Here at Casa Travelfish, July is a busy month on the birthday count with the birthdays of Chief Researcher-in-training William (born 2008) and Chief Researcher-soon-retiring Stuart (born well, a long time before William) just two days apart. So if you’re looking for birthday activities for the young and old in Bali, what are some good choices?
Aside from the uber-friendly staff, there is nothing remotely Balinese about this fantastic water park, but for all ages it absolutely rocks. Despite being right in the heart of otherwise often dodgy Kuta, it really is a solid affair. Slides cater from toddlers through to teenagers — and their parents — and everything is spotless and extremely well maintained. The park recently added some new slides and removed others (Macaroni sob, sob). Families can hire gazebos to relax in, or there are plenty of deckchairs for those sliding solo or on a budget. One tip: Get there early as by late morning the queues can get a bit tiresome. The park practices double pricing with significant discounts for Indonesians and KITAS holders.
Waterbom, Jalan Kartika, Kuta, T: (0361) 755 676
Bali Safari Park
This is a crowd pleaser for young kids, but adults will find some of the displays poorly kept and the animal enclosures are not up to the standards of the West. Photography with a white tiger and orangutans is particularly disappointing to see. On the upside, for young kids there is a petting zoo and some of the other displays are okay. A small water park is on site, but it doesn’t come close to Waterbom and is understaffed. A joint ticket is available for the Safari Park and Waterbom, which is a good deal, but otherwise tickets are quite overpriced — as with Waterbom, this park practices double pricing with significant discounts for Indonesians and KITAS holders.
Bali Safari Park, Jalan Bypass Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra, Km. 19, T: (0361) 751 300
Bali Bird Park
This is a quite impressive bird park on the road to Ubud that offers a wide variety of displays, including a baby bird area and some good shows. It’s not to the standard of say the bird park in Singapore, but it’s a solidly run affair and will easily keep kids occupied for half a day. The park can be a useful half-way stopping point if you’re moving your hotel base from Sanur to Ubud.
Bali Bird Park, Jalan Serma Cok Ngurah Gambir, Batubulan, T: (0361) 299 352
Serangan Turtle Centre
Not a party place, but young kids will find this an interesting diversion before perhaps an afternoon at the beach. Turtles are hatched here while larger, injured turtles are cared for. It’s a low-key spot reliant on donations and volunteering is also available.
Exploring Serangan’s Turtle Centre
While Bali is famous for its beaches, a fun whitewater rafting scene offers some spectacular scenes as you make your way down the river. It’s not quite world class but it’s fun — expect frosty waters should you opt for a swim. We went for a friend’s birthday party with low expectations but really loved it. We used Bali Adventure Tours, but Sobek is another popular operator.
Take a surfing class
What’s a birthday without being pummelled by the waves? A one-day or multi-day course could be just the right thing to kick Dad out of the sun lounger or to get the kids away from the dreaded iPad. Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are all popular places to learn, and even the least capable (ie people like us) should be able to stand up by the end of Day One.
Learning to surf on Bali
If you’re looking for a more grown-up evening out, where to start? For dining with a sunset view La Lucciola (reservations essential T: (0361) 730 838) is hard to beat. For fancypants cocktails, pool and sunset, Potato Head, Mozaic Beach Club, Ku De Ta, Sundara or Rock Bar are all crowd pleasers in South Bali, but there are plenty of other beach bars should you be happy to forgo the pool. We love Pantai Indah Seafood in Sanur for its low-key back-to-basics vibe and cheap drinks (warning: they play Bob Marley). Or grab some barbecued corn and a couple of longnecks and sit on the beach in front of Museum Le Mayeur to enjoy the fading light as the artist once did.
Where to start? Ubud and Seminyak remain the heartland for fine dining. For Indonesian and other Asian, in no particular order, Merah Putih, Bambu (T: (0361) 8469797), Mamasan, Sardine and Sarong in Seminyak delight as do Locavore and Mozaic in Ubud. Cuca in Jimbaran is also excellent. In all cases, reservations are essential.
“I’m taking you away for your birthday…” — little did they know they’d be getting on an airplane. Some of our favourite fancier couples’ getaways include Temple Lodge at Bingin, La Joya at Balangan, Organic Farm at Munduk Lumban, and Life in Amed, in well, Amed. If you spent all your money on the airfare to get to Bali, look at Kembang Kuning Ocean View in Bingin, Brown Feather in Seminyak, Aliya Homestay in Umalas, Medewi Homestay in Medewi or Ubud Lestari in Ubud.
Spas and massage
Bali offers very affordable through to ridiculously expensive massage and spa options. The best foot massage on the island is tucked away in Sanur — 50,000 rupiah gets you an hour of great reflexology at Alam Bali just opposite Smorgas cafe. For a full-body massage, we reckon it’s worth splurging on Jari Menari in Seminyak or Nusa Dua — go for the Tibetan singing bowl option for something a bit different. For therapeutic, serious massage, try Uggis at Medewi Homestay or Rachmat through Pondok Pitaya in Balian (3 & 2 hours west of South Bali respectively). Be warned: they do serious bodywork, almost like rolfing, and you will walk away with bruises but in a good way.
For spas where it’s also about setting, the riverside Maya is just gorgeous and Spa by L’Occitane at Kupu Kupu Barong, both in Ubud, are lovely, though you are paying more for the location.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
29 other destinations in Bali