When you think of the tropical island of Bali in Indonesia, I’m sure a few images come to mind. Untouched jungle paradise, yoga retreats, scuba diving, pristine beaches and luxury resorts, just to name a few. For sports enthusiasts though, one word tops the list: Surfing. Known around the world as one of the best places on the planet to catch some big waves, I not only watched the pro’s surfing the breaks at infamous Uluwatu beach, but I also took a stab at surfing myself. Wanting to get the full surfers paradise experience, I signed up for surf camp and spent 4 days living the surfer life.
Bali has no shortage of surf camps and surf schools but you’ll find most of them on the islands southern end. I headed to Uluwatu and joined one of the two Rapture Surf Camps as I wanted to experience the all-inclusive surfing package. After spending a few days at surf camp in Nicaragua and having an absolute blast, I’ve come to the conclusion that when I surf, it’s going to be with a surf camp!
I arrived in the middle of the afternoon my first day to find most of the surf camp guests and staff were out surfing. This gave me a chance to get settled into the gorgeous retreat and explore. My room, which I was sharing a room with one other guest, was set in a beautiful garden area. There was a shared, open air bathroom right around the corner.
There was a large pool surrounded by beach loungers and a padded relaxation area with large fluffy pillows. A yoga studio hovered above the large kitchen where after-surf yoga classes were conducted daily by the in house yoga instructor.
Next to the kitchen was the open eating and common areas, complete with a pool table. Old surf boards hung from the rafters and beautiful murals adorned the brightly painted walls. There were 2 resident dogs and 3 cats who were constantly sleeping on the large bean bag chairs and counter tops.
One of the reasons I booked with Rapture Surf Camp was because you could tailor your stay to exactly what you wanted. No more, no less. I could sign up for however many days or weeks I like, no one week minimum. (I soon discovered, however, that I was one of the rare travelers who stay only a few short days. Most people at the camp were there for 2 weeks or more so they can really practice their skills).
Rapture has various accommodations available depending on your budget. They offer shared rooms without A/C, shared with A/C, private bungalows and one 4 bed dorm room.
All breakfasts and most dinners were included but you had to buy your own lunch. Most days you’d simply purchase lunch from a vendor at which ever beach your group was surfing at that day. However the camp also offered up some pretty fantastic lunch options too!
When booking my stay I also had the choice of adding on as many yoga classes and after surf massages as I wanted (of course you could always add these on later once you arrived).
While staying at Rapture surf camp, the days were spent surfing, usually 2 sessions, arriving back at camp between 3-4 pm. Yoga was usually offered at 5 pm and dinner served at 6:30 pm. One night the staff prepared a delicious western style BBQ, inviting the other surf camp over to join us. On another night we dinned on the local Indonesian dish of Nasi Goreng. But the best night was pizza night where they cooked personalized pizza’s in their beautiful wood oven!
Every evening the surf instructors would look at the weather and wave conditions. Once they had a good idea of the forecast, they would post on a white board the departure times for each group. Beginner surfers like me were always with instructors. Other more advanced surfers were simply accompanied by a guide to the beach and left to practice their skills on their own.
The surf instructors were all locals who had grown up riding the waves around Uluwatu and could read the ocean like a book. After breakfast, we’d all pile into one of the camp vans and drive to one or two beaches to assess the wave conditions. Once the instructors were satisfied, we’d unload and set up our own little camp on the beach for the day and hit the waves.
We’d usually surf for a few hours while the tide was coming in and then take a break while the tide was at its highest (and most powerful) point. Then we’d wait (usually having lunch) until it began retreating again before heading back out for session #2.
Before heading into the water, we were assigned an instructor who would help us out for that session. Though pretty much any instructor was willing to give your board a push if they saw you waiting.
The day ended after everyone surfed until they were too tired and beat up to continue and then we’d head back to camp. It was very laid back and we ran on our own time line. We’d enjoy the warm sunshine and work on our tans during the breaks while honing our surfing skills when the waves were just right.
The guides were a wealth of information and I don’t think I could have surfed without their professional assistance! Every day they helped me work on my skills and made evaluations as to how I was progressing. Since I’d surfed a few times before, I caught on quickly and the instructors adjusted which surf board I used every day based on my skill level. By the 3rd day I even graduated to a “real” surf board (upgrading from the beginner foam boards)!
Evenings back at camp were spent socializing in the common areas over a few beers and playing pool on old pool table that seemed to have a mind of its own (I swear it wasn’t level!).
Rapture also rented out motorbikes so you could explore the surrounding area. The camp itself was located near Padang Padang beach but was more of less in the countryside so walking anywhere would take some time. One day I rented a scooter and explored the stunning Uluwatu Temple perched high on the edge of a rocky cliff, and watched the professional surfers while I ate lunch at Uluwatu beach.
Though my time at surf camp was short, it was an incredible way to finish off my month long trek across wonderful Indonesia. As an outdoor sports lover, surfing in Bali was on my must-do list before I even set foot on a plane and I have to say it more than lived up to my expectations!