West Bali is a place of stunning scenery, clear water, great diving, untouched nature and, best of all: no people. If you want to get away from Bali's crowds, West Bali is well worth the effort, especially if you haven't seen this part of the Island of the Gods.
How to get there
From Denpasar airport, or any of the surrounding areas, there are two routes to get to West Bali: either along the southern coast or north through the mountains. We decided to take one route there and the other back, so that we could see different parts of the island. The southern road hugs the coastline for the most part, giving spectacular views over the ocean, with the brilliant green rice fields carpeting the land all the way to the coast. The route takes about four hours (depending on traffic), but it's also a truck haulage route, so at times can be slow going.
The northern route is more spectacular, has fewer trucks, but is a slightly wilder ride, as the windy road snakes up through the mountains. The mountains, as they tend to do, create their own weather pattern, so even if it's sunny when you leave the coast, you're likely to drive into fog and torrential downpours as you climb higher.
If you're not in a hurry, the northern route offers plenty of stop offs, including Lake Bratan, which is home to the spectacular temple displayed on the 50,000 rupiah note.
Higher up in Munduk, you can stop to admire the views of the twin lakes (although you have to be lucky with the weather - I've been there three times now and seen nothing but thick clouds).
If you feel like stretching your legs and taking a bit of a detour, you can also take a 15 minute walk down to the 40 metre Munduk waterfall. The drive also takes you past the impressive new power generating facility, and through the picturesque seaside village of Pemuteran.
Where to stay:
We spent two nights in a traditional Lanai cottage at the laid back NusaBay Menjangan. The resort has no road access, and can only be reached via a somewhat ancient looking traditional wooden fishing boat. The ride across on the day we went was smooth and calm and relaxing, and any remaining worries I felt melted away as the boat glided across the water.
The scenery on the way over is spectacular, with the volcanoes of Java visible among the clouds, reminding us just how close we were to Indonesia's most populated island (another reminder was that our phones kept jumping an hour ahead to Java time, which caused much confusion!)
The resort is about as close to nature as you can get, with deer wandering between the cottages and lounging on the beach, adorable black monkeys swinging through the trees, and little mice scampering around on the ground. The wildlife and the jungle surroundings give the whole place an untamed, rustic, down to earth feel which gives you the chance to get back to nature and truly relax in its embrace.
The jungle cottages are beautifully rustic, but still have all the mod cons, and we were particularly relieved to see air con. The resort is powered by two generators, which means there's the odd disruption to the power, but it stayed on for the duration of our stay. The same couldn't be said for the water though, which was apparently interrupted the day before we arrived when a wild boar chewed through the main water pipe (it was fixed before we got there, but honestly I don’t think it would’ve bothered us). The resort also features some luxury, with a sweet little pool and a cute day spa offering a variety of massages and manicures/pedicures.
On the activities side of things, the NusaBay offers water sports, jungle trekking and mountain biking options, but the true piece de resistance of this resort is its proximity to the famous Menjangan island (deer island). Only a five minute boat ride away, this diving Mecca draws adventurers from all over the world. The visibility in the water around the island is at times like looking through glass. The shallow reef offers a smorgasbord of wonders for snorkellers, while the sharp drop off lures divers down to below 30 metres to search for deeper sea inhabitants like sharks and nudibranchs (adorable luminescent molluscs).
Our dives with Blue Corner Dive took us to two different sites around the island, the first dive ending at the bat cave, which we discovered was NOT named after the comic book character. The second was at dream wall, where we spotted turtles, parrot fish and long toms, among others.
The conditions on the day of our dives were perfect, the colour of the water almost surreal in its luminescent blue, the mountains of Java appearing to rise up out of the water in the background.
For those who don’t want to leave the resort, there’s always the option of snorkelling off the NusaBay’s jetty, where the water is warm and clear and teeming with marine life.
And after an active day swimming, snorkelling and soaking up the sun, a cocktail at the resort’s restaurant right on the beach is the perfect way to cap it off.
All in all, our stay in West Bali was absolutely magical. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the crowds in Bali and get back to nature, do yourself a favour and follow your compass West.
For more info on NusaBay Menjangan: http://www.nusabaymenjangan.com
The best time to visit Bali is between June and October. Australians (as with many other nationalities) no longer need a visa to visit Bali for up to 30 days.