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Eat, Sleep, Pray, Love in South Africa’s Bali

by | Eco Travel, Print Articles, Summer 2022

The small island of Bali has nestled itself safely inside my heart in a way that no other place could. After living in Bali and returning to South Africa, we desired to find a space to settle that would set our spirits alive in the same way that the small island had done. This is when we decided to move to the South Coast. We had already decided before we had even left Bali. Slowly, over time, this island paradise had become home and, deep down, we knew that we needed to settle in a space that reminded us of the magic that the island had brought into our internal worlds. After writing and rewriting this article, I realised that if I were to be authentic, I would have to say that, yes, the South Coast does indeed remind me of Bali, but at the same time it doesn’t – and I’ll explain why. The South Coast of South Africa and the island of Bali share many traits – a few of which I will map out later in this article, but there is also a much deeper comparison that could be made, one that has unveiled itself after having the privilege of being able to root ourselves in both spaces.

At the end of the day, people don’t travel to Bali to take photos on swings overlooking the rice fields or swim beneath turquoise waterfalls, eat tropical food and drink coffee made by the Balinese, or visit monkeys in some of the richest jungles upon the equator. Well, it’s a paradox because they do, but they also don’t. Bali is filled with digital nomads, people who work from a space of freedom and who choose to explore the world whilst creating and offering up their services online. It is also filled with seekers, those who travel to the island for an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ moment. Some come out of desperation, others out of a deep inner desire to have their life shifted in some way or another. What I experienced whilst living there – and what I still feel deeply rooted within many of my clients who are still living there – is that Bali is a space of transformation and many who travel there are in search of that one gift: Revolution, whether it comes about in an awakening or a complete shift in life.

The deep transformation of Africa

Bali has its unique energetic signature, one that cannot be matched by any other space. Its lush jungles sit on the equator, which makes it the perfect space for growing rice and tropical fruits. It has two seasons: Rainy and not-so-rainy but, despite this, the air remains moist. This means that the ground is always wet, compacted and dark. It is this very moisture that fills the soul, drenching it and replenishing it from the inside out. Just as each grain of soil clings to the other when it is wet, so the island invites one’s soul to draw closer to itself. The island asks you to snuggle up with yourself, per se, inviting you to get to know yourself a little deeper by forming a deep inner relationship with yourself.

Africa, on the other hand, has one of the richest and most powerful energetic signatures I have felt. There is a deep presence and spirit that resounds beneath the earth, some even say it was the birthing space of mankind. It is a space of fire and deep transformation – and our winters on the Highveld can attest to that. Just as the soil turns grainy and dry, so the spirit of Africa calls you to unravel yourself from all that you think you are, to hold the fragments, caress them, before finally accepting that it is all you. It is a powerful and delicate process and it takes a lot of strength to hold this power and be courageous enough to dance with your shadows and light. The South Coast, on the other hand, carries a rich balance of both these signatures of Bali and Africa. There is a sacred and quiet fire within the winter – the land dries and the trees shed partially for winter. This is a time for transformation and unravelling, but it is not as harsh as those who experience this process on the Highveld. It is gentle and subtle, yet still as powerful. After moving through this unravelling, we flow into spring and summer – this is a time when the soil turns a deeper, richer shade when the lushness of the sacred waters enrich the soil and drench the forests, bringing about the replenishing and revitalising transformation that many journey towards Bali in search of.

Yes, Bali is indeed a space of great spiritual connection, but it cannot be matched by the power that is held within Africa, particularly within the South Coast. They are different. The South Coast holds the codes for deep spiritual transformation, soulful awakening and complete life changes and, depending on whether you decide to journey here in winter or summer, this transformation will be different. There are not many places on earth that can match this magnificence. The South Coast is a gem in its own right.

Jungles and pristine natural surroundings

For those who are looking for a physical comparison – yes, the South Coast has always reminded me of Bali. It is wild, free and pristine in every sense of the word. There is an organic opulence that permeates the space, with wild rivers, forested belts, mountainous spaces and an ocean that comes alive no matter the season.

The natural surroundings instil a sense of calm and peace, which is why so many travellers choose the South Coast for summer and winter vacations. Whether you are travelling for the warm summers settled on the beach, a spring hike near Oribi Gorge, or a season of whale and sardine watching in the winter, every season is imbued with a unique kind of beauty that cannot be replicated anywhere else across South Africa. This was the first thing we fell in love with and the first reason why we moved here. We loved to be beside the natural streams, to see the sun hit the gossamer wings of the dragonfly as it settles upon a lily pad, to see the natural glow of a firefly beside the river at night (yes, it happens; we have already experienced this within our garden).

By gazing at the South Coast with new lenses, you might begin to see that the rolling hills of sugar cane fields resemble the rice fields of Bali. You might begin to see the natural elegance and Feng Shui energy that the giant bamboo and frangipani trees bring into a space. You might begin to feel that the magic is abundant and larger than anything you previously dared to dream would be possible. It all starts with a shift in perspective and a deep appreciation for the natural beauty that permeates our coastlines.

Monkey Forest – monkey forest everywhere

Ever dreamed of walking down the winding pathways of Monkey Forest before skipping over to the Jatiluwih rice fields in Tabanan?

Well, on the South Coast you can walk through monkey forest any day, any time. The wild Vervet monkeys that are present on the coastline are plentiful. Although it is strongly advised to not feed them in any way, we would like to invite you to settle beneath the trees and simply admire how they approach life. While there, your eyes may even spot a legavaan, the Natal water snake, or one of our blue kingfishers. Oribi Gorge has some of the best hiking trails, allowing visitors to get lost in the flora and fauna for hours on end. Is deep forest vegetation not up your alley? No worries, the South Coast is home to many hidden jewels in the form of beaches that are hidden away down side roads, between rocks and amongst quaint little suburb.

The warm Indian Ocean waters and the long stretches of sand make the South Coast an ideal space in which to swim, surf, and snorkel and suntan. The 120 Kilometre KZN South Coast boasts 58 golden beaches 6 of which have international Blue Flag status.

Textures, interiors and natural treasures.

If you are preparing to journey down to the South Coast on your next holiday and desire a few special items to take home with you, then you are going to be very pleased with what this place has hidden up its sleeve. If you are wanting to adorn your living room or wardrobe with handwoven baskets by local ladies or vibrant clothing that epitomises the ‘island look’, then our beaches have just what you are looking for. From Saint Michael’s down to Trafalgar, you can be sure to find something special for sale along the outskirts of the white sands. Natural Interiors can be found next to Chefs on Marine in Ramsgate. It holds a wide collection of hand-woven macramé light fittings and cloths, as well as stone basins and natural items for the house and home. Beaches, in Southbroom, is a small boutique store that offers luxurious, bespoke items that have been hand-crafted or created with love and attention to detail from artisans around the world. They offer the perfect gifts and memoirs to take home. If you are dreaming of Bali and would like to take a piece of it home with you, then Oria Avenue at Mac Banana is your go-to place. They have imported a wide variety of hand-made items right from Bali, so now it’s easier for you to shop that picture-perfect Instagram look right from the comfort of South Africa.

I awoke within the misty hours of the morning and felt the world spring to life beneath my bare feet. The jungle was alive with music – the fluttering of wings against the summer breeze, the trickle of water hitting a rocky gulley, the cry of the monkeys within the groves of bamboo and the deep sigh of the trees as they awoke for the day. A warm glint of sunlight hit the tops of the trees, sending dappled light flickering across the leaf-strewn forest floor. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and at that moment I knew that my soul was home. 

The connection of hearts

“A place is less about the place and more about the people” – said every well-versed traveller always. I will always remember that this was the one thing that stood out in Bali – it was the kind, gracious and loving energy that emanated from the locals that made us feel at home and accepted. No matter what was unfolding within their personal lives, a giving hand was always available. The island has always offered itself up for tourism, as a space for weary visitors to rest and heal. Over time, I have come to see that the South Coast does the same. There is a beautiful sheen of peace and tranquillity that pervades the coastline, inviting all who stand within its midst to open up unto themselves and explore their inner worlds while exploring the outer. If you are looking for a reason to travel here, then 2023 is your year – this is the sign from the universe that you have been waiting for. Aligned with the annual BaliSpirit Festival in Ubud, Bali the South Coast will be hosting the KwazuluSpirit Festival on the 22nd and 23rd of July – it is a time for authentic soul-felt connection, both within and without.

Titillating the taste buds

From small boutique hotels to quaint Airbnb’s, to restaurants owned by locals – the South Coast offers up some of the best when it comes to food and dining. Journey Café in Shelly Beach offers some of the best vegan and vegetarian food on the South Coast and C-Bali, a luxurious restaurant on the beach at Saint Michael’s, invites visitors to experience their wide variety of designer gins and sushi, as well as some of the best burgers, poke bowls and seafood that the South Coast has seen.

Chefs on Marine, which can be found in Ramsgate, invites guests to experience a French take on the traditional classics – such as eggs benedict, croque madame, or croque monsieur – all presented on freshly baked croissants. Then there is Mac Banana. This space is overflowing with guests during the holiday season and for good reason. Their menu offers one of the largest assortments of pancakes in South Africa, their shop holds a large array of some of the most unique food items (which make the perfect gifts) and the adventure park, restaurant over the river, butterfly park and farmyard make this one of the best places for the entire family to enjoy together.

If you are wanting to experience coffee that has been nurtured upon the side of a hill in an estate that has been growing sturdy roots since 1984, then Beaver Creek is the place to be. Their signature blends taste like 38 years of experience. Every sip is titillating the taste buds with earthy, sea-kissed tones, from crop to cup.

The sound of wings rustling through the jungle. The flicker of a firefly upon a rice field bejewelled with raindrops. The powerful music of chanting flowing forth from the temples. Beautiful hand-woven textiles, food created straight from the earth and coffee grown upon the crown of the mountains. There is a sacred energy here, a gentility and an organic opulence. It is the very thing that draws many a foot to the island of Bali and it is this one thing we have nestled within the sanctuary of the South Coast. Some call it magic. Some call it the wonder of nature. We call it the opportunity for transformation.

Kerry is a copywriter and messaging strategist with over a decade’s worth of experience working with soulful brands who are ready to tell their authentic story. With a degree in Journalism and her honours in English, she has helped 100+ clients from around the world with their website copy, brand strategizing and marketing material – from sales pages, to websites, to email newsletters and blogs. She owns a boutique copywriting agency, Get Crystal Clear, and is a qualified reiki practitioner. In addition to this, she is the Editor in Chief for a global wellness magazine that is based in Bali.

Visit her Instagram page @kerrykillen.crystalclear or her website www.getcrystalclear.co to connect.

Kerry Ann Killen

Kerry-Ann Killen is a full time writer, editor and a marketing manager for a major wellness company in South Africa. She is currently studying for her doctorate in metaphysics, allowing the art of storytelling and consciousness to weave projects based on sustainability and conscious living. She allows her pen to guide her across the world, wherever inspiration, expansion and growth call. She is always looking for new ways to bring her writing and perspective of the world to life, thereby sharing tales of the secrets and magic of human existence. Visit her Facebook page for more information.

Email: [email protected] / [email protected]