Situated in the center of Indonesia’s vast archipelago 8 degrees below the equator, Bali is Indonesia’s premier international tourist destination. Its ancient Hindu culture, towering volcanoes, terraced rice paddies watered by the UNESCO-designated Subak irrigation system, tumbling waterfalls, scenic beaches, renowned coral reefs and epic surf swell, all bathed in Bali’s alluring mysticism, attract visitors by the millions each year, as does its plentiful nightlife, shopping, spa, yoga and retreat offerings.
Bali’s many charms and international airport make her an ideal charter springboard to the natural and cultural treasures of Lombok, Sumbawa and Komodo islands. While Bali seas are too rough on the west and south sides to allow a charter to circle the island, calm cruising grounds on the eastern and northern coasts deliver charter guests to Bali’s best snorkel and dive destinations and afford easy access to its magnificent neighbors to the east.
Bali is a living remnant of the legendary Buddhist-Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293-1500AD) and the only Hindu stronghold in a sea of Muslim and Christian islands. Infused with animism and magic, its singular brand of Hinduism is gracefully expressed through its otherworldly Barong and Legong dances, percussive gamelan music, brightly colored ceremonies, daily offerings of woven palm fronds holding frangipani and incense, and in over 10,000 temples dotting the island.
Despite rampant tourism development and modernization, the Balinese have retained their rich cultural traditions. Ceremonial processions take precedence over all other concerns, bringing modern life to a halt. Balinese are renowned for their artistic accomplishments including sculpture, painting, and leather, wood and metalwork, and for their warm, generous and playful natures.
There are as many experiences to have in Bali as there are temples, and the tropical paradise offers a bounty for every traveler. A surfer’s heaven and a spiritual and nature seeker’s dreamland, Bali is flush with historic sites documenting past kingdoms, and presents a wealth of activities from parasailing and trekking to indulging in traditional spa treatments and sipping Bintangs on the beach.
Ubud is the cultural and creative center of the island where artists, musicians, yogis and health food aficionados flourish. Bordered by dense jungle, plunging rivers and rice paddies in the foothills of Mount Batur, its cooler temperatures provide a welcome respite from the heat of the south. Nightly dance performances, art museums, fine dining, shopping, spas and a walk through the Monkey Forest with grey macaques highlight the Ubud experience. River rafting, trekking and cycling activities also abound.
Just north of Ubud is the Como Shambhala Estate, Bali’s foremost wellness resort, overlooking a river gorge and stunningly integrated into the surrounding jungle. Yoga, Pilates, Asian therapies, and healthful cuisine create an incomparable retreat experience. Sayan Valley to the south offers outstanding views of green countryside and challenging river treks. At the Goa Gajah ‘Elephant Cave’ archeological site east of Ubud, visitors can view rock wall carvings of Hindu gods dating from the 9th century.
Three large fish ponds connected by long, elegant bridges and pathways characterize this gorgeously manicured park framed by Mount Agung and the Bali Sea on the northeast coast. Commissioned in 1909 by the last King of east Bali, it features a unique blend of Dutch, Chinese and Balinese design. Originally a site for punishment of accused black magic practitioners, the complex later became a royal retreat and meeting place to welcome visiting dignitaries to Karangasem Kingdom.
Taman Ujung is a beautiful testament to Bali’s cultural heritage. Its picturesque, landscaped garden affords exceptional mountain, rice terrace and ocean panoramas, while a walk among its stone carvings and statues depicting gods and goddesses evokes the legendary spirituality of the Island of the Gods.
Tirta Gangga is the sister site of Taman Ujung also built by the late Karangasem King in 1946 and located just 10 km to the northwest. This former royal palace features natural springs bubbling from beneath an ancient banyan tree and temple complex which fill its reflecting and swimming pools. Regarded as holy, the water is used for ceremonial purposes and thought to have healing and youth-giving powers.
Like its sister palace, Tirta Gangga is surrounded by lush gardens and stone carvings. An 11-tiered lotus fountain centerpiece welcomes visitors and stepping stones above the ponds allow close ups of the golden carp living in them. Bordered by rice terraces and the Tirta Ayu Hotel and Restaurant, its pools are open to the public for bathing and relaxing, providing a refreshing retreat in the mountainous countryside.
The best-preserved coral reefs in Bali are located in the far northwest on Menjangan island, part of Bali Barat National Park. Menjangan features calm currents, clear visibility and a high diversity of coral species and abundant reef fish. Menjangan showcases filigreed gorgonian fans, clownfish, Hawkesbill turtles and some of Indonesia’s best wall dives where many critters can be spotted hiding in crannies.
Named after deer that inhabit the island and can be seen bathing in the sea on secluded shores, Menjangan is also home to four temples from the Majapahit era, believed to be the oldest on Bali, where locals often pilgrimage for ceremonies. The small, rugged island off the beaten path holds a treasure trove of underwater discovery and a cruise there along north Bali’s shores promises many dolphin sightings.
Just 20 km (12 mi) east of bustling south Bali is a group of three laid-back islands where charter guests can immediately enjoy fantastic surfing, diving and snorkeling excursions alongside unspoiled nature and dramatic vistas. The nearest and most popular island, Nusa Lembongan has a front-row view of Bali’s soaring Mount Agung volcano and several famous surf breaks.
The largest island, Nusa Penida is undeveloped and reminiscent of pre-tourism Bali. Challenging drift dives as well as easier flat reef and wall dives off Penida’s coasts offer swims with manta rays year-round and opportunities for spotting sunfish from July to October. White-tipped reef sharks, dolphins and four species of sea turtles can also be seen off Penida’s sheer limestone cliffs. Land excursions deliver striking beach and cliff side views over dry, rugged landscape seemingly a world away from mainland Bali.
Bali’s upscale shopping, dining and nightlife mecca on the west coast is nestled between the rowdier Legian and Kuta haunts to the south and the hipster surf haven of Canggu to the north. Hours in Seminyak can be spent trying on boutique designer fashion, viewing art galleries and savoring world-class international cuisine in a sea of fine dining establishments.
Beaches in the area boast a tranquil beauty ideal for strolling, sunbathing and surfing during the day, and cocktail sessions at upscale clubs for spectacular sunset views and partying in style late into the night. Home to the famed Alila and W resorts and Ku De Ta and Potato Head beach clubs, Seminyak caters to foodies and spa and yoga enthusiasts, with the iconic Tanah Lot temple a short drive away.
Bali provides a magical platform from which to explore the phenomenal scenery and rich marine worlds of Lombok, Sumbawa and Komodo National Park. Easily accessible by international flights, a charter embarking from Bali provides exploration into two distinct ecosystems, crossing the Wallace Line between Bali and Lombok which divides the ecologies of lush western Indonesia from its drier eastern islands.
Charter itineraries from 7 – 10 days may make a round-trip voyage back to Bali, or end in Komodo or further into East Nusa Tenggara where charter clients may fly back to Bali after an extended experience in this spectacular area where rugged, mountainous lands meet the bluest of oceans and dragons roam free.