travel

"Believe it or not, there are still surprises to be found in Bali."

For most of us, a trip to Bali is routine. We find our favourite place to stay and we return year after year.

I know this has been my case. I go to Bali to do nothing but relax and imbibe. But on my last trip, I did more – I moved about. And what I discovered was that Bali has changed, and it was a revelation.

Here are some of the reasons why you should take notice too.

Kuta is not a horrid tourist trap to be avoided.

Yes, it is still crowded in central Kuta but a charming walk along the relatively new promenade is the far more sophisticated and pleasantly quiet South Kuta district, only two 2kms from the airport.

The beach is clean and calmer than nearby hip and popular Seminyak, yet there is much to do in the area should you wish to leave the sanctuary of the resorts, which range from the upmarket expensive to reasonably priced.

There is a Waterbom, a water park the whole family will enjoy, 10-pin bowling and two air-conditioned shopping malls full of bargains and an excellent array of restaurants all in easy walking distance. What’s more, there are special deals to be had by going to the website and signing up for a passport for special offers and rewards points to be used in the area.

Click through to see some of the activities and locations Wendy Squires enjoyed in Bali. (Post continues after gallery.)

Family resorts can be fun.

Normally I avoid kid-friendly hotels as I am looking for peace and quiet, but the Bali Dynasty Resort (awarded a top 10 family resort in Bali) changed my mind.

While the children I travelled with went crazy in the kids water fun zone area with its fountains, slides and splash areas, or learnt how to be acrobats on the circus trapeze, I sat in the oasis of the adults area waiting for the bell to ring for the two happy hours each day (one must keep up fluids in the tropics after all). I also ate probably the best Peking duck and steamed fish ever at the resort’s excellent yet reasonable Chinese restaurant, Golden Lotus. Fun fact: Kadek Mahardika, otherwise known as Ketut from the AAMI ads where he woos Aussie tourist Rhonda. was once a kitchen hand at this resort and is now its ambassador.

There is a part of Bali that remains relatively untouched and undiscovered.

It’s called Menjangan (named for the nearby island at its tip in far north Bali in the protected Bali Barat National Park) and is as close to a Maldives experience you can get for a quarter of the price. And while the trip there is some four hours from Kuta, it is mind blowing, travelling through countryside that as ‘old Bali’ as you can get, with its endless verdant rice paddies and picture perfect villages and monkey-festooned mountain ranges replete with pristine lakes.

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I stayed at the new Menjangan Dynasty Resort, Beach Camp and Dive Centre, a safari-themed resort that fits so well into the environment it’s as if it grew there. Sitting on a canopied daybed at the bar, taking in a mangrove hinged coastline, the lowland forests of the West Bali National Park, the towering Tiga Saudara Mountains, and East Java’s (it’s that close) volcano alley, it is hard to think there could be a more sensory experience.

But an afternoon snorkelling trip to nearby Menjangan’s reef soon changes that. Run by Australian-owned Bali Hai Cruises, the boats operated by locals (often escorted by pods of dolphins), take us to the small island where deer roam free and are often spotted talking an afternoon bath in the pristine waters. As for the quality of diving, well, the marine show I experienced could rival the Barrier Reef any day. Never have I seen so many fish of so many colours in such proliferation. Just magic.

My accommodation back at the resort consisted of a luxury tent complete with shower and toilet facilities, wifi and TV – not that you would even contemplate watching anything other than the dramatic sunset from the comfort of a plush king-size bed.

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Normally luxury and facilities like this are out of my budget, but Menjangan is reasonably priced and well worth the travel and time it takes to get there. A true tropical oasis that is above and beyond what’s on offer in the more established tourist areas of Bali.

Balinese wine is actually very good.

On the way back from Menjangan, ask to tour the local Hatten Winery. All the varieties they produce and more than drinkable and I took a special likening to their sparkling wine, dry and crisp just as I like it.

Oh, and the vineyards itself? Well, let’s just say when I win Lotto I will be making an offer to buy the lot.

It is cheaper than ever to fly to Bali.

Well, it is if you live in Melbourne, Perth or Adelaide, anyway (Sydney flights are expected in near future).

Tigerair now runs flights direct to Denpasar and they are affordable, comfortable and even better – reliable. Check out Tiger Air and be amazed by the bargains.

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