An eco-resort in Bali offers sustainability and affordable style
The bungalows are of coconut timber and bamboo in traditional style, one side open to the view across the terraces to the coast below
A FEW years ago, Johnny Blundstone from Noosa on the Queensland Sunshine Coast felt the urge to completely change his lifestyle. As a veteran waiter, he had the perfect blend of understated attention and knowledge of his craft. Then, with wife Cath and young son Huey, he trucked off to the outback for as long as it might take for a new life plan to emerge. Under the stars at Kakadu, they found themselves sharing a campfire with Norm and Linda vant Hoff, Australians of Russian and Dutch extraction who had started a small resort, based on sustainable living, in the wet mountain jungle of central Bali. If the Blundstones were looking for a radical lifestyle change, then Bali could be it.
They flew over for a look at the vant Hoffs’ Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, in the shadow of Mount Batukaru. Blundstone told his hosts that while he admired what they were doing, it had now been done. But Norm vant Hoff responded that the more people running sustainable businesses there, the better it would be ‘‘for all of us’’.
Mini, the lodge’s smiling chef, said she and her husband, Agung, had a large plot of family land a few kilometres down the valley, if the Blundstones were interested. They shook hands on a deal that evening.
In 2010 they opened with a restaurant, small office and four one and two-bedroom cottages scattered along the rice terraces, with pristine spring water streaming under the entire property to nourish the land and grow crops to feed the guests. The biggest single investment was not an infinity pool but a pelton-wheel hydro-electric generator to power most of the resort from the adjacent waterfall.
The resort became the first in Bali to generate its own power; by the end of next year, the Blundstones aim to be totally off the grid.
Mywife and I visited earlier this year to find the Blundstones happily ensconced in paradise. Looking out over the hill station from our Rice Water Bungalow, my first question is why couldn’t they have come up with a more romantic name. ‘‘Google-friendly,’’ says Blundstone. People keen on eco-tourism seek them out online, and there are enough of them for Bali Eco Stay to have achieved an average 60 per cent occupancy after just 18 months.
When the rains tumble down, we take the opportunity to spend a productive afternoon in Mini’s restaurant (they stole her from Sarinbuana, with vant Hoff’s blessing), which offers sensational organic food from the property’s food forest. More than 70 per cent is home-grown and cooked in unrefined coconut oil. Local farmers supply chickens, ducks and eggs, while the resort’s water garden will soon yield freshwater fish. The water supply is from a spring near the edge of the property, and it creates a natural swimming pool, below which the waterfall provides the power. The bungalows are of coconut timber and bamboo in traditional style, one side open to the view across the terraces to the coast. Furnishings include antiques and traditional motifs; lighting is subdued to conserve power, but there are battery reading lights.
There is no television, and the only music is the gurgling of the water below and the distant sounds of gamelan music from nearby villages.
The Blundstones have introduced permaculture to surrounding villages, set up a free lending library and offer village kids English lessons.
I’m a cynic when it comes to tourism interfering with traditional ways, but in the land of the plastic bag, projects such as Bali Eco Stay are leading people back to their own cultures while offering them new opportunities in ours.