Days 1-3 are here: tripadvisor.com/…46810474
Monday 28 Jan - Having seen all the water sports in Benoa Harbour from our hotel beach, we decided to get in on some of the action ourselves. I had done a little bit of research at home into the various packages and companies available, but when our driver offered to get us a 50% discount with Ciwa Sempurna, I decided to just go with them as the most hassle free option, with transport included.
We were picked up at the hotel (Novotel Benoa) at 10am and asked the driver to take us down the road first to our favourite money changer (the green one on the left as you first enter Tanjung Benoa from Nusa Dua). We arrived at the water sports area and I was quite surprised by what a big operation it was - lots of companies, lots of people, boats, jet skis and chaos etc EVERYWHERE. Reminded me of the Gold Coast back home.
I'm glad we had the half price discount because prices weren't cheap. We ended up paying over $200 for 4 adults and 3 kids for a variety of activities: jet ski, fly fish, tube and banana boat (we did 2-5 activities each, apart from Miss 2 who only did one). Master 4 loved the jet ski and even had a second go, Miss 2 loved the Banana Boat. Ciwa Sempurna were ok for the price, but their equipment was older, they wouldn't let us jet ski solo, and the fly fish didn't get very high (I suspect because the older boat wasn't fast enough).
If I was to come back again I'd probably get a cab down and try and negotiate a cash deal on the beach, directly with a company, rather than through an agent. In the area we were located, Barata (I'll check the correct name with son-in-law) had the best looking equipment, their fly fish went really high and they allowed solo jet skiing. They can be spotted on the beach by looking for their yellow equipment. Son-in-law walked over and spoke to them and they offered to come over to the Novotel beach with a few jet skis and hire them to us for an hour or so for much cheaper than everyone was charging for the 15 minute packages. It seemed to me that unless you negotiate directly with the guys on the beach (if you can find someone who speaks English) you are paying for many layers of commission.
Apart from some competitive hijinks out on the jet skis, the most memorable part of our time at the water sports was when we came around a clump of boats whilst out on the tube ride. There we were, 5 of us flying around behind a motor boat; numerous jet skis, banana boats, fly fish and parasail boats criss-crossing around us; and out there in the middle of it all was a little old Balinese lady, complete with rice paddy hat and neck scarf, sitting in a rickety old kayak, with a line in the water fishing!
We all burst out laughing at the time - it was such an incongruous picture - but on reflection later I felt quite sad. The old lady has probably been fishing in the area since she was a child, long before jet skis were even invented, and has probably been doing so every day in order to eat. Although the Tanjung Benoa water sports industry is obviously providing income for the many locals who own and work there, like much of the rest of modern Bali it is doing so at the expense of the culture and way of life of the traditional Balinese. The main reason we chose to do the water sports at TB was because, like many things in Bali, it was cheaper and easier than doing them at home. But you have to wonder where the tipping point lies for the over-Westernisation of southern Bali.
After we'd finished at the beach we went back up to the marshalling area for drinks and an outdoor shower. Master 12 was mobbed by a bunch of giggling Indonesian girls (tourists from the mainland). They all wanted their photo taken with him and he received the full teen idol celebrity treatment for about 20 minutes (blushing the whole time!). The girls were all around 20yo and obviously had no idea he was 12 (he was taller than them), despite his bashfulness and braces!
When we were finished we all piled back into the car, drove about 500 metres up the road, and turned into the Novotel! Because we'd driven down earlier via the money changer, we hadn't realised how close we actually were to the hotel. It took longer to get 7 of us in and out of the car than it probably would have taken to walk! That said, the Novotel was always very quiet when we were there; it didn't seem like we were reasonably close neighbours to the hive of activity further down the beach.
Back at the hotel we spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the various pools. Our rooms were in the garden area surrounding the 2 quieter pools. We had a late lunch and cocktails at the swim-up bar, then headed home for a rest and a shower.
In the evening I took the newlyweds and Miss 2 down to Bali Collection in Nusa Dua. She had broken one of her sandals and I remembered that Sogo dept store had some good quality children's shoes. Unfortunately, after making the effort to head all the way down there, we found that their sizes started at 29 (Miss 2 is a 24/25). We also looked in Cool Kids where they had some funky bling sneakers for Miss 2, but they were out of her size in the colour I wanted. It was close to 10pm by that stage, and everything was closing, so we headed back to TB to a restaurant near the Novotel that had rocking horses painted like zebras (Nelayan). Unfortunately they were closing too.
We ended up going to nearby La Lorraine restaurant, but in hindsight should have gone back to Atlichnaya (I prefer to try different places when in Bali). The service at La Lorraine was friendly, but the food was terrible. It came quite fast, and I suspect it had been microwaved. Apart from Miss 2's calamari and prawns, our other 3 meat dishes were tough and chewy. Very disappointing, especially for our last night in Benoa. I'll be ranking this place with 2 stars when I write my review.
This was our first stay in Tanjung Benoa (had stayed at Nusa Dua previously), and we really enjoyed the place as a first stop in Bali. It was a good way to ease the Bali Virgins into the place, rather than thrusting them into the chaos of Legian straight off the aeroplane. TB has a Sanur type of feel to it, with shops, spas and restaurants along the main street. It was a more interesting place to stay than Nusa Dua, and far more laid back than in-your-face Kuta. The locals were friendly and not pushy, and the beach was good for kids, with lovely clear water. I scored a half price deal with the Novotel, so the rooms were very good value ($60 AUD per room, incl all taxes). We would definitely stay at the Novotel Bali Benoa again, especially if on a tight budget and looking for a quiet break.
Next JBR - volunteering at an English school in Pejeng, then adventures around Legian / Kuta.