City | www.wanderluxe.theluxenomad.com | infojakarta.net