Waves of joy: Bali’s perfect beaches and exotic charms will wash away your stresses
- The Daily Mail’s Harriet Sime visited Canggu on the southwest coast of Bali
- The hip neighbourhood is the latest go-to place to learn how to surf
- Head an hour south of Canggu to Balangan for ‘the best vibes on the island’
Bail!, my instructor screams, as I’m struck by another pounding wave. I hold my breath, jump off the board and dive under.
I’m learning to surf in the hip neighbourhood of Canggu on the southwest coast of Bali — the latest go-to place for those wanting to learn how to ‘hang ten’.
Trendy coffee shops, wooden surf hire shacks and yoga studios line the main roads that lead to Canggu’s two beaches.
Life goes on: Nusa Lembongan pictured above. It’s paradise, but getting there is a slog…
Inspired by the news the sport is to make its Olympic debut next year, I commit to an intense three-hour lesson with a cheery Balinese twentysomething called Made. He teaches me how to stand and ‘peel’ — that’s go across the wave.
The sea is filled with surfers of every ability and age; complete novices in their 60s share waves with joyful local children who dance across the water, doing acrobatics and aerials.
Getting to Bali is a slog. Direct 15-hour flights from London were introduced last month, but they are only direct on the outbound leg.
On a tight budget, we opt for the £300 (£350 after reserving seats) China Southern route which takes 26 hours and includes an eight-hour stopover.
On our first day, we hire a scooter for £3 a day, exploring the area via backstreets hugged by terraced rice paddies, the scent of incense and flower offerings to the island’s Hindu gods and goddesses greeting us at almost every twist and turn.
The sunsets in Canggu are as impressive as the surfing. We spend our first evening drinking the local Bintang beer on the beach while watching the sky turn from grey to bright pink — and realise we are surrounded by millennials getting that all-important social media snap.
If surfing isn’t for you, don’t worry. The water is enticingly warm and the island’s diverse coral reef means there are plentiful opportunities for snorkelling or a relaxing dip.
On Made’s recommendation, we head an hour south of Canggu to the small enclave of Balangan for what he had described as ‘the best vibes on the island’.
The beautiful beach is much more low-key. Bamboo huts on stilts which function as cafes, known as warungs, are sandwiched between the white sand and green patch of land lined with gigantic palm trees.
Island living: A local collecting seaweed. Harriet was woken each morning by squawking roosters and sunrise Hindu mantras
Surfers use the cafes to refuel on fresh coconut and spicy nasi goreng — a rice dish with meat, fish or vegetables. Flower offerings are found at the foot of the ladders leading up to each hut to ward off evil spirits that the Balinese believe live in the sea.
The sunbeds are taken up by women in barely-there bikinis who look like they’ve walked off the Victoria’s Secret catwalk.
We spend one unenjoyable evening in the island’s original surfing capital, Kuta, where the most interaction we have with the Balinese is street sellers trying to flog us magic mushrooms.
Bali’s one-time tourist hub is now packed full of tawdry bars, characterless hotels, all-night clubs and stores selling phallic-shaped souvenirs.
But know where to go — and avoid Kuta — and you’ll find Bali has been resilient to the effects of tourism (5.7 million visitors now descend annually). My final surf session comes on the small neighbouring island of Nusa Lembongan, reached by a 30-minute boat ride, which feels like the Bali that hippies first discovered in the Seventies.
We’re woken from our £35-a-night cabana each morning by squawking roosters and sunrise Hindu mantras, and find elderly men farming seaweed at low tide and local children playing in the mangroves.
We spend one day switching between swimming with manta rays above a rainbow-coloured coral reef and snoozing on swinging hammocks. I come to admire pretty much every one of the Balinese traditions, but the belief that bad spirits live in this sea? Impossible.