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
It’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. And there it is: silence. I’d forgotten we had that on Bali.
Here on the island’s northwestern tip, a world away from the traffic and turmoil of Kuta, I’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 habitation—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 who’s lived amid the hurly-burly of southern Bali for three years, I find all this nature a bit baffling at first. Yet it’s also completely, you know, natural.
Our horses reach the shoreline. This isn’t your typical postcard stretch of soft golden sand; instead, it’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. It’s not the vision most people expect of Bali—it’s not even one that I’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.