Back in January, my wife and I visited Bali for a 10 day adventure. There were so many things to photograph that I didn’t even come close to seeing them all. We visited beaches & temples, temples on beaches, waterfalls in the jungle, terraced rice fields and more! Frankly, we needed more time on Bali.
Waterfalls on Bali
Bali has a lot of waterfalls. They are around every corner, especially as you head toward the center of the island. One of the most dramatic (and worth the entrance fee) is Sekumpul Falls.
Since we were staying on the north side of the island, this waterfall wasn’t a long drive for us. If you’re coming from Denpasar, it will take you a while, especially if you leave after all the locals are up and going. The driving over the middle takes a long time when everyone (and all the monkeys) is cruising around on their scooters along the winding road.
There is a paid parking lot that you can use if you have your own transportation. Follow their directions on how to get to the falls. I decided to follow something I read online and we ended up wandering through a lot of backyards before accidentally ending up on the correct path. It was entertaining, but not what we had originally planned.
There are actually a few different waterfalls you can visit when you get here. Sekumpul was definitely the most dramatic and worth going for a swim if it’s a hot day (which it pretty much always is). I went underneath the falls and it quite literally took my breath away. That was an experience I haven’t felt before underneath a waterfall.
Being from the U.S., we were a bit shocked at all the naked Europeans here. It seems like everyone just changes in the wide open and nobody seemed to care. Though all the local guides that were with these small groups were staring quite avidly. We decided that it was time to go.
Then it started to rain
Anytime you’re on an island, the rain can come out of nowhere. If you’re photographing an area, don’t forget a rain cover for your camera. Thankfully I always carry one with me and I’m glad because this wasn’t just a light sprinkle. It was a full downpour. It lasted for about an hour and I was thoroughly soaked. Thankfully my camera came away with no damage since I learned my lesson in Hawaii a couple years ago…
We visited so many waterfalls, I really can’t keep track of the names of them all. Basically, if you’re a waterfall person, just stop and see them. Some of them have these awesome bridges that give really great foregrounds for your model (patient wife in my case).
Temples in Bali
The most famous temple on Bali has to be Tanahlot. It is very close to the main city and it’s easy to catch a taxi, bus or drive yourself to this location just west of Denpasar. I highly recommend going for sunset as there are few places that will compare. This image was captured at high tide which gave me some great moving water to work with on the beach. Be warned, if it is high tide that they have many lifeguards there. They pull everyone off the beach and are pretty good about keeping people off. My assumption is that they’ve had numerous people swept out to sea who weren’t paying attention. I waited for a lull in supervision before “accidentally” wandering out here for a picture. I got yelled at.
There are a lot of really great spots to see around here so don’t just focus on this one temple (as cool as it is). Take a walk along the pathway to check out the clifftop temples.
Ulun Danu Temple (The Water Temple)
Near the center of the island lies the Water Temple (Ulun Danu). Going at sunrise is when you want to be here and totally worth the hideous wake-up time. The first day I arrived there was no one working the entrance booth so I just wandered in without paying. I did come back a second time with my wife and that time we did pay the entrance fee. They have a beautiful row of flowers that make for a perfect foreground here. Tons of composition options based on your preferred look. The lake level was down a bit so the temple wasn’t completely surrounded by water. That affected the angles that I was willing to photograph.
There is a boat ride option if you want to be out in the lake at sunrise. Not my cup of tea, but be aware that you could do so for a picture.
There were a number of other temples that we stopped in to see, but just didn’t make for great pictures due to the time of day. There is one on the east side of Bali that I really wanted to photograph. However, the weather never cooperated for the kind of picture I wanted. It is called the Temple of Lempuyang Luhur. It is quite dramatic with a mountain peak in the background. That peak was never visible for us so I didn’t want to take the drive all the way out there. Probably should go back sometime.
Rice Terraces are everywhere
The most famous rice terrace on Bali is Tegalalang. This was easily the busiest place I visited during my trip. We drove past many different rice terraces and I would rather have taken pictures at one of them for sunset in retrospect. I’m not a big fan of crowds and this place definitely had you paying over and over again. I had to laugh as there was the main “entrance fee”, then every few sections in the rice terrace itself someone was asking for another fee for their section. Thankfully this stopped as most people took off right at sunset. My best pictures ended up during the blue hour when the moon was starting to rise.
There’s a reason that it’s famous. It is really cool looking and easy to see all the different levels. I would probably go elsewhere and find a more unique looking option next time around.
Scuba Diving the USS Liberty (Tulamben)
My wife loves the water. I’m not a big fan, unless I’m scuba diving. Not sure why the underwater world makes it ok, but whatever. That’s the way it is. Unless it’s absolutely necessary to get to a dive site, I avoid getting on a boat. The USS Liberty is one of the best shore dives on the planet. It is a very short swim (maybe 20 meters) from shore and is easily one of the best dive spots on Bali.
We saw turtles, humphead parrotfish, eels, sting rays, and lots of people. Since we were there during off-season, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. However, I’m used to cave diving and rarely see anyone else in a cave. This is an amazing location for macro photography. There are a lot of big things to photograph, but the small stuff here was second to none. Plus, it made it really easy to take pictures without all the other divers getting in the shot.
Muck Diving on Bali
Bali is known for a unique type of scuba diving called “Muck Diving”. If you’re into underwater photography, this is macro only. Don’t even bother thinking about trying to take pictures with a wide angle lens. The idea is that there are a lot of small (awesome) organisms in the shallow sandy waters. And there are. This is the one type of dive that a good guide might be worth it. If you’re not good at spotting very small things in very low vis, you should hire someone to take you.
My wife and I went to Pantai Umeanyar which was listed as the best muck diving on Bali. There is one dive “resort” not too far from the beach that you can rent tanks and weights from. It’s far enough that you will want to drive your gear down to the beach. Once you arrive, you swim straight out for a bit and just keep your eyes out for very small stuff that’s floating with the waves. Animals like the cuttlefish are very hard to see. They can change their color to match their surroundings. My wife is quite eagle-eyed and can spot a unicorn in a blizzard while blindfolded (her not the unicorn). She saw a couple of them and I only barely got one photo before it jetted off.
Finding jellies in the water, that’s my skill. Since they like to sting and can make life quite miserable, I seem to attract them like mosquitoes…in fact, that is exactly what they are. Jellies are the mosquitoes of the ocean, just prettier.
This dive will never be forgotten by my wife. While I was helping her gear up, I accidentally punched her in the face!
I was trying to get her shoulder strap unwound and my wet hand slipped on the webbing. Not my finest moment. There were plenty of 1-2 foot waves we had to fight during the dive. Of course she was a bit flustered due to her incompetent husband and at some point her snorkel got knocked off her head (that was not my fault) by one of the waves. Due to the near-zero visibility, we couldn’t find it. Alas, it was an unforgettable adventure…but not for the right reasons.
Campuhan Ridgewalk in Ubud, Bali
I just want to throw this out there, the Campuhan Ridgewalk is gorgeous. The big challenge you will have is not having people in your pictures. Alicia and I headed out extra early so we could figure out the best composition before sunrise. As soon as I took this picture, we had an entire group of people show up in bright orange shirts. They clashed a bit with the beautiful greenery. The other annoyance were the 3 drones that were buzzing around the whole time. I do enjoy the unique views that a drone offers, I can’t stand their incessant buzzing.
Bali has a ton of great photography locations. We didn’t even scratch the surface during our 10 day trip to this tropical island. Lots of people plan too much in too short of a time frame. There wasn’t enough time to see 4 other islands during our short anniversary trip. I would rather focus on one location and try to do it justice. Plus, it was our anniversary and we wanted to take it easy.