This story was originally written for the West Australian newspaper.
It’s hard to tell when you’ve actually “arrived” in Amed. The haphazard collection of houses, villas, restaurants, boats and shops stretches for kilometres along an incredibly beautiful piece of coastline on Bali’s north-eastern tip. What’s generally considered to be Amed is in fact 7 different villages, but working out where one ends and the next begins is pretty much impossible. Not that you’ll mind driving through them all.
If you’ve got a sense of adventure and don’t mind battling Bali’s crazy traffic, “random” police checks and roads with more pot holes than asphalt, then hiring a car and driving yourself is probably the best way to get to Amed. It’s about two and a half hours from Denpasar airport; ‘depending on traffic’. If you're not keen to drive yourself, it’s easy enough to hire a driver, but once you’re in Amed the public transport options are virtually non-existent and walking the hilly roads is no easy task. However, this is Bali, so hiring a scooter shouldn’t be a problem.
The main road loops around and approaches Amed from the north, then meanders down the coast. But don’t expect it to take your breath away at first glance – Amed is more the type of place which creeps up on you. The road hugs the hilly coastline, and the views are more spectacular as you continue driving. There are plenty of places to stop by the roadside and take in the sparkling ocean and beautiful bays with black sand beaches, where hundreds of traditional boats (jukung) sit in an orderly line.
Amed is one of those places which really comes alive once you put on a mask and snorkel and get wet. The water is warm and clear, with visibility generally around 30 metres, and because relatively few people dive here, the reefs are in pristine condition. There are several dive operators, but we went with the Baliku dive centre, located at the southern end of Amed. The bay in front of the dive centre is home to some of the richest marine life along the coast as well as part of a small Japanese shipwreck, which serves as an artificial reef.
On our dives we saw heaps of microscopic nudibranches; bizarre little molluscs which come in crazy fluorescent colours. We also saw a pigmy seahorse about as big as my finger nail, impressive looking leaf scorpion fish and a majestic sting ray, its bright blue spots visible long after it glided past us.
Most of the dive was fairly shallow, so for those who don’t have a dive license, a snorkel will do just fine. You can either wade in off the beach or hire a traditional sailing boat to go into deeper waters. And for those who want to do more than just look at the marine life, many of the outrigger fishing boats can also be hired for early morning fishing charters.
If getting wet isn’t your thing, Amed is flanked on the western side by stunning greenery and hills, which are ideal for trekking.
But if all that sounds a bit much like hard work, Amed is also the perfect place to take off your watch, unplug, unwind and do some lazing around. It’s quiet, clean, unpretentious, and there’s not a street vendor in sight.
Sails restaurant was definitely the stand out for us. The location is stunning, with the restaurant cut into the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. At sunset, you can sit outside and watch as dozens of sailboats take to the water. The menu features both Western and Indonesian dishes, and everything we tried was fantastic. Best of all, Sails offers a free pick up and drop off service if you feel like having a Bintang (or several).
After dark, there’s really not a lot going on Amed, but bar/restaurant Wawa Wewe offers live music two nights a week. We did stop in for a drink, but the cover band’s mauling of an ACDC classic sent us on our way pretty quickly. The venue was also advertising traditional Legong dancing on other nights.
We stayed at the Baliku resort, which was a good option for us as it’s above the dive centre. Baliku is a collection of free standing villas and ours had gorgeous views of the ocean on one side and the hills on the other. The villa was adorable, with plenty of room for the three of us:
The outside terrace featured a couple day beds and ornate windows, where we spent a fair bit of time reading and relaxing.
Our villa also looked out over the infinity pool, which in turn looks out over the ocean. The pool area is surrounded by tropical plants and has big comfy sun lounges. Baliku also has a large restaurant overlooking the ocean and the food was really good and well priced.
On another trip to Amed, I stayed at Coral View Villas, which is another great accommodation option, just a few footsteps from the beach and with a beautiful tropical pool area.
We stayed in the two story house, which is usually rented out to families or as separate rooms, but since it was off-season, we had it to ourselves.
The house has its own private garden, and is less than 20 metres from the beach:
Because of the wide range of accommodation in Amed, there are often vacancies, so instead of booking, you can scout around and bargain down the price. However, you might want to factor in a few extra nights because once you slow down to Amed time, you won’t want to do anything in a hurry, including leaving!
Amed is on Bali's north eastern tip, about 2 1/2 hours drive from the airport.
Many nationalities no longer need a visa for Bali, including Australians. You can stay for 30 days for free.
The peak season for Bali is June, July and August, when the weather is hot and dry.