BALI'S BEACHES.

 

The beaches of Bali, especially around the southern areas most frequented by tourists, are not what Australians would call 'flash'.

 

Mind you, on a world scale of perfection, Australians are pretty spoiled for great beaches, but there are some nice beaches and secluded beaches to be found in Bali if you know where to go and look.

 

What is the worst picture that the tourist will see, or perhaps the even worse picture that the tourists don't see? - Read on.  But, if you only want the good news then slide down a way on this page to the heading, 'Places worth a visit'.

 

Don't be totally taken in by pretty pictures alone but if pretty pictures give you a thrill then have a look at Mic's site, especially the beach pages where you will find lots of photos. If the link above does not work for you cut and paste this address into the address line of your browser.

http://micbali.proboards21.com/index.cgi?board=beach

 

The beach at Tuban, on the northern side of the airport runway that juts out into the sea, is sheltered by the off-shore reef and therefore very safe and especially child-friendly but it is often scarred by small beds of dead and broken coral that are not kind to the feet. Not so frequently these days, but often in the past, pollution of the soft brown rock kind (read 'faeces') in dark water was also a definite deterrent.

Tuban beach with the airport runway centre left and the off-shore reef breaking centre right.

 

At the front of the bigger hotels along this strip the sand is reasonably manicured, at least above high water mark, and most of the plastic pollution is removed by the beach traders who are required to clean up their patch of the beach before starting work in the mornings.

 

This sheltering reef ends just after the start of Kuta and the sea becomes much more turbulent and dangerous. The popular surfing areas around Kuta and further north past Legian and Seminyak regularly report deaths by drowning of visitors who think they're Ozzie heroes but are really ignorant fools (from all countries) who wont be told of the afore-mentioned dangers and are at times additionally affected by more alcohol than sanity dictates for a day or night at the beach. All this despite the best efforts of the local Surf Lifesavers.

Along these beaches the local banjars (local councils) pay workers to clean up the beaches on a more or less regular basis but the further north you go the more flotsam and jetsam of city and fishing life seems to be brought in by the tide and the littoral drift up the coast and by the greater number of little creeks and streams that finally flow across the sand from sources high up in the central mountains or from very local stormwater drains.

 

Litter is always a problem along these beaches facing the Indian ocean. At the worst times it seems that every country from South Africa, the Middle East and past India and Java has up-ended their refuse trucks into the strongest of the ocean currents that run past their shores and all of it winds up along this hooked coastline of Bali. Even out west past the popular surfing beaches of Canggu, around the island temple of Tanah Lot and as far as Soka Beach, some 40 beach kilometres from Tuban, plastic drink bottles and ends of rope and twine can be found up the creek entrances, tangled around the roots and branches along the banks.

Soka Beach half way up the coast towards Java and the western end of Bali.

 

South of Tuban-Kuta-Legian-Seminyak the picture is not much better.

The various beaches of Jimbaran Bay are frequently littered with plastic refuse to which is added the refuse of the local fishing village and the the famed beach-side restaurants. Having walked the glorious sweep of sand along this bay during daylight hours and seen the fish heads, guts and bony frames tumbling with human waste in the little waves at the edge of the sand I'm not a great fan of the Jimbaran scene at night. When I see diners sitting at tables with their feet actually in the water I wonder what they think that stuff washing around their ankles really is.

 

On the opposite (eastern) shores of the tourist island the picture is almost the same.

Along the Sanur-Sindhu shores, around Benoa Harbour and in the mangroves particularly, along Tanjung Benoa and Nusa Dua beaches, rubbish that is not regularly collected simply collects.

Since the clean-up and re-development of Sanur-Sindhu in '05-'06 the beach front has presented an idyllic picture of tropical maritime splendour, irresistible to every tourist who wanders there with a camera, and I'm no exception. The creation of little sheltered bays cosseted by groynes, the artificial headlands with their picturesque bales, fishing and pleasure boats bobbing at moorings, all add an element to the panorama of peace and beauty.

Sanur, or Sindhu Beach, still fresh from the morning sand raking.

 

The shops and market stalls have been pushed back behind the new, sealed walkway and bike track to open up this beach vista, the sands are scoured and raked daily and restaurants display a new pride in their alfresco dining areas.

What this really means however, I suspect, is that the stream of rubbish simply moves up and down with the tide a little further off shore.

Certainly a venture into Benoa Harbour and the backwaters of Benoa Bay and the mangroves behind Tanjung Benoa reveals a less rosy picture.

The fishing village at the point of Tanjung Benoa.

 

The exclusive beaches of the Nusa Dua enclave are not spared despite their exclusiveness. The raking and sifting are done more vigorously perhaps, and opposite the larger hotels the inter-tidal sea floor has been scoured of its allocation of broken rock and dead coral, but the need to mark out these safe areas with ropes and buoys spells out a different story about the un-cleaned areas.

The Sheraton Beach at Nusa Dua.

 

And if you're tempted to go further afield and think that simply by going you will enjoy better beaches, be warned that this is not necessarily the result. Whilst there may be a better beaches if you really search them out you still have to look.

Take Candi Dasa out on the south east coast as an example.
There are some great beaches out this way (see Padang Bai, below) but the beaches along the coast at Candi Dasa are fighting total disintegration with massive concrete walls that hold back the ocean at high tide. When the tourist area was being developed from a small fishing and farming centre the off-shore reef was seen as an easy and convenient source of lime for cement and mortar. The subsequent explosions and burning of the coral destroyed the reefs and with them went the natural protection from the strong Lombok Strait currents leaving the new hotels in frightening danger of simply falling into the scouring sea. What exists now is a sort of pretty, man-made series of groynes and breakwaters that splash up into bridal veils of foam and spray as the waves run along them, but the only sand to be found is very coarse and tucked only into the corners of the protective works.

Low tide at Candi Dasa.

Only at the far eastern end of the bay, through the coconut plantations and the remnants of the fishing village, do you get an idea of what has been lost, deep, clean golden sand that unfortunately fronts an unfriendly ocean surge that roils around the corner of the headland.

 

PLACES WORTH A VISIT.

From our own trips around Bali and from the recommendations made by posters on the Bali Travel Forum with sufficient regularity and enthusiasm to stick in the mind, these are beaches we think we can recommend with more than a little confidence.

 

Padang Bai or Padangbai (or even Padang Bay if you must be common) is about half way out along the south eastern coast of Bali (a trip which, incidentally, every tourist should make on their second visit to the island if not before) just before the bigger coastal bite of Labuhanamuk Bay, on which you will find the neat little town of Candi Dasa.
Padang Bai is a beautiful little horseshoe bay, sheltered as you would expect but with a gentle surge from the deep waters of the Lombok Strait funnelled in through the gap between the bay and the offshore island, Nusa Penida. To the left as you drive in there is a clean little sandy beach leading down to clear turquoise waters, almost iridescent and deepening to cobalt blue in patches over the bottom reef and seaweed beds. Jukungs with sails (in '05 at least) are drawn up on the beach and moored in the shallows. These are really fishing boats that ply the cold and deep waters of the Strait at night and take divers and surfers out to their favourite spots during the day.
There are some warungs along the beach edge for a cold drink and some home stays back in the village, a few of which rise above the name and one of which boasts a swimming pool.
A word of warning however. Don't look too hard towards the right where the distant view is spoiled by an obscene concrete dock and stubby pier used by the ugliest and often the rustiest trans-Strait ferries you might wish to see.
It is one of my favourite beaches. 

One of the nice things about Padang Bai are the two pretty and quite secluded beaches within walking distance around either of the bay's headlands. Blue Lagoon around the left headland is a postcard tropical beach with leaning palm trees and the odd thatched hut where you can sit in the shade and relish a cold drink. Off shore there are weedy sand banks with shallow channels between, just deep enough to stir little ripples in the sandy bottom and attract brilliant little fish. A snorkellers delight.

Around the right headland, past that obnoxious ferry terminal and the village graveyard is White Sands beach. Not so serene as the Blue Lagoon and frequented by a few 'in the know' surfers on the right day it is still a reasonably safe swimming beach for supervised children. Again, the little thatched hut will dispense cold drinks and a nice lunch too if you're hungry after the walk.

On your way along the east-going coast do stop at the small village of Kusamba, about 10 kilometres before Padang Bai and less than a kilometre off the main road. Be aware that it does not exist for tourist consumption but that makes it even more precious and worth a visit before the world catches up with it.
Here you will find a small but well organised fishing village just up from the mouth of a little river, lots of fishing jukungs pulled up on the beach, the maritime paraphernalia associated with boatbuilding and fishing scattered in a small coconut and banana grove and, just a bit down the beach by a small shelter with a rusty iron roof, a native salt works that has been extracting natural salt from the sea for perhaps centuries. A 'guide' will attach himself to you as soon as you display enough interest to cross an imaginary line on the beach and the story of salt making will be told to you in a reverent way, but in a way which will require you to exercise some self control to prevent warm laughter at the manner of the telling. The politely requested donation at the end will be worth every rupia you have in spare change.
At the end of the road coming into the beach you might also be lucky enough to see a larger powered wooden jukung anchored in the surf just off the beach. This will be the local ferry to Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida just off the coast. Everything needed on the island is loaded here from chickens and pigs and ducks to furniture and fuel and oil and timber, people and - - - - .  Best of all it is all loaded by hand, hoisted onto the shoulders of the local lads who carry it through the surf (at no small risk from the stern of the boat which swings dangerously in the waves) and pass it up to the older and wiser deckhands who stow it in the bilges until the whole is at serious risk of swamping. When loaded the outboards on the stern, as many as three mighty pieces of modern machinery, are fired up and the boat slowly noses out while the anchor is retrieved. Then those monsters on the stern are given their head and the whole thing comes alive, throbbing with the contained power, muscling aside the waves and charging on towards the distant islands.

 

Dreamland Beach is frequently mentioned on the Bali Travel Forum, so frequently that I feel I know it well though I have only visited in words and photos provided by others. It is on the western tip of the Bukit, that big dot at the bottom of the map of Bali, not far from the cliff top temple of Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Facing the west it has wonderful sunsets but it is the clean water, clean golden sand and rolling surf that attracts most visitors. Dreamland beach is in a little cove surrounded on three sides by tall limestone cliffs which give a 'other worldly' feeling of isolation and security, the security bit is often false as the surge of the surf means that a careful eye must be kept on children and over-enthusiastic but poor swimmers. There are some small home stays for accommodation at rates the surfing culture embraces and beach warungs for cold drinks and snacks for the day tripper.

[In '08 it was reported that development has overtaken Dreamland and the cosy warungs and friendly sellers have been replaced by yet another un-needed luxury hotel that sprawls from the cliff-top to the beach and that parking is now Rp10,000, the toilet is Rp5,000 and a shower Rp10,000! The food prices have doubled or more and a beach chair of lounger is probably more than the cost of the taxi that brought you. Goodbye Dreamland - go instead to Padang Padang just about 6Km before Dreamland and still as it has always been - for a while at least.]

Close to Dreamland are similar beaches, probably just as good but not endowed with attractive Hollywood names. Amongst these are Bingin and Padang Padang for surfing and Suluban which is perhaps better for swimming.

All-in-all these make up a nice day trip from the hotels of Kuta, Sanur etc.

 

A little past Dreamland is Balangan Beach, about 5 minutes more driving. Preferred by many because it is more peaceful and less favoured by the surfing croud.

 

Padangpadang beach, like its neighbour Dreamland, is another one of Bali's popular surfing beaches. On the road to Uluwatu look for a bridge and a parking bay which mark the start of the short path down to the sand. On its day its a good beach for  surfing or just sitting to watch the skills of visitors and locals alike as the tear across the face of the waves.

 

On the Kuta side of the island one of the more popular but less well known beaches is between Legian and Seminyak, in the heart of the trendy cafe and disco scene. Not officially named I think, it is often referred to as Double Six Beach from the well-known night club  and the road which leads to it. Sometimes also called Blue Ocean or Sunset Beach it's just a tad better than the scene at Kuta, the broad sand strip is a bit cleaner and the hawkers a bit friendlier.

 

Geger Beach is just a short drive south from the resorts of Nusa Dua, far enough away to be unknown to most of the resorts' guests although it's location is easily seen from most of the Nusa Dua beaches marked by a temple which clearly stands out on the far cliff south along the coast. Get a driver to take you down past the Hilton towards the Nikko Bali Resort. Just pass The Bale Hotel a rough sort of a road turns off to the left, usually with a sign 'Geger Beach' if some yobbo has not pinched it. A large, clean, white sand beach which is usually deserted or nearly so and a perfect getaway for a romantic stroll or a refreshing skinny dip.

 

The north coast, particularly around the beaches of Lovina, boast of their black, volcanic sand beaches.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the sand is grey and frankly just looks dirty - and well it might be when the rubbish brought down from the foot-hills by the numerous little creeks is found collecting in many and any little corners. But the sand is deep and fine, warm on the feet and the back, and the calm waters of the Bali Sea are similarly warm and friendly but not very deep.

 

Lovina Beach on the north coast of Bali

Dolphin watching and surface diving over local reefs are popular tourist activities. If you have a bit of an interest in history and the sea I'd recommend a walk around the old seaport of Singaraja, discovering the many relics of the old Dutch capital and the commonly used northern seaport where freighters and passenger ships anchored off-shore and the ferrying was done by rowed lighters in the historical South East Asian tradition. There are also remnants that recall the great variety of home ports and nationalities of these passengers, crews and the freight throughout the era of the Dutch East India Company and earlier when trade with China and Japan was common.

On one trip from Lovina to Gilimanuk we stopped at the sight of a small fleet of highly decorated Buganese fishing boats tied between the shore and off-shore moorings. We bumped across the local village soccer field right up to the edge of a beautiful beach sheltered by a small headland on the left. The grass grew almost to the waters edge and the sandy beach was only a couple of meters wide before the edge of the clear water. It was very tempting at the time and if we had bathers and no other plans for the day it would have been easy to stay.
I've got no idea what the name of this beach was, or even if it had a name,  but I reckon it might have been around the village of Tingatinga, or do I just hope that such a beautiful spot might be associated with such a beautiful place name?

Go look! You might just find it or, if not, you might find your own little private place of dreams.

 

 

WANT TO GO ON SOMEWHERE ELSE?

 

1. Return to our Home Page Index and select another topic or a story or pictures or a Shoppers Cheat Sheet?

 

2. Read the story of a holiday in Lovina and a visit to Singaraja and another to Gilimanuk?

 

3. Check the latest gossip on the Bali Travel Forum?

 

 

 

 

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