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The problem with palm oil

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Inodnesia has one of the highest tropical forest loss rates in the world with 74 million hectares of forest destroyed in the past 50 years. The lucrative hardwood trade; a lack of effective conservation laws; and endemic corruption have left the forests at the mercy of loggers, and the looming ecological disaster is well documented. But sadly Indonesia’s forests now face the biggest threat of all, an insatiable global demand for palm oil.

These days the roar of chainsaws is often followed by raging fires as the land is cleared and the ancient forests, home to some of the earth’s greatest biodiversity are replace by orderly rows of oil palms, standing like rows of soldiers. The battle lines have been drawn and hectare by hectare the forest is being claimed. Sound overdramatic? If only it was, but the facts paint a sad picture. In the 1980’s about one million hectares of forest were cleared annually, now it’s over two million and much of the land that has been deforested in the last 20 years is due to the planting of oil palms. Over half of the forest cover in Sumatra and Borneo has now been destroyed and along with the forest and the species that inhabit it, an ancient way of life is disappearing. There are also global ramifications for us all, in terms of the air we breathe, as these forests provide nature’s filtration system, storing toxic carbon dioxide and releasing life-giving oxygen.

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the nut of an oil palm 

What is palm oil 

Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the oil palm and has been heralded as a wonder product. It is the most productive oil crop in the world, low in saturated fats, cheap to produce and highly versatile. It is found in cooking oil, confectionary, margarine, cakes, biscuits and snacks. As well as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, household and industrial items and bio fuel.

Growing palm oil is a lucrative business and the price of crude palm oil has risen steadily, with demand expected to triple by the year 2050. Ninety per cent of the world’s palm oil exports come from the plantations of Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil in itself is not a bad thing, the problem lies in the degradation of primary forests in order to produce it. An estimated fifty million hectares of degraded land lays wasted in Indonesia, but palm oil companies prefer to use forest land where they can also make a profit from the timber they cut down.

The Quest for Green Gold
The biggest irony is the increasing use of palm oil for bio fuel, a supposedly ‘green’ fuel, proclaimed to be a low carbon solution to climate change. This quest for green fuel is actually causing more damage to the climate than the fossil fuels it was designed to replace. Once the useable wood has been removed, fires are often used to clear the land and peat bogs are drained to plant oil palms, a process which releases hundreds of millions of tones of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere making Indonesia the third highest contributor to CO 2 emissions in the world.

Greenpeace claims that more carbon emissions result from deforestation and peat fires than are produced by the entire global transport sector. Currently, over seven million hectares in Sumatra are utilized as oil palm plantations, and the plan is to extend this by a further 20 million hectares, in order to meet EU targets of ten percent of all transport fuel to come from crops by 2020.

Human Rights
While fortunes have been made from palm oil, it is a mistaken assumption that everyone involved in the process is getting rich. Plantation companies claim that that they create employment, especially in rural areas which in turn leads to economic development. Impoverished land owners often see few financial alternatives and many give up their land to become small stake-holders or to work on the plantations. But the social costs are high. Traditional communities have lived in the forests for generations, hunting bush meat, eating fruits and seeds, harvesting traditional medicine and planting subsistence crops. They were often poor but led a naturally sustainable way of life. Now they find themselves at the mercy of market forces and tied to a 25 year cycle on a single crop. Those who have retained small holdings can eke out a living as long as the boom continues, but those who have sold their land and now work for a minimum wage are often worse off as they have to pay for imported goods. Conflict is inevitable, and according to Sawit Watch, a local environmental organization, more than 500 cases of conflict have been reported.

The Environment
Although illegal, the fires that are set to clear the land and can quickly burn out of control. The devastating fires of 1997 burned five million hectares of Indonesia’s forests and of the 176 companies accused by the Indonesian government of starting fires, 133 were oil palm plantations companies. The battle between big business and the environment is not new, and all too often the environment is the loser.

Pollution problems are also caused by effluent from the milling process and the intensive use of pesticides and herbicides in the plantations, creating toxic run- off which poisons the land and the water system. The low land forests of Borneo and Sumatra – the last remaining habitat for orangutans and a number of other species are the areas favoured for conversion and all unprotected areas are at risk. The fires of 1997 decimated one third of Borneo’s orangutan population; while the Sumatran orangutan population has decreased by half in the last twenty years and the estimated remaining 6500 animals have been classified as critically endangered. These endearing creatures make great ambassadors for Indonesia’s forests, and their plight has captured hearts around the world, but the orangutan is just the tip of the iceberg. They are known as a cornerstone species and play an important part in forest regeneration through the seeds and fruits they eat. If they become extinct there will be a knock-on effect on many other species

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Palm oil factory near Bukit Lewang

A Glimmer of Hope

If palm oil could be planted without decimating the remaining forests, a potential ecological disaster could be averted, and there are signs that some companies are willing to explore this option. RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil,) was set up in 2004 and is a not-for-profit association formed of companies and groups involved in palm oil production. Its mission is to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. Forty percent of palm oil companies have joined RSPO, as well as banks, NGO’s and high profile companies such as Unilever, Body Shop and Cadbury. Last year the first batches of certified sustainable oil were shipped to Europe and now account for 3% of CPO. It’s a step in the right direction, but there is still along way to go. Sustainable plantations do not produce much at the moment, and the global demand for palm oil continues to grow.

There is also “Project POTICO” (Palm Oil, Timber, Carbon Offsets,) a partnership between WRI (World Resources Institute,) an American think tank, and NewPage Corporation. This initiative was set up earlier this year and slated to combat illegal logging, reduce greenhouse emissions and preserve virgin rainforests in Indonesia by diverting new oil palm plantations to degraded land. Over one million hectares of wasted land is marked for conversion under the three year program.

There are also indications that things are changing at a local level, In Aceh, Sumatra, officials recently gave 100 hectares of fallow agricultural land to 59 households in the village of Lami so they could grow oil palm without cutting down rain forests. The Indonesian environmental group YEL is overseeing the organic cultivation. Also in Aceh, the tiny and remote village of Tangkahan is another prime example of grass roots conservation where the community rejected the lure of palm oil and decided instead to set up eco-tourism. Elephants are used to patrol the jungle searching for illegal loggers, and small guesthouses provide the quintessential jungle experience. It was while staying in this hidden and untouched paradise that my interest in palm oil was ignited. Each evening I would eat with the local guides and the conversation always turned to palm oil. They hope to lead others by example and show that there are alternatives. “One step at a time,” Jungle Bob tells me, “we can’t do much, but at least we can do something.”

Within Indonesia the key lies in education and SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) runs a number of programs to this end. Their aim is to empower the next generation of Indonesian conservationists, and programs include: touring educational road shows: the development of a conservation curriculum for schools in North Sumatra: community forestry schemes to reinforce national park buffer zones and provide sustainable alternative incomes for people living adjacent to natural orangutan habitat; and a tree planting program that has seen the planting of over a quarter of a million indigenous tree seedlings to date.

Responsibility lies with the Indonesian Government and companies, but also with us because as end consumers we have the right to choose. It is fashionable in Australia and Europe to call for boycotts of palm oil, but this won’t solve anything, a cheap and versatile vegetable oil is necessary, and other alternatives such as corn and soya bean oil pose similar problems.
Conservationists call for labeling of products and claim that consumers have the right to choose to buy from sustainable plantations, much as they have the right to buy fair trade products or items that have not been genetically modified. Consumer pressure and preference might lead companies into using sustainable oil. Greenpeace, SOS and Rainforest Action Network urge people to talk about palm oil in order to get the issues known. You can also sign online petitions, make financial contributions to their campaigns, and write to supermarkets to tell them you want sustainable palm oil. It might not seem like much, but as consumers we do have power and doing something is always better than doing nothing. If you want to get involved, or to learn more, have a look at the websites listed below.

http://www.palmoil.org.uk
http://www.orangutans-sos.org
http://www.sumatra-indonesia.com/tangkahan.htm
http://www.sumatraecotourism.com
ran.org/the_problem_with_palm_oil
http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/forests/palm-oil

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Bali Detox: Dragon fruit

Detox day 14

I have found throughout this detox that my relationship to food is changing and I am feeling much more aware of the effects of what I eat on my body. It’s as if I have rediscovered the joy of eating and feel my body absorbing all the goodness of healthy food that I am preparing with love. I have found myself really drawn to bright and colourful fruits and vegetables, and of course the dragon fruit is top of my list. As well as eating it I have discovered that it makes a great face mask.

About Dragon Fruit

There are few fruits that evoke the tropics quite so successfully as  the spiky vibrant pink dragon fruit, with its sweet luscious seed flecked flesh. Brimming with antioxidants, vitamin E which firms skin and reduces age spots, and  collagen, which we all know is the mother of all skin care products , it also makes the perfect face mask. I suggest using half a dragon fruit  – mashed with a few drops of vitamin E oil (or half a teaspoon of olive oil) and a teaspoon of honey. Apply to your face for at least 20 minutes, and enhance the pleasure of the experience by eating the rest of the dragon fruit while you wait.

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Bali Detox: Tropical porridge

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Detox Day 13

Porridge makes a great start to the day.  Low in fat, but high in fibre, oats have the highest protein of any grains and also help reduce cholesterol and curb the appetite.   I usually like to add a little organic palm sugar to my porridge, but found that by adding strawberries  and just a little coconut cream that it was quite sweet enough.

  • 1 cup organic oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 – 2  tablespoons coconut cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the oats and water in a pan over a low heat, add coconut cream and cinnamon. Serve sprinkled with strawberries, coconut and seeds.

*Lightly dry fry the sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you want a crunchier topping

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Bali detox: Fresh fruit salad

Detox Day 9

For the first week of my detox I cut out all sugars (including fresh fruit) this was probably the toughest aspect – I found myself craving the cool sweetness of tropical fruit. But now my detox is almost half over I am allowing  fruit back into my diet with this rather delicious  fresh fruit salad made with dark pink/red fruits that are high in anti oxidants. It combines the slightly sour taste of organic mountain strawberries from Bedugul, with the sweetness of purple grapes and dragon fruit, I also mixed in shredded coconut and a handful of goji berries and then sprinkled everything with lime juice and chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Ultimate Bali detox recipe

bok-choy

Detox Day 7

So far, so good. I am one week into my detox and have to say I am feeling great. The first couple of days left me feeling a little light headed and plagued by  headaches, but by day three I was starting to feel like my system had been kick started and everything was working better. I have really enjoyed making the time to source organic vegetables and fruit and to prepare healthy and nutritious meals that I am eating mindfully. I have been eating spinach and bok choy almost every day, and this is one of my favourite recipes.

Wilted greens with garlic and sesame

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 1 large bunch spinach , stemmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. sesame seeds for garnish

Warm oil in large fry pan  over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir until lightly browned, about 45 seconds. Add greens (do in two batches if necessary) and toss until just wilted, 2 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Health benefits of bok choy

Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lutein. Chlorophyll helps eliminate environmental toxins from heavy metals and pesticides  and helps to protect the liver. Some people find the bitterness of greens a little overbearing, however tossing greens with garlic, salt and pepper takes the edge off the bitterness, and sprinkling with sesame seeds adds some crunch.

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Bali Detox: Hummus and Tahini

2013-08-26 12.33.00 I have always loved hummus but for some reason it had never occurred to me to make it myself, but as my endeavour this week is to get creative in the kitchen and avoid buying anything processed the time has come to make my own hummus, and its actually way simpler than I thought. While I love sesame seeds I am  not a huge fan of tahini, so I made my first batch without any. It tasted great, but the next day I experimented with making my own tahini as well and adding a little to the hummus –  it tasted good as well, so its  just a matter of personal preference I guess.

When it comes to preparing the chick peas its always best to buy them dry, soak overnight and then boil until tender (about 1hour – 1 half hours) they hold their taste and form far better when prepared this way – whereas chick peas out of a can tend to be a little mushier.

Hummus Ingredients

  • 2 cups chick peas (soaked overnight and boiled till tender)

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • sprig of parsley (finely chopped)

  • 2 teaspoons tahini (optional)

Method: Place the chick peas in a blender and mix until smooth. Add olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, cumin and tahini (optional). Lightly blend, serve sprinkled with parsley

Tahini recipe

  • 5 cups sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Toast sesame seeds for 5-10 minutes, tossing the seeds frequently with a spatula. Do not allow to brown. Cool for 20 minutes.

Pour sesame seeds into food processor and add oil. Blend for 2 minutes. Check for consistency. The goal is a thick, yet pourable texture. Add more oil and blend until desired consistency.

Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, Uncategorized

Bali Detox: Chick Pea salad

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Chick peas or garbanzo beans are a great source of protein and fibre and make a fabulous edition to a vegetarian diet, and will also help sustain you while detoxing.  They  have a low glycemic index and keep you feeling full – a powerful combination in helping control weight as you consume fewer calories. They are also highly versatile – and taste great sprinkled through a salad, mushed into falafel, or burgers, or crushed into humus.

  • 2 cups peeled diced cucumber, (cut lengthwise and scoop out seeds), diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 cups garbanzo beans (soaked and cooked)
  • 3 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2-1/2 TBS chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce, use tender whole leaves for bed

Combine all the vegetables and herbs then toss with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper for a heart fresh salad.

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Bali Detox, Healing, Herbal Bali, island life, Uncategorized

Bali Detox

So, its been a while that I haven’t been feeling so fabulous – low energy, sniffly , poor digestion. It finally got to the point where I knew I had to take some positive steps and made an appointment with Bali Natural Healing Centre in Canggu http://www.balihealing.org/index.html I had heard really good things about Peggy Marienfeld – a naturopath from Germany who who been in Bali for several years.   She has a really sensible and balanced approach to healing and holistic well being and I warmed to her immediately.

I have always believe in a holistic approach to health but am sensible enough to know that sometimes the western path of medicine is the only way to go holistic v western but at other times – like now, the last thing I want to do is burden my overloaded system with harsh  synthetic drugs. It seems like my stomach needs some TLC not a chemical blitz, and so I am embarking on a detox/cleanse.  Peggy gave me a tincture of cloves, ginger, wormwood and black walnut to help clean out the parasites and my online research confirms that these are all commonly used herbs for parasites. I have to take this for three weeks, and have also stocked up on chlorophyll and probiotics. You see, my aim is removal and regeneration. I want to remove the toxins and parasites, but simultaneously restore the balance to my system. I have also stocked up my fridge with organic greens and am removing all sugar, wheat  and refined/processed food from my diet for the next couple of weeks. detox ingredients in Bali

Quite often I will just eat a salad for lunch and steamed vegetables and rice for dinner, however I know that I will quickly get very bored if this is all I eat for two weeks so I have vowed to be adventurous and to make cooking healthy, tasty and nutritious food  my mission. I started today with bok choy. Yes, I know its good for you – and I try to add it to my diet as often as possible – but really, its not my favourite food, yet there is a big bunch of it in my fridge (alongside some Sri Lankan spinach and some very dark green Kale.) I started thinking about a dish I used to love when I lived in Fiji –  palusani – water spinach cooked in coconut cream and this became the inspiration for my lunch.  At the risk of not sounding at all humble, I have to say it turned out to be divine. And went perfectly with my rice steamed with star anise, cardamom and cinnamon (who says rice is boring?)

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Ingredients: Spinach in coconut milk

  • 2 large bok choy, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 head broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • organic salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Steam the vegetables until wilted, then lightly sautee in olive oil.
  2. Add all other ingredients and stir until well combined and then simmer about ten minutes
Great things to do in Bali, island life, Uncategorized

Temples in Bali

You find them clinging to steep volcanic slopes, perched on craggy cliffs, or nestled in the branches of towering banyan trees.  Some seem to float on serene lakes, while others are tucked away amidst the frangipani in family compounds. Known as Pura, Bali’s temples are the meeting points of humans and gods and here, on the island of the gods, a temple is never far from view.

More than 10,000 temples are scattered across the island and commemorate virtually every aspect of life: harvest, rain, prosperity, life, death and protection. Generally, the greater gods are worshipped in larger public temples while lesser gods and deities are worshipped in smaller local temples. The most important are known as the nine directional temples or Kahyangan jagat and occupy auspicious locations, like mountains, cliffs and lakes.  Unlike smaller regional temples, these are considered to be relevant to all of Bali and protect the island and its inhabitants from evil spirits.  From these, six are classed as sad-kahyangan, supreme holy temples and are considered the pillars of the island.  These generally include Pura Besakih, Pura Uluwatu, Pura Goa Lawah, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Pura Batukaru, Pura Pusering Jagat.

Pura kahyangan jagad: mountain temples

Bali’s majestic mountains and volcanoes are thought to be the abode of the gods, and these temples command impressive settings with panoramic backdrops. They are places  of pilgrimage – especially during full moon ceremonies and odalan (temple anniversaries.) Pura Besakih – the  mother temple is the most important of all and occupies an enormous complex 1000 m high on the slopes of Mount Agung – Bali’s holiest mountain. Believed to be the spiritual and religious centre of the universe,  Brahma, Wisnuand Siwa are worshipped here, as well as  a host of other deities. The  tropical rainforest of Mount Batakaru is home to another important – if less visited –temple, Pura Luhur Batukaru, which is dedicated to the god of plants and growing. While over in the north east, Pura Lempuyang  (the dragon temple) perches on a lonely, windy mountain ridge and is dedicated to the god Iswara, ‘keeper of the peace,’ and is reached by way of 1,700 steep steps cut into the mountainside.

Pura segara: ocean temples

These mighty Balinese sea temples were designed to appease the wild and unruly gods of the ocean, and have particular significance during the Melasti purification rituals that precede Nyepi (the Balinese new year.) During this time sacred objects and effigies are carried in long and colourful processions to the ocean where people bathe with the deities, in a symbolic cleansing of body and soul. With its dramatic setting on the cliffs of southern Bali, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the island’s most famous sea temples and is dedicated to Rudra, the god of storms and wind. While Pura Goa Lawah hugs the coast of Kusamba and is associated with the after life. Commonly known as the Bat Cave (there are hundreds of them – but they are not  objects of worship,) it is said to be linked to Pura Besakih by a 30km tunnel which, according to mythology, is inhabited by a giant dragon-like snake that feeds off bats.

Pura tirta: water temples

Unlike other temples which serve purely religious purposes, the picturesque water temples also have a practical role to play in the management of subak (rice irrigation system), with temple priests managing the water allocation among  the surrounding rice paddies. Some of these temples have sacred springs and bathing pools making them a popular destination for cleansing rituals, the most well known being Pura Tirta Empul.  Believed to have been created by Indra, the ruler of heaven, and god of thunder and rainfall, the holy waters of Tirta Empul are said to have strong curative properties.Other water temples are built within lakes, such as the stunning Pura Ulun Danu Bratan which appears to float on the water and is dedicated to the worship of the goddess of lakes and rivers.

Khayangan Tiga: territorial temples

Each village іs required by adat  (traditional law) to have аt least three temples. These include the pura puseh (temple оf origin) dedicated the village founders and located аt the kaja (pure) side оf the village. In the center of the village, the pura desa (village temple) is for the spirits that protect and bless the village, while the pura dalem (temple оf the dead) is situated аt the kelod (unclean) end and also acts as a graveyard.  There are also functional temples belonging to different professions and their relevant deities. For instance Dewi sri, the rice goddess, is worshipped at rice temples, while farmers and merchants have temples located next to Bali’s markets  which are dedicated to Dewi Melanting, the goddess of seeds, gardens and markets. Family temples are the smallest and the most numerous and can be found in every Balinese Hindu compound. Ancestors are worshipped at these hereditary shrines which are honoured with daily offerings .

 

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Amed

Photograph Cdelacy for www.apneista.com

Famed for its pristine reefs, Amed lures divers from around the world, but there is much more to this scenic coast line than ship wrecks and coral gardens.

Tucked into the north east corner of Bali, where rugged mountains tumble to a cerulean sea, Amed basks in glorious isolation. Peaceful fishing villages cling to the coast where black sand is lined with colourful jukungs (fishing boats) and tranquil bays teem with marine life. Often described as sleepy, the region is gently waking up and provides a quirky, unspoilt alternative to the buzzing south. Amidst the rustic home stays and charming boutique hotels traditional life continues much as it always has. Fishermen set sail before dawn, farmers tend to cassava and peanut crops, and the white crystals of the salt pans glisten in the sunlight.

Amed’s attractions are not limited to single sites, you need to take in the big picture by immersing yourself in the dramatic natural scenery as you explore the ocean and the land. The name Amed generally refers to a string of  fishing villages joined by a  narrow road that dips and winds between the mountains and the sea.  Each upward swerve reveals picturesque half moon bays that will have you constantly reaching for your camera. This is the driest region of Bali and the sloping, parched red earth is strewn with boulders, brambles, black lava rock and wild grasses baked to a crisp coppery gold. In striking contrast,  branches of bougainvillea, hibiscus and frangipani frame the deep blue sea with vibrant splashes of colour. Low lying villages are set amidst palm groves and mango trees, where women collect firewood, chickens streak across the road in wild abandon and cows loiter in the shade of the banana groves.

A scenic road leads inland to the village of Bangle and gives a glimpse into rural life,  with terraced hills strewn with cassava and corn plantations and houses made of stone and thatch.  The village nestles in an oasis of greenery, thanks to a series of holy springs – each with a different taste. For a small fee one of the villagers will act as a guide.

roadamed

pura lempuyang  (the dragon temple)

Past Bangle, the rough road steepens sharply and leads to one of the island’s most important temples, Pura Lempuyang, known as the abode of the God Iswara, ‘keeper of the peace.’ Isolated on a windy mountain ridge with stunning views over the valleys, this mysterious and beautiful temple is a place of pilgrimage and spiritual awakening, especially during elaborate full moon ceremonies. The temple is more easily and safely reached on the inland road from Culik, and with 1700 steps to climb is best visited early in the morning. 

The Salt Pans

The Lombok Straight brings clean cold fast moving water from the north which mixes with the warm Bali tropical water to create a unique artisan salt which is stocked in gourmet delicatessens around the world. While the industry is declining, salt pans are still scattered around the shores of Amed, where farmers use ancient techniques to craft 100% natural salt by sun and wind evaporation. The taste is unique – mild and slightly sweet – and salt can be bought direct from the farmers who will happily give you a tour and explain the production process.

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In total contrast to the inhospitable landscape, the calm sea is home to some of Bali’s most beautiful reefs – a  veritable underwater fantasy world inhabited by frolicking sea horses, giant trevally, schools of barracuda, clown frog fish, reef sharks, turtles and a diverse range of hard and soft coral. The thriving marine life is attributed to  low level tourism, and the phenomenon known as the Indonesian Through flow which links the Indian and Pacific oceans with streams of nutrient rich cold water that nourish the reefs of eastern Bali.

The Liberty ship wreck in nearby Tulamben is one of Bali’s most famous dive sites, but the bays around Amed have plenty to captivate novice and experienced divers. Best of all, many of the sites can be accessed directly from the beach and are equally enjoyed with a mask and snorkel.  Highlights include the sheltered bay at Jemeluk with a vibrant reef teeming with tropical fish just meters off shore, while a short swim or boat ride to the rocky point, known as the drop off, reveals slopes covered in giant gorgonian fans and red barrel sponge corals. Further east, the Japanese wreck at Banyuning nestles on a pretty coral garden; divers can explore the lower reaches, while snorkelers also enjoy great views of the wreck covered in sea fans and soft pastel corals swaying in the gentle current.

graham abbott-free diving amed images (7 of 9)www.apneista.com

www.dive4images.com

free-diving

There is a whole lot more to free-diving than just holding your breath. Once the bastion of pearl divers and extreme adrenalin junkies seeking to go ever deeper, these days people are more drawn by the opportunity to explore the silence and the beauty of the underwater world in complete freedom. Jemeluk Bay has become a centre for free-diving in Bali and is home to the island’s first free-dive school Apneista , www.apneista.com which offers  two day courses combining advanced breathing techniques with yoga and pranayama.  Sometimes described as ocean yoga or underwater meditation, the free-diver is unencumbered by a scuba tank and can glide through the water like a fish. Moving slowly and gracefully, without a trail of bubbles, allows a far more intimate and natural experience with marine life.

Copyright-Cdelacy-2012-3569

Photograph Courtesty Cdelacy for   www.apneista.com  

Healthy pursuits

Just being in Amed induces a state of peace and well being. Early nights are for floating to sleep lulled by the gentle murmur of the ocean; mornings are for rolling out of bed and straight into the sea; lazy afternoons call for languid lunches, siestas,   relaxing beach massages, or a spa visit. Usher in the evening with a sunset yoga class at Apneista, overlooking the beach, or check for workshops in the hillside yogashala at Om Shanti www.omshanti.com  A full range of detox and healing programs are offered at the luxurious Golden Rock Detox Centre www.theretreatbali.com while   Aiona Garden of Health www.aionabali.com offers personalised ayurvedic programs, and sells herbal teas, kombucha, homemade jams and chutneys in a delightfully quirky setting.

day trips

Amed makes a great base for climbing Moung Agung – best attempted in the dry season, and for visiting Tirta Ganga, an evocative water palace set in a maze of tropical water gardens filled with statues and stone fountains. Cycling is a great way to explore the countryside, and East Bali Bike tours www.eastbalibike.com have a range of options including tours from the slopes of Mount Agung down to the sea.

Stay

Life in Amed

Lean, Bunutan, Abang T  0363 23152 www.lifebali.com

A tranquil beachside haven with cottages, beach houses and pools nestled in enchanted gardens flourishing with frangipani and bougainvillea. The atmospheric Perfumed Garden villa is highly recommended, with its wonderful antiques, ocean views and private salt water pool.gardens life in Amed

Perfumed garden

Blue Moon Villas

Selang Beach T 0363 21428 www.bluemoonvilla.com

With a fabulous garden setting on a headland overlooking Selang Bay these stylish suites and villas enjoy panoramic ocean views. Request one of the beautiful Blue Angel Oceanfront rooms and relax in the private infinity pool clinging to the cliff’s edge.

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Good Karma

Jalan Raya Selang.  T: 081 337 531 133

Set in the shade of towering banyan trees and vibrant flowers these bamboo beach shacks are basic but charming, and just meters from the sea.

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Hotel Uyah Amed & Spa resort  (Salt Lodge) Jl Ketut Natih, Pantai Timur T 036323462  www.hoteluyah.com

A rustic, eco friendly resort that is partly solar powered. The sprawling beachfront property aims to preserve salt production in the region and is built around salt pans.

 Eat

Local style warungs and home stays offer traditional food, while resorts and hotels have adjoining restaurants serving Indonesian and western cuisine. Top picks include Warung Enak a crowd favourite with tasty home style cooking made from fresh organic produce – the health juice with turmeric, lemon and honey is excellent. Komang John’s Cafe (Blue Moon Villas) has expansive ocean views and serves up authentic Balinese and international dishes, with a good selection of daily specials and tropical cocktails. Life in Amed offers fantastic salads, Indonesian and western food and the best chocolate cake in the area.

getting there

The drive from the airport takes about three hours. Follow the road to Candi Dasa  then turn inland to Amlapura passing tropical hinterland and verdant rice terraces. The small town of Culik in the shadow of Mount Agung marks the gateway to Amed. There is also a longer, more scenic coastal route from Amlapura, but the road is narrow and rough in places. Public transport is limited, and there is much to see, so it is best to rent a car or motor bike.

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