A true Bali fan, Jane rose delightedly to the challenge of organising a Bali holiday for her large family group of 18, including seven grandchildren aged from 11 years to 16 months. With a little planning, the varied needs, wants and interests of this blended family – which included two of her own children, two of her husband’s children and a number of first-time travellers – were easily fulfilled in Bali!
The family enclave
After a short 6.5 hours flight from Australia, it was a comfortable 40-minute drive from the airport (I had organised a 15-seater bus to meet us) to Sanur. Our adjacent ground floor rooms in the resort’s garden wing, with porches overlooking the pool, created the feeling of being in our own personal enclave – perfect for keeping an eye on the older kids in the pool during the day and for easy get-togethers in the evenings when the little ones had gone to bed.
Early risers were treated to spectacular sunrises as they watched local fishermen cast their nets, searched for starfish and chatted to early morning walkers before joining the stragglers at the enticing breakfast buffet.
A natural reef protects Sanur Beach, so water sports are popular. While the boys went jet-skiing or windsurfing, the girls indulged in massages, manicures and pedicures and hair braiding for the little ones – essential evidence of a Bali holiday!
There was also a turtle hatchery just a short walk from our resort, which the kids loved. The family with older children hired bikes and went riding on the boardwalk alongside the beach and an unexpected invitation to a local palace provided a lesson in making offerings and an opportunity to be blessed by a high priest. An evening Kecak (Monkey) dance performance added a dose of local culture.
Group outing in Bali Safari & Marine Park
Bali offers a diverse range of organised activities including white water rafting, cycling tours, treetop adventures, canyoning, an elephant safari park, bird and reptile parks, day trips to nearby Lembongan Island, dolphin cruises and a lot more. It is impossible to do it all in one trip so we selected a couple of favourites for us to do as a group.
A group outing required group transport, so in the 15-seater bus once more, we headed to Bali Safari and Marine Park at Gianyar for a full day that began with a piranha-feeding demonstration in the fresh water aquarium and ended with dinner in the Tsavo restaurant, where the lions are on the other side of the window … just five metres from where we were having dinner.
In between we went on a ‘safari journey’ through an open zoo area that is home to a range of domestic jungle animals, like the Sumatran tiger and elephant, and African wildlife.
We cooled off in the Water Park, had a ball in the Fun Zone where amusement park rides included everything from mild carousels to roller coasters, and jungle river rides to dodgem cars, and had photos taken with an orangutan, a lion cub and elephants. It was a fantastic day!
Kid-friendly options in Ubud, Kuta, Jimbaran & Legian
As some of our group were ‘Bali virgins’ they were keen to see a little more of the island, so we negotiated a couple of cars with drivers for the day and drove to Ubud, stopping on the way to see silverworks, woodcarving, a batik factory and the famous monkey forest at Sangeh. Although these little monkeys have been known to run off with sunglasses, earrings, wallets and whatever else might be readily available for a quick snatch and grab, they were generally well-behaved and there were lots of very cute baby monkeys, which the little kids loved.
Shopping in the local markets (check out the bargains at Kuta Art Markets) is always great, with an endless supply of cute outfits, novelty bags and toys for kids – all incredibly inexpensive, especially if you have the bargaining gene. Even without it, you can shop yourself silly, at amazingly cheap fixed prices, in department stores including Hardy’s at Sanur and Matahari and Ramayana in Kuta and Legian.
All along the beach, as well as in the main street, there are small restaurants that serve a range of cuisines, including local and western. There are plenty of kid-friendly options and an evening meal for a family of two adults and two children rarely cost more than Rp300,000 (around AUD$30) including a cocktail and beer.
Gathering a large family in Bali - with our own entertainment!
We added some extra spice to three of our evening meals by turning them into theme nights.
The first was a tropical night with lots of loud shirts and floral dresses, the second a black and white night that coincided with the resort’s regular seafood barbecue night – perfect for the black and white ‘Rhonda and Ketut’ (“like a sunrise”) singlets that are so popular now.
The final night was a ‘lucky dip’ night where each person picked out a name and purchased something special for them to wear to dinner that night. It made for some very interesting dinner attire and a fun night at very little cost.
A pre-organised scavenger hunt also brought out the competitive streak in some family members and, with a prize of Rp1,000,000 (approx. AUD$100), the winner was declared a millionaire. Only in Bali!
Although the focus of the holiday was very definitely shared family time, there was also an opportunity for the boys and the girls each to have a night out. The girls definitely came out on top with an indulgent session in the Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool at AYANA Resort and Spa, followed by a cocktail at the exclusive Rock Bar and dinner at Sami Sami restaurant. Bliss!
The final verdict: Bali will see us all back in three years time, no doubt with an even larger family group!