Bali: Give me this simple life

By Diana Dobson

Fun, sun and ocean diving away from Bali's noise and bustle proves to be a tonic for Diana Dobson's family.

The main beach on Gili Air. Photo / Diana Dobson
The main beach on Gili Air. Photo / Diana Dobson

There is a whole lot more to Bali than just Kuta Beach, bars and shopping.

We're on a family mission, and with a little planning and a lot of inside info, it's stacking up to be one of our best yet. Our slow shuffle through the sauna-like airport takes forever, then we spill out into the craziness of Denpasar.

We head south to Club Med Bali at Nusa Dua where we're welcomed by Belgian Chef de village Jean Benoit Nisin to this sprawling, 16ha slice of paradise - a four trident, family-friendly and discovery-oriented resort. With all sorts of sport and a kids' club for 2-17-year-olds, it's perfect for families.

In true Club Med style, the staff always have smiles on their faces.

Locally inspired architecture surrounds lily-ponds, complete with large lizards and birds. My 10-year-old son befriends other young guests and tries his hand at every sport he can.

The food is exceptional, with chefs from around the world concocting delicacies before my eyes.

Next, we're off to Gili Air, a two-or-so hour boat ride with Gili Getaway Fast Boat, which leaves daily from Serangan Harbour.

The craziness of everyday Bali slips behind us as we scoot across Lombok Strait. There are no cars or motorbikes on Gili Air - transport is by bicycle or horse and cart. The stunning island is a haven for diving.

At Sunrise Resort, we check into our villa, with its own large, enclosed courtyard right beside the pools, which are surrounded by fragrant frangipani and comfortable loungers. The restaurant overlooking the water is decked with colourful furniture made from old teak boats.

Right in front of Sunrise is the island's best snorkelling. But we are off to Manta Dive, so the kids can do their SIS Junior Scuba tickets. Manta has a buzz about it. Stacked with young, international instructors, it's the biggest operation on the island, offering certification to fun dives, bubble maker through to instructor courses.

Our 10- and 12-year-olds are doing the junior ticket guided by Roxy and Rob. With safety skills in hand, they head out for their first open-water dive and return on a high. They've seen turtles, sharks, eagle rays, octopus, squid, loads of colourful reef fish and more.

In the evenings, we wander along the main track, where we are tempted by tables of colourful fresh fish. Our picks are cooked in front of us - simple, fresh, tasty and reasonably priced.

After a week of island time, we go to the Village Above the Clouds (Desa Atas Awan) eco-resort in the mountains. It's an hour northwest of Ubud and, true to name, we drive through clouds to get there on tiny tracks through villages where children wave. It's Bali of old - the air is different up here. The resort is run by co-owner Josep Triay. We are welcomed by Chinta, a former street dog, and staff armed with glasses of tea. Below us is a valley with rice paddies and it feels we are on the edge of the world.

The A-frame bungalows also overlook intensively terraced plots tended by villagers. The food is all grown locally and is mostly organic. It is delicate, flavourful and divine.

Triay has also established the Freedom School and visitors can help or donate to it. Nearby is a water temple and a little further away are stunning natural hot springs.

After four days of peace and nature, we drive out of the village - past people harvesting the tomatoes for lunch, past youngsters playing soccer and little children waving their goodbyes.

We see an older man grooming a beautiful rooster. Apparently, there is a cock fight in the village today - the very thought curls my toes but there is so much pride in this man's face as he preens the bird in readiness.

Our trip is ending, but we'll be back - Bali offers so much and our family is all the richer for such a wonderful time.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand has daily services via Sydney to Denpasar in conjunction with Garuda Airlines and will begin direct flights later this year.

Further information: See balitourismboard.org.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 21 Dec 2014 23:25:46 Processing Time: 509ms