Samantha Brown – Southeast Asian-based journalist and editor

Kidding around

01.06.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Travel ::

Make the most of Bali’s family-friendly offerings with these insider tips from local kids

With its amazing geography and fascinating culture, Bali poses a unique challenge for visiting families. Rather than finding activities everyone wants to do, the difficulty is whittling down the list to just a few select items to squeeze into a tropical holiday.

We asked three children who live on the island for their recommendations. A little local knowledge, after all, is always the key to an exceptional travel experience.

Hudson Mesritz, aged six, whose dad and mum are from New Zealand and Australia respectively, has lived in Bali for almost half his young life. He’s spent plenty of that time savouring the island’s bounty of outdoor offerings.

Waterbom Park & Spa, a water-themed park with a dedicated kids’ area with sedate slides, as well as hair-raising tubes for daredevil older kids, is young Mesritz’s top suggestion for wicked fun after splashing there at many a friend’s birthday party.

“I like the slides at Waterbom, and the big bucket of water that tips over everybody,” he says, referring to the massive bucket overhanging the Bombastic kids’ play pool. “When it tips over I yell out to everyone ‘Take cover!’, then I run under one of the slides. And they have red and yellow water guns. We play at splatting people.”

While you aren’t permitted to take your own food and drink inside Waterbom, a range of restaurants serve affordable, crowd-pleasing fare, making a trip to the park a great all-day treat.

Six-year-olds will also love the Bali Safari & Marine Park, where kids can see hundreds of animals — from tigers and Komodo dragons to elephants. “You get to ride on your own elephant through the jungle, seeing other animals along the way. And you even go in the bath with them and get splashed!” Mesritz says. “There are baby elephants at the park now and they are so cute.”

Searching for a surf spot? Mesritz’s pick is the stretch of Seminyak Beach outside Bali dining institution Ku De Ta on an early Sunday morning. Build up a big appetite catching the waves, then follow it up with a super brekky inside this postcard-perfect hot spot.

“On Sundays they always have activities for kids, like making magic bottles and mini-golf,” he says. Kids will be happy with the Coco Pops, while parents will drool over the ricotta hotcakes with strawberries and honeycomb, or the espresso martini.

Ten-year-old Australian Chloe Blaby is another budding surfer, and says newbies should head straight to the Rip Curl School of Surf on Double Six beach, her favourite spot to catch a wave. “I’ve been learning for about a year and I can surf now. I love the great feeling you get when you’re standing up because you think, ‘I’m doing it!’. Even falling down is a lot of fun,” she adds.

Blaby also regularly rides horses and has learned to jump. “Umalas Stables is fun for the kids, and adults can also do it. You can even ride along the beach at sunset. Little kids can ride ponies and you can have lessons there, too.” The stables are located a 10-minute drive north of Seminyak, and horse-mad families can stay at The Umalas Equestrian Resort. Younger children learning to ride will enjoy the 30-minute rice paddy tour.

Head up through those patchwork rice paddies to the hills of Ubud to savour the tranquility of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a revered temple sanctuary where naughty primates are the bosses. Blaby warns. “It’s a lot of fun. But you have to watch out because the monkeys might steal your stuff!”

Nearby Naughty Nuri’s, famed for its fall-off-the-bone meaty ribs, is the place to refuel while in Ubud. Afterwards, pop into the Neka Art Museum across the road to browse the large selection of art by both Balinese and expatriates on display.

If you’re in town on a Monday night, Blaby suggests heading to Karma Kandara, where her chef dad works, to catch an inclinator down a breathtaking cliff to the beach below. “You can sit wherever you want on the beach and you can eat your dinner while you’re watching the movie, it’s really nice.”

Head to Bedugal in Bali’s north for a proper, cooler change in clime, says Teo Pilato-Cox. With an Australian dad and Italian mum, Pilato-Cox was born on Bali and has lived here all his life. Bali Treetop Adventure park, located within the lush Bedugal Botanical Gardens, can be a great experience for families, he says.

“I’m chronically scared of heights but I still did it. It’s a good thing to do with the family and brings you closer.” The park has a range of adventure circuits—flying foxes, spider nets and swings, for instance – that are designed for small children through to adrenaline junkies. Twenty-metre high stroll through the trees, anyone?

Bali is famed for its beautiful, intricate dances and the one Pilato-Cox directs visitors to is the kecak. “It’s a definite must-do. It’s very trance-like,” he says of the portrayal of the classic Hindu epic, the Ramayana. The dramatic spectacle involves more than 100 performers, mostly men clad in black and white checked sarongs who sit in circles rhythmically chanting “chak”.

“You watch it and you’re sucked in right away”, Pilato-Cox says. One of the most spectacular settings to see the dance is sunset at Pura Uluwatu, one of Bali’s oldest temples, overlooking the Indian ocean.

A great spot to head for a scrumptious meal after the dance is Jimbaran, where restaurant after restaurant sets up candelit tables on the sand and serves barbecued seafood freshly plucked from the waters lapping nearby. Of the many restaurants there, Pilato-Cox rates Menega among the best. “It’s a very laid back and relaxed setting,” he notes.

Select your own fish, prawns and mussels which are served with rice, vegetables and an array of tempting condiments, light or heavy on the chilli.

Still too many things on your list? You’ll just have to fly back to Bali again some time soon.

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