This award-winning eco retreat is like nothing else in Bali
Journeying to a beautiful hideaway in a remote rainforest in Bali, Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, a responsible travel leader, evokes more than a sense of oneness with nature – it plants the seeds of change.
- April 2020
Mount Batukaru, an extinct volcano, looms ever closer as I follow the road up its verdant, fertile slopes, passing villages, coffee plantations and banana groves. Black eagles streak across the sky and kingfishers play in the forest canopy. I am starting to enjoy this liberating feeling of being on a motorbike, the wind whipping through my hair as I catch my first glimpse of the tiled-roof bungalows peeping out from the steep valley walls blanketed in a rainforest.
The coast of southern Bali, 700 metres below, is still visible but Sarinbuana Eco Lodge (baliecolodge.com) is a world away from the island’s bustling beach scene.
Originally a self-sustaining family getaway for antipodeans Norm and Linda vant Hoff, the peaceful eco retreat has been open to paying guests since 2000. The pioneering lodge, winner of Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award in 2007 and 2010, has six secluded bungalows built with local bamboo, coconut and jackfruit timber.
After checking into my two-storey tree house – a rustic-chic hideaway adorned with colourful woven textiles, hand-carved furniture and billowing mosquito nets – I join the complimentary garden tour. Over 10,000 native fruit trees have been planted in the surrounding forest, while flourishing permaculture gardens brim with 150-plus species of edible plants.
Thriving vegetable patches nestle among groves of salak (snake fruit), cacao trees, dangling passionfruit vines and fiddlehead ferns – the juicy tips of which appear in my delicious salad mixed with fresh shredded coconut and chilli, served in the cosy lodge restaurant. Here, garden-to-plate dining is a given.
Everything is in balance with nature, from the sustainable building techniques and waste management to low-impact activities such as yoga, hiking and swimming. But for Norm and Linda, who also offer ecotourism design and consultancy services, running an eco lodge means connecting with the community, above all. The staff members are all local and their community projects include a collaboration with Seacology to protect an 800-metre swathe of the adjoining rainforest – which guests can explore on guided hikes.
Authentic cultural workshops at the lodge include Balinese cooking, calligraphy, woodcarving and table decorating. It is tempting to spend all day lounging by the natural pool – those views! – but I tear myself away for a fun, laughter-filled afternoon with local villager Jero. We chat about village life and traditions while I learn to weave flowers and leaves into pretty ornaments.
Later, I join Linda on the terrace of the restaurant for a rich, smooth Balinese coffee to learn more about her eco lifestyle. “To be connected to the environment, the people and the land is my greatest joy,” she says.
Experiencing what Linda and Norm have carefully created here in the remote rainforests of Bali leaves me feeling deeply inspired. When I head back down the mountain a few days later, I vow to make changes to my lifestyle – starting with learning more about permaculture so I can turn my garden at home into an edible one.