Par·a·dise: a place or state of bliss, felicity or delight. What elicits thoughts of paradise is different to all of us, but to Jay and I, our time in North Bali and the Gili Islands, was pure paradise. We had white sandy beaches steps from our room, crystal clear waters and quiet areas ideal for reading, thinking and meditation.
An easy three-hour drive from Munduk to Pemuteran (read: Central Bali: Adventure off the Beach) we booked at a slightly larger resort than we typically go for, but loved Taman Sari Bali Resort & Spa’s location off the beach and property amenities. During breakfast, we could sink our toes in the sand while watching the water sparkled in the morning sun. The food at Taman Sari isn’t anything spectacular, and it’s kind of over priced, but Pemuteran isn’t known for it’s food. It’s known for being a hot snorkeling/dive spot.
Which is Why You Should Spend your Days Snorkeling
There is great snorkeling along the coast of North Bali, but the best snorkeling and diving in Bali is at Pulau Menjangan, just a 30-minute boat ride west of Pemuteran. Trips cost between $35 and $60 with morning and evening trips to the island. Red, pink, orange, lavender, blue, brown and just about every color of the rainbow is represented in the vibrant coral just below the surface. All of the burdens of the world above dissipate as you settle in to the rhythm of gentle hum of your own breath and the sway of the fish. We saw big fish. Small fish. Colorful fish. Iridescent fish. It was a magical experience. For a little perspective on why you should add Pulau Menjangan to your itinerary, we dove with a couple from Australia who said the snorkeling here far surpassed that of the Great Barrier Reef! The Great Barrier Reef unfortunately, has been a victim of climate change and the reefs are experiencing bleaching at rapid rates.
Pemuteran Bay also has extensive coral reefs just about three kilometers offshore. There are three to four great dive spots; hire a boat (your resort can do this for you) for a few hours exploring the colorful reefs and marine life. One of the reefs is made entirely of biorock – manmade coral that with the help of electricity, grows five to six times the rate it would take to grow naturally. It’s a world-renowned program and worth seeing. The area is dense with jellyfish (their stings are comparable to a mosquito bite), so if the current is low, you may only be able to stand spending a few minutes beneath the surface.
If you want to venture out to explore the water on your own, the beach is littered with snorkeling shops that will rent you affordable gear. The jellies aren’t as bad along the coast, but the water does have a decent amount of trash. It’s quite sad to be in such a beautiful setting and be surrounded by garbage. The amount of plastic we saw washed up on shore – bottles, straws, pudding/fruit cups, diapers, etc. – was enough to make us rethink what and how we consume. Kudos to the Bali resorts and restaurants that now use bamboo straws over plastic straws and offer filtered water for their guests over plastic water bottles!
Leave the Island to Go to Another Island
The Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan (known as Gili T), Gili Meno and Gili Air – are a two-hour fast boat ride away from Bali. The white-sand beaches and vast coconut groves sit amidst the turquoise sea. There are no cars on the islands, just bikes and horse-drawn carriages. We thought Pemuteran was paradise, this was paradise on steroids!
The best part about our time on Gili T was our resort. I’ve mentioned before that we prefer smaller, unique properties, and to be honest, Jay is quite talented at picking the perfect accommodation to fit our location. And he did it once again with the Pink Coco. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but their beach club, Sunset Kiss, is the best venue I’ve ever been at to watch a sunset. Even when the clouds rolled in each afternoon, somehow we’d still see amazing sunsets each night.
The staff here was exactly what you’d want from hotel staff: friendly, helpful, engaging and genuine. The smiles on their faces as they greeted “Mr. Jason” made us feel at home. The food, spa, pool and rooms were all impeccable and at an affordable rate. If you’re planning a trip to Gili T, or to Gili Air this fall, stay at the Pink Coco. You won’t regret it.
As you can imagine, because the Pink Coco was so comfortable, we spent a lot of our time there. It’s always nice when you’re doing as much traveling as we do to have almost everything you need, such as good, affordable food, so easily accessible. As much as we are foodies (read: Taste of Bali: Ubud), sometimes you just need to eat. And it’s nice when it’s still good food at your fingertips. We’ve definitely had some not great meals just because we were hungry and needed sustenance right then – those of you that know me, know this is more me than Jay.
We rented bikes from our hotel on our second day on the island to explore. It took us about an hour to ride completely around the island, and this was we stopped to swim, snorkel and shop. In comparison, I was able to run around the island in about 40 minutes. Gili T was the first time I’d been able to run since we were in South Africa.
The only other excursion we booked while on the island was a snorkeling trip that included dive spots off the other two islands. We booked the public boat. Not our best decision. The boat was packed like sardines with at least 60 people. The dive spots were awesome! But if we were to do it again, we’d book a private tour, which would still be a group of 12 or so – much more manageable! One of the dive sites was right off a turtle conservatory. We didn’t see any turtles in the water then, but our previous impromptu snorkeling adventure off the beach yielded one turtle. This gentle giant hung out long enough for Jay and I to watch him for about 20 minutes.
Our time in the Gilis was especially meaningful to us, because it marks our last weeks of international travel for now. I think we’ve both come to a point where we are ready to come home. We’ve love our time abroad, but it’s time. We’re spending a quiet few days back in South Bali (blog post coming soon!) and will head on to Singapore for a three more days to wrap up our trip. Where in the U.S. will the wunderbug land? Stay tuned.