Set on beholding Bali’s beauty outside of the major tourist zones, we traveled four hours from the buzzy South Isle to the woodsy West Coast. Our goal: To get away. Away from throngs of tourists. Away from same-same shops. Away from beat-pumping beach clubs.
We were pining after an actual postcard setting. We found it at The Menjangan (Indonesian for deer).
Positioned in a part of Bali where a slower pace of life is de rigueur—case in point: Donkeys pull carts toting branches along the roadside—the jungle retreat occupying 950 acres of Bali Barat National Park rides the line between safari and savvy; beach and beyond.
At the shorefront, a small collection of villas built using traditional Javanese architecture sit on a private stretch of sand fronting a beach so blue it’s as if the sea is reflecting the sky. Outdoor bathrooms add a touch of rustic to the abodes, while air condoning and upscale minimalist design mingling white linens and a sturdy four-post bed remind you you’re in a villa.
A mile inland from Sentigi beach the rest of the retreat lingers in the jungle’s shadows. At the Monsoon Lodge, 14 thatched-roof rooms and two suites invoke the glamping aesthetic courtesy of alang-alang grass roofs, Bengkirai wood floors, and the lush setting (read: It’s not abnormal for a gecko to scurry across your ceiling) hugging a glowing pool and hot tub lit by rays of midday sun sneaking through the thick foliage.
Safari vehicles link the Beach Villas, the Monsoon Lodge, and the Bali Tower, a five-tier structure busting high above the bush. Most days, we chose to wake up with the jungle and eat our breakfast at the Bali Tower, one of two restaurants onsite. (For the record: Savoring fresh fruit on a perch peering over the lush landscape has made breakfast every day since, a tad lacklustre.)
After breakfast we made our way to the beach; sometimes on foot, sometimes via safari truck. It’s in moments like this you’re reminded you’re glamping in a national park. Deer roam about freely, monkeys hang from trees, and birds provide the ultimate far-flung soundtrack.
Aside from one mid-afternoon monsoon “forcing” us to read in our outdoorsy abode, we spent our days alternating between sand and surf. Each morning at 10 a.m. we’d plant ourselves in our preferred lounges under one of the many trees providing shade at the beach. From here our daily itinerary was simple: Snooze, drink Bintang Beer (the local brew), cool off in the Bali Sea, or walk to the resort’s nearby jetty to don our snorkel gear.
When the sun set, we didn’t long for a scene or street full of restaurants. At The Menjangan, you crave what’s there: A five-seat bar at the beach, and a 10-table restaurant resting above the water. Here, under the glow of blue lanterns we ate local fish, sipped fresh-fruit cocktails, and celebrated a place where everyone had come for the away-from-it-all setting (and nobody cared if your hair still sported an ocean-sculpted hairdo).