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Bali

A friendly and remarkably artistic people, the Balinese have created a dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies, making Bali synonymous world wide with the perfect ‘tropical paradise’. Terraced ricefields dominate the landscape, rivers and small irrigation streams direct the luscious green landscape, filling the air with the enchanting sound of running almost through the center of the island. In Bali the mountains are the home of the gods. Shrouded in mystery and magic, they stretch skywards in majestic splendour. Bali’s main volcano is the sometimes explosive Gunung Agung, which is considered sacred among local people as the center of the universe. Many visitors leave with the same beliefs.

The Balinese have been more exposed to international tourist and generally speak more English than people in other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. They have managed to preserved their culture despite overwhelming foreign influences brought to the region by an ever-increasing number of tourists. Bali’s International Airport, Ngurah Rai, is in the south of the island and is served by numerous international airlines and charters. In order to keep up with the growing the number of visitors and the need for their comfort, more hotels have been built, ranging from small bungalows for budget travelers to the luxurious Nusa Dua tourist resort area. Water sports have naturally gained in popularity and Bali offers superb surfing, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving and white water rafting.

Diving

Tiny, volcanic Bali is one of the most enchanting islands in the world. It entices a million tourists a year, drawn like moths towards an exotic flame. A flame fed by a fascination with the unique Hindu-Balinese culture of a gentle people, the legendary beauty of a land chequered by verdant rice fields studded by ancient temples, and the allure of coral seas alive with marine life beyond imagination.

The truth is, there is no better place than Bali for an introduction to Indonesia’s under-water wonderland. And no harder place to decide between time on land or under water.

In the traditional tourist stronghold of the Kuta/Nusa Dua/Sanur triangle, divers have a reef at their doorstep. It is a moderate drop, an undemanding dive made thrilling by a surprising range of fish.

There is more at Nusa Benida, 1.5 hours away by boat. Upwellings mean good visibility, bracing waters and challenging currents. Abundant and varied hard corals hug drop-offs and steep slopes rife with sweetlips, mantas and sharks. Lucky divers may glimpse the bizarre and rare oceanic sunfish and hawksbill turtles.

But the best of Bali’s waters lie beyond the tourist triangle. Discover Titan triggerfish and blue-spotted stingrays in Padang Bais mixed reef; coral walls of an underwater canyon at Candi Dasa; a kaleidoscope of fish at Cemeluk’s coastal reef; friendly fish at Tulamhen’s picturesque Liberty Wreck; and craggy reef walls blanketed by soft coral in Menjangans mind-snapping clear waters.

Hard-core divers can escape the established dive zones with a hired boat. A long ride north brings them to the Kangean Islands, to a world of coral knolls rising from sandy beds.