Bali is an Indonesian island located at the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country's 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island. It has an area of only 5632 square kilometres (2175 square miles) and measures just 55 miles (90 km) along the north-south axis and less than 90 miles (140 km) from East to West. Because of this it's no problem to explore the island on day tours.
Bali is famous for its beautiful landscape. A chain of six volcanoes, between 1350 and 3014 metres high stretches from west to east. There are lush tropical forests, pristine crater lakes, fast flowing rivers and deep ravines, picturesque rice terraces, and fertile vegetable and fruit gardens. The beaches in the South consist of white sand, while beaches in other parts of the island are covered with gray or black volcanic sand.
It is also renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.
The wide variety of tropical plants is surprising. You'll see huge banyan trees in villages and temple grounds, tamarind trees in the North, clove trees in the highlands, acacia trees, flame trees, and mangroves in the South. And there are flowers, flowers everywhere. You'll see (and smell the fragrance of) hibiscus, bougainvillea, jasmine, and water lilies. Magnolia, frangipani, and a variety of orchids are found in many front yards and gardens, along roads, and in temple grounds.
Elephants and tigers don't exist any more in Bali, since early this century. Wildlife, however, includes various species of monkeys, civets, barking deer and mouse deer, and 300 species of birds including wild fowl, dollar birds, blue kingfishers, sea eagles, sandpipers, white herons and egrets, cuckoos, wood swallows, sparrows, and starlings.
You can watch schools of dolphins near Lovina, Candi Dasa, and Padangbai. Divers will see many colorful coral fish and small reef fish, moray eels, and plankton eating whale sharks as well as crustaceans, sponges, and colorful coral along the east coast and around Menjangan Island near Gilimanuk.
Water sports abound with swimming, snorkeling, banana boat rides, water skiing, parasailing – the list is endless. The most challenging of Bali's famous surfing spots are near Ulu Watu (only for experts) and along Bali's West coast North of Canggu.
The best Bali diving sites (some with ship wrecks) are along Bali's East coast near Candi Dasa, Amed and Tulamben and near Nusa Penida. And if you’re into game fishing, the catch includes Tuna, Wahoo, Mai-Mai, Mackerel and Marlin – or Snapper, Cod and Coral Trout are to be caught reef fishing should you so desire
There are daily cruises to nearby Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan islands off the South-East coast of Bali. Guests spend the day either at one of the cruise companies' beach clubs (with restaurant, swimming pool, water sports equipment) or on a floating pontoon, and you can go snorkeling, scuba diving, take Banana Boat rides, or view the underwater world from a semi-submersible vessel.
You can choose between modern, air-conditioned motor cruisers accommodating 100 and more guests and a number of smaller sailing boats. For the more adventurous there is a 12-metre inflatable Ocean Raft carrying up to 24 passengers.
You can book a tour which brings you about 70 feet below the sea of Amuk Bay, Padangbai. The small submarine can carry about 36 guests, and large port holes allow you to view and photograph underwater reefs and corals, many marine creatures, and a large variety of fish including sharks.
You might prefer an exciting white water rafting tour on the Ayung river North-West of Ubud and - during certain times of the year - also on the Unda river North of Klungkung. You pass waterfalls and volcanic cliffs, deep sided gorges, tranquil rice terraces and remote villages.
Visit the Bali Barat National Park in the West of the island, the Butterfly Park ‘Taman Kupu Kupu’ in Wanasari, Tabanan, or the Botanical Gardens in Bedugul. Guided bird watching tours are offered starting from Ubud (in the village of Petulu a few miles north of Ubud you can also watch between 5.30 and 7;00 pm, the arrival of thousands of white herons who nest there).
You can visit the bull races in Negara or get up early one morning and hire a boat to watch hundreds of dolphins.
Experience Bali on horse back, riding through rice fields and along deserted beaches. Or for bikers who want to explore Bali in a different way, Harley Davidson bikes are available for rent.
The Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club near Bedugul in the mountains is probably Bali's most attractive golf course. There is also an 18 hole course at the Bali Golf and Country Club in Nusa Dua, a 9 hole course at the Grand Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur, and the new Nirwana Bali Golf Club with a 18-hole course near Tanah Lot.
The combination of the friendly people, natural attractions, the great variety of things to see and do, and the year-round pleasant climate make Bali a special holiday destination. And then there is Bali's special ‘magic’, which is difficult to explain.
As soon as you step off the plane you might sense the difference. In the villages you'll notice the quietness and wisdom in old people's faces, and the interest and respect in the young's. Old men sit at the road side caressing their fighting cocks. Beautifully dressed women walk proudly through rice fields and forests carrying offerings on their heads to the next temple. There is the smell of flowers, and in the distance you hear the sound of gamelan music.
Watch out, the moment you feel the magic of this island, you're addicted for the rest of your life.