8 Adventures in Bali
Surfing, snorkeling and even chocolate-making—here are T+L’s favorite excursions on an island that has a bit of everything. By Holly McDonald and Jen Lin-liu
It’s not as twee as it may sound: a birdwatching walk in the terraced paddy of Ubud’s hills originally kicked off by eccentric British twitcher Victor Mason and now generally led by his knowledgeable sidekick Wayan Sumadi. Su will have you both learning and laughing as she spots birds, butterflies, spiders, herbs and flowers and regales you with Balinese flora and fauna tales. (Bali Bird Walk; +62 361 975 009 or +62 812 3913 801; balibirdwalk.com).
Flee the crowds and base yourself at the sleepy northwestern beachside village of Pemuteran, where you can snorkel off the beach or drive to a nearby pier for a boat to Menjangan Island, in Bali Barat National Park. Menjangan is arguably Bali's best snorkeling or diving location: glide over intricate coral gardens and spot a vast array of sea life on an organized trip or hire a boat from the pier yourself
Kuta Beach may be derided for a lot of things, but it remains an excellent beach for learning to surf, with a forgiving break and waves that can be ridden at a comfortable depth. Take a class with an established surf school such as Prosurf (prosurfschool.com) and if you’re not standing during your first lesson you’ll be given another lesson free of charge.
Bamboo Chocolate Factory
Tour the world’s largest commercial bamboo structure, which just happens to be a chocolate factory, a short drive away from Ubud. The Bamboo Chocolate Factory (+62 361 846 3327; Jln. Sibang Kaja, Banjar Piakan-Abiansemal, Badung; email for appointment to firstname.lastname@example.org; bigtreefarms.com). You’ll see how the cacao beans get broken down and ground into pure chocolate—in a seven-ton machine built in 1932—then flavored with organic coconut palm sugar or pounded into cacao butter and powder.
For an off-the-beaten path culinary experience, head to the new Bali Asli (Jln. Raya Gelumpang, Amlapura, Karangasem; +62 8289 703 0098; baliasli.com.au) on the island’s east side, for lunch or a cooking class themed around the lives of villagers and local fisherman. The restaurant and cooking school was born out of Australian chef Penny Williams’ zeal and appreciation for Balinese cuisine and life.
One of the easiest and most accessible wreck dives in the world, the U.S.A.T. Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben Bay offers the opportunity to view an extraordinary ecosystem of marine life including pygmy seahorses and large schools of parrotfish and scorpion fish. One highly recommended dive shop that offers daily dives to the site is AquaMarine Diving Bali (Jalan Petitenget 2A, Kuta; +62 361 473 8020; aquamarinediving.com).
Perched on vertigo-inducing cliffs on Bali’s southern tip, the Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple offers spirituality with stunning ocean views. The best time to visit is just before sunset, when you can take in the Technicolor sky and watch a performance of traditional Balinese dance called kecak. Regardless of when you go, beware of the monkeys, which steal anything that’s unsecured, including eyeglasses.