WET ‘N’ WILD
When you’re tired of relaxing, Bali has ways to get your adrenalin pumping
While chilling out on white sand beaches and indulging in the comforts that come with plush, five-star hotels, are usually the stuff of holiday dreams; for some travellers, a fly-and-flop break just doesn’t cut it. And despite its reputation, there’s much more to Bali than poolside cocktails and day spas. Yep, if your idea of a great trip is an adrenalin-fuelled adventure, then this tropical paradise has lots to offer.
A combination of bushwalking, abseiling, climbing, hiking and cliff jumping in one; canyoning is akin to visiting the world’s oldest waterpark. Slip down natural water slides, abseil down stunning waterfalls, free jump into rock pools and swim in natural water basins. Luckily in Bali there are plenty of places to do it. Most of the sites are found in the north, the most popular of which is the 40m-high Gitgit waterfall.
Another option – and one away from crowds – is Sambangan. For beginners, Kerenkali canyon offers easy abseils, water slides and optional 10m jumps. And for a real challenge, Wanagiri (also known as the Canyon of Fire) is one of the most uncharted.
The best way to go canyoning – especially if you’re a novice – is with an experienced operator, such as Adventure and Spirit. And if you want to see the canyons at their most lush, then aim for a trip during the rainy seasons when the rivers and waterfalls are at their fullest. ADVENTUREANDSPIRIT.COM
BE A JETSETTER
Were you the kind of kid who fantasised about owning a Jetsons jetpack? If so, jet packing (or one of its variations) is your childhood fantasy made reality. Sort of.
Using hundreds of litres of water blasted through jets, you’ll be propelled as high as 15m above the water or diving under it, dolphin-like.
In addition to the James Bond-style packs, there are also jet bikes, fly boards and the newest craze, the “jetovator”. Nusa Dua-based Aussie Bali Adventures have the only jet bike and jetovator on the island. And whichever vehicle you end up trying there’s no doubt that the (literal) high will leave you craving a second hit. AUSSIEBALIADVENTURES.COM
HIT THE WAVES
Perfect waves, warm water and yearround sunshine. Bali is one of the most iconic surf destinations in the world, and it has surf for every ability.
Kuta beach, though touristy and crowded, has the gentle breaks that are perfect for newbies. Slightly more challenging is Canggu beach 30 minutes away and close to Seminyak. A popular spot for everyone, the waves become slightly more challenging depending on the tide. Advanced surfers should head to the Bukit peninsula beaches, including Keramas beach, which has a break that errs on the side of hair-raising.
Fittingly, there is a surf school on every corner and if you want to avoid the crowds, then try to avoid the peak season of May through September.
BOULDER ON THE BEACH
At Padang Padang Beach you can combine a surf with a session of rock climbing or bouldering afterwards.
A favourite with surf hounds due to its consistent barrels, the pretty beach (which featured in the movie Eat Pray Love) is also popular with locals for bouldering. Bordered by limestone rocks up to 10m high and 50m wide, there are also smaller boulders on the beach during low tide and the soft sand makes for the perfect crash pad.
CONQUER THE RIVER WILD
At Four Seasons Sayan – a five-star hotel boasting 52 villas with private pools nestled in 7ha of lush gardens – guests can get their luxury and adventure fix in one on the resort’s “private rafting discovery” tour.
A whitewater rafting experience on Bali’s sacred Ayung River that runs along the property, the trip takes riders on a three-hour journey through dense tropical rainforest and deep jungle valleys, taking in UNESCO-listed rice terraces, towering trees and old Hindu shrines. The rapids here are full-on enough to satisfy adrenalin junkies, but not dangerous. Fearless guests should make sure to tie their stay in with the rainy season to ensure a wilder ride. FOURSEASONS.COM
FLY LIKE A BIRD
If you want to soar like an eagle over Bali’s unique landscape then taking off from Nusa Dua’s cliffs will give you a bird’s-eye view of the sea and its coral reef. You’ll spy sunbathers on beaches below you, alongside Hindu temples perched precariously on rocky outcrops above crashing waves.
There are various companies that offer tandem flights, but if you’re serious about paragliding then Aussie adventure organisation, High Adventure, offers courses from August to September (when the southerly trade winds blow) to take you from a novice to pro. HIGHADVENTURE.COM.AU
TAKE THE PLUNGE
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, Bali’s waters are an aquatic playground. Warm, crystalclear seas are home to aquatic life ranging from hawksbill sea turtles and clown fish, to stingrays and reef sharks. Take the plunge here and prepare to be dazzled.
On the eastern part of the island, in the aptly-named Shark Cave, you’ll find white tips sleeping 12m or so down. While at the iconic wreck of the USAT Liberty (the island’s most popular diving spot), serious divers can enjoy spotting mantas, sunfish, turtles and even dolphins. Amed is another favourite site in east Bali that’s suitable for all skill levels, offering reef walls of up to 8m.
In the northwest, Pemuteran’s calm and scenic bay lays claim to the largest “biorock” reef site on Earth, which includes vibrant coral reef nurseries that have grown over purposefully sunken structures, alongside a healthy population of barracuda, stingrays and parrotfish.
Further afield, the Gili Islands offer some of the best diving and snorkelling in the archipelago. In fact, this area has a reputation for being the turtle capital of the world.
WIND AND WATER
Combining surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and wakeboarding; kitesurfing is a great alternative to windy days when a regular surf session is off the cards.
Head to the island’s top spot, Sanur, to give it a go. Mertasari Beach offers almost constant onshore winds and flat water near the shoreline, making it perfect for beginners. Also in Sanur is the Bali Kitesurfing School, which offers lessons at all levels year round. BALI-KITESURFING.ORG
HIKE A VOLCANO
At 1717m above sea level, the summit of Gunung Batur offers one of the best vantage points in Bali. And while you can walk its winding trails to the top at any time, for sheer beauty an early morning ascent is advisable. Taking in the spectacular sunrise from above the clouds and watching its golden rays touch the sea and the mist-soaked Lake Batur will make the 3am wake-up call well worth it.
Most walkers hire a local guide or join a group tour and if you’re in reasonable shape you can expect to scale the mountain’s steep slopes to its summit in about two hours.
However, if you’re more of a lone wolf, then doing the climb without a guide is possible for experienced hikers. Although there aren’t any trail markers, the path is easy to follow.
RAFTING TAKES RIDERS THROUGH TROPICAL RAINFOREST AND DEEP JUNGLE VALLEYS
Prepare to get drenched while rafting along the River Ayung (above); marine wildlife abound around Bali’s many dive sites (below right); and abseiling down one of the island’s spectacular waterfalls (below left). RIVER RAFTING