Bali, heaven of Indonesia, popularly known as ‘Island of the Gods’, is most people’s dream destination. We were fortunate enough last year to travel to Bali, having extensively planned with our travel partner, Mr. Mohammed Muzammil Salem, Manager, Leisure Travel, Thomas Cook, M. G. Road, Bangalore. He gave us an itinerary after understanding our needs. Also, he ensured throughout that he was available to us at all times. On 14th May 2017, we boarded Singapore Airlines to head towards Denpasar, Bali. There are no direct flights to Bali, we chose to have our layover in Singapore. For convenience sake, we preferred to travel overnight so that our sleep cycle wouldn’t be affected. As we were arriving Bali, the Indian Ocean view from up above was just stunning. We already could picture what the hype about Bali was.
Bali and its people greet you with so much love that you start feeling like you’re one of them. Our guide, Gede, from Pacto, was eagerly looking forward to seeing us as he loves Indian culture and he made sure to make a Bollywood playlist for our commute.
It was a 2-hour long drive to our first stay — Mara Rive Safari Lodge: ‘Bali safari and marine park’. Just about when we were getting restless, we were taken away by the beauty of this place. When we got there, we were given refreshments and a wet towel, after which, the staff showed us to our room. We knew that it was going to be a different experience living with animals around us.
We took a shower and hit the Tsavo Lion restaurant for lunch. This meal was definitely a memorable one as it’s not every day that you get to eat with lions walking outside the restaurant eyeing your lunch. We spent some time with the staff understanding all the activities the stay has to offer. Being super tired, we jumped into the beds. We spent this day relaxing so that we would have the energy for the fun-filled days lined up.
Upon reservation, we were picked up by an elephant to head towards breakfast. This elephant ride in itself was a mini safari. Tsavo Lion had lined up a great buffet breakfast which was exactly the note we wanted to start our day on. Immediately after the meal, we were determined to go explore the park to its fullest. We first took a map from the reception as this place was H-U-G-E.
The first thing we found was their bird park. We clicked some pictures with the different species of birds and marched on.
We then stepped into the safari bus & took off on a ride in the wild. The guide in the bus was a charming young woman who made us laugh all through the ride. She gave us insights on the animals that would approach and their background during their time in the zoo. It was well organized and thoughtful of the park. The best sighting of the ride was a lion with a fully fledged mane of hair.
After the safari, we enjoyed an automated boat ride as we travelled through the dark caves, spotted birds and relaxed ourselves with the serenity of the man-made waterfalls.
As it was time for the Bali Agung show, we got seated at the venue and looked forward to what was lined up. Soon, we heard soothing music and got to witness the traditional Bali dance. As an element of surprise, tigers from the backstage came upfront and played around with the zookeepers. When it was time to wrap up, one of the tigers even refused to get back in as it wanted to mess around with its caretakers.
Having loved this show, we headed towards the zoo. We clicked pictures with snakes and got to see white tigers up close through the glass, it almost felt as though we were with them.
We were also lucky enough to spot a leopard that was hidden amidst the huge leaves of a tree.
After all of these activities, ‘we were exhausted’ would be an understatement. We had lunch and went to relax at the water park. When we got back to the room and refreshed ourselves, we heard the distant tribal music. We quickly walked towards the music only to realize that there was a fire dance going on.
We had no more energy left, so we then ended the day with Tsavo Lion’s delicious Spinach Ravioli.
We went swimming this morning while sipping on beer from the poolside bar. Oh, wait! You don’t say beer in Bali, you say Bintang.
It was now time to quickly refresh ourselves, have breakfast and move on to our next hotel.
Okay, honestly, we were not one bit excited to go away from such a tranquil location. But we knew there were more sides to Bali that we had to explore. Whenever we fly back to Bali again, we would definitely come back to Mara River.
Once we reached our next hotel — ‘Grand Mirage’, we got to see the more busy parts of Bali. We were welcomed with a flower garland and a drink at the reception. We decided to spend this day at leisure so we took our own sweet time to inhale the fresh air from their private beach. Not wanting to pass the day away, we instantly refreshed ourselves and used the hotel’s transport to get to Beachwalk Shopping Centre, a huge mall right beside Kuta beach stocked up with Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, Coach, Topshop and many such reputed brands. We shopped way too much that we had to even buy an extra suitcase. After this, we spent our late evening enjoying the impeccable Kuta nights.
Woken up by the sun’s rays peeking through the curtain gaps, we quickly filled our stomachs with an English buffet breakfast and met with our lovely guide, Narayana, from Pacto, at the hotel lobby.
“Today is going to be an eventful day.”, Narayana said, “We will first watch Bali’s special Barong dance which depicts acts from Ramayana. Then we shall go have a look at the artistic creation of my people that you will fall in love with.
After which, we can make a quick stop at one of the beautiful rice fields where you can get great pictures. Once that’s done, we can drive up north to check out the coffee plantation where you will get to have a close look at the Luwak coffee preparation and also get to taste the different kinds of beverages so that you can buy some to take back home.
We will then visit the magnificent Kintamani which is an active volcano. The place offers a wonderful lunch buffet with the breathtaking views of the mountains.
Later, we can cleanse ourselves at the holy springs of Tirta Empul, Tampaksiring. Lastly, we will wind the day with Goa Gajah, an elephant cave, as the name suggests.”
We went to all the places Narayana mentioned and definitely appreciate him for having squeezed time and taken us to so many places in just one day. We got back to the hotel, ordered Indonesia’s signature dish — Soto Ayam for dinner and got back to our rooms.
Having missed sunrise the previous day, we decide to set an alarm to watch it without a miss. As soon as we woke up, we ran down to get time lapses and pictures. It was one of the best feelings ever. Now, we know why people say that traveling changes you.
We had breakfast and immediately went on to explore the beach activities. We went parasailing, under water snorkel and took a ferry ride to Nusa Penida. When we got back, we showered and headed towards Uluwatu accompanied by our guide. We were welcomed by the playful monkeys and a dense forest.
We then got a glimpse of the best sunset ever over the Indian Ocean while we watched the Ketcak dance which depicted Hanuman setting fire to Lanka. We got back to the hotel in silence as we were still processing all the things Bali has to offer.
It was our last day at Bali and we were quite upset. We just didn’t want to go back home after having created lifelong memories. But the hotel had no intentions of letting its guests go back home sad. They had a buffet dinner lined up, worth Rs. 5000 per person, with live performances, mostly Indian songs sung by Balinese people. Oh, my heart, they sounded adorable!
We took a long walk by the beachside before going to bed because these tiny moments are what make the trip worthwhile.
The blaring alarm woke us up. All our enthusiasm had gone down the drain. But we had a flight to catch so we got ready and scooted to the airport.
On the way back home, we discussed how Thomas Cook is the most trusted travel partner. They offer an itinerary according to our tastes and budget, making sure their aim of providing us the best is achieved. We would like to take a second to thank Thomas Cook for including Mara River on our itinerary. We would’ve never found this place if not for them. Everything went so smoothly from timely pickup to quick check in’s at the hotels, even the entry into paid sightseeings was so effortlessly taken care of.
It’s been exactly one year since we travelled to Bali, but the memories we created still has an impression on us. Bali, thank you for the generous people you have given birth to, thank you for the beauty that you have preserved and thank you for allowing us to be a part of you!
We recommend everyone reading this to travel often. This is the only time you’ll be truly spending on yourself. It’s a life-changing experience where you get to know more about yourself each time.
Thank you for making it to the end, we hope you liked it! If you did, check out this space for more blogs. Feel free to let us know what you think. Stay inspired!
1) Bali Safari and Marine Park (Instagram — @balisafari)
2) Grand Mirage (Instagram — @grandmirageresort)