I’ve been 9 times to Bali and I’ve never been here. How was that possible?
Sure, Tanah Lot is jam-packed with busloads of tourists, but its also beautiful, remarkable, stunning… almost magical.
While we were staying at Samabe Bali Suites & Villas we decided to go on a Tanah Lot Sunset tour as part of their Signature Activities (included free in their Unlimited Privileges package). In hindsight this may have been an unwise choice considering Tanah Lot is closer to our home base in Ubud than Samabe in Nusa Dua. Then again, when did we ever let logic stop us?
We spent the majority of the afternoon driving through narrow, windy roads. But when we finally saw the breathtaking structure shimmering against the sun-drenched sea, I realised the long journey was all worthwhile.
Upon arrival at Samabe our tour guide was already waiting for our 1pm departure. We hopped into his air-conditioned minivan and off we started.
Stop 1 – Taman Ayun
Our first stop on the tour was Taman Ayun, one of Bali’s most beautiful temples from the Royal Mengwi Dynasty. The children did not find much enjoyment in the visit. It was hot and there was a lot of direct sunlight, with little shade. Possibly not the most family-friendly location, but on the upside it was beautiful to photograph.
Stop 2 – Alas Kedaton
After spending only about 15 minutes at the temple we continued in the minivan until we reached Alas Kedaton. If you have visited the Ubud Monkey Forest then you might not feel the need to visit here too. It is like a smaller, more condensed version, however we did enjoy the monkeys more at this temple. They were much friendlier, and generally more docile. We received a personal guide who took us along the path pointing out different parts of the complex.
Handy tip: If any monkey gets too close for comfort, then chances are they are only interested in food. So just open your hands to show you are holding nothing they’ll leave you alone.
It was actually a pleasurable shaded walk with lots of cute baby monkeys to admire. The majority of the monkeys were happy to sit still for photographs. Our kids spotted one particular monkey that wasn’t moving and had drawn a small crowd of it’s friends, poking it out of curiosity. We concluded that it must have died fairly recently that day. A first for us, but I guess just part of life in a monkey forest.
I felt a certain amount of pressure to visit the personal tour guide’s shop at the end, which we politely declined. But when we attempted to give her a small tip, she declined to take the money. My only guess is that they are not allowed to accept payment, and thus hoped that we would buy something from their own stall.
Alas Kedaton was a nice alternative to the overly aggressive monkeys of Ubud’s Monkey Forest, although not quite as scenic. But if you’re pushing a pram around the complex, it’s much easier and flatter at Alas Kedaton. Plus if you’re staying in Kuta, Tuban or Seminyak, it’s also much closer.
Stop 3 – Tanah Lot
Our friendly tour guide was happy to adjust the itinerary to suit our kids, and we were moving ahead of schedule. At around 3pm we arrived at Tanah Lot. After a quick ice cream stop to appease the children, we walked down a busy street lined with restaurants and souvenir vendors, towards the ocean.
Propped proudly amidst the crashing waves was a remarkable rock formation, home to the famous pilgrimage temple, Pura Tanah Lot (meaning “Land in the Sea”). It is believed to date back to the 16th century.
The temple forms an integral part of Balinese mythology and is one of the seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples was established within a direct line of sight of the next to form a chain along the south-western seaboard.
During high tide the rock formation is completely surrounded by water, making it a photographer’s dream location. Unfortunately for us it was low tide when we arrived, but the temple was still just as magical.
We refrained from taking a closer look and opted to walk to the nearby lookout rock, which offered picturesque panoramic views of Tanah Lot.
If you head down to the actual temple, keep an eye out for small caves that have been created by wave erosion. These are inhabited by sea snakes and are believed to be the guards of the temple.
Our sunset tour wasn’t quite as expected. We arrived at Tanah Lot ahead of schedule around 3pm and sunset wasn’t going to occur until at least 6pm. I am not sure why the tour started so early, I can only imagine with more people on the tour, stops at each destination takes longer. We had no desire to spend 3 hours waiting for sunset with tired children, so we skipped this glorious sight, but I’d love to return and see it another time.
After a long day, the drive home was the perfect opportunity to take a little nap, which also happens to be the best part about organised tour transport. Once you have taken your fill of activity and sightseeing you can sit back and relax while someone else takes care of driving and navigation.
Without a doubt we will have to return to Tanah Lot at high tide and closer to sunset. This sacred site is more than just a glimpse into the colourful culture of Bali, but a unique and breathtaking vista that demands attention, and quite rightly so.
Overall, the tour was a fun afternoon which included a clever combination of stops that encompassed the essence of Bali. The kids loved the cute monkeys and us adults were spellbound by Tanah Lot. And best of all, when we returned to the hotel that evening, we knew this was just the start of our experience at one of Bali’s finest all-inclusive luxury resorts.
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