More like a luxury village than a resort, a short trip is only enough to skim the surface of the family magic at Ayana Resort and Spa at Jimbaran in Bali.
KIDS’ CLUB: My two and a half year old daughter, Billie, was fast asleep on my wife, Anna’s, shoulder by the time we arrived at Ayana. It being a first for our family, we were a little anxious about leaving her in the Kids’ Club but our fears were soon put to rest (along with our daughter on a giant bean bag) by plenty of happy, child-friendly staff. Billie carried on napping while the older kids painted vases they’d made earlier, a teenage boy played virtual Wii tennis on the big screen, Billie’s own personal nanny hovered protectively nearby, and we went off for a delicious Italian lunch in the trattoria.
When we returned after our feast, it seemed Billie was dealing with the separation a lot better than us; we found her having the time of her life in the sandpit. Don’t get me wrong, she was happy to see us, but soon panicked at the thought of being taken away before she’d sampled the trampoline and cubby house. After a minute of us hanging around, Billie finally looked up and yelled “Bye bye, Mummy, Daddy!” So off to the Spa we went.
RESTAURANTS: When it comes to food, at Ayana you’re spoiled for choice, with no less than 11 bars and eateries. They range from traditional Indonesian market fare to decadent modern European cuisine, not to mention the trattoria-style Italian we savoured for lunch. There is the most breathtaking scene for a seafood feast at Kisik Bar & Grill where eating is more like an adventure than a meal as you take an inclinator down the cliff-face and choose from a selection of seafood fresh from the boat. Our favourites were rainbow lobster, mud crabs, river prawns and the clams in special Bali sauce. As we sat at our table nestled on sand between glowing tiki torches, the amber sun couldn’t have set in a more perfect spot.
The jewel in Ayana’s crown, The Rock Bar, is famous worldwide for a reason. Perched on rocks 14 metres above the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean, this ultra-chic open-top bar is perhaps the sexiest place on the planet for a sunset cocktail, and for adults only. You don’t need to be staying at the resort for access, but it helps you jump the long queue, as people from all over the world line up to experience the DJ-enhanced superstar views.
Offering either static or mobile tours, each morning will typically begin with a few hours riding, leaving you to relax in your luxury tent with lunch while the sun is at its peak. Heading back out in the wild sage scented early evening almost guarantees you’ll spot elephants and hippos splashing in their pools at sunset and perhaps catch a glimpse of a leopard.
Tucked away in the extreme southeast of Botswana is the vast private game reserve, Tuli. Here you’ll find Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris wedged between the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers, bordering South Africa and Zimbabwe. Specialising in small groups, there’s potential for making this an intimate family adventure and with a minimum age limit of 16, these safaris are suitable only for very strong riders.
The more adventurous among us should try the classic style Tuli Safari, a seven-night mobile adventure sleeping either under the vast African night sky or in luxury walk-in tents, complete with hot showers and eco toilets.
For a more comfortable rest after a hard day in the saddle, try the Limpopo Lodge Ride. Your nights will be spent relaxing in a range of accommodation from gorgeous rustic chalets to The Limpopo House, a big colonial property overlooking the Limpopo River.
ROOMS: Ayana houses lovely guest rooms, suites and villas all perfectly suited to making a family trip feel like a deluxe royal experience, but for true indulgence you can’t go past the sumptuous, the opulent, the lavish: Ayana Villa. This three-bedroom retreat luxuriates in 3000sqm of tropical gardens which boast the most stunning cliff-top views on the island. Of course, the villa has its own driveway, infinity pool, 60-inch plasma, private gym and spa treatment room, but just in case you want to throw a party, you can also entertain a group of your nearest and dearest with a truly five star gastronomic experience on the 10-seater carved dining table and bar featuring top wines.
SPA: There are certain things that men love, but don’t like to publicly admit. A Day Spa is one of them. At Ayana this experience begins with something even more feminine… a Perfumery, where your own personal massage oil is prepared. As with everything at Ayana, the Day Spa is a stunning retreat, a hotel in itself. Anna and I were escorted to a private villa and, for the next 75 mins, had the most indulgent treatment of our lives. Incredible.
POOLS: A pool can make or break a resort, so of course this was the part Anna, Billie and I were most looking forward to. We knew that with four pools and a delicious stretch of beach available, we were in for a real treat at Ayana. Anna sat browsing through a coffee table book, admiring the incredible pool on its cover. You can understand our excitement when, seconds later, we realized that pool was at Ayana. The River Pool was probably the stand-out for our family because Billie is still too little to swim on her own, but for those with older kids the Children’s Pool is perfect with loads of fun water slides to keep the kids ‘sliding and riding for hours’ as the staff say. If you’re energetic enough to wander down the 197 steps to Kubu Beach, you’ll find a perfect stretch of what Bali is famous for – sand and sea – or there’s the Ocean Beach Pool where you can soak up the brilliant sea views. And I haven’t even mentioned the main infinity pool yet.
Lead image: View from Ayana Villa
Middle: A gentle mother/daughter moment
Above: Jules Lund with wife Anna and daughter Billie