undiscovered bali

Undiscovered Bali as a solo traveller

Introduction

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a 1 week Entrepreneurial Business school in Bali which was held at a hotel overlooking Tanah Lot at the west coast of Bali. A group of social entrepreneurs would get together to work on their business ideas. This was way before the term ‘social entrepreneurship’ became common knowledge. I recognise now, many years later, that this conference has created the path for the choices I made. But I will talk about that some other time.

When I was still travelling mainly solo, I always enjoyed having a certain purpose for the trips I took. The time I travelled to Thailand, I knew I wanted to do a dive master course and attend a 10 day silent Buddhist retreat. Travelling with a purpose makes travel more interesting. Travel becomes a learning experience and a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people.

 

Preparation

Once I had signed up for this very special Entrepreneurial Business School conference in Bali, I started preparing for this trip. I looked forward because I had enjoyed my 4 month stint to South East Asia and I could imagine that Bali would be magical too.

First thing I always do when going to a new destination is just simply look at a map and start reading all the place names to get an idea of size, places to see and do. I love maps! I can easily stare at them for hours. Simply just dream and imagine away!

Bali is an extremely popular tourist destination and rightly so. Most people stay in the southern part of Bali around Kuta with all the big hotels and many party places. When I booked my ticket to Bali, I knew already that I definitely wanted to skip that part of the island and discover other great places in Bali. The conference was held at the west coast of Bali so I checked out pictures from the area and dreamed away staring at the Tanah Lot rock which I would be able to visit from the hotel where we were staying.

Tanah Lot is a rock just off the west coast of Bali. It is home to the ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple Pura. It is a very popular spot to take beautiful pictures.

My itinerary

Since I was travelling all the way from South Africa (with a Dutch passport which is a huge privilege, I know; no visa needed), I made sure to arrive a few days earlier not only to acclimatise but also to experience a beautiful retreat hotel where it would be perfect to overcome jetlag and prepare for the full week ahead. It was also the perfect spot to already meet some people that were attending Entrepreneurial Business School.

See a few pictures here from Vision Villas Resort where I stayed for 2 nights. It was so beautiful and I was looked after very well. A perfect start to a wonderful time on beautiful Bali.

Click this LINK to book Vision Villas Resort.

An invitation to a Balinese ceremony

The Entrepreneurial Business School conference itself was quite amazing. The Tony Robbins type of experience where you are taken completely out of your comfort zone. A week where the learning curve is fast, steep and life changing. We hardly took time to sleep and eat. We were all working so hard on our business ideas. It was an extraordinary week that I will never forget.

During the event I met tons of interesting people of which one was Bayu, founder and CEO of the Friends of the National Parks Foundation of Bali. He told me all about the bird sanctuary on a little island just off Bali, Nusa Penida and asked me if I would be interested to visit. You see, there’s the advantage of not planning your entire trips upfront. Leave space for spontaneity. Of course I was going to accept this special invitation. An island, off the beaten track, right up my sleeve. And it was a very special occasion because there would be a ceremony held where Bali Starlings were released into the wild. The first successful release of the breeding program at the sanctuary.

Staying in a small guesthouse on the west coast

After the event, I booked myself for a week in a small guesthouse which is owned by my friends’ dad who has moved to Bali from The Netherlands, Villa Arjuna. I enjoy small, authentic places where I can feel at home. I enjoyed staying in the spacious room with a sea view terrace, the lovely meals prepared freshly and the massages offered by the priest. The guesthouse is located on the eastern side of the island, Seraya. There are many dive resorts as well but on this trip I decided not to go scuba diving as I really wanted to enjoy many things that Bali has to offer.

The owner of the guesthouse heard that I was invited to the ceremony and told me that I would need to buy a traditional outfit called a kebaya. It consists of a blouse-dress often made from lace, a sarong which is wrapped around the waist and a selendang, a scarf that goes around the waist on top of the blouse-dress. Beautiful, stylish and very feminine. I loved wearing the kebaya. I felt like a Balinese women sitting at the back of a moter bike with my legs to one side.

My stay at Nusa Penida

To visit Nusa Penida, we needed to take a boat which Bayu of course had all organized. I love traveling with a local person as to skip all the touristy boat trips and excursions and simply take a normal boat that all Balinese people use for transport.

Bali is known for its traditional ceremonies, the little flower offerings that you can find everywhere you go. It really gives you a sense of spirituality, slowing down, enjoying the moment and being grateful. If not for the extremely humid climate, I think I would perfectly be happy to live on Bali,

Click here to find your accommodation for NUSA PENIDA

Bayu was so pleased and happy to give the birds their freedom. It certainly was very special to be part of this as the only non-Balinese person.Sleeping inside the bird sanctuary was a very humbling experience when there was a massive thunderstorm during the night and I was staying in the little wooden bamboo tower all by myself. See below for pictures of the ceremony and my humble accommodation.

At the time of my travel in 2008 (gosh yes that’s 10 years ago), there was not much tourism to Nusa Penida. I think I saw one other tourist while I was there. Bayu made sure to take me around on his motorbike to show off his island. What I remember most was visiting a weaving village where women were weaving the most exquisite fabric which I still need to turn into something fabulous, now 10 years later.

Visiting an eye clinic and tree planting with the PATT foundation

With other delegates from the Entrepreneurial Business School we went on a day outing to visit an eye clinic and to plant trees. This experience was very dear to my heart. To see an elderly lady who was given glasses and the expression on her face was priceless now that she could properly SEE.The tree planting ceremony took place in the middle of Bali with the Plant A Tree Today Foundation, an organisation that does important work already for many years.. Again the ceremony was accompanied with little flower offerings, burning of candles and prayer. I ask myself, why do we keep our prayer inside our houses and churches? It is good to pause and rest and pray where ever you are, stay in the moment and give life the sacredness it deserves. See pictures below of that special day.

My solo trip to Bali was memorable because of all the people I’ve met who took it in their stride to show me the best of Bali and give me a true authentic experience of their beautiful island. I will always cherish the memory of this very special trip to Bali.