The island of Bali is a familiar and easily accessible destination for Australian travellers and the perfect place for a family holiday. Children will discover this is a magical land of exotic birds and tropical flowers, mythical creatures, kindly people and adventurous things to do.
The gorgeous five-star Ayana Resort and Spa on Jimbaran Bay (formerly the Ritz-Carlton) is a place where parents and kids can have a wonderful time both together and apart. The complex is set within 77 hectares of lush tropical gardens and sprawls along a limestone cliff above the bay.
A sympathetic design of individual villas, low-key hotel buildings, restaurants and facilities incorporates five swimming pools (one especially for children
with water slides) carp ponds, spurting creatures, waterfalls and dozens of fountains. The gentle sound of
splashing water becomes part of the tranquil ambience.
Accommodation ranges from luxurious Ocean Villas to the family-friendly club level suites and hotel guest rooms. Rooms are spacious and elegant in cool shades of cream and black. Most have ocean views and all have private balconies, air-conditioning and every facility that you would expect in a modern, five-star resort.
Below the cliffs, accessed by stairs and an inclinator, small waves break on clean white sands scattered with enormous rocks forming little pirate coves. This is a natural and enticing playground which is patrolled and meticulously maintained by hotel staff.
The sheer size of Ayana means there are many separate little worlds revolving within the resort. Some are sophisticated, luxurious and romantic. But some of these worlds most definitely belong to children!
Families with babies and children of any age are warmly welcomed. A dedicated team trained by the International Nanny Association (with certification in Australia) takes care of the little ones in specially built playgrounds and facilities while their parents relax or head off to enjoy their own activities such as tennis, golf or some indulgent pampering. The award-winning Thermes Marins spa has fabulous marine based treatments including the unique Aquatonic salt water pool, which overlooks the ocean.
There’s a nursery for babies 0-4 years old and two separate kids’ clubs for the lively 4-7 year olds and the discerning 7 – 10 year olds. Activities are held both indoors and out with something different to do every day.
Special creative programs take place weekly. Artisans come from the renowned Jenggala pottery studio nearby to supervise painting on pots and plates. The colourful results are fired and ready to go when small guests depart. "Ayana Fashionista" magazine project is very popular with the older girls. Movie nights see the young audience settled on beanbags munching popcorn.
The Ayana Resort management is proud of the thoughtful cultural activities, which revolve around Balinese life, legends and festivities. Renowned author and authority on Balinese arts and culture, Fred Eiseman is retained as a consultant. His adopted Balinese son, Linud, is the Ayana Cultural Ambassador. Linud helps plan the kids’ club activities, gives talks to guests and takes families on village and market tours.
"We’re in Bali with its rich heritage of culture," says Clive Edwards, Executive Assistant Manager who is in charge of guest activities. "So we don’t try to compete with technology in the kids’ programs. They have all that at home these days, instead, we try to give them a taste of the local experience."
For example, in March, an important festival is held to celebrate the Balinese New Year known as Nyepi. On the days leading up to the festivities, children can help create an enormous papier-mâché monster known as an ogoh-ogoh which will be carried in an exuberant traditional parade on the 15th March or Nyepi Eve. This is followed by a day of silence, a tradition designed to make any passing demons believe the island is uninhabited and go elsewhere. Children who miss the parades are sent photographs of their ogoh-ogoh taking part.
Of course there are many exciting excursions to be taken outside the resort. A free shuttle bus runs to the shopping area of Kuta about 20 minutes away and there is a hotel fleet with driver guides to take guests on longer excursions. Local taxis are air-conditioned, plentiful and cheap.
Every child will want to visit Waterbom adventure park in Kuta with its marvellous variety of watery rides suitable for different ages. Parents may try to fit in a little shopping with bargains to be found in air-conditioned malls and some street stalls. Legian is a little further away but has the more up-market designer shops including some with beautiful children’s gear.
By Carolyn Lockhart