After the somewhat depressing and frustrating experiences in Lovina we headed to Pemuteran which borders Bali's National Park. The park was established in the early part of last century, primarily to preserve the habitat of a number of indigenous species including the near extinct Bali Starling. Suffice to say we didn't see it, nor did we see any of the deer, wild boar or leopard cats which inhabit the park. What we did see were lots more macaque monkeys eager to eat anything and everything that tourist are willing to feed them. All we had in the car was some muesli and it was funny to see them examining and smelling it before deciding it was edible. There's just no pleasing some people!
Menjangan Island, just off the coast, forms part of the park and is renowned for its diving and snorkelling. Again we chose the latter and were rewarded with an array of marine life and coral that put Malaysia's Perhentian Islands to shame. We saw some weird and wonderful sights, not least of which were a unicorn fish, a bottle fish, a school of squid and a puffer fish which blew itself up to twice its size when it encountered us!
Another of the highlights of our stay in Permuteran was the traditional dancing and music that provided the after-dinner entertainment on the night we arrived. We were treated to around a dozen different performances each of which was visually stunning and accompanied by traditional music called Gamelan
For us Gamelan has become the soundtrack to Bali, however as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. There seems to be a limited number of 'greatest hits' and these seem to be played in the reception of every hotel that we've stayed at since we got to Bali!
After Pemuteran we drove south, stopping off at the one of the oldest Hindu temples in Bali. It has a vey serene feel about it partly because it's little visited and also because it's looked after by a caretaker who was in his late 70's, helped by his mother who's 110 years old, or at least that's what she told us!
After a drive down the west coast of the island during which we caught glimpses of the sea through towering palm trees which dwarfed the cattle standing amongst them, we finally arrived in Jimbaran
Jimbaran used to be a tiny fishing village with a daily market. In the past 20 years several upscale resorts have been built and these, together with the large private villas that occupy the high ridges overlooking the bay have earned Jimbaran the nickname “Beverley Hills of Bali”!
Eating seafood on the beach in is a quintessential element of a visit to Jimbaran. The beach is home to about fifty grilled seafood restaurants. Choice of restaurant is relatively unimportant as they all offer pretty much the same experience. It was a bit like the fish barbecues on the Perhentian Islands but with lots more people, a group of strolling musicians and a wider menu selection, all of which comes at three times the price!
Close by to Jimbaran is the 'Secret Beach' which, appropriately, we stumbled upon by accident. The road to the beach was pretty nondescript, but turn the corner and you're presented with an amazing view of the seaweed beds sitting under the shallow, calm waters which stretch along the shore. From the hill side you can clearly see how the sea-bed has been sectioned into rectangular plots that resemble a patchwork quilt. Workers live in shoreline shacks and spend much of the time between dawn until dusk up to their waists in sea-water seeding and harvesting the seaweed which grows along lines tethered to the sea-bed. After harvesting the seaweed is laid out to dry before being taken to market to be sold. The seaweed grown on the island produces carrageenan which is used in shampoos and interacts with human carotene to give soft skin and silky hair, so now you know
Away from the seaweed beds there was a bay which was completely deserted other than a small shack selling sea-shells. At the water's edge there were dozens of crystal clear rock-pools, all teeming with small fish, crabs and starfish. We ended up spending ages just sitting, watching and getting lost in the comings and goings of all sorts of marine life
There is definitely something special about the Secret Beach, something that the locals are keen to acknowledge by carving huge figures of the five Paca Pendatha from the Mahabaratha into the side of the rock-face leading down to the beach
Our next stop is the Bukit Peninsula in the south of the island. We visited previously when we had a day trip to see the Rip Curl Padang Padang Cup. This time we'll be there for several days and it'll be interesting to see how different things are without the razzmatazz of a world class surfing event