The perfect complement to any meeting or conference in Bali is the fantastic range of activities and attractions available. With blue skies and warm temperatures enjoyed in Bali most of the year, conference organisers and incentive planners can confidently include interesting outdoor group activities in their programs. While Bali is a great place to get a tan, there a lot more to the island than relaxing on a beach.
Always Something to Do
No visitor to Bali need ever feel bored. In fact, as the reincarnate Balinese know, it takes at least several lifetimes to enjoy everything the island has to offer. From spectacular pre-dawn climbs to the summits of smouldering volcanoes to legendary world-class surf breaks, Bali attractions have earned the island its place as the worlds favourite island destination in Travel & Leisure magazine for several years running. Offshore or onshore, natural or man-made, cultural or educational, Bali has all options covered.
Beaches are never far away, and the range of water sports on offer in Bali is staggering. Windsurfing, surfing, boogie-boarding, paragliding, swimming, diving, snorkelling, sea-walking, sport-fishing, wake-boarding, jet-skiing, power-boating, or kite-surfing-you name it, and Bali water-sport operators have got it.
A trip to the quieter inland mountain regions will provide an experience of the natural side of Bali and an escape from the busier southern coastal areas. The mountain vistas are astounding and the wildlife abundant. Visitors can participate in a yoga or meditation courses, marvel at a sacred waterfall, or just absorb the tropical vibe of a lush rainforest.
For rafters, bungee jumpers, four-wheel drive enthusiasts and hang gliders-thrills and quasi-adventures abound. The exemplary safety record of the major action-sport operators suggests that most adventures are decidedly 'soft', being operated under the supervision of well-trained, experienced professionals.
Specialist firms expertly organise group and team-building adventures such as white-water rafting expeditions, river kayaking, mountain treks, cycling tours, offshore excursions, and activities such as paintball competitions or high- and low-rope challenges over spectacular river canyons.
White-water rafting on the Ayung River through tropical rainforest in the environs of Ubud is a beguilingly safe activity suited to all age groups. The shallow, winding river spills over rock-falls and through narrows in a pristine environment. Run by experienced guides, rafting in the rapids provides enough thrills and spills to get the adrenaline levels rising.
For a greater adrenaline rush, the more adventurous can try white-water rafting on the faster-flowing rapids of the Unda River in Karangasem.
Cycling tours-peaceful, enjoyable rides through rainforests, rice fields and rural areas, with some strenuous sections through the hills-are classified as "gentle" adventures. Guides provide information on the natural terrain, wildlife and the agrarian life of the areas, and dedicated tours for groups of any size can be arranged.
Trekking options are plentiful, with hikes of various lengths and degrees of difficulty to accommodate walkers at any level of fitness. Options range from walking city tours around Denpasar, easy jaunts along centuries-old rural irrigation systems, visits to forest temples, bird-watching expeditions in picturesque river valleys, pre-dawn volcano climbs or jungle treks. Bali rich variety of ecosystems makes all these options, and more, possible.
Informative guided tours of the island are also popular. Guides speak a surprising range of languages, and outings usually include transport, safety gear, traditional sarongs for visits to religious sites, lunch and changing facilities. Tours can be customized to meet the special interest of the group, and may include team-building activities, gourmet meals and unique cultural experiences.
It is said that there are more artisans in Bali than in any similar-sized space on earth, and artistically-inclined visitors will easily find their creative niche. Balinese culture boasts a seemingly endless array of traditional art forms, and visitors are welcome to try their hand at something new, even learning with artists in their villages. Participating in gamelan and dance workshops, carving a traditional mask, casting pottery pieces, or cooking up a "spice-storm" in a Balinese cooking class are all possibilities.
For those on a generous budget, chartering a helicopter to see the beauty of this tropical paradise from the air may be an option. Or maybe a Harley Davidson motorcycle tour For a bit of friendly competition, golf enthusiasts will enjoy the award-winning golf courses dotted across the island, with choices from beachside to mountain-enclave settings.
More laid-back travellers may choose to a stroll around a butterfly, bird or elephant park, or simply amble through breezy rice fields in villages off the beaten track.
A wide variety of luxurious day and evening cruises operate in the waters around Bali. The selection includes luxury sailing, reef cruising, and an exhilarating early morning high-speed cruise along the coastline of Nusa Dua to Uluwatu on the Bukit Peninsula to view ocean-going dolphins. Depending on the time of year and sea conditions, whale spotting is also a distinct possibility.
Day excursions to the offshore island of Lembongan include a host of water-related activities featuring snorkelling, supervised dive programs, a variety of water-sports and beachside activities, with barbeque lunch thrown in.
Popular with small groups and conference participants are evening dinner cruises in the calm confines of Bali Benoa Harbour, including on-board entertainment and a splendid meal.
Visitors can join one of the local cruises offered on Bali-based sailing vessels-some with scuba-dive and snorkel options. Alternatively, idyllic evening sailing trips are perfect for those seeking a romantic interlude afloat. Other sailing vessels offer adventure trips to the islands east of Bali, cruising in a wooden phinisi (a traditional two-masted sailing ship) outfitted with modern navigational gear and specifically modified for passenger journeys to exotic destinations such as Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo Island, Flores or Sumba.
The presence of so many hardcore surf shops in the Kuta-Legian area attests to the fact that Bali waves are equal to the best found anywhere in the world. Kuta six-kilometre stretch of shorelin-the longest and the most beautiful in all of Bali-provides excellent recreational waves of up to two metres, fanned and shaped by offshore winds for at least nine months of the year.
The real surfing connoisseurs, however, grab their boards and sunscreen and take themselves far from the madding crowd to the more remote sun-drenched beaches of the Bukit on the island southwest tip. With its endless sunshine, perfect waves and impressive cliffs facing the Indian Ocean, this dry, rocky peninsula offers some of the best surfing spots in the world. Surfing is also one of the big attractions of Lembongan Island, location of one of Indonesia most outstanding surf breaks.
Diving and Snorkelling
Bali seas are also internationally known among scuba divers and snorkellers for their diverse marine life, superb visibility and sensational drop-offs. The best diving and snorkelling locale for beginners is the coastline around Amed in the northeast, while the spectacular Menjangan reef in the northwest, with its gorgonian-covered walls, is one of the great dive sites of Southeast Asia. Big-fish scuba enthusiasts dive the waters around the island of Nusa Penida off Bali southeast coast, or explore the eerie, sunken World War II American ship, Liberty, off Tulamben. On Bali east coast the bay and surrounding waters of Padangbai offer excellent snorkelling and diving.
The water-sports centres in many of Bali hotels offer diving activities, with experienced instructors and full sets of gear for hire. Reputable independent dive operations also provide gear, wetsuits, lunch, transport, experienced instructors, as well as porters to and from the beach. Bali is the ideal place to earn a diving certification. It can take as little as two days, and courses are offered in English, German, Spanish, French or Japanese.
More Adventure Options
A day of horse riding on a spectacular beach makes a fun interlude for a group. Thoroughbred, local and mix-breed horses are available for rides through picturesque rice fields, along the beach or through local villages.
A trip to explore the secret soul of the island by road with a driver-guide could venture through rarely-visited highland villages, where visitors can watch the planting of new rice shoots and visit a typical farming family compound, topping off the day with a gourmet Indonesian buffet lunch served in a restaurant deep in the rainforest.
Bali more remote areas can be visited in off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles travelling in convoy. Groups of up to 30 can be transported this way. One such trip could be to the cool mountainous terrain of Jatuluwih on the slopes of Mt Batukaru, worlds away from the crowds of Bali south. For the truly bold, wandering Bali back roads in a self-drive car or by motorbike can be easily arranged via meeting planners.