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The Muntigunung Trek – a walk on the wild side of Bali

in Recreation by

If you’ve visited Bali before, you might have taken a day trip to Kintamani to take in the stunning views across Lake Batur towards the mountains. And the experience will have stopped there. But beyond the lake and the steep mountains is a side of Bali so far off the tourism trail that few have had the chance to visit — unless they have joined the exclusive and award-winning Muntigunung Trek. Seduced by the promise of breath-taking vistas and heart-warming encounters in the once-forgotten villages of Muntigunung, we eagerly signed up and set our alarm clock for the pre-dawn start.

After driving northwards for two hours in the company of Pica, our principle guide, we stopped on the crest of the caldera to marvel at the sun rising behind the mountains beyond the lake — an early Instagram-worthy moment. “That’s where you will be trekking”, he pointed. The drive itself was part of the experience; we drove past amazing rice terraces and rural vistas, then dropped down into the caldera weaving across lava fields from Gunung Batur’s 1968 eruption and along the lake to Songan.

Ready for jaw-dropping vistas?

Time to lace up your boots, lavish on the sunscreen, have selfie-stick at the ready, select a sturdy bamboo walking stick, and  then take to the trail with Pica and the local guides as they lead their way up the steep mountainside. The views are spectacular — at one stage the trail follows the top of a ridge and the expanse of ocean shimmers towards the horizon on one side while, down a vertiginous drop far below, Lake Batur sparkles towards Kintamani perched on the far rim of the caldera.

It is unimaginable to think that this mountain trail was once the only route the women and children of the Munti villages could take to secure water for their families – a perilous five-hour round trip every day. It was also the start of their journey to go begging with their children in Ubud and on Bali’s main beach resort streets — then their only source of income.

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Making a difference, step by step

But that’s one of the joys of completing the trek; with every step, you’re making a positive contribution to the livelihood and wellbeing of the island’s poorest, most neglected communities. For the trek is just one of the extraordinary initiatives that have transformed their lives,

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The Picture Perfect of the Family Ideal

in Families by
Children are fabulously celebrated and doted on by the Thai people which makes it a seriously sensational destination for a family holiday. The stunning island of Koh Samui is trending hard among those ‘in the know’ families. Velvet soft sandy beaches are perfect for sand castle construction (and parent lazing) while the glittering azure shallows are so safe for swimming and snorkeling – the exact amount of needed shade is provided by the abundance of trees which complete the picture perfect of the family ideal.
Koh Samui is just off the south-east coast of Thailand’s Surat Thani. It’s laid back and a tranquil corner of an energized nation. Blessed with extraordinary natural beauty it has a raft of fun adventures that will be certain to create memories.
 

Family-friendly villas

The first concern for most families is where to stay. Hotels and resorts may pitch themselves as family friendly, but the prying eyes of other guests can be vexing. Massive resorts offer little in terms of space and privacy and certainly don’t give you access to your own private chef.
 
The support of a stellar team of professional staff in a luxury private villa caters to the broad demands of family life. Daily housekeeping discretely happens every day everything is pristine and random glasses are whisked away. Meals are a stunning affair with a private chef creating beautiful dishes – from exotic delicacies, western favourites, barbeques, kids’ choices and even special diets. Add to this an easily secured in-villa nanny and the load of parenting can be lightened even further. 
 
Imagine a private swimming pool with floating toys, play equipment, board games and possibly table tennis and pool tables. Staff are quick to help with the kids, so you can enjoy the bliss away from other guests who may not love junior’s joyful squeals and noisy pool games. Secure walls deliver safe spaces for little ones to wander and explore under the watchful eyes of a nanny. Many villas are also big enough to house a few families turning a gorgeous estate into a sensational tribal ground with friends and cousins roaming in packs. 
 
A stream of homemade snacks will be prepared by the cooks and guests also have open access to the kitchen which is worth its weight in gold for families with toddlers and babies – and jetlag. 

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Where Tropical Perfection Meets Gourmet Cuisine

in Dining by

Thailand’s leisure island of Koh Samui holds a priority position on the bucket list of every chic traveller. With Mick Jagger, Richard Branson and the Beckhams drawn to the divine destination, the island’s enviable reputation for barefoot luxury is set in stone.

Powder soft white sandy beaches dotted with swaying palm trees and glittering turquoise shallows gently lap the shores and set the spectacular scene. 

Private coves and hidden beaches abound and are easily discovered through local fisher folk who will happily transport you to these dreamy destinations – or if exquisite coral reefs for a spot of snorkeling are more your style then for a few dollars you can be transported there.

Exclusive holiday villas are always the preferred style of accommodation among the rich and discerning, and many already own a private property on the island, however the well-versed traveller knows the joys of simply renting a private luxury villa to experience the ultimate holiday. 

Then there is the food for which the entire Thai Kingdom is rightly honoured…

 Personal Chefs

Chefs attached to these luxury villas are unique professionals with a vast repertoire of dishes fulfilling all dining moments – snacks, kids’ choices, a broad western menu, specific diets and five-star flavours.

Order a stunning poolside seafood barbeque, a formal degustation feast for 12 people or an intimate dinner for two at a perfectly set table on the beach at sunset. It is all fabulously possible and seamlessly executed.

Chefs adore to showcase their regional specialties and to dazzle guests with their culinary magic. Start the day with a trip to the local markets, which is always a cultural immersion, and launch into a crash course in Thai cooking.

Learn to identify and select fresh ingredients to be pounded into the paste that you will turn into a creamy and lush coconut curry. Or as the afternoon heat sets in climb into a comfy hammock with a cool signature cocktail and have a chat with the villa manager about possible trips to one of the pretty waterfalls in the hinterland, a traditional sea gypsy village or a visit to one of many Buddhist temples whilst your personal chef surprises you with yet another Thai masterpiece.

Dining in any one of our luxury Koh Samui villas is a gourmand’s dream come true,

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Samui Elephant Sanctuary Review

in Destinations/Recreation by

“For the herds of wild elephants show no resentment when domesticated animals join them. They have none of that herd instinct directed against the stranger that one finds in cattle, in small boys, and among many grown-up men. This tolerance is just one of the things about elephants which makes one realize they are big in more ways than one.”

― J.H. Williams, Elephant Bill

Samui Elephant Sanctuary opened on 16 January 2018 by Founder Wittaya Sala-Ngam and is the first ethical elephant sanctuary in Koh Samui. Currently, there are five elephants in their care; Cartoon, Kham San and Sri Nin (50 – 60 years old) who came to the sanctuary from the local riding camp on Koh Samui. The sanctuary also has two younger elephants; Nong Pech (7 years old) and Moloair (9 years old) who came to the elephant sanctuary from Surin province.

Samui Elephant Sanctuary offers tours that educate visitors about the importance of these extraordinary, majestic giants. You will be able to feed and walk and observe the elephants as they forage, socialize and play, and do what elephants do, and that’s be elephants.

These five elephants that now live, at the Samui Elephant Sanctuary, have come from an extremely hard life, working long hours in the entertainment or logging industries. These stunning animals have been beaten and made to do what their owners wanted by use of force and torture. Having a chair strapped to their back or painting a picture has never been part of their natural environment. The positive news for elephants is that times are changing and projects such as the Samui Elephant Sanctuary are becoming the new way for a tourist to experience elephants. 

The Samui Elephant Sanctuary is the perfect opportunity for families, couples, and friends to discover the life of elephants in a stunning natural setting and enjoy these beautiful creatures in a way that does not take advantage of the animal. The project works under the Save the Elephant Foundations “off Saddle” program.

On arrival, you will be welcomed by extremely friendly and highly dedicated team of staff, many of whom are volunteers, that are all committed to the well-being of the animals. The tours focus on observation of the elephant’s natural behaviors and as such, they do not allow guest to join the elephants in the mud pit or swimming pool and of course NO RIDING.

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Best Seminyak Villas 4 Kids

in Families by
Casa Brio Seminyak Family Villa

Great places to stay in Seminyak with more than two kids? Sure. Somewhere for all ages to enjoy? Yep. Bringing your friends? Nice. Oh they have kids too? Okay. It’s gotta be gorgeous and memorable? Photogenic, got it. Safe, convenient, comfortable? Of course. Classy and affordable for four adults? Sure thing. Near the beach? Naturally.

We have plenty of that. Rent your own tropical oasis, a fully-staffed luxury home away from home with plenty of space for everyone to spread out. Elite Havens’ Bali luxury villas come with a private chef equally adept at preparing gourmet feasts for the adults and fun children’s meals to tempt even the fussiest eaters. Some villas are better set up for toddlers than others, but any extra amenities you may need, such as pool fence or car booster seat can easily be arranged for a small hire charge. One of the great advantages of staying in a villa is the highly personalised service, and if need a little adult-only time, friendly staff will happily help keep an eye on the kids, or organise a baby sitter so you can hit the island’s latest hotspots.  

Our 4 Best 4 Bedrooms 4 Kids… in vibrant seaside Seminyak, Bali?

Here they are. With sensible sleeping arrangements for holidays with kids (some with adjacent rooms for parents and children, others with a designated bunk room for a bunch of kids) they’re all just minutes from the palm-fringed beaches, fabulous restaurants, cool bars and stylish boutiques that Seminyak is famous for. 

1 Casa Brio

Featured in the hero at the top of the page. 

Brio is Italian for liveliness and the whole family will love sunny Casa Brio, a vibrant, recently refurbished villa with a stunning roof top terrace and fabulous location in the Golden Triangle district close to Petitenget Beach.

Seminyak family villa Casa Brio

The 21-metre pool fringed in lush tropical gardens is a definite high point and features a shallow section perfect for toddlers.

The open-sided living pavilion overlooks the pool making it easy for parents to keep an eye on the little ones.

Older kids will happily kick back in the over-sized pool beanbags, and the media room with home theatre and selection of DVDs.

Well configured for families,

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