When in Bali: Waterfall Trekking in the Northern Jungles

Originally published as Waterfall Trekking in the Northern Jungles by When In Manila

What do you do in Bali when the waves aren’t “surfable”, when you’re sick of the beach, or when you’re sunburnt and need a respite from the equatorial rays?

Bali’s lush jungles have been hugely overlooked by mainstream tourists in favor of the ‘sun, sea and sand’ trips by the shores of Kuta and Seminyak. However, when my sister and I went this summer (June, the supposedly dry season), we were feeling up for a little bit of Jumanji-style adventure. As such, we joined a group trip of the island’s northern waterfalls, the Sekumpul cascades, and the rest is history.

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Sekumpul means ‘grouped together’ in Bahasa, referring to seven falls of up to 80 metres high. Sounds like Tagalog’s ‘kumpol’, meaning cluster!

We ended up being an all-girl group of five that day; the three new people we met were travel bloggers making their way through Southeast Asia at the time. One was Zainab of Tinderella Worldwide, a cheerful British Muslim lady who got out of a toxic relationship in London and decided to Eat, Pray, Love and Tinder her way around the world. (Z, please correct me if I’m wrong about any of this info!).

The other two were Anete and Gita from Latvia, the team behind The Travel Leaf. They had apparently gotten a deal with a publishing company to provide content whilst working and travelling remotely. My sister, lest she kill me for not mentioning, is a law student who happens to love surfing.

Pretty amazing that we all got together randomly after joining a Trip Guru experience. The Italian-Argentinian startup, based in Hong Kong, is all about putting together solo travellers / couple backpackers / adventure seekers in group tours to make up the numbers, consequently bringing down the price per head.

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Little did we know we were in for a day filled with never-ending waterfalls

Our local guide that day, Ketut, picked us up from our ‘villa’ in Canggu, which was kind of (super) out of the way and in the middle of nowhere. Thank God he found us in the middle of these rice fields where there was hardly any road. He told us about his name, which is distinctly Balinese, and about their system of naming children in Bali.

You see, the more Balinese people you meet, the more repetitive the names get. And that’s because people name their children by order. Firstborns are always either Wayan, Putu or Gede. The second is Made or Kadek, the third goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. By the fifth child, the cycle starts all over again. So, what’s your Balinese name? Mine’s Wayan.

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Starting the short but steep trek down to the basins

Unfortunately, and strangely off-season, it was raining the day we decided to go to Sekumpul. The Latvian girls were particularly disappointed because they had brought their pro camera to shoot the adventure. I stubbornly used my old Canon G12 all throughout, which probably caused its death, because it stopped working shortly after that trip.

That morning, the rain went down so hard that Ketut had to get us all raincoats for the walk. We ate our boxed breakfast in the shelter – a meal of bread, jam, tetra-pack juice and other elementary-style snacks. I believe Ketut’s wife prepared that for us as it’s included in the fee. I was just thinking, “Whatever will give me energy to survive until lunch…”

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Get your bearings
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Crossing streams and rivers made healthy by the rains
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A landscape not unlike many in rural Philippines. Make sure to wear rubber sandals with straps and a good grip, not Havaianas-style flip flops like we did. You’re more likely to slip and slide with the latter, not to mention lose them in the current.

And it began. The trek wasn’t too long; we went through a couple (or more) clusters of waterfalls separated by streams, wooden bridges and rice fields. Ketut also brought us to some village temples and shrines in between the fields where the locals worship. Many were overgrown with vegetation, quite cool and mystical-looking if I weren’t so distracted by how muddy my feet were getting. It was a great excursion, but definitely do it when it’s not raining…

One sad sight we passed was the village dump, which is basically this incline by the roadside where people just throw their trash. I was shocked by this because you would think on such a developed island, they would have a working waste management system. They definitely have the money to put something decent in place, but alas that was not the case here. I suppose Northern Bali is not as well taken care of as the more commercialized South.

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Semi kinda freezing and wet in Sekumpul. It would be beautiful and refreshing on a clear day…
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Hidden temples along the walk… you’d never find them on your own

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Passing through the rice fields
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Crossing gurgling rivers

Our itinerary:

06.30am: Hotel pick-up

9.30am: Arrive at trek starting point

10.00am: Arrive at the waterfalls (Sekumpul)

12.00nn Head back to starting point

12:45pm: Visit Twin Lakes Buyan and Tamblingan

01:00pm: Buffet lunch at Beratan

02:00pm: Visit Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

03:00pm: Visit Taman Ayun Temple (Bali’s foremost UNESCO Heritage Site)

04:00pm: Drive back to Hotel

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Wanagiri swing photo op queue before lunch. We were too cold (this is up in the highlands – bring a hoodie or cover up!) and went straight to the buffet included in the tour!
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What the swing pic is supposed to look like…

After the buffet lunch*, we were feeling a million times better. We went for our last stop, the picturesque Ulun Danu Beratan Temple sitting on the corner of Beratan Lake. This is the stuff of Bali postcards, and we finally got to see it in real life. However, by the end of that temple visit, we were so wet and cold that we decided to skip Taman Ayun Temple, which is Bali’s foremost UNESCO Heritage Site.

My sister and I had already gone the other day during a Unesco Heritage Site tour, which included the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. Thankfully, Ketut and Trip Guru are super flexible, so he basically rearranged the schedule for us.

*The buffet lunch was a standard spread of Indonesian / local food. Think: satay, nasi goreng / fried rice, curries, fritters, etc.

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Ulun Danu Beratan

Finally, I hope I didn’t scare you off with our rainy photos! I would definitely recommend this jungle / waterfall trek with the added bonuses of temple hopping in the afternoon. This is definitely a Bali experience off the beaten path, and would be appreciated by those who want to dive into the jungles of that island of the gods.

 

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