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Bali: What we wish we had known before arrival

By Sue Richards last modified Nov 22, 2017 05:50 PM

Published: 2012-09-08 21:28:44
Countries: Indonesia


Here’s a little info we wish we’d had before arriving in Bali, based on our experiences in Flores, Lombok, and Bali - July and August 2012:

The channel west of Bali is full of obstructions and wicked currents and not easily navigable. The currents in the Lombok Strait, West of Bali, are very strong - we had about 6 knots, so you do need to time things carefully. Currents flow south during the SE monsoon (May-Sep) and north during the NW monsoon.

Benoa harbor is a very busy commercial harbour and the boats are pretty packed in places. Parts are very shallow, and the shoal extends well into the marked channel in places, especially on the north side of the outer channel. Both Benoa and Serangan are as dirty as any other commercial harbors in Indonesia - just something you have to learn to look past, I guess.


Anchoring in Bali is NOT as easy as it used to be. We have heard good reviews of Lovina anchorage in north Bali, but we have not yet been there. As for E/S Bali, here are the choices we are aware of:

1) Port Benoa/Bali Marina
Approach through the s-curved marked channel. Better to do this in good light, the shallows extend well south of the marks on the north side of the channel, especially in the outer half of the channel. After you take a final 90-degree turn into a roughly north-south dredged channel, you will have the Bali marina to port and ~ 20 moorings to starboard.

A berth at the marina is expensive by Indonesian standards and will cost you about US $25/day. A mooring here will cost about US $10/day, however they don't belong to the marinas; these are run by some random local fellow who will find you if you pick up a mooring.

A few sailboats manage to anchor north of the marina and moorings, but it is very shallow and space is very limited here. Rumor has it you can also anchor south of the marina and main channel, though we did not see any sailboats doing this. Benoa Marina charges a US$5/day landing fee to tie up dinghies.

2) Serangan Island
A couple of km north of Benoa, Serangan Island is where nearly all the cruising boats end up. It is accessed through a separate channel through the reef north of Port Benoa, not advisable to enter at night. Multiple masts are visible from the Lombok Channel and the channel into Serangan anchorage is marked by a couple of funny little red-and-green floating buoys. Once inside the buoys, you have two well-protected anchorages with about 30 or 40 moorings that cater to a mix of cruisers and local boats.

There are 5 choices:

a) Mande’s moorings:
Moustached - Mande and his goons are known to everyone on Serangan as "the mafia". They operate out of a beachfront shack just east of the dingy dock. He will probably motor out to you as soon as you enter the anchorage, offer you one of his moorings, and tell you (untruthfully) that it’s hazardous to go any further in. His moorings are US $8/day or about US $170/month.

THE PRICE OF ALL MOORINGS INCLUDES A ~US $70/MONTH (Rp 600,000) VILLAGE FEE, which is supposed to go to the people of Serangan. The reason we recommend avoiding Mande if at all possible, is that he has a reputation for stealing this village fee, as well as your dingy engine and anything on the boat that’s left vulnerable. If you take a Mande mooring when you arrive, you are stuck with it; no one else will dare to rent you a mooring. Make sure the village fee is included on your receipt and lock up your boat.

b) Made’s moorings:
I know, it sounds like Mande, but this is Bali and everyone has the same name! This is the 2nd local fellow who has moorings. Rates are roughly the same as Mande’s but you won’t have to worry about mischief. Made’s shop is to the right of the dingy dock and the conspicuous 3-story old yacht club with the curved blue roof on the waterfront road - ask around.

c) The Royal Bali Yacht Club:
Probably the best choice. Try Ruth on Ch 17 on arrival. She is honest, friendly, and helpful. The yacht club is hidden away; land at the dingy dock, turn left down the little main road/waterfront road and walk about 1 km - the RBYC will be on your left. RBYC moorings are a couple of dollars more expensive than the others, but they come with a shower.

d) Anchor:
You should be able to anchor for free NE of Serangan in the large area between the moorings and the reef. Holding here is reputedly poor in a mud/plastic bag bottom. This area and the outer moorings are windy and thus more rough than the inner moorings. Swell protection is good everywhere at Serangan. You cannot anchor inside of where the moorings start.

e) If you happen to be a good personal friend of former Indonesian dictator’s son Tommy Suharto, you can anchor in the absolutely beautiful, protected, peaceful, perfect inner anchorage that lies up the southern channel that you will notice to port just after you pass through the reef. Tommy’s dad was one of the richest men in the world after he stole billions from the Indonesian people in the 60’s-90’s. Tommy owns a large portion of Serangan, and unless you’re buddies, his goons will show up to chase you off shortly after you drop anchor here.


Good News:
Local produce, services, and goods are cheap and imported ones are often reasonable. Shop at Lottemart (near Serangan), Carrefour in Kuta, or Hardy’s in Sanur. Local beer is cheap and good.

Public transport from Serangan or Bali Marina is non existent, taxis are about US $10 to Denpasar/Kuta/Sanur, but you can rent a motorbike for about US $3/day/. Watch out though, traffic in Bali is scary.

In Serangan drinking water is US$1.50 for 20L. Local tapwater (bleach/boil before drinking) can be delivered to the boat for $8/500L.

Diesel can be delivered for about US$0.85/L negotiable. Jerry canning is technically illegal, but we've had no problem filling our jerry cans at a dingy-accessible petrol station for $0.50/L.

Propane: The only places we've found that have Indonesian-to-US/Europe propane adaptors are Bali Marina or the Royal Bali yacht club. Both charge US$50 for a 20lb bottle fill.

Local labour is around $15/day. Good sail repair can be done by Nusa Dua Boatworks south of Kuta ($$$) or Julie on Serangan.

Telkomsel - near Ramayana on Diponegoro St. in Denpasar - can provide a 3G internet plan for US $15/month + plus dongle.

Bad News:
Imported (i.e. palatable) wine and alcohol are expensive here. This is a double-whammy for us because we have spent the last month trying to get work done on the boat here, and we really need a stiff drink now!

Quality boat parts and metalworking/mechanic services are really hard to find here, unless you’re fluent in Indonesian and looking for something very basic.

Serangan is a lovely, quiet, friendly little traditional village with tons of temples. Except for the pollution, I can't think of a better place to stay on Bali.

Dave and Gini
SV Marquesa

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Nov 22, 2017 05:50 PM

Report from Liz Datson:

We dealt with a chap called Mande at Serengan, in his own words “like Monday - not Tuesday”.
I don't know if its the same guy who is given a bad wrap in this report, but the Mande we met was great for us.
He speaks good English, provided a mooring in good condition, a safe place to leave your dinghy when going ashore, took the small amount of rubbish we had, provided us with excellent CLEAN diesel for the price quoted and at the time(s) specified, carried by his boat out to ours. Could also help with laundry, water etc. which we didn't need, and sent one of his guys to show us the way to a particular shop we were looking for.

Mande Yacht Service
+62 81 915 625 085, +62 82 144 136 458
fb :Mande Ngurah,