Nirvana for the wild at heart

Rafting the rapids.

By boat or bike, paddling or pachyderm, the Island of the Gods is heaven for the adventurer.


There's more to Bali than the nightclubs and Kuta's beaches: get on your elephant, cycle among green paddy fields or take to the water to explore its underwater life.

Elephant tours

Tap into Bali's Hindu culture with a cruise through the jungle atop an Asian elephant. Don't worry about the logistics of steering a four-tonne animal, the elephants are guided by their mahouts (handlers) through Elephant Safari Park, a world-recognised sanctuary in Taro, 20 minutes north of Ubud. It started when Australian Nigel Mason rescued 10 endangered elephants from Sumatra and now includes a luxe lodge, restaurant, night safaris, botanical gardens and white-water rafting and has earned the thumbs-up from animal luminaries such as Steve Irwin. Elephant safari tours from $US73/$US49 ($70/$47), include hotel transfers, lunch and admission to the park. Bali Adventure Tours, +62 361 721 480, baliadventuretours.com.

Rafting the rapids

Skim through Bali's lush green scenery, from rice terraces to rainforests, on the rushing Ayung or Telaga Waja rivers, which provide the perfect vehicle for white-water rafting. Run by long-time outdoors experts Sobek, the Ayung River run is best for families, with grade 2-3 rafting that has a few quiet stops to catch your breath, while the Telaga Waja river route sends you down shallow rapids on a grade-3 ride in a two-hour adventure. From $US79/adult, $US52/child (7-15 years), includes towels, showers, lunch and insurance, Sobek Bali Utama, balisobek.com.

Tropical Trekking

Not-very-hard Bali trekking, Creative Holidays
Trekking in the quiet of the early morning, you can appreciate Bali's nickname, the Island of the Gods. The most popular walking trails are around Bali's highest and holiest mountain, Mount Agung, at 3142 metres, and Mount Batur, 1717 metres, in the north-east. Hiking the crater rim of Mount Batur is best done in the dry season: head up pre-dawn for a spectacular sunrise. From 450,000 rupiah ($47), includes torches, hiking sticks, wet-weather gear, hotel transfers, breakfast and guide, baliecocycling.com. For a more genteel amble, take a 2½-hour hike through rice paddies, jungles and the village of Taro, with lunch at the Elephant Safari Park, Creative Holidays, $63/adult, $45/child, 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com or through travel agents.

On your bike

Julia Roberts did it and you too can feel the tropical wind in your hair as you pedal through the paddies. Staying off the scary main roads, with their death-wish bemos (buses), seeing Bali by bike lets you listen to the peaceful soundtrack of village life. From $47, includes transfers and lunch, viator.com. Intrepid Travel's "Beautiful Bali" tour includes one day cycling from Ubud up into the hills, from $672/nine days, 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com.

Dive in

Barat National Park in north-western Bali is considered one of the island's premier diving spots, with the coral reefs of Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island) the star attraction. Guides are essential when diving in the national park: you'll find them at the jetty at Labuhan Lalang, the island's jumping-off point. To organise from down south, combine luxury and diving with Anantara resort's two-day certification courses in Barat National Park, $344, anantara.com. Sleepy Sanur, near Denpasar, is itself a divers' nursery and also the starting point for the southern hotspot of Nusa Penida island. From $US131/four days, +62 361 288 829, enadive.co.id.

Catch a break

Tropic Surf
Explore remote point breaks from your base at the secluded eastern Balinese resort Alila Manggis, with Tropic Surf owner and guru Jack Chisholm. Using the full moon, he'll lead you on a moonlit surfing safari around the little-known eastern coastline, $US661/night, four nights includes accommodation, spa treatments, some meals and daily surf guiding, Alila Manggis +62 363 41011, alilahotels.com. Private surf guiding is also available, discovering the iconic, the infamous and the unknown, from $US500/half-day (extra surfers $US100 each), which can include coaching, surfboard factory tours, transport and access to the top events on the islands, (07) 5455 4129, tropicsurf.net.

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