Our experts have travelled the globe to bring you the most honest, up to date and in depth knowledge of a destination. Here, Adrian Pointer, our Asia Product Manager shares his latest journey to Indonesia.
Bali – to some, the word conjures up white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and coconut palms swaying gently in the warm breeze. Stop there and rewind. Whilst I had not been to Bali for many years and was expecting some changes, I guess I was unprepared for just how much it has changed.
There are two distinct types of traveller to Bali – your very budget conscious traveller or your luxury holiday seeker and not much in between. Hotels and Resorts have popped up all over the place and there is little premium beachfront space left to build.
But is Bali about beaches? This is the question I asked myself time and time again. Whilst the beaches are nice, they are not spectacular. For me, it’s all about the culture, the temples, the warmth of the people and the food. Being the only Hindu Island in the whole of Indonesia, Bali is unique, spiritual, peaceful and beautiful.
Whilst the hotels are world class and if you wish you can stay in and enjoy the beaches, sumptuous rooms, amazing food and great service, it would be shame not to explore the countryside, the thousands of temples and the gorgeous Town of Ubud surrounded by dramatic scenery of rolling hills and rice terraces. Further North the mystical Batur Volcano dominates the skyline shrouded in mist. There is so much more than just the coast. Tour the North, stay in Ubud and learn about the fascinating Hindu culture. Take a yoga or cookery class and open your mind. It would be wise in my opinion to do a multi-centre holiday on Bali taking in both the beaches and the countryside. Doing this you will get to see the many sides of Bali.
An hour and a half away by fast boat is the Island of Lombok. You would think that being so close to Bali it would be similar but it could not be more different. For a start the island is far more mountainous, far greener and much less populated. Now here is the place for beaches.
White sand and clear waters with healthy corals surviving offshore. It’s the perfect place to unwind, to relax and enjoy time together. The food and culture are very different to Bali with Lombok being a Muslim Island. Early morning calls from the prayer towers break the morning silence. Fisherman leave in their boats and head out to sea, hoping for a good days catch. Lombok is perfect for trekking – especially the trek to Mount Rinjani – Lombok’s largest Volcano. Lush forests cover the island and wild Monkeys line the roads watching the world going by. There are some beautiful waterfalls on Lombok to explore too.
We hired a boat for the day and travelled to all three of the Gili Islands – the closest being Gili Air, then Gili Meno then Gili Trangawan. At first I was going to book a couple of nights on Gili Trangawan but I was glad I didn’t. It’s a shame how such an Island paradise can become so ruined over the space of a few years. It’s full of bars, restaurants, loud music and backpackers. I am sure it’s fun for the right crowd but not for me.
Gili Meno, on the other hand still has some perfect beaches and even a baby turtle hatchery – set up by a local who fell in love with these beautiful creatures. Offshore from Gili Meno there are some beautiful corals for snorkelling . Here’s hoping that human impact doesn’t destroy these stunning islands natural habitat. I would go back in a heartbeat.