Amanusa - 'Peaceful Isle'
For many of us Bali is a long haul. For this reason alone it needs to be a journey worth packing for.
However, Bali is so enticing, that for some it has been an island worth packing up for. Also known as the 'morning of the world' or the 'island of the gods', Bali is appropriately enchanting, a haven of spirituality and culture, a place of great tradition with a breathtaking landscape scattered with temples, tropical jungle and palms, rice paddies and mighty volcanic mountains. It also cradles a growing art community and offers some exceptional, mouth-watering cuisine, plus it is blessed with an agreeable, near tropical, climate throughout the year and, of course, excellent beaches.
If you are going to start your island 'pilgrimage' with a beach experience then there is no more fabulous place to start than at the awesome Amanusa. It is here that my friend Jennifer and my baby daughter Bibi, just 10 months old, shook off the jetlag and started our love affair with the most vibrant gem in Indonesia's archipelago.
Where is Amanusa?
Amanusa is situated above the village of Nusa Dua. Its proximity to touchdown, just 20 minutes from the International airport, is a blessed relief though, once you arrive, you feel a thousand miles from landing. Nusa Dua, near Bali's southern-most point on the Bukit, is dominated by thriving coconut groves, setting it apart physically from the rest of Bali with its verdant rice paddies, and mountainous 'gorge-eous' terrain.
Arriving at Amanusa was elating. A warm and loving welcome from Amanusa's compassionate 'family' encourages the start of relax and unwind amid outstanding architecture. The hilltop setting, with views across pretty countryside to the Indian Ocean, combined with the magnificent sense of space and perspective, is sensationally uplifting, while the 'welcome to our home' approach was exactly what was required; especially with a little babe in arms. Children are absolutely adored in Bali and that was evident from the start.
The resort's most outstanding feature, if not its pounding 'heart', is the luscious pool. It is the prettiest lake-sized pool I have ever seen, anywhere. This is partly because of 'Lake Nusa's' unusually wide rectangular shape, set beneath a sheer paras-stone cliff wall, which gives it a magical sense of seclusion, together with far-reaching views over Nusa Dua to the ocean. Surrounded by sunset-orange bougainvillea, with several wall features spurting feisty thrusts of water onto its shimmering surface, it is hard to think of what could better this waterside paradise. However, a fine white powder beach awaits a short golf-buggy ride from the resort... and it's a textbook, postcard-pretty-one at that.
My Pool Suite was sensational, with an inviting 'bale' on the terrace offering mesmerising views towards the ocean. The pool, set a few steps beneath the terrace, was exquisitely private, surrounded by a flush of tropical plants that played host to many exotic sounding songbirds and geckos. The sense of seclusion and blissful retreat was instantly overwhelming, and while the suites felt extremely discreet and wonderfully undisturbed, you still had the comforting sense of belonging to a charming, dramatically beautiful, stately home.
Inside the invitingly temperate suites, the traditional Balinese-inspired four-poster, swathed in soft white muslin (which was unleashed at turn-down-time) was an invitation to peaceful sleep. The intoxicating smell of the alang alang thatch overhead was provocatively nostalgic, as it blended romantically with the sweet scent of white tuberose and frangipani. The dreamy Javanese marble floor underfoot was cool and luxurious, while Bibi's crib was charmingly quaint; an old-fashioned Balinese cradle with its own muslin tepee. Attention to sleep-detail has been extremely well researched at Amanusa. Nothing is overstated here. The luxury comes from the fine-tuning of detail without any fuss, excess or elaboration.
It soon becomes evident that it is here at Amanusa that you shed your stress and give yourself over to the welcoming hospitality on offer 24/7. There is a strong focus on relaxation and recharge, on every level, and of course there is plenty of individual attention to your specific requirements.
The bathrooms are designed to immerse you into Bali's tranquil vibe with large sunken bathtubs surrounded by three glass walls that look onto a surrounding water feature with a prolific crop of lilies and several coy carp. There is an outdoor shower on the paras stonewall, while twin vanity units and an abundance of Aman body potions are standard throughout the suites. Surrender yourself here, that's the message!
A white, fine powder, beach
A short buggy ride and you are at the beach. The drive down takes you past the velvet-smooth emerald green golf course and country club; for once I actually longed to swing a club. Once dropped-off, you walk through the beach restaurant and onto the palest suede-soft sand, which drops into a light turquoise shoreline before turning a deep sapphire as it meets the ocean beyond the coral reef. This is a beautiful beach.
The sea was dotted with colourful fishing boats while fisherman donned the traditional rice paddy hats. It looked and felt charmingly quaint as well as unspoilt. When the tide is out it's like a swim in a transparent lake, however for surf-lovers, when the tide is up you can enjoy a robust tussle with the breakers.
The endlessly long beach is an open invitation for long strolling or jogging. The secluded thatch bales are set back in the lush foliage with magnificent views to the sea together with a host of five star trappings; from iced cappuccinos to fruit platters, from sun cream to water spray, nibbles, chilled water and rolled scented flannels, as well as a beach service that is totally remarkable.
Beside the beach bale was an urn of fresh water with floating frangipani flowers, together with a ladle, to wash off the sand before you step up to chill-out. A few metres in front of the bales are the recliners, set in pairs under large white parasols, which are closer to the water and great for sunning.
The beach restaurant offers fresh plates of salads and grilled fish or chicken together with some local Balinese cuisine, plus colourful fruit cocktails, wine, and light refreshments. You could easily spend two or three days just 'hanging out' on this beach. But then there's 'Lake Nusa' back at the resort, plus your very own pool if, like me, you are lucky enough to occupy a pool suite.
Amanusa is excellently situated for boutique shopping in the nearby village of Nusa Dua and for local markets such as the Pasar Badung. There is a whole host of temples to visit as well as beauty spots and traditional villages along with bike rides, hiking and even helicopter charters for a bird's eye view. You can charter a boat for a day and cruise to the nearby islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, only 14 miles from Nusa Dua. It is also, of course, a celebrated paradise for golfers.
In fact, there is an extensive menu of exciting and interesting excursions and activities (not to mention the spa treatments) for guests to enjoy within the immediate area, and, to think that we only enjoyed the bare minimum and still felt so complete is not just a credit to Amanusa, it is the reason for going there.
Next stop Amandari in Ubud, Bali's spiritual core.
Please click here to see our video review of Amanusa.