The centre and east of Bali isn’t as touristed as its busy southern coast, but anyone with the time and an urge for activity and adventure should make a foray to this part of the island. You could base yourself in Ubud, but much of the area can be reached even on a day trip from coastal resorts.
White-water rafting is a great way to combat heat and humidity, and is suitable for anyone aged over eight on the best-known destination for the activity, the Ayung River.
Many tour companies will take you there and give you instruction beforehand, including Bali Adventure Tours and Alam Amazing Adventures, on a trip that will take you down about 10 kilometres of river in around two hours. You can make the same journey on a two-person inflatable kayak with Bali Adventure Rafting.
If you’re after more of a challenge, then the faster-flowing Telaga Waja River with companies such as Bali Sobek is a more demanding white-water ride that starts on the slopes of volcanic Mt Agung and culminates in a four-metre spill down a dam. The gorge gets narrower the further downstream you travel, widening occasionally into refreshing natural pools.
A lesser-known alternative is canyon tubing with Bali River Tubing or Morning Bali Tour on the Pakerisan River at Gianyar south of Ubud. It takes you down some class 2 rapids on a 4.5-kilometre float that takes an hour and a half.
You can also tube just north of Ubud at Kerta village in Payangan. Accompanied by guides from Bali Quad Discovery Tours, you float down the canyon of the Siap River that winds its way through beautiful hills; occasionally you might see a monkey in the trees. This is the more adventurous choice, as the little Siap River sometimes has to be abandoned for wooden walkways and the occasional flying fox to get you past obstacles.
Among the Animals
A number of companies will keep your feet dry and take you out trekking on the back of an elephant. One of the more interesting is with Bali Zoo, which takes you beyond the zoo’s confines and across the Wos River to a waterfall; you also have the chance to handfeed the elephants. If you want to spend more time with these magnificent creatures, the zoo’s ‘Mahout for a Day’ experience allows you to bathe, feed and guide elephants through voice commands.
You can also get up close to elephants at Elephant Safari Park. Alternatively, Bali Horse Adventure has horseback tours for everyone from beginners to experienced riders, some of which allow you a trot along the beach at Pererenan.
A motorized version of these adventures will take you through the central Bali countryside on quad bikes or buggies with ER Tours or Santhi Bai Tours in the Payangan highlands north of Ubud. You get instruction first and a few trial spins on a course before heading off through farmland. Four-wheel drive enthusiasts can head out with Waka Land Cruise or Bali Jeep Adventure instead.
If you want to stick to your own two feet, you can pretty much pick your own route through the rice fields beyond Ubud. Bali Trekking Tour is among companies that will take you up Mount Batur or Mount Agung to see the sunrise, with fantastic views across the island.
Bali Hiking does the same and also has a less physical ‘Ubud Rice Field Walk’ that will take you through villages and teach you about the traditional irrigation system. You could also contact Bali Hash House Harriers, run by expats but open to everyone, and find out about regular sociable walks and runs through the countryside.
Hitting the Coast
Ubud isn’t the obvious place to be based for ocean-based activities, but you can reach the less-frequented east and northeast coasts in about an hour from the inland town.
On the east coast off Tulamben, the wreck of the USS Liberty also provides interesting diving. Scuba-diving around the Lembongan and Penida islands will allow you to spot reef sharks, turtles and barracuda, and perhaps some odder creatures such as leaf fish and cuttlefish.
Tulamben Wreck Divers and Bali Dive Centre are among companies that offer a whole range of scuba-diving in these areas and offer transfers from Ubud. Alternatively, you can snorkel on a cruise to Lembongan Island with Bali Hai Cruises, Sail Sensations or Bounty Cruises.
Not a keen snorkeler or scuba-diver? You don’t have to miss out on an underwater adventure. At Amuk Bay in eastern Bali, Odyssey Submarine Bali will take you down in a mini-submersible to see the coral and fish.
Or if you head to Sanur a half-hour south of Ubud, Seawalker will take you under the ocean on a walk using a safety helmet into which oxygen is pumped. Before long you’ll be strolling among a shoal of striped fish in one of the more unusual activities on the holiday island.