When it comes to travel, my decision on where to go is driven by two factors: Ocean and Authenticity. I am a passionate scuba diver, so Ocean should be right there, easily accessible, desirably heard and seen from many spots, and offer ample diving opportunities. Authenticity is more relevant to the opportunity to stay there “like a local”: be exposed to local culture and way of life, experience nature unspoiled by massive invasion of civilization, mix with local people and eat local food.
My recent trip to Amed in the North East of Bali was very fulfilling across both dimensions. But first things first. Indonesia has been exciting my imagination for a while with Bali at the top of the list. Deciding where to stay, I searched for dive sites proximity, Amed came up with a description along the lines: “coastal strip of fishermen villages, uncrowded by tourists, offering excellent diving opportunities”. Sold.
Having arrived at Denpasar airport quite late I got on the taxi ride (kindly arranged by wonderful Adventure Divers Bali). The ride from airport is long: it took almost three hours. That was expected and very much worth it. Should it be by daylight, the ride would be scenic. A little side note here: Bali is a very cost efficient destination, even this long ride cost me under $40. On arrival I checked in my bungalow at Barong Bungalow and Restaurant already after midnight and next morning woke up to a wonderful view: lush island, tortoise ocean, fragrant Jepun trees in bloom…
Remarkable things about Amed
There are several things that mark Amed, neighboring Tulamben and north-east of Bali in general.
First, this area is not very densely populated, so the nature and the original view remain untouched. Neither is it frequented by crowds of tourists. Make no mistake, it is popular but only with the select J. Passionate divers, nature lovers, adventures and explorers are drawn here. That said, you have a very good chance of meeting a number of interesting inspired people here and enjoying the conversation in the wonderful calm atmosphere accompanied but the ocean sounds rather than pub noises, football matches commentaries on TV and other things typical of the places which became a tad too touristy.
Second, Amed and Tulamben are in immediate proximity of the sacred Mount Agung – the majestic stratovolcano and the highest point of Bali. Mount Agung is steeped in legends and has spiritual significance to the people of Bali, it is revered and is home to a temple. It is an active volcano, however its last eruption took place in 1963. The eruption was one of the largest in the twentieth century and caused a lot of damage and casualties among the locals as it happened during a religious festival when many people were outside performing ceremonies. Today mount Agung, towering 3000 meters above the see, is a perfect sunset view and, if you are bold, a hiking trail.
The beaches of Amed are covered with black volcanic sand, which gives then an unusual touch. The color varies from black through grey to almost white. In Tulamben you can also see lava stones rounded by the water during this half a century that passed after the last eruption.
There is another interesting thing in this area linked to the volcano – it will be especially of interest to divers: it is the USAT Liberty shipwreck, which lies just off the cost of Tulamben and is a world famous dive site. This US cargo ship was beached in Bali in 1942, however the lava from Agung eruption pushed it to the water. By now this wreck developed into a gorgeous artificial reef and offers a scenic dive with many amazing encounters.
Places of interest close by
Amed is within easy reach (about half an hour drive) from Lempuyang Temple and Tirta Ganga. Lempuyang Temple or Pura Lempuyang is a beautiful ascending Hindu temple complex, consisting of seven temples. The lowest temple is the biggest one, it opens a breathtaking view to the rice terraces and mount Agung. Should you decide to continue your hike to the next temples, you can do it on your own (the maps are provided at the entrance) or hire a guide for a small price. The entrance to the temple complex is free, but you will be requested to make a small donation. Beware that it is about two hours hike to the topmost temples a looong flight of stairs connects the last two. The upper temples are in the jungle and a troop of quite aggressive macaque monkeys lives there, so make sure you hide your water bottles, have no food and get a stick to scare them away. It is also really important to get here in good weather with clear skies, otherwise the view (even at the first temple) will be blocked by the clouds. The temple is not very touristy, so it offers perfect quiet ambience of contemplation.
Lempuyang Temple is very close to Tirta Ganga – the water palace. This is a small but pretty garden with decorated pools and lots of beautiful plants.
Where to Eat
There are few restaurants as such in Amed, mostly you can find warungs with are hotels and restaurants. You can eat in any of them, most offer a nice selection of seafood and fish meals as well as Balinese cuisine. I was completely sold on Balinese pancakes by the way! There are a couple of restaurants and I would like to mention. First one Gusto Pesto – was really close to my hotel and had a delicious dinner there almost every evening. The place is owned by a Hungarian family, it is incredibly cozy, has a wonderful atmosphere and a stunning sunset ocean view. I loved mahi-mahi and tuna steaks there, as well as shrimp dished and European meals. The deserts were beyond yummy. Another restaurant that I really loved was Warung Enak. Try barracuda there. And the pancakes with coconut ice-cream. Warung Enak is really busy, so make a reservation. Also, they do the pick-ups – they can bring you there and back from wherever you stay free of charge.
Friendly and safe place
A very important part of the ambiance of any place on Earth is the people. Balinese people are very friendly. They would offer you free rides, talk to you, take interest in you, give advice and even invite to dinner to their homes. Amed is a very safe place both for you and for your belongings. My vacation here was marked with serenity, amazing beauty of the place and great diving. One my favorite things to do was sitting on the sand at subset and contemplating the ocean: the horizon splashed with the butterflies of Jukung (traditional fishing boats) sails of Jukungs.
Diving in Amed offers a lot of diverse sites – there are two remarkable wrecks – Liberty and Kubu; natural and artificial reefs and myriads of critters. Bali is especially good for the so-called “muck” diving – for small creatures: colorful nudies, crabs, shrimp, pygmy seahorses, you name it. If you undertake a trip to Nusa Penida you can encounter mantas and even mola mola – oceanic sunfish. Most divers are easy, shore entry or a very short trip by jukung. I should mentioned that I absolutely loved Adventures Divers Bali, the most hospitable and lovely dive center (click on the link for my review).
Besides, Bali is close to Gilis, Lombok, Nusa Penida and you can do some island hopping.