Professional surfer and surf instructor
In 2013, Mega Semadhi – who grew up on the powder-white sands of Bingin Beach – came from behind against the world’s top surfers to clinch first place in the prestigious Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang. In 2016, he repeated that feat and cemented his place as one of Indonesia’s top surfers.
“My grandfather and dad surfed these waves, so once I was about nine, my uncle got me on a board, pushed me out into the waves, and that was it. I fell in love,” he says.
Semadhi can recall when the Bukit Peninsula was all dusty dirt roads and is amazed by how much it has changed. “There were no hotels then. All the surfers would come to Bingin from around the world and sleep in hammocks with mosquito nets by the sand. That’s dedication!” he says.
He noticed a real shift in the area – and across Bali – after the wildly popular book Eat, Pray, Love and subsequent film were released. “Really quickly there were all these yoga schools and healthy cafés opening up,” he says.
Semadhi offers surf lessons via Daya and recommends Bingin, Padang Padang and Dreamland as his favourite surfing spots.
Famished after a morning surf, he’ll often head to Kellys Warung on Bingin Beach for a fruit smoothie and a healthy wrap of raw vegetables. Later in the day, he’ll opt for a burger at Bingin Ombak Warung on the same beach, or grilled fish at the local shacks. “Further up on the cliff , I also love Cashew Tree – don’t miss the nasi goreng (fried rice),” he says.
As tourism on the Peninsula has blossomed, so have the area’s food and retail offerings. An example is the four-year-old Drifter.
The rustic space offers alternative surf brands, and stocks everything from boards to local art and homewares. Adjoining it is a courtyard café, using organic local produce.
Owner Jake Mackenzie – who first visited the area on family surf holidays in the 1970s – moved to Bali with his wife Vanessa in 2002. They also run Sea Gypsy, a jewellery atelier in Uluwatu. He says his children are most pleased about the wealth of new restaurants – highlights are Casa Asia, “a great Italian joint where the seafood pasta and pizzas are superb” and La Baracca for homemade gnocchi. Mackenzie also recommends Shaka Riki for sushi rolls and poke bowls.
“My favourite thing to do is simply hang out at Uluwatu at low tide, when the light is shining through the tide pools,” Mackenzie reveals. “It’s quite the backyard!”
Comms and PR team, Four Seasons
A decade ago, when Jakarta native Joseph Ong first arrived in Jimbaran Bay, he found a sleepy fishing village, a few fancy hotels, a smattering of local restaurants and not much else. Since then, the assistant public relations manager for the Four Seasons Sayan and Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay – the latter of which boasts 147 pool villas that cascade down the hillside – has witnessed the laid-back area transform into a stylish beach destination.
One of his favourite places to enjoy a sundowner is Sundara, a sleek beachside restaurant and bar connected to Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. “I’ll often take friends for the two-for-one cocktail happy hour,” he says.
The Bukit Peninsula has recently seen a number of hip cafés and day clubs open, according to Ong. “What’s got everyone talking is tapas place Cuca,” he says of the venue headed by former elBulli chef Kevin Cherkas. There’s also glitzy oceanfront day club Omnia, perched atop Uluwatu’s striking cliffs. Ong also suggests Ulu Cliffhouse for a more relaxed, pet-friendly beach club experience.
One place that thankfully hasn’t changed much is Jimbaran fish market and its barbecue stalls. “At heart, Jimbaran Bay is all about the seafood… this market supplies the whole island. I shop here almost every day,” Ong says.
He recommends going early in the morning or at dusk, when the fresh catch is brought in. “You can buy your seafood and step outside and have it cooked right there,” he says. “I usually grab some giant prawns and then have them grilled over coconut husks, overlooking the flat, calm bay.”
High up above the waves, and with terrific vistas stretching across the azure Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Surf Villas embodies the free spirit of the Bukit Peninsula, billing itself as a haven for surfers and yogis.
The property features pretty thatched-roof villas; its own yoga school and beautiful shala (house), Morning Light, which offers twice-daily classes; and a private staircase leading down to Uluwatu and Suluban beaches, where one can find some of Bali’s best breaks.
“Uluwatu always had me – ever since the first time I climbed down to Uluwatu cave and jumped into the cold water,” says Morning Light studio manager Jess Baron, who moved to the area in 2014. “The first time I came to Bali was with my dad 23 years ago – he’s a surfer, so this part of the island was always where we came for holidays. The locals quickly became my friends, making it feel like home.”
Baron’s favourite activity is to soak up the Bukit Peninsula’s sublime sunsets – she singles out Edge Bar, located beside the warungs (local shops and eateries) lined up along the Uluwatu cliff s as the best spot to enjoy a few bottles of the local Bintang beer once golden hour arrives.
Baron is also attracted to the spirituality of the area; she recommends a visit to the striking cliffside Pura Luhur Uluwatu (Uluwatu Temple), considered one of Bali’s six key spiritual pillars. The site boasts traditional architecture and sculptures and a daily kecak dance that begins at sunset.
“I also encourage visitors to wake up early in Bali,” Baron suggests. “It’s the best time to see all of the Hindu canang sari [spiritual offerings] being laid out on the streets and inside homes.”
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This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine