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Bali's west is best

We’re in the North Western corner of Bali surrounded by jungle-clad hills, which runs down to the wild coastline, dotted by secluded coral coves and pristine islets. This is nothing like the convenient Bali that we know and love, there’s no constant hum of Tuk Tuk’s, cars and motorbikes and the tranquil beaches are free of persistent hawkers selling Bintang singlets.

Into the wild

It’s back to nature here at The Menjangan, located within the Bali Bara National Park, a 190-square kilometre protected pocket of mountains, mangroves, monsoon forest and marine reserve. As we cross the invisible boundary onto conservation land the jungle is noticeably denser, the trees taller and wildlife easier to spot including black squirrels, monitor lizards and monkeys.

The national park is home to 120 species of birds including the Bali Starling, one of the rarest in the world. The stunning white songbird with striking blue around its eyes is endemic to the region. The population decimated from illegal trapping with fewer than 50 mature birds in existence.

Bird watching is one of the many eco-focussed things to do at the resort. Spanning 382 hectares, there are numerous trails that criss-cross the property and guides are on hand for walking tours or bikes readily available to explore on your own.

Another way of getting around the resort grounds is by horseback. With a stable of resident Australian Stock Horses, treks go through the jungle and onto the private beach where the native deer (Menjangan) roam freely on its shore.

Although we’re embracing nature, we’re hardly roughing it. A double decker open-top mini bus chauffers us through the forest for our stay in The Monsoon Lodge, which consists of fourteen deluxe rooms, and two suites that surround a welcoming heated pool.

Our terraced rooms have 50-square metres of air-conditioned comfort with plenty of room for a rollaway or baby cot, as well as a decadent king bed, flat screen TV and an en suite filled with luxury amenities. Special touches include a reusable water bottle provided to fill up at complimentary water stations, insect repellent, insecticide and earplugs – the jungle is alive after all.

Under the sea

The cobalt water entices us in and we eagerly board a converted fishing boat from the private jetty to Menjangan Island. We skim across the surface of the calm Bali sea and save for a few small dive boats we pass, it seems as though we have the marine park all to ourselves. It’s shoulder season and slightly overcast, but when the sun peaks over the clouds, the clear water ignites with magnetic blues.

Divers have long known of Menjangan Island as an underwater paradise. Its warm crystal waters offer excellent wall dives and flourishing reefs rich with marine life. They seek out eagle rays, scorpion fish, giant gorgonian fans and reef shark.

Our crew at Blue Season Dive guides us to Coral Garden, a large shallow sheltered reef with plentiful soft coral, diverse hard coral and schools of brightly coloured fish. The idyllic setting is perfect for kids learning to snorkel and offers great visibility and aquatic life at every turn. It is also an unexpected hot spot for clownfish (Nemo) and blue tangs (Dory).

We swim through schools of sea goldies and trigger fish, we hover over cabbage coral where a variety of damsel’s dart about and our guide lures a giant moray eel from its reef wall sanctuary. When the eel eventually retreats we skirt along the coral edge tickled by a wall of effervescent bubbles courtesy of divers gliding 30 metres below.

Whilst we could drift all day, immersed in the natural underwater aquarium, it is time to resurface for lunch. To our delight the sun is shining brightly and we take the opportunity to bask out on foreshore.

Over a delicious picnic lunch, we take in the unspoiled coral coast joined by a handsome deer, who had swum across to from the mainland earlier in the season when the tides were low to get the good grassy shoots.

Above the canopy

A sunset drink and long lusty dinner is the only way to end a magical day out at sea. The best spot in West Bali is at the top of The Bali Tower, the resort’s 33-metre tall tree house that holds a reception area, Bali Resto Restaurant and a 360-degree viewing platform.

The four-hour journey through windy mountain roads to reach West Bali is well worth it when we look over the canopy over trees and mountains to the sea.

With bellies full of mie goreng and the sun sliding behind Java’s Ijen Mountain, a rare feeling of quiet and calm comes over us. The stillness a world away from Seminyak’s high energy Eat Street and the neon lit clubs of Kuta.

Now that we’ve experienced the best of the West, we’re quite glad there is a mountain range dividing the popular south corner of Bali from the peaceful West. We’re crossing our fingers that West Bali remains remote and perfectly untouched for a little while longer.

Together we roam‘s Rene Young has travelled to 70 countries. When the Brisbane based blogger is not discovering Brisbane's street art, exploring Queensland or roaming the world with her five-year old son and three-year old daughter, she can be found indulging her love of reality TV.

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