Exploring coral reefs and coves in Northern Bali ~ Amed

Our exploration of Bali continues in an unplanned, spontaneous way. We toy with several scenarios that range from flying to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra or Borneo, drawn by the endemic population of orangutans on these islands. Or we could take a boat to the Gili islands nearby Bali, for some beach time or Sulawesi island, off the tourist trail.

We decide instead to keep focused on discovering Bali. We are less motivated to plant our flag and check the box of as many destinations as possible, than we are to slowly continuing to explore more fully the possible potential of a future home base in Bali.

After talking to a few other travelers, such as Hanna (from Norway, currently based in Ubud, whom we met in Viet Nam 2 years ago on a small wooden boat), we make the decision to head East on the island of Bali, to Amed, where the coral reef is said to be pristine, abundant and very close to the shore. It’s a place that attracts mostly divers.

Sounds perfect!

We are traveling in style, with Oka, our home exchange’s driver from our stay in Canggu, offering to drive us from South to East as he will be heading in this direction to visit his family further North. No buses for us this time, we have pimped our ride.

The night before we leave we look online and find ourselves a room overlooking the ocean just outside Amed.

And we are off !

The drive cuts through the center of Bali up hills and through valleys of green vegetation. While we know our driver is a good driver, we nonetheless hold our breath a couple times at some kamikaze maneuvers, playing chicken with very big, fast moving trucks coming straight at us.

 

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The landscape is stunning and we are lucky to be here at the beginning of the rainy season, as apparently this area is usually arid and dry.

When we arrive, we have one of those less than perfect moments. Oka finds the house no problem, but the front gate is locked, and the place looks deserted, with no one there to meet us.

Hmm, now what?

No worries, as eventually a neighbor comes to the rescue and calls someone to come and open the house for us. Things always have a way of working out.

We score again, big time! A beautiful mediterranean style room with a large balcony overlooks a garden and the ocean. We can go to sleep and wake up to the sound of the waves ~ Yes!

It’s often a tossup for us whether to pre-books accomadtion, or not. Booking ahead gives the ease of not having to find a place as soon as we arrive, but sometimes it can be a bit of a disappointment, if the place is not in the location we would naturally select, once we get our bearings. Which is why, we very often just find something when we arrive, that way we see it for ourselves and it adds to the overall fun part of the adventure.

In this case, the Air B&B we have selected, is ideally located on a quiet rural road, outside of the main part of Amed, overlooking the ocean!

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A nomadic lifestyle means home is wherever we are…. ! This particular home is pretty blissful.

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Ocean to the front, hills to the side and a volcano behind us. We have the space to ourselves as no one is using the other rooms. Nice!

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The large balcony in front of our room looks out over the garden and the ocean. At night there is a  bright full moon reflected in the dark sea.

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There is a very pretty little garden below.

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Amed, we come to discover, is actually not one town, but a series of small coves and a string of fishing villages nestled along sequential crescent shaped bays. Because the ocean floor here is very rocky it is not a place that is great for pure swimming. It is also not a good area for surfing due to the calm waters. As a result, there is still a low volume of human activity, and the coral reefs have been protected as a result and are ideal for snorkeling.

We discovered snorkeling a few years ago on our second trip to Cuba, and in particular stumbled on an unexpected pleasant surprise: Ben is color blind and goes through life with a muted palette of sepia like colors. However, underwater the UV rays combined with the clear waters, allowed him to experience the joy of a full rainbow of bright colors. An experience that money can not buy. We snorkled again in Thailand near the string of small islands to the South, which was fun, but the reefs themselves were not impressive.

So here is one of the things we really loved about snorkeling in Amed. The coral reef is literally feet away from the beach. As in… no boat necessary, just walk five steps, put on mask and flippers, and the fish are right there!! Astounding! The best time to see fish is early morning and after our first initiation when we arrive (yup we are impatient to see the reef), we excitedly awake to go snorkeling again the next morning.

The fish are plentiful and so close we can almost touch them ~ brightly colored yellow, orange, purple and tiny iridescent turquoise fish dart in and and out of the coral. We see a school of silver headed fish, with translucent bodies swim in front of our masks, inches away. It’s hard to believe the intensity of the beauty and the overall experience of being in an underwater ocean world.


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We rented an underwater camera for a short period of time to try to capture and share a glimpse of the visuals.

 

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Black pebble beaches and black sand are the norm here.

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This beach is famed for the sunken Japanese ship which is very close to the shore and which has become a host to a plentiful underwater wildlife.

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A young man placing an offering of flowers and incense on the edge of the ocean.

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This Buddhist practice of offerings and blessings is part of the Balinese cultural landscape.

We rent a motorbike in Amed and this allows us to explore and discover the successive small coves. We enjoy riding up and down the small hills affording views of the coral reefs and beaches below…

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Each afternoon the sky grows dark and grey just before a short daily downpour.

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The first season rains have brought bright green colors to the lush landscape.

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Heavy clouds hanging low over the palm trees and small hills.

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A chicken taking advantage of a pool of water after the rains. The house we are staying in, is next to the white one you can see in the background.

 

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These chickens covered with baskets have been selected for cock fighting, which is a traditional part of Indonesian ceremonies. (Looks like a chicken “jail” to us!)

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Stopping to say hi to a farmer and her baby.

2016-01-24 17.55.58Renting a motorbike is not without risk (you might recall our blog post about our spill off our bike along the Ho Chi Min trail in Viet Nam). This time nothing as dramatic, but we deal with not one, but two flat tires!

No worries…. in Asia, pretty much wherever we are, there are small shops that repair bikes on the spot, for a few bucks.

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Ben rides ahead with the bike with the flat tire to find a repair shop, while I catch up with him by foot. Here is where I find him, waiting for the bike to be repaired.

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Bali does not have a lot of street food~, it is more common to have small ‘warungs’ which are 2-6 table limited menu food stops with traditional Balinese cuisine. However, a spicy chicken soup can almost always be found ~ being sold from little mobile food carts.

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Hot and spicy chicken soup with noodles, dumplings and fresh shredded cabbage is most welcome after being caught in a rain storm and dealing with a flat tire.

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Freshly picked snake fruit being delivered to the fruit store in clusters, looking very much like oversize bunches of grapes.

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Close up of  the snake fruit. The taste is similar to a strawberry and an apple combined, although the flesh is firmer, crispy and looks like large garlic cloves (with pits.)

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Ben enjoying a dragon fruit on the side of the road.

Amed’s slow place and seaside fishing village life reminds us of Nicaragua’s San Juan Del Sur. Small guest houses and restaurants line most of the streets here alongside the beaches. ( San Juan Del Sur ~ maybe 10 years back..). Amed is even less developed, and the buildings are small and not more than 2 storeyed, giving the place a nice scale.

Speaking of Nicaragua, we have a de ja vu experience here in Amed. There is a huge volcano, Bali’s highest, the mighty Mount Agung, which is the splitting image of volcano Concepcion on Ometepe Island. Both volcanoes have perfect cone shapes, both unexploded and beautiful in their majestic glory. Serendipitous, as our son Adam has just informed us of his upcoming trip to Ometepe, to take a permaculture course on the island.

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We actually fall quite in love with this little section of Bali.  The natural beauty, the reefs, the fishermen’s boats, the volcano and the proximity to Ubud, make it, well, a Green Global Trek spot to return to.

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Peta declares that she is quite happy to spend the next week or rest of our trip here, no problem. (Thoughts of more time at the temperate Indian Ocean, plus jaunts into Ubud for acai breakfast bowls would be “de rigueur”.)  Ben agrees, but he has other things brewing in his busy brain, work wise, which as it turns out, will soon take us elsewhere.

We still have about 3 weeks of his “sabbatical” to play with.   Ben is dabbling with the idea of our adding a visit to Hoi An, Viet Nam to have some Cau Lau for breakfast, and if we do lock in on this option, this would make it our third time in Hoi An ~ which is high on our personal list of “home bases” in Asia. It’s an attractive notion.

We ponder the options and take time to discuss priorities, feelings and generally check in with our individual needs and as well, what makes sense for us as a couple. We have had our new country experience in Myanmar; Peta has had her raw-food and yoga fix (could continue this life style endlessly) and now its determined that Ben gets to decide where we spend the last few weeks before returning to Chicago.

Stay in Indonesia, go back to Hoi An Vietnam, or what will it be?

And the decision gets made ~  we will not be staying in Bali, nor exploring more of Indonesia for now….Our next stop will be… Sri Lanka!!

Goodbye for now to Bali…. We will be back!

18 thoughts on “Exploring coral reefs and coves in Northern Bali ~ Amed

  1. carolinehelbig

    We enjoyed Amed too. If you get a chance, go to Pemuteran (north coast) and do a snorkel excursion to Menjangan Island…amazing reef!
    We have friends who have travelled extensively and their favourite place is Sri Lanka…enjoy!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks for the recommendation re the North – we will take note for next time in Bali!
      We were in Sri Lanka in 2014 and loved it, excited to be going back. Such an interesting country!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      This comment makes me smile… Yes, by week three in Bali, we are in super chill mode. so nice to slow life down.being underwater in a totally different universe will have that effect! How do you like the underwater video?

  2. badfish

    I spend quite a bit of time in Bali. Love it. Haven’t been to Amed in…hmmm…maybe 10 years. There was practically nothing there in the 80’s, but sooo lovely then (with few tourists). I like that you travel with few plans, and just go with your gut. I travel like that. And I had wanted to go to the Gili Islands since the 80’s and just never quite made it. But now, you can simply get on a speed boat and be there in no time.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Bali is such a special place in the world, for me. And I definitely fell in love with Amed. It’s fun to have a favorite place or places and then be fortunate to go back and add a new layer of texture and colors! We too had “thought about” the Gili Islands our first time in Indonesia, but both times we were so happy where we were in Bali, that it made no sense to us to move in search of anything or anywhere else. But here’s to third times the charm!!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      The reefs here are in beautiful condition and are so easily accessible it’s quite incredible! So many coral reefs in the world have been destroyed or impacted by man, that it is always a treat to discover ones that are “preserved”. Definitely a place to put on your list Events Panda!

  3. Gili

    Looks like a less touristy part of Bali, sans resorts and hotels. Snorkelling is great, you should try scuba diving too, for a related and similar experience…

    I heard of the Gili Islands a few years ago, and will try to go there sometime!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Definitely not a built up part of Bali. Neither of us is drawn to the idea of having an oxygen tank on our backs, i.e. Scuba diving. That’s why we loved Amed do much…you get the same experience (because the waters are so shallow over the reefs), as scuba diving but without the gear and necessary training.

      Gili, you should go to the Gili islands of course…. 🙂 Heard that even though beautiful, depending in time of year can get a lot of tourists.

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