By Des Price
CANDIDASA, Klungkung, East Bali (JP): Away from the crowds that amass in the south of Bali, the sereneness of Candidasa provides a welcome break to those weary of the hustle and bustle of city life and the over-commercialized seaside resorts.
This quiet spot boasts ample accommodation to meet most budgets, restaurants selling delicious seafood cuisine and activities suited to those unsuited to lying on the beach.
Within easy reach of the resort, attractions such as the village of Tenganan, a traditional Bali Aga village, continues to produce ikat in the same way that it has for generations.
The town stretches a couple of kilometers along the road to Amlapura and hotels, bars and restaurants are dotted along the main road, with much of the guest accommodation within a short distance of the shoreline.
A glut of accommodation means that it is easy to find a pleasant place to stay where the only sound to be heard during the night is the sedate sound of waves gently breaking on the shore and the hiss of the surf that follows.
Beach accommodation such as Taruna Beach Bungalows, located on the southern edge of the town, provide a great deal for a small outlay. Bungalows can be rented here for just Rp 30,000 and Rp 60,000 rupiah, including breakfast. The two rows of thatched bungalows are located in a neatly tendered garden of plants and trees with a bar at the end of the garden overlooking the coast, cooled by the predominant southwesterly wind.
The managers of Taruna Beach Bungalows are Viv and Juliana-Britons, who see this as an opportunity for a holiday as well as meeting new people and providing a service.
Viv and Juliana are by nature hospitable people and their warm welcome and the convivial surroundings are a pleasant anecdote for those weary from daily work routines and urban anonymity.
Further up the accommodation range, Kuba Bali Bungalows pampers all of your needs. If air conditioning, hot running water, swimming pools, a badminton court and 24-hour room service are what you want, Kuba Bali is for you. The bungalows are positioned in terraced gardens neatly landscaped with waterfalls, fishponds and an array of native flora.
Up until the seventies, Candidasa was a quiet fishing village, located next to the lagoon. Some of the village can still be seen today, though much has changed with the development of this resort. Locals are now more likely to support themselves from overseas visitors rather than from the sea.
A walk around the town is a pleasure rather than an experience to be endured, because, in this town, there is a conspicuous absence of hawkers selling their wares. There are a few, but the town's bylaws prohibit this kind of activity. In any case, the occasional offer of a massage or rental of snorkeling equipment proves only to be a minor, tolerable intrusion.
Locals keen to generate income started an organization called Sari Baruna, which rents out snorkeling gear from a kiosk in the town. One of the members, I Wayan Rame, along with his friends will also take people out in their outrigger jukung boats with snorkeling equipment and life jackets included.
Snorkeling here is a great attraction, though in the eighties the reef at Candidasa was mined to provide lime for cement to build hotels and other buildings. As a result of the destruction, the beach lost the natural protection afforded by the reef and thus, during the course of time, was washed away.
Absurd as it might seem, even the breakwaters, of which there are numerous, are made of cement. Despite this tragedy, snorkeling is still interesting and swimming behind the breakwaters is said to be safe.
A charter boat operated by Putri Duyung will take visitors snorkeling and runs boat trips out to observe coral on the northern sides of the nearby islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and the Blue Lagoon.
The company has a glass-bottomed boat for viewing the colorful underwater world and takes seven tourists at a time. In addition to this, they have a larger wooden boat fitted with an outrigger. The tourists may try their hand at fishing, either by trawling with a net or by rod and line. Fish caught by trawling might net fish such as Spanish mackerel, travel, wahoo, tengeri, mahi-mahi and tuna. On a line, the catch might include snapper or coral trout, which feed on the sea bed.
The sun deck is a pleasant place to relax after fishing and before going ashore on one of the islands and tucking into freshly caught barbecued fish.
The skipper always takes along other food for grilling, just in case the fish cannot be lured. On the reefs, snorkelers and those viewing the underwater phenomena in the boat, might see uncommon aquatic life such as sun fish, turtles and even white tip sharks, which can be around one-and-a-half meters long.
Quori, the company manager, says that snorkelers are usually in a bit of a hurry to get out of the water on sight of a white tip shark, even though he attempts to reassure the tourists that the sharks pose little threat to humans.
Some eleven kilometers south of Candidasa, the seaside village of Pedang Bai is the starting point for many tourists who have booked diving, snorkeling or sight-seeing trips by boat. The reason for this being such a popular starting point is quite plain: this area is home to some great dive spots, with coral reefs around the islands of Gili Tepekong, Mimpang and the larger Nusa Penida.
At one location there is a cave in the rocky cliff face where one excited dive charter boat operator claims that sharks can always be seen darting in and out of the grotto. Leaving Padang Bai by boat, one may be fortunate enough to see Bali's famous volcano, Gunung Agung, if its cone is not covered by clouds. With careful surveillance, dolphin may be seen leaping out of the calm, indigo colored waters.
Trekking tours are informally arranged by locals and a wander into the hinterland with the young, energetic Mas Labor provides spectacular views as well as a more balanced view of the area. Mas Labor's favorite trek begins slightly further up the coast at a town called Bug-Bug.
Leaving the winding asphalted road, one is soon cast into another world where wet paddy fields meet tropical rain forests alive with the sounds and smells of nature. A gentle walk between these formal and informal landscapes leads slowly up into hilly areas were the lava from Gunung Agung's earlier outpourings has settled.
Villagers, who wander home from the market with food to be sold at warung (food stalls), use this track and can be found resting along the way in the shadows of acacias. Some return with live animals and birds to be used as offerings in upcoming ceremonies.
The aroma of seasonal fruits can often be detected well before the fruits can themselves be seen: white mango trees, mangosteen, pineapple and banana plants can all be found en-route. This three-hour trek ends at Tenganan, the Bali Aga settlement famous for its production of Gerinsing, commonly known as double ikat and the only place in Indonesia where this cloth is still made.
Basketry is also sold here and this quiet, friendly oasis provides for a relaxing hour or two strolling along the village terraces, viewing a way of life that has not changed significantly for centuries.
Evenings in Candidasa can be spent at restaurants and bars, where live music and dance are occasionally laid on. Traditional music such as legong can be heard in the evenings at Astawa restaurant, which serves some of the town's most tasty seafood meals at reasonable prices.
The manager of the tourist office in Candidasa, as might be expected, is full of praise for this small Balinese town -- particularly the locals.
In particular, Darmawan is impressed with the way the town has retained values such as honesty and integrity, and said that the locals are guided by forces other than the mere rule of human law.
""People here are more honest than in other places because of their strong belief in karma, results of our past deeds. If we do something wrong the karma will return to the next generation.""
""Karma is our control. The locals believe that they have to be careful in life. It is because of the honesty in this town that tourists like it here and return.