In­stant karma and a Bali state of mind

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

par­adise is­land have in­deed been paved over. Along the pop­u­lar south coast, build­ings, ho­tels, shops and restau­rants ap­pear to have been as­sem­bled with the care of a tod­dler emp­ty­ing their toy box, squeez­ing A-roads down to pipe clean­ers and caus­ing 10-mile jour­neys from air­port to ho­tel to ex­tend to more than an hour – bad enough for tourists but ex­cru­ci­at­ing for lo­cals who have to deal with it daily. Bali is frag­ile and the re­lent­less pace of de­vel­op­ment needs to be ad­dressed sooner rather than later, but rest as­sured, the Is­land of the Gods still cap­ti­vates, still weaves its spell – you just have to look a lit­tle bit more care­fully to ex­pe­ri­ence it.

A 30-minute drive north of Ubud, in the Ke­liki Val­ley, I find my­self lounging on a teak deck stilted be­tween frangi­pani trees and bam­boo groves. The full panoply of na­ture sur­rounds me – sun­beams shoot through cas­cades of leaves, neon-blue but­ter­flies prance by in trains of four or five, frogs rib­bit, ci­cadas chirp, birds war­ble and trill. I can hear deep mur­mur­ing chants echo­ing across the val­ley from a nearby tem­ple where vil­lagers are call­ing out

Light­foot Travel (020 3950 5105; light­foot travel.com) has a new nine-day Bali and Be­yond tour from £4,800 based on 10 peo­ple shar­ing Ras­cal. This in­cludes in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic flights, trans­fers, a three-night pri­vate char­ter on-board Ras­cal, two nights at COMO Uma Canggu, three nights at Six Senses Uluwatu, full-board through­out, and a per­sonal shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ras­cal is avail­able for pri­vate char­ters of­fer­ing ex­clu­sive voy­ages to lo­ca­tions across In­done­sia. For more, see ras­calvoy­ages.

their daily prayers. The mo­ment feels noth­ing short of mag­i­cal. Bill Bens­ley, ar­chi­tect and de­signer of newly opened Capella Ubud, has taken enor­mous care to pro­tect this idyl­lic en­vi­ron­ment as much as pos­si­ble. Not a sin­gle tree was felled in the mak­ing of this tongue-incheek tented camp, 60 per cent of the al­ways-smil­ing staff come from the lo­cal area, and the se­duc­tive in­te­ri­ors – in­tri­cate wood carv­ings, hand­painted fab­rics, cop­per bath­tubs – have all been sus­tain­ably sourced from across In­done­sia. I im­merse my­self here for four nights, prac­tis­ing yoga, walk­ing in na­ture and philosophis­ing with Bodhi, the doe-eyed in-house healer, while din­ing on a de­li­cious fu­sion of In­done­sian and in­ter­na­tional cui­sine – roasted cauliflower with yuzu and lime leaf, seared scallops with sweet­corn velouté, black Ba­li­nese pork with peas. Since I vis­ited, Capella Ubud has gone on to win the Best New Lux­ury Ho­tel award at Ul­tra­travel’s UL­TRAs, held last Wed­nes­day in Dubai.

I’m fairly sure I could stay here for­ever, but an­other way to ease Bali’s tourism bur­den is to leave it al­to­gether. Po­si­tioned be­tween a dozen other equally spec­tac­u­lar In­done­sian is­lands, in­clud­ing Sumba, Sum­bawa and Flores (although there are more than 17,000 to choose from), Bali is the per­fect jump­ing-off point to ex­plore some of this re­gion’s more ad­ven­tur­ous cor­ners. And so, with some re­luc­tance, I hop on a one-hour flight to Flores for a cruise around the edge-of-the-world isles that make up Ko­modo Na­tional Park.

At pint-size port Labuan Bajo, the gor­geous 100ft teak and ivory-white Ras­cal awaits. The float­ing love child of three fun-lov­ing Bri­tish en­trepreneurs, and the hippest phin­isi yacht to grace these wa­ters, it has the ameni­ties and aes­thetic of a bou­tique ho­tel – five spa­cious cabins (un­usu­ally, all above deck), with warm wooden floors, trop­i­cal-print fab­rics, vin­tage ren­der­ings of In­done­sian flora and huge win­dows from which you can watch the sun­rise in bed. Sin­gle-use plas­tic is out; glass bot­tles and beach clean-ups are in. Ras­cal has its own brand of craft rum (ev­ery mem­ber of the crew seems ca­pa­ble of mix­ing a mean punch) and a part­ner­ship with Con­ser­va­tion In­ter­na­tional, which works with gov­ern­ments and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble en­vi­ron­ments around the planet.

Ko­modo, sit­ting south of the Wal­lace Line that sep­a­rates Asia from Aus­trala­sia, turns out to be a fan­tasy of its own. As we sail from Labuan Bajo to Rinca Is­land I stare out at a thou­sand leagues of blue, striped with golden swells of land rip­pling with long grass;

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