Many Bali visitors with children barely move beyond the sands of the coast and neighbouring resort towns. That’s a shame, since central Bali highlight the island’s dazzling landscapes, rich culture and friendly, family-oriented people. What’s more, there’s plenty to delight children away from the beaches.
Ubud in central Bali makes a good base. The town is well known for its cultural energy, and many kids enjoy seeing the shadow-puppet, gamelan orchestra concerts and Balinese theatre performances that are held at various venues in town almost every night.
On Sunday mornings, local kids perform barong dances outside Museum Puri Lukisan. The art museum has a variety of interesting workshops where older children can learn batik, basketry, woodcarving, classical painting techniques and the basic moves of Balinese dances.
Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Centre also provides your kids the chance to take dance lessons or learn to play the drums and xylophone; the library offers kids’ books in English. Bali Centre for Artistic Creativity has half-day art classes that include a collective ‘Creativity for Families’ class in charcoals, pastels or watercolours, as well as other classes just for children. And Studio Perak hosts three-hour jewellery-making classes and welcomes children over eight to participate.
As an alternative to culture, kids will also have plenty of opportunity to go wild in and around Ubud at numerous animal attractions. The best known is of course Monkey Forest, where you can see the animals up close in the wild, although you’ll have to be cautious with small children, as the monkeys aren’t always friendly. Just outside town beyond the Monkey Forest, you can walk in the rice fields where frogs croak and baby ducks paddle.
At Elephant Safari Park, about 20 minutes north of town, kids can ride elephants, see a mammoth skeleton and watch a few clever pachyderms painting floral pictures with paintbrushes held in their trunks. (You can stay onsite at a luxury lodge if you want to see elephants wander past your windows.) You might also want to take in carved versions at the Elephant Cave at Goa Gajah. Used by Hindu priests since the eleventh century, this delightful grotto is carved with hunting scenes, demons and sacred elephants. The jungle setting and tumbledown temples will appeal to the Indiana Jones side of children.
Eleven kilometres south of Ubud, Bali Bird & Reptile Park is small but has a good range of parrots, snakes, lizards and iguanas. The kids will probably love seeing komodo dragons (especially at feeding time) and what’s claimed to be the largest reticulated python in captivity. The ‘Basic Instinct’ show features birds of prey in flight.
Finally, on the coast south of Ubud at Gianyar, Bali Safari & Marine Park is host to some 300 types of animals, including orang-utans, lions and elephants, with a weekend morning elephant parade. Particularly fascinating is the piranha feeding, safari journey past free-wandering African animals, and a night safari. There’s also a waterpark and fun zone with merry-go-rounds, roller coaster and swimming pools.
Fun For Everyone
It’s possible to let children loose if you want to spend an adult day to yourself. Bali Fun World, about a 20-minute drive south of Ubud, will accept unaccompanied children to its indoor playgrounds and games rooms, and offers fun activities such as sumo wrestling, rodeo bull riding and bungee-trampolines. You can also leave children at Kidsworld some 10 minutes east of Ubud. The indoor venue has inflatable playgrounds, dinosaur park and roaming kids’ characters and is for kids under 12. There’s also PlayStations, table soccer and painting activities, as well as an outdoor pool zone.
For older children, consider the eco-conscious Green Camp, where children can sign up for a multi-day camp that takes them out to experience rice paddies, jungle, swimming holes and local villages. The organisation also runs eco-getaways for the whole family, but kids have to be over five years old.
Tour companies in Ubud also offer soft adventure tours into the countryside, such as buggy, quad bike and tubing excursions with Bali Quad Discovery Tours, or cycling and rafting trips with Bali Sobek. White-water rafting on the Ayung River is limited to kids older than eight, and features relatively gentle level 2 white water. Teenagers might want to tackle Telaga Waja River, a level 3 and 4 ride that ends in a four-metre spill down a dam.
Sporty kids will also love hiking up Mt Agung, a spectacular volcano; it’s best to go very early in the morning to avoid the heat. Finally, the whole family can find their inner Tarzan on the ropes and pulleys of Bali Treetop Adventure Park at Eka Karya Botanical Gardens, which has three adventure circuits of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty that incorporate flying foxes, suspension bridges and spider nets. Enough to bring out the kid in anyone.