A walk on the wild side in Bali

The flight from Australia to Bali was exhausting – the cheapest way to get there from Melbourne was to fly to Perth, then again to Bali. But I couldn’t have cared less given how relaxing it was once I arrived.

The English wasn’t perfect in our hotel (luckily in Bali, you can opt for a hotel rather than a hostel). But it proved an endless source of entertainment when one of the pool rules being “No Jiggy-Jig”. With a swim-up bar, room service and amazing weather, we were in no position to complain.

As an animal lover, my highlight was going to Bali Zoo. True, zoos are everywhere, but zoos in the southern hemisphere are a whole different ball game. They allow you to get up close and personal with as many animals as possible. I can now say that I’ve kissed a crocodile, held a binturong around my shoulders (an Asian bear-cat which made my whole body move with heavy panting) and stroked a tiger.

But the undoubtable highlight was the chance to ride an elephant. And feeding them afterwards was an unforgettable experience – their personalities shone as their trunks followed the food around as if independent from their body. I can honestly say that I have never felt anything as smooth as an elephant tusk. It angered me that poachers would want to take these beautiful things away from such a magnificent but easily-targeted animal.

On a day trip, we visited temples and rice fields outside Kuta – sadly, we weren’t there for the green season, when the colour stretches for miles. That was more than made up for by the food we were given by a lady who lived there: sweet potato chips and some delicious tapioca with brown sugar. I had to resist asking whether she could make some more for me to take home, or give me the recipe. I’ve been craving them ever since.

Another unmissable attraction in Bali is the surfing. I’ve been surfing on and off for a couple of years now, but decided to take a lesson to learn from the gifted Balinese surfers. The waves were the best I’ve ever seen and unlike England and Australia, you didn’t need a wetsuit. Just you with the sun, cloudless sky and serene blue water.

Even the slight breeze just added to the summer feel by wafting the smell of incense offered to the Gods by the Balinese towards you. The lesson was enlightening, as they did not just teach with the aim to get you standing up, but about the sea and boards, as if assuming you’re in this for the long haul. After one lesson, even the most reluctant student would be longing to get back on a board.

There was a strong tourist vibe in Kuta, with people on the streets offering things like Viagra, but these were easy enough to avoid once you ventured out. Rumour has it that if you go to one of the secluded areas of Bali, the beaches are even more postcard perfect.