Bali is widely regarded by many visitors as the “ultimate” island and is regularly voted by major travel magazines as the most enchanting travel and holiday destination in the world. My second visit confirmed why Bali is now also one of the best luxury destinations to visit.
The Indonesian island is located between the large island of Java and Lombok. Bali is one of the smaller islands in Indonesia’s amazing archipelago. Stretching 140 km from east to west 80 km north to south, the island is just 8 degrees south of the Equator and boast year round average temperatures of 28 Celsius or 83 Fahrenheit, all in all just perfect!
The rugged coastline is home to sweeping views and clear blue warm waters, where fish frolic to the delight of divers and snorkelers. The wide and gently sloping southern region play host to Bali famed rice terraces, in the hilly northern coastal regions the spectacular terraces are host to coffee, spices and a plethora of vegetables.
It is the wonderful people that make this place so special, their warm personality, friendliness and always wanting to help the gives a very different meaning to personal service. Through out the island and it’s excellent hotels that superb service is felt. As you arrive and are escorted to your car smiles all around you greet you to make you feel welcome. The driver happily chats away in English and offers you his services should you wish to explore the island and its many wonders.
We ventured off to Amankilla located one hours drive from the airport. We arrived to a remote part of the south east coast to the wonderful boutique resort of Amankilla. Tracey Atherton, the General Manager of Amankilla, greets us at the entrance. Her big smile and warm welcome says it all, we have arrived at a very unique resort, where 250 staff await to serve you in the 33-stunning villas. The lobby looks out on the stunning coastline with three infinity pools that all seamlessly integrate in to one beautiful picture. The pool suite villa has its own 10 m lap pool and the natural stone colors are blended in with cooling whites and cream. The resort’s peaceful cliff-side setting, beneath the towering Mount Agung, is surrounded by the tropical spoils of the region, the volcanic beach and even a 41 m lap pool set in lush gardens with an open dining venue creates quite a unique setting. My family boggy board in the warm waters and feel the thrills of the almost perfect waves, as I sit back and look on with a big smile. We cool off with a few laps in the pool and test the food…..very nice!
Tracy has arranged for us to tour the coastline and we board the Amankilla 16. The stylish outrigger designed after the “jukung”, a traditional Balinese fishing craft boat is decked out with white lush towels and we gently sail along the spectacular coastline, seeing Amankilla from the sea. The resort is almost hidden in the hills and is beautifully integrated with the coastline. We stop at the blue lagoon and begin to snorkel around the area, admiring the many tropical fish and the coral. As we snorkel my wife asks me to dive down and collect a plastic bag on the seafloor. I am reminded how sad that in these tropical waters we encounter human rubbish that will kill the natural wonders of the sea. This frail eco system must be protected at all costs to save the sheer beauty below. As I arrive back to the boat, I have amounted a handful of rubbish that I throw out. Over a perfectly served healthy lunch we ponder how this can be stopped, Tracey remarks with sadness that the Indonesian government must educate the population in order to stop this disaster from escalating and ruining the eco system.
As we arrive back to Amankilla we relax under the bale by the pools, few sounds are heard, apart from playful children in the pool and the soft Balinese music that welcomes sunset. Candles are being lit on the stairs to create a perfect setting for one couple that will dine alone by the sea and soak in the ultimate romantic atmosphere with dinner for two!
We wave goodbye and set out for our drive to the Conrad Bali, in Nusa Dua. The area of Nusa Dua, was established in the early eighties, with a vision to offer tourism a complete destination. Over the years the influx of top hotel chains have opened up and created an ideal venue.
Nusa Dua is not the only tourism destination in Bali, but with the newly developed coastline towns of Seminyak and Legian to compliment the more traditional areas of Kuta, Sanur and Jimbaran the island is now offering a great selection for any traveler. Eat street in Legian is the perfect venue for all types of modern dining and shopping. The two towns of Seminyak and Legian are linked and seamless integrate with each other. At nighttime the candle lit café’s and restaurants along the beachside open up and create a wonderful atmosphere. Luxury hotels including the Oberoi, Anantara and The Legian have recently opened up with very stylish outfits. It has to be said that this once rice paddy fields has been developed slightly too fast and without much infrastructure so the streets don’t quite match the stylish boutiques and dining venues, but as with all things in Bali, this is all part of the charm.
The beach of Jimbaran Bay is a favorite of many to venture for a night of dining on beach. Watch the sun set as you feast on local seafood and see locals play in the warm waters. As dark descends over the beach, lantern lights light up the beach and the music begins to fill the area with the local disco’s dance floors filling up. The sunset is a magical setting to also watch the planes arrive into Bali’s international airport, whose runway separate the two beaches of Jimbaran and Seminyak.
The local food scene is array with excellent Indonesian specialties such as Nasi Goring, Satays etc, but for those just wanting international food, simply walk down any of the main street and you will find a cuisine to tempt you! I have to admit that the Balinese make brilliant flat-based pizzas and are very innovative with their fillings!
Just three years old and now regarded by many as the best luxury family resort in Nusa Dua, the Conrad has every activity that the mind can dream of. Led by veteran Australian hotelier, General Manager, Michael Burchett, the hotel is expanding away and is set to open a new all suite wing with a wellness centre. The resort offers pools galore with the ultimate in dining and spa treatments. The stylish designed rooms overlook the lush green gardens with the pool rapping around the hotel. The hotel has been designed to integrate with the beach and all rooms face the beach. The large bales are ideal for romantic couples to be pampered in or simply lie by the pool on excellent deckchairs. The pools have two man made beaches where children happily play and build sandcastles.
One of the wonderful features of the hotel is the wedding chapel. The majestic sight of the “Infinity” chapel is quite unique is located on a beautifully manicured 1200 sq meter beachfront reserve in Nusa Dua. With a height of 12-meters and occupying 117 sq meters the space has designed with a contemporary feel and huge ocean facing glass frontage. The off-set triangle shape represents a romantic angle towards the heavens, while its physical attributes of marble glass and steel are each metaphors for the male and female bodies and their interaction with each other as a couple
Luxury tourism in Nusa Dua is scaling to new heights with the opening of St. Regis Bali. The 8.8-hectare resort, overlooking the Bali Golf & Country Club, compromises of 79 oversized suites, 42 opulent villas, all beautifully designed and integrated. The interiors carefully indulge every sense through the facilities, ambience and restaurants.
From the moment you drive in through the spectacular rainforest entrance, you are mesmerized at the landscape architecture inspired by blending art, tradition and nature with rich fabrics, cultural artifacts in a true element of elegant style.
The wonderful part about Bali is that the island offers so much more then just an island vacation on a beach. As the jet takes off and heads south towards Australia the family are all smiles and ask when can we return to Bali? There seems little doubt that Bali is back to its best and now a new and re-invigorated destination for all luxury travelers.