Far from the madding crowds of Kuta, a back-to-nature retreat offers a wildly different perspective on paradise
By Nathan Myers
Photographs by Martin Westlake
Itâ€™s a sound I barely recognize. My horse has stopped clomping; the wind waits between gusts; even the ocean seems to take a pause from lapping the shore.Â And there it is: silence. Iâ€™d forgotten we had that on Bali.
Here on the islandâ€™s northwestern tip, a world away from the traffic and turmoil of Kuta, Iâ€™m seeing Bali in a completely new light. And I have The Menjangan, a 382-hectare playground of mostly undisturbed wilderness, to thank for it. My guide, Gede, and I have been on horseback for almost an hour now without seeing any signs of human habitationâ€”no trash, no temples, no pirated-DVD hawkers, nothing. There are, however, plenty of animals. We spot rusa and muntjac deer, a wild boar, macaques, and countless bird species. For someone whoâ€™s lived amid the hurly-burly of southern Bali for three years, I find all this nature a bit baffling at first. Yet itâ€™s also completely, you know, natural.
Our horses reach the shoreline. This isnâ€™t your typical postcard stretch of soft golden sand; instead, itâ€™s a crunching coral strand fringed by a reef shelf and stands of mangrove trees. The tide is low, so we clip-clop out over the exposed reef and glance back at the land. Itâ€™s not the vision most people expect of Baliâ€”itâ€™s not even one that Iâ€™m familiar with. Mangrove recedes into forest, forest into wooded mountains. In every direction, the scene is raw, untamed. Gede and I trade smiles. For now, this is our little secret.