Black sand beaches and clear blue waters. If there is a heaven on earth, then this is it.
As we stepped from the vehicle after our three-hour drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, we knew that our prayers had been answered. We were on the Amed Coast on the east coast of Bali and we were in heaven. No crowds. No shopping malls. Just beautiful coastline and small coastal village-charm. Amen.
Amed. The real Bali
Returning to the ‘Isle of the Gods’ in early 2019 and determined to discover the ‘real Bali’, Dinah and I began our journey in East Bali on the Amed Coast. We stayed in the coastal village of Amed, on to Lipah and then south through Candidasa to the port town of Padangbai. Then finally, to the more populated centres of Canggu and Echo Beach, Seminyak and Sanur in southern Bali. This is the first chapter of our 2019 Bali Odyssey.
Wayan, our driver had picked us up from the airport in Denpasar. Amed is around 100 kilometres from Denpasar yet the journey takes almost 3 hours thanks to traffic, slow Balinese drivers and challenging roads. Who cares? The trip is in itself an adventure as we leave behind the heavily populated southern Bali region and head north through the coastal villages of Ketewel, Lebih, Kusamba, Padangbai and Candidasa and hinterland villages and rice paddies of Amlapura and Tirta Gangga. The road over the mountains and through the mountain villages is steep and windy and often very narrow, yet somehow the traffic keeps moving and there is absolutely no sign of road rage.
Our final destination is Amed. With the imposing Gunung Agung, Bali’s largest active volcano known locally as the ‘navel of the world’ and ‘Mother Mountain’ as a backdrop, the Amed Coast just has to be one of the most beautiful places in Bali to visit and explore. Rice paddy terraces spill down hillsides under swaying palms and coral-filled bays and wild volcanic beaches of rich black sand are washed by pounding seas. Here age-old villages survive with barely a trace of the 21stcentury.
Dive, dine and doze
Travellers often say that Amed is all about ‘dive, dine and doze’. This pretty-much sums up the laid-back atmosphere and pace of this place.
If you are a keen diver, then the Amed Coast just has to be on your Bali itinerary. The island’s eastern coastline is world-famous as a dive location and is a veritable underwater paradise. While the village of Amed is the most populated of the region, the entire coast in this area is referred to as Amed and includes the seven seaside villages of Amed, Jemeluk, Bunutan, Lipah, Seland, Banyuning and Aas. All are fishing villages so the shoreline of black sand is crowded with traditional and colourful jukung outriggers. There are numerous dive shops that can organise your dive itinerary and supply any and all your dive equipment – saves bringing it from home. Two of the more popular dives are on the wreck of the US cargo ship, the USAT Liberty and the WW2 Japanese patrol boat at Banyuning that lies just 15 metres from the shore. One of the unique aspects of diving in this region is that most dive sites are reached from the beach making them easily accessible for all diving proficiencies. The reefs are just off shore. This also makes it ideal for those of us who simply want to snorkel. Here too you can enjoy the most dramatic sunrises in Bali on board an outrigger catching the first glimpses of the sun on the glistening waves, or go fishing at sun-up. You’ll find boat trips available at kiosks all along Amed Beach.
There is lots to see and do in and around Amed and day tours using Amed as your base are a great way to make sure that you don’t miss a thing. If you are up to it, you can rent a motor scooter. This is a fun way to venture far and wide and explore not only the coast but also the beautiful inland slopes and terraced rice paddies. Spectacular! Many accommodation places also rent bicycles for those who prefer pedal-power. Or you can simply walk and soak up the local atmosphere. Whatever way you choose to travel, make sure that you take water. It gets very hot and humid here. For longer sorties, it is best to hire a car and driver. At around 600,000 rupiah for the day, it is good value as you get to travel in air-conditioned comfort and benefit from the local knowledge of your Balinese driver. There are myriad websites you can visit to check out all there is to see and know about Amed. For all your diving information, go to: www.diveconcepts.com/divingor www.twofishdivers.com
For information on the Amed Coast, including places to stay and places to visit, go to: www.bali-indonesia/amed
Indonesia, and Bali in particular, is famous for its food. There are numerous places to eat on the Amed Coast, with restaurants and eateries serving international cuisine as well as local Indonesian and Balinese favourites at incredibly inexpensive prices. Personally, I am hooked on the traditional dish of Indonesia, Nasi Goreng. Most eateries are located along the main road that follows the coastline or front onto the beach. One of our favourites in Selang Beach is Aquaterrace, serving Japanese, International, Indonesian and local cuisine. The restaurant is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Aquaterrace restaurant adjoins the Aquaterrace B&B. For more information and bookings, go to: www.aquaterrace-amed.comor just call in.
There are also numerous hotels along the Amed Coast. At the start of our Bali odyssey, we stayed at Kelapa Cottage in Amed village. About 500 metres from the beach and the hustle and bustle of Amed’s main street, this is truly a magical place. Set in lush tropical gardens and surrounded by forest and green hills, the resort offers a choice of accommodation including private rooms and traditional Balinese bungalows set around a sparkling swimming pool. And there is also a dormitory for back-packers. Kelapa Cottage also offers outstanding local and international cuisine in its own resort restaurant and with a focus on health and wellness, offers specialist yoga classes and traditional massage in their Wellness Centre. We love it here. Great location, great service and great people. Thank you to Phillippe, Mario and Elise as well as all the Kelapa Cottage staff. This truly is the ideal location to experience the ‘dive, dine and doze’ of Amed. Or just chill! Visit Kelapa Cottage online and book at: www.kelapacottage.com
On a slightly disappointing note, many of the roads and village laneways around the village of Amed are littered with rubbish, both loose and in dreaded plastic bags. Not only is this visual pollution, it is also dangerous to health. This rubbish has to end up somewhere when it rains and invariably it does so in the ocean and the waterways. The local authorities need to clean it up and keep it clean. Fortunately as you head south to Lipah and Lipah Beach, the area seems much cleaner.
Lipah – spectacular ocean vistas
Heading south along the east coast, the next stop on our Bali odyssey is Lipah and Lipah Beach, about 5 kilometres from Amed. We really do believe that East Bali and Lipah is the closest thing to the real Bali. While Lipah Beach is the most developed beach in the area, it manages to retain much of its traditional Balinese charm and character. One of the most outstanding aspects of Lipah is its elevation. Unlike Amed which is located at sea-level, Lipah is built around tropically wooded headlands that rise well above the sea, so the views are spectacular. We had friends from Australia also staying in Lipah so it was doubly enjoyable for Dinah and I to stay here – experiencing a truly unspoilt part of Bali and catching up with Clark and Tegan Marshall from Blue Dog Digital Marketing.
Lipah Beach is different in that, unlike other beaches on the Amed Coast, there are no rocks on the beach, only black sand with fine traces of gold through it, making it definitely more pleasant to relax on. Beach lounges are provided, but at a price. The going rate is 50,000 IDR, but often you can negotiate a better price, particularly during the quieter season. This is a great snorkelling beach with the best snorkelling accessed directly from the beach. Just look for the sign ‘Snorkelling Entrance’. Bring your own gear or hire snorkelling gear from the kiosks that dot the shoreline. Speaking of shoreline, like Amed, Lipah Beach is packed with traditional Balinese fishing boats, some of which are available to hire for diving or fishing. It is also lined with cheap eateries for after diving dining.
As in Amed, there is no shortage of accommodation options, from cheap to very expensive, by Balinese standards. Being frugal travellers, we opted for inexpensive accommodation, booking three nights at the Acarya Bungalows on the main road. At under AUD $20 a night, this is excellent value for a single bedroom bungalow with your own bathroom. There is a great pool in the complex and the views from our balcony were excellent. A great spot to enjoy a Bali sunrise. However, the complex is dated and in real need of an upgrade. At the other end of the scale is the Griya Villas and Spa. Set into the hillside and offering fantastic views out over Lipah Beach, this is a spectacular resort hotel. Set amongst lush tropical gardens, the Griya Villas and Spa is a 2 minute drive (or 10 minute walk) from Lipah Beach and comes with all the bells and whistles of a 5-star resort – at a 5-star resort price. Your own villa with private pool will set you back around AUD$325 a night. We met Clark and Tegan for drinks and pizza on the roof deck one evening and enjoyed a spectacular view of both the sunset and Gunung Agung, Bali’s largest active volcano, letting off a little steam. One day….
The good news is, there are plenty of accommodation options in between. Our friends rented a fantastic one bedroom apartment with a huge terrace overlooking a sparkling pool right on the beach at Ocean Resort for around AUD$35 a night. They were there for a month so were able to negotiate with the resort directly a very good rate. Somewhere between $35 and $65 will get you excellent accommodation.
Lipah also offers a huge range of eating options, including beach-side resort restaurants and trendy eateries with expansive ocean views. Our absolute favourite which just happened to be 50 metres from the Acarya Bungalows, is Gusto’s. Climb the steps from the road for both an outstanding ocean view and the best pumpkin ravioli we have ever tasted, washed down with Bintang beer at the best price on the coast. If you are in Lipah, you must eat here. Adjacent to the Ocean Resort, the Puri Wirata Dive Resort is right on the beach. The resort restaurant is a fantastic place to dine, for an excellent and very inexpensive breakfast selection to a comprehensive lunch and dinner menu. Great food and great prices and a great place to unwind after a serious day of diving. A great place to stay also, with rooms around AUD$65 a night. The resort is a PADI accredited diving institution so you can actually learn to dive here. The swimming pool is around 3 metres deep and is designed to accommodate scuba diving classes. Yes, it does have a kiddies end! One of the things we love about Bali and this area in particular is that the hotels are not precious about their swimming pools and their facilities. Anyone is welcome to swim in their pool. Chances are, having visited the establishment, you’ll return to eat in their restaurant or book a room. Imagine that happening at the Hilton or Sheridan?
All too soon our time on the Amed Coast had come to an end. Our final night for dinner at the Griya Villas before we headed south to the more populated and popular regions of Canggu, Echo Beach and Seminak and then finally, Sanur. We loved Lipah Beach and the Amed Coast. We will be back.
Tips for the Trip
There are numerous accommodation options on the Amed Coast in terms of location, quality and price, as indeed there are throughout Bali. Dinah and I tend to book one or two nights upfront through an online site such as booking.comso we have a place to stay when we arrive. Once there, we can look around and choose something more suitable, or negotiate a better price directly with the property if we decide to stay longer.
The beaches on the east coast are invariably stony. Bring reef shoesto wear. It will make getting in and out of the water easier and far more comfortable.
For some reason, it is not uncommon to find that the resort hotels and bungalows do not have hot water in their bathroom hand basins. For we guys, this makes it a little more difficult to shave. So, bring an electric razorand a suitable power adapter, or grow a beard.
Bintang comes in large and small stubbies. As it is hot and humid here 365 days a year, I prefer to order the small stubbie as it doesn’t get hot as quickly. It’s a bit ‘Aussie’, but I also suggest you bring a stubby holder.
Main picture: Traditional fishing boats pulled up on the black sands of Amed Beach
- A great way to start the day at Amed
- Welcome to Kelapa Cottage, our home in Amed
- Our villa at Kelapa Cottage Villa Resort in Amed
- Direction signs on Amed Beach Road – Bali-style
- With owners of Kelapa Cottage, Philippe and Dominique Tabbagh at their home in Amed
- Walking up the ‘gang’ to Kelapa Cottage
- A now-deserted 5-Star resort on the headland of Lipah Bay. Go figure
- Overgrown entrance to a village temple site in Lipah Beach
- Dinah with friends Tegan and Clark Marshall at Gusto’s Restaurant in Lippa Beach
- Traditional jukung outriggers at Lipah Beach
- Diving straight off the sand at Lipah Beach
- PADI diving courses in the pool at Puri Wirata Dive Resort at Lipah Beach
- View from our pool at Acarya Bungalows, Lipah Beach
- Gunung Agung, Bali’s largest active volcano – getting active
- Shameless self-promotion