Bali Surfing

is a place that no-one could ever call one-dimensional. The island’s unique Hindu culture and captivating scenery are pretty hard to resist, but for a sizeable number of younger visitors, it is the lure of pounding waves and huge barrels that calls them to this island paradise.  From its early days as a tropical island hotspot, Bali has always been a surfing heavyweight. Few other places can boast such a vibrant beach scene, a great party atmosphere, world-class waves and rock-bottom prices – pretty much the ideal combination.

So where to go to catch the perfect wave in Bali? There are over 30 established surf spots on the island, generally located in the southwest, including the legendary breaks of Uluwatu and bustling Kuta beach. Elsewhere, you will find a handful of quieter spots further east – just beyond the resort of Sanur – which are at their best during the rainy season months. Here is an overview of the very best of Bali’s waves, whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned pro.

Surfing holiday at Kamafari Camp on the Bukit

Kuta

For most people, Kuta Beach is surf central. The vast majority of surfers linger in Kuta as much for its wild party scene and cheap guest houses as for the surfing itself.  Foremost, Kuta is the best spot to learn the basics at a host of professionally-run surf schools. Rip Curl School of Surf is among the very best, and offers dedicated lessons for kids too.

The long expanse of Kuta Beach is often an overwhelming mass of bodies in and out of the water, with an incredibly vibrant scene through the day – and you simply cannot miss the spectacular ocean sunsets in the evening. Kuta’s waves can initially look quite daunting to the first-time surfer but are very consistent through the dry season, and you will be amazed how quick the learning curve can be.

Numerous lanes leading off the main beach road are home to a bewildering number of board rental shops, surfer-chic fashion boutiques and a host of laid-back, surfer-friendly bars.

The Bukit

Bali’s far south, a 45-minute drive from Kuta, is the holy grail for seasoned surfing pros and fearless intermediates, with a number of world-class surf breaks located in the rugged southern peninsula known as “the Bukit.”

This is a dry, sparsely populated place, framed by rugged cliffs pounded by fierce southern ocean swells. This is where the experts come to get their kicks, and a regular stop on the world pro surfing tour. Numerous surfing movies have been filmed here, too.

The waves at Uluwatu and Padang Padang are lauded as some of the very best in the world, and definitely not for the fainthearted. Balangan and picturesque Dreamland beaches both offer slightly less intense waves that are a good challenge for intermediate surfers. Even for non-surfers, this is a fine place to hang out, watch the experts in action and admire the fabulous ocean scenery.

The vibe on the Bukit is laid back, and it is essentially a fairly rural area, quite rugged in places. This is because the whole peninsula is situated on porous limestone, and because the Bukit does not get its fair share of the rains.

There are many exclusive cliff-top villas dotted around the coastline, and more recently a handful of budget surf camps have opened, where guests can literally live the surfer lifestyle 24/7 without the obvious distractions found in bustling Kuta.

South Bali Surf Spots compliments of wannasurf.com

Canggu

Around the same distance heading north out of Kuta is Canggu – a fun spot for surfing newbies to learn a few basic moves on soft, rolling waves, as well as a few fast-moving surf breaks for intermediates. The Canggu area groups together the beaches at Batu Bolong, Berawa, busy Echo Beach, and sleepy Pererenan.

The scenery is fabulous here – a mixture of golden and black sand beaches and endless views of rice fields. However, there is rapid development taking place, and waves can get crowded in peak summer months. Less-experienced surfers should watch out for strong undertows and razor-sharp coral at low tide. There is little action after dark in Canggu, but the beach vibe is lively with a big community of friendly local surfers.

Ever Popular Waves

West Coast

Isolated out in the west are the sleepy villages of Medewi and Balian, two good all-round surf spots for intermediates who don’t mind the quiet life. Both beaches have a raw, old-school surfer vibe with little to do after dark other than star gaze around a beach bonfire.

Medewi in particular has been mooted as Bali’s next big thing, but waves are almost always uncrowded and it is a welcoming place to simply linger for a few days. There are a couple of surf schools and board-hire shops, but this is a far cry from the Kuta scene. Nearby Balian offers one of Bali’s most consistent waves all year round, and gets significantly more swell than most spots in South Bali.

Whether you are taking your very first steps as a novice surfer or love the danger of huge offshore waves, Bali fits the bill perfectly. The wild, untamed ocean scenery, particularly in the far south, is inspiration enough to get on your board and get that adrenaline pumping.

Bali’s surfing scene is great fun, with non-stop action in and out of the water. Even solo travellers will find it easy to mingle and meet new friends. You’ll soon be on a “sepeda” with your board strapped into its side-saddle.

Bali has 50 surf spots.  Nearby Lombok has 17.

Into a Volcano on a Tuesday Afternoon

I recently got a chance to take the Inside the Volcano tour. I figured the opportunity to go INSIDE a volcano is worth re-organizing your day, so I made a few quick calls, borrowed an anorak, a warm hat and mittens, and I was on my way!

It was a rainy and breezy day downtown as I walked down the hill from the booking agency to the bus station. I arrived about 10 minutes early  – well dressed and so excited- and the full bus pulled away a few minutes before the scheduled 14:00 departure.

The ride out to Mt. Thríhnúkagígur took about 30 minutes from Reykjavík, past green mossy fields and snow-covered mountains. Thríhnúkagigur peak, a part of the Blue Mountains, is the only volcano in the world where you can go inside an empty magma chamber. Our guide explained that once a volcano stops erupting, the walls often cave in- thus transforming the volcano into a crater.

We arrived at a kind of visitor’s centre, where we received a brief overview of the journey to the volcano. We would take a 3km walk to basecamp, which I would rather call a hike; though there was little change in elevation, on this particular (May) day, the snow was deep enough that my hiking boots were completely covered! I was well dressed so I was alright, but I bet the guy with the shorts and flip-flops had some second thoughts on the way!

We had the wind at our back on the way to the base camp at Þríhnúkagigur. Along the way, our guide Birgitta pointed out some pseudocraters (gervigígar), which are only found in Iceland and on planet Mars. The journey to the base of the volcano took about 45 minutes.

Once at basecamp, we had an opportunity to rest a bit and get a hot drink. They split us into groups of 3 or 4, and gave us helmets and harnesses for the short walk along the ridge, and subsequent descent into the volcano.

We met up with more guides who I later discovered were seasoned mountain men, experts in determining if it’s safe to make the walk up to the volcano. We were told it was some of the most extreme weather they’d ever done it in, but we never felt unsafe – clearly we were in good hands. The walk along the ridge was in nearly hurricane force winds that day. It was quite exhilarating as, instructed by our guides, we held hands and- with our back to the wind- slowly made our way up to the mouth of the volcano. They hooked our harnesses to lines on the metal bridge as we walked to the lift, then secured us to the lift itself.

The lift made it way slowly down, squeezing through spaces so tight that you could touch the inside of the volcano. And then suddenly, we were hanging in the gaping void. It’s incredibly huge – taller than the Statue of Liberty – and the colors are amazing.

Once we landed, we had a free range to wander inside the volcano for about 30 minutes. There were bright orange lines marking out where it was safe to walk but I didn’t feel restricted at all. Even within those boundaries, it was wise to use a headlamp and step carefully as the ground is pretty uneven in a lot of places. I marveled at all the colors of the rocks- I expected browns and reds but not bright yellows, blues and greens!

It’s surprisingly silent inside the volcano. Aside from the slight hum of the elevator running and the hushed whispers of my fellow travelers, the mountain really blocks out all outside sounds. The melted snow and rain was gently falling down into the volcano. The drops caught bits of light as they fell in what seemed like slow-motion- it was so beautiful. The photos really don’t do it justice, it’s hard to really capture the sense of serenity and peace I sat silently and let the fact that I was laying down inside this powerful (now dormant) beast of nature wash over me.

It wasn’t bad for a Tuesday afternoon. Not bad at all.

I really recommend this experience for anyone interested in nature, geology, adventuring, mountaineering, or who just wants to do something unusual. As I mentioned previously, it’s the only place in the world where you can do this sort of thing – usually volcanos will collapse once they run out of magma, and if this kind of magma chamber exists anywhere else, there definitely isn’t a handy day tour to lower you into it by elevator.

That being said, though it is efficient, it doesn’t at all feel inauthentic or particularly “touristy” – our guides were real mountaineers and everything there felt very close to nature – the trek over the mountains, the walk along the ridge, even being exposed to the elements, gave the whole thing a very outdoorsy, adventurous feel. In all it’s a great way to experience the unique, mountainous and rocky nature of Iceland, to get out of the city, and a truly magnificent way to spend a day.

TIPS

Take the weather into consideration. It can change quickly in Iceland and can be different on the mountains than it is in the city.

-Bring sunglasses- whether it’s a surprise or not, it can be bright in Iceland!

-Dress well and wear comfortable shoes- hiking boots are best, if you have them.

-Bring an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet.

-When inside the volcano, put away your camera or phone for a while and just enjoy it!

Latest Travel Trends

Latest Travel Trends

Summertime! Time to head off to your favorite destination… will you embark on a ‘staycation’ traveling in your own country or will you fly away to some remote island or perhaps visit a bustling European city?

They say that “travel broadens the mind” and I think many would agree that exploring our wonderful and diverse planet can lead to greater understanding and sharing of knowledge between cultures. In short, travel is fantastic.” Tony Tyler CEO & DG of IATA.

The Evolution of Travel

65 billion passengers have flown in the past 100 years since the first scheduled flight to carry and paying passenger in 1914.

Air passenger numbers are 3+ billion annually now. It will take only 15 years to fly the next 65 billion passengers.

The global travel and tourism industry is now valued at $7.5 +trillion.

Low cost airlines increased industry competition and gave consumers greater choice and flexibility.

Mobile phone apps and Skype signified the end of international calling cards.

Itinerary alterations based on weather changes and local events feature in many apps.

The Smartphone camera has replaced the disposable camera. Holiday snaps are mostly shared on social media.

The Internet provides travellers with information and reviews on their chosen destinations.

Digital maps e.g. Google Maps, have replaced physical maps.

Smart translation apps and increased global use of the English language, means language barriers will disappear.

Google Glass has taken the first steps to introduce augmented reality into the travel experience.

Future possibilities include even more personalised experiences e.g. restaurant recommendations for seasonal food.

Travel Trends of the future

Some highlights to consider:

The rising trend for ‘connected’ travelers to actually… unplug! Conversely, WiFi remains a key component required for both leisure and business travellers, so hotels and destinations will need to strike a delicate balance.

Space travel? Maybe not in 2015, and certainly not anytime soon to our ‘nearby’ planet Kepler 452b. Bear in mind the Rosetta spacecraft took 10 years to reach ‘that’ comet; just landed a few weeks ago. There is a new buzz surrounding the evolution of this niche in travel, though.

Disaster tourism (unfortunately) is a new possibility. People wanted to see Ground Zero after the events of 9/11 – 2001 in New York, or the Costa Concordia cruise ship while it was still afloat off Giglio, an island on the Tuscan coast of Italy. One shipwreck, the USS Liberty off Tulamben, North Bali, has been a boon to tourism – one of Bali’s best dive destinations.

Destination Hotels are another interesting trend, as many hotels want to appeal to customers with more than just rooms and beds, but rather a more family oriented experience. Grand Mirage Bali and others on the Tanjung Benoa in South Bali offer water sports and all meals as part of their family deal. Bali Dynasty in Tuban offers loads of onsite water fun, trapeezing and special Kiddy Meals and Kids’ Club. Many hotels in North Bali exist for divers, although partners may stay over.

Event based travel will rise

Travellers will use global events as a platform to build travel plans.

Brazil welcomed 1 million visitors to the World Cup and 2 million people daily at Carnival Festival in 2014.

England attracts over 170,000 people from all over the world to its Glastonbury Festival.

The Emerald Isle of Bali is expecting 5,000 runners for the 2015 Bali Marathon. Many will stay for a week or more to enjoy what Bali has on offer.

Luxury will appear in the skies

Qantas in Australia has introduced a larger selection of meals and a 50% increase in servings.

Air New Zealand ‘Skycouch’ enables relaxed seating and more comfort for families.

HOLIDAYS OF THE FUTURE?

Specialised Hotels

Highly personalised hotel services will emerge. These include: retinal door entry, electronic pillows that massage one to sleep and vitamin C showers.

Robotic hotels are now fast developing in China and Japan. Less staff to blame for mistakes? No; less staff!

Underwater Hotel

The Water Discus Underwater Hotel in Dubai, UAE, is evolving the underwater experience by developing an entire hotel underwater.

The hotel will be able to rotate underwater and rise to the surface in 15 minutes in emergencies. Guests will be able to go outside in diving gear.

7 Star Hotel?     

Who ever thought the hospitality industry could better 5 stars until the UAE built the Burj-al-arab at Jumeira in Dubai? $24,000 a night in the Royal Suite. Reach for the Sky! Or your Gold Card!

Forbidden zones

Overcrowding in classic destinations and a desire to explore new horizons will lead to the exploration of areas which were once restricted by conflict and political problems. Myanmar is an attractive destination nowadays. Years of isolation since 1962 mean it is pretty much in its original state since WWII. Central China and Mongolia are other Asian options ‘far from the madding crowd’.

Primitive lands

Eco-travellers are expected to take part in an ‘extinction race’ as people rush to be the last to see a species such as Orang Utang in Borneo and remote tribes as in Papua.

Where are you heading this holiday? You could do worse than go through Things to Do on this website.

NAGAINDO

NagaIndo Team

We started four years ago with three co-founders. Today NagaIndo has grown to a 12-man team and a full scale land developer.

NagaIndo is opening up a range of opportunities in Lombok for clients and investors – encouraging and supporting them in the challenge of turning their development visions into reality. Jean-Marc Reynier is the CEO and founder of NagaIndo and he is full of enthusiasm and positive energy as he talks about the company, about Lombok itself and how their futures are linked.

Hello Jean-Marc, tell us more about NagaIndo.
The word Naga means dragon. It’s a symbol of strength, so it’s a good choice for our company. The dragon is also on our logo, which goes from blue to green – the same colours you can see all around here in the vegetation and the sea. Indo is what the surfing world calls Indonesia and its thousands of surf breaks – so there’s another connection. NagaIndo encourages investment and development in Lombok.  There are plenty of opportunities for investors here but it’s important to know how to choose the best ones. We are a private equity company – performance oriented, and very efficient. We also have a strong commitment to our shareholders and our clients, so we are dedicated to quality projects and investors, and operate with respect for the environment.

What was the reason for setting up NagaIndo in Lombok?
I came to Lombok in 2009, and I could see so many opportunities. It felt like the right time for me to get involved. I also realised that many investors would be interested in owning not just one asset but a portfolio. The idea of investing in an emerging market like Lombok was exciting, so I created a structure to test people’s interest. It worked out – and it became a full time job.

What do you think makes a company successful?
I don’t think there is really any secret to it. You just work really hard and you make sure you have the right team around you.

What makes NagaIndo different from the customers’ point of view?
Our slogan is ‘Deal with the Experts’ and it tells our customers that they can have confidence in us. The image we want to convey to our customers is about our strength and reliability. People who work with us feel secure because NagaIndo is well set up and well managed; it has good quality projects and great staff. Appearances are important too. We project a professional image– in our office, in town, on our cars, and on our website–and we provide good working conditions for our staff.

Could you tell us more about the NagaIndo team?
The team shows the same strength and reliability. Our people are smart, honest and open-minded, and always responsive to clients’ needs. Part of our strength comes from the mix of backgrounds on our team. In Kuta, there’s our office manager Zuzana, who is Slovakian, Clara and Via, our Indonesian office assistants and I am French. The on-site team includes  Nurul, our coordinator for local affairs, and Nasa, our construction manager, who are both Indonesian,  and our Australian site manager Greg. Then there’s Yann, our French correspondent in Hong Kong. Finally nothing would have been possible without our Australian special advisers Belinda who masters all processes and local authority connections, Rachman who runs the legal team and related processes, and Neil who has a multi decade experience in land development and construction. You could say the team has a real international flavour. We also have a network of talented architects and contractors.

How do you see this place in five years?
There will be much more accommodation here with many large, new hotels especially on the Mandalika side. New direct flights will connect us to Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. I think Kuta will be busier and noisier; the rest of the coast will probably not change quite so fast. Selong Belanak will also have larger scale investment, but will still be a fair way behind Kuta. Many people already own land here and they are waiting for the right time to start building.

On a more personal note… why do you do what you do?
It is my choice – my choice of work, which I love, and my choice of life. I always wanted to come back to the countryside because that’s the kind of place I grew up in. It’s good to have a connection to my surroundings. I go surfing in the morning; it’s peaceful, relaxing and it reminds me of why I am here. I also like to ride a bike. It’s much better than driving a car, because rather than being in a bubble, you feel the wind, and hear the sounds of nature.

How do you feel about Lombok? 
I still remember how I felt, the first time I came to Lombok. I stayed just a few days but I decided I wanted to buy land here. I felt pretty comfortable and I knew that this could be it. This is definitely the place I want to be . I like the relaxed lifestyle and, because I am happy here, I like sharing it with people who come here to visit, or stay. I feel like I have found a little secret that I want to tell others about. And of course, one of the things that makes working here so special is knowing that there are such great people to work with.

I’d like to acknowledge and thank Neil and Belinda – the owners of Tate Developments – for their advice and strong support; Yann, Greg F, Nurul, Nasa, Rachman, Zuzana, Clara, Via and Kirsti for all their hard work; Greg S for his amazing architectural input; Charles and Antoine for their help and cooperation, and a special thank-you to all our international shareholders for putting their trust in us.

Sailing’s a cool way to enjoy the Alicante coast

Sailing's a cool way to enjoy the Alicante coast

“There is nothing like lying flat on your back on the deck, alone except for the helmsman aft at the wheel, silence except for the lapping of the sea against the side of the ship,”  keen sailor Errol Flynn said so eloquently,

And what could be finer than enjoying stunning scenery of golden beaches, picturesque coves, magnificent mountains and dramatic castles as you gently sail in the Alicante region of Spain?

There’s nearly 200 kilometres of coastline to discover after you fly in to Alicante airport and head for your beautiful sailing yacht. Sailing trips can be organised by the day, weekend, and a week or longer, depending on where you want to go. And with so many beautiful beaches and resorts to visit, you’ll need to plan wisely.

The fun starts when you board your boat and look back at Alicante to enjoy the views of the marina and the iconic Santa Barbara Castle. Look to the left side of the castle to see if you can spot the Moor’s face carved in the rock.

“You will see very dramatic views of Alicante from the sea,” said Steve Defries of Sailing The Med “You can get a full view of the castle.”

If you only have a day’s charter, you might want to head to the island of Tabarca, a couple of hour’s sail away, with its crystal-clear waters for snorkelling or swimming.

Alternatively you can head up the coast to enjoy the changing scenery as you move up the Costa Blanca coast.

If you have a week or fortnight to spare, there are many attractive resorts and bays to explore.

Just up the coast from Alicante is the pretty little beach resort of El Campello, with golden sandy beaches lined with seafood restaurants. If you drop anchor here, you can snorkel in the clean, clear waters at the Queen’s baths, near the marina, or go snorkelling a little further south of El Campello at San Juan beach.

Look out for octopus, moray eels and damselfish as well as sponges and anemones.

Further north the little town of Villajoyosa is worth visiting for its Valor chocolate museum, pretty coloured fishermen’s cottages and seafood restaurants. The clear, blue Mediterranean around this area is home to bryozoans as well as large schools of fish such as red mullet and grouper.

Heading up towards Benidorm, the scenery changes dramatically with a backdrop of mountains, rugged cliffs and coves. First is the impressive El Puig Campana mountain at Finestrat to the south of Benidorm.

As you sail past the impressive skyscrapers, you will come across fabulous  views of the Sierra Helada coastal mountain standing 438 metres tall.

El Campello marina

Past the mountain and you’ll come to Albir with its Hollywood-style Walk of Fame boulevard in honour of its annual film festival and the pretty town of Altea with its beautiful historic old town where the blue-and-white tiles of the church dome glisten in the sunlight.

Don’t forget to look out for groups of dolphins swimming close to the boat while you sail along the coast. You have about a 50/50 chance of seeing these beautiful creatures up close on the Costa Blanca. You’ll also come across a great variety of fish, turtles and marine vegetation.

“We often see dolphins and we have seen whales but this is a bit rare,” said Steve.

“If there are a few dolphins, they’ll often start playing with the boat. The faster the boat goes, the more they play.”

One of the finest sights to witness from sea has to be the emblematic Ifach rock at Calpe. This granite rock, 332 metres high and a kilometre wide, is halfway between a mountain and an island and provides a home for more than 80 species of birds.

You definitely don’t want to forget your camera so you can take home some breathtakingly beautiful memories of your sailing holiday in Alicante.

Sailing towards Denia, you will come across Moraira, which has fabulous little beaches before you reach the stunning cliffs at Benitatchell. This is a gorgeous setting for dropping anchor for a swim to the Cala del Moraig cove where the mountain plunges into the sea or the Cova dels Arc cave.

Calpe and its impressive Ifach rock

The dramatic cliffs and mountains continue to surprise visitors as they set sail for Javea, with its pretty-as-a-picture viewpoints such as the Cap de la Nao cape. Just before the cape, however, is one of the finest beaches in Spain. La Granadella  is a small, shingle, horse-shoe bay where the Med is a beautiful turquoise colour.

Separating Javea and Denia is another important nature reserve, the Cabo San Antonio cape and Montgo mountain. This is a great place for dolphin watching as they are often seen swimming along by the headland.

This is a protected area as the marine reserve is rich with sea life including Posidonia meadows, which an important part of the ecosystem. Fishing is forbidden and you need a special licence to dive in these waters.

Up next is Denia which boasts 15 kilometres of beaches plus a chic marina, port and an impressive castle looming over the old town and former fishermen’s cottages.

From Denia, you can set sail for the Balearic islands of Formentera which is famous for its turquoise waters and laidback atmosphere, the party island of Ibiza, Mallorca with its impressive waterfront cathedral and charming towns, or Menorca, another island for relaxing and enjoying beautiful scenery.

Taking a relaxing sailing holiday is a lovely way to see the beautiful and ever-changing coastal landscape in the Alicante region.

As Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

What are you waiting for? Contact Sailing The Med for more information about sailing holidays or learning to sail holidays from Alicante.