Alila Manggis: Dive Bali And Build Your Own Coral Reef

[Photo: KES]

Based in the perfect jumping off spot for Bali’s famous wreck dives, reef dives and turtle spotting, luxe hotel Alila Manggis hopes to rebuild the coral reef on its doorstep – and guests can help

It’s been almost 20 years since I last visited Bali. And the transformation is phenomenal.

The airport is at least four times the size, wifi is everywhere, organic kale smoothies are on menus alongside Nasi Goreng and the Uluwatu temple monkeys are so well fed they barely glance at you.

Tourism has been good to Bali. It’s the island’s main source of income and employment, with entrepreneurial Balinese taking the hoards into their Hindu hearts and homes. But like everywhere else, tourism – and its accompanying modernisation - has been a double-edged sword for these traditional communities.

Nowhere is it that more apparent than under the sea.

On our recent trip to Bali, Alila Manggis was the first stop.

My new husband and I were on honeymoon, and after around 17 hours travel time (if you include the schlep to Heathrow) we arrived at the seaside sanctuary of Alila Manggis slightly cross eyed, in dire need of a lie down and a coconut.

The Space:

A seaside haven with a beautifully manicured pool a short taxi ride from a cute little town

This view from our balcony helped somewhat [KES]

The Vibe:

Chilled out seaside with a side helping of diving if you’re so inclined. Despite my jetlag I headed for a hour-long yoga class on arrival and it was serene.

The Brag:

Planting tiny coral and saving the ocean today, all in a day’s work #Bali

The Instagram Shot:

Our little corals and our (big) coral sign [KES]

THE HITS

Diving. We were lucky enough to arrive in the very earliest days of Alila Manggis’ Coral Reef  Project. As a wedding present, and to celebrate the new project, the hotel bought us some baby corals to plant and a sign to attach to one of its artificial reef tables, naming it as ours – The Adam + Kim Reef.

As the Padi certified diver of the two of us, it was me who headed underwater to place our little babies in their new home.

Despite a stern current, we managed to do almost an hour-long dive around the site where I slowly got the hang of attaching the corals with plastic ties to the iron trellis, sunk months earlier by the dive school.

We planted around 20, checked on some others and spent a little time tidying up the site, collecting debris – including a bra – that had found its way to the artificial reef.

I felt quite emotional waving goodbye to the little things and presumably any death of the tiny, delicate coral precipitates the end of our marriage, so here’s hoping they’re growing well out there!

The dive school is just a few minutes drive from the hotel, and you can do a number of different dives, whatever your level. Speaking to the dive leader before the dive, she explained that before the 70s, Bali had a natural reef on this side of the island, which offered natural protection from the currents and created the perfect environment for sea life. But the coral was used for building materials and completely destroyed decimating local sea creature populations and leaving the area open to stronger current and eroding sand.

Alila is part of a plan to rebuild the reef, little by little, and is hoping to involve its guests. Visitors can purchase corals and either dive down to plant them or allow the team to take them on one of their regular reef-building trips. The team are keeping an eye on how they grow, and has so far set up two sites, both of which are growing in strength. The hope is that these corals with grow and multiply, creating a larger, protective reef over 10s - even hundreds – of years. And if feels pretty special to be a part of that.

In fact, Manggis is an ideal jumping off point for diving and snorkeling in Bali. There are many sites around the island but a must is the relatively short boat ride to the famous US Liberty wreck at Tulamben Bay, and less than 20 minutes by boat to the Blue Lagoon and local reef dives, as well as access to the Gili Island by local water bus.

At Tulamben we saw sharks, rays and turtles and marveled at how the wreck has done what Alila are working so hard to do – create an artificial reef for sea flora and fauna to thrive.

[KES]

There are other things to recommend the area too, even if you’re not a diver. Local rice padi walks are a must, where if you’re lucky you can try the local palm wine direct from the tree, and get some fantastic views of the mountains and coastline. Just ask at reception for tours and adventures.

THE MISSES

The sea isn’t perfect for swimming in this area and no one seemed to be in the water but if it’s a good day and safe, get in! Alila should definitely make more of its beach, the water’s lovely and sandy stretches are a rarity in Bali!

The Deets

Superior rooms start from £116 per night including breakfast, visit www.alilahotels.com/manggis for more info.