Most people (like me) would probably have visited Bali believing that there's not much to see on the island's far West coast. And they, like me, would be completely wrong. West Bali has jaw dropping scenery, untamed wildlife, great diving, clean ocean, spectacular weather and friendly people. It might be a long drive, but a trip out West will give you a completely different perspective on the Isle of the Gods.
We spent our first night in West Bali at the gorgeous five star resort the Plataran Menjangan Resort and Spa. Only opened in May 2016, when we stayed the resort consisted of only five villas (and hadn't yet opened the 'Spa' part suggested by its name).
The resort is remote by any standards, perched on the water's edge and surrounded by jungle and mangroves. It's accessed by a stone road that will test out the hardiest of shock absorbers, making you glad to step out of the car and into the cool, understated reception area (which you'll barely notice because you'll be immediately captivated by the view over the ocean).
The traditional Javanese villas are luxurious but still homely, with huge balconies to admire the views, with the waves lapping the shore practically on the doorstep. There's a private plunge pool in a lovely jungle setting underneath the balcony, where you can watch the huge tides go out, revealing the root system of the mangrove trees which had seemed to be floating on the surface of the sea.
The outdoor bathroom is gorgeous, and maintains a sense of luxury, despite being open to the elements, with a big stone bath and pebble shower featuring a bamboo showerhead. The majority of the villa is taken up by a gigantic four poster bed swaddled in an equally enormous canopy, from which you can see the spectacular ocean view if you keep the beautiful ornate wooden doors open (which you can only do for a little while if you don't want to end up with too much of the local wildlife sharing your room).
Having the privilege of operating in such an amazing wilderness has its challenges, and the resort has a unique involvement in protecting the local eco system. It's the custodian over about 382 hectares of the national park, and has established the SERC (Scientific Education Research Centre) in conjunction with the University of Charleston to study and protect the surrounding environment. Guests can do a tour of the research centre to find out all about the plan to bring the Bali Starling bird back from the brink of extinction (it has the unfortunate honour of being worth about $5,000 a pair on the black market), as well as the resort's tree planting program and watering holes for the local wildlife (which include poles full of salt which the deer can lick to satisfy their preference for salt water).
The resort also features the enormous and eclectic Octagon Beach Club which overlooks the stunning infinity pool, which in turn overlooks the calm waters of the Bali Sea.
During our visit, we were often the only people at the beach club, which often gave us the feeling we had the whole resort to ourselves (complete with lots of personalised attention from the staff). Sunsets from the balcony of the beach club were especially spectacular, despite the fact the sun doesn't set directly over the ocean in front of the resort. The area really came alive in the evenings, with the deer wandering around the pool, enormous monitor lizards strolling along the beach and the crickets singing in the trees.
If you can tear yourself away from the infinity pool, there's heaps to keep you entertained at the resort including jungle trekking, mountain bike riding and wildlife spotting. If you'd like to splash out, you can also hire the resort's luxury wooden sailing boat for everything from a family snorkelling trip to a romantic sunset dinner for two.
For something slightly smaller and less exotic, you can also take the Plataran's kayaks out for a paddle around the bay. Or for a good look at the world under the ocean, jump off the end of the jetty and go for a snorkel on the surrounding reef. The water is so warm there's no need for a wetsuit, and there's a great variety of marine life.
If you're looking for a holiday where you can get back to nature and disconnect from the world, put West Bali and the Plataran top of your list. The drive is worth it.
How to get there
From Denpasar airport, 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 northern route is more spectacular, has fewer trucks, but is a slightly wilder ride, as the windy road snakes up through the mountains. Both routes take roughly four hours (depending on traffic).
For more info, see: http://plataran.com/menjangan/