So I got in touch with Real Gap Experience once I’d booked my holiday to Bali a few months back to see if they had any tours they could recommend and they decided to send me off on their ‘Bali Beaches’ tour! YAASSSS. Blogger perks, am I right? Here’s all the goss…
Because I already had my Garuda flights booked in, it actually meant I missed the first few days of the tour, which started in Kuta. But I was kind of happy about that tbh, I hadn’t heard the best things about Kuta and a few people I know have referenced it as ‘Australia’s Magaluf’. Nah I’m good, ta. So me and the boyf met up with the group in Ubud.
Sidebar: I actually ended up visiting Kuta for an afternoon once the tour ended and really did not like it – fast food chains everywhere, it felt like the anti-Bali. But from what I heard from others on my tour, they seemed to like the portion of the tour in Kuta – they went surfing and visited temples and a waterfall. And had big nights out at 4 storey clubs apparently. So I reckon if you were only spending a few days on the tour it would be alright.
But anyway back to Ubud.
We met up with everyone at Puri Gardens, the hotel we stayed at for a few days, and it was totally fab. Lovely room with a sick view of the rice fields and the mountains, green pancakes for breakfast (wuuuttt) and a really cool pool we all hung out at. I was pretty impressed to be honest, I’d expected dorm rooms in dirty hostels, but nah mate.
The first place we visited in Ubud was Monkey Forest, which I was quite rightly pretty worried about. I’ve seen too many YouTube videos of monkeys stealing tourist’s stuff and my previous experience of monkeys in Thailand has left me quite wary of our fury friends. But it was actually pretty cool. You can buy bananas and hold them up and the monkeys will climb up you and sit on your shoulder to eat their treat. I’m not about that but other people on the tour did it and seemed to like it. Except when one peed on a girl. Yep. Don’t wear your best clothes here guys.
It was cool to see the monkeys in the wild though, I just felt a bit on edge the whole time!
Another stop on the tour of Ubud was the famous rice terraces. I’ve been wanting to go here forever since I’d seen every blogger ever sashaying through the gorgeous greenery on Instagram. So you know, standard Instagrammer activity, I put my fave new River Island outfit on for the experience, not realising it was an hour and a half hike. And not like the kind of ‘hikes’ you go on with tours sometimes and it’s totally flat and a piece of piss. This was pretty tricky as you have to climb the terraces with their sloping mud steps and planks of wood connecting platforms. If you slip, you’re in the drink. I definitely didn’t wear the right clothes and should’ve worn trainers instead of sandals – take note kids!
But it was really beautiful and I had a lot of fun exploring the area. This is one of the experiences where I was glad to have a tour guide to take us round. I mean I could’ve visited Monkey Forest on my own quite easily but I would’ve gotten completely lost in this maze on my own.
Next up was a visit to a lovely restaurant for lunch overlooking the volcano Mount Batur and the neighbouring mountains. And I tell you, lunchtime views don’t get much better than this. Sure, the food wasn’t all that and it was pretty basic, but the appeal of this place isn’t the cuisine, and I wouldn’t have found it if I wasn’t on a tour. Thumbs up.
Lastly in Ubud, we visited a coffee plantation. Home of the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world – Luwak coffee. Otherwise known as Cat-poo-chino. That’s right, coffee beans are eaten by these little luwak creatures and pooped out, ready to be turned into coffee. Gross but intriguing, right? I tried it and it was alright, pretty strong. I was more interested in the tasting of the much sweeter and tastier variations of vanilla coffee, sweet potato coffee and ginger tea! So delicious!
The next destination on the tour was Gili T, which has been on my hitlist for ages. It just looks like paradise.
Getting there on the boat was the standard Southeast Asia process, so I knew what I was doing but I think the first-time travellers on the tour appreciated the help from our tour guide. A lot of the day was spent travelling but we arrived in the early afternoon and had some free time to do what we wanted. We stayed in Gili T Resort which also had a lovely pool so a bunch of us played volleyball for a bit.
The first proper activity in Gili T was a bike ride round the island. I totally loved this. We passed lots of cool bars, gorgeous beaches and even some flying yoga, which I completely need to try at some point in my life, it looks fab. Once we were round the other side of the island, we stopped at a place called Window Bar to have a refreshing Mojito and watch the jaw-dropping sunset.
The sunset was crazy good as expected and I had a great time just chilling in the beanbags. This is also where you get those infamous swing photos, but beware you need to queue a bit and it’s a bit of effort. You don’t see that on Instagram do you?
I didn’t want to miss watching the sunset so got a couple snaps early on then settled in to watch the gorgeous sky. This was one of my absolute fave things we did on the Bali Beaches tour. <3
The next day, we went on a lovely boat ride around the Gili Islands. As you well know, I’m not about snorkelling. I just don’t like deep water, I don’t like being near fish, I get a bit paranoid about my asthma, it’s just a no from me. But there were lots of opportunities on the boat ride to snorkel and the other guys on the tour said it was cool and they even saw turtles! To be fair the water was completely see-through so I could see plenty fish from the boat. I’ll watch the bags, guys.
We stopped on Gili Air for lunch so I got a chance to explore this island for a little while. There wasn’t much going on here, it’s a lot quieter than Gili T, but it was nice to chill out on the lovely beach and get those island vibes.
In terms of nightlife, there were a couple of big nights out on Gili T, mainly at Jungle bar opposite our hotel, and it was a lot of fun to party with everyone. The best part was playing Jungle Cup, an amazing combination of Beer Pong and Flip Cup – mind blown. I’m bringing that home with me for sure.
It was quite nice on the tour that there were recommended places that the tour guide took everyone for nights out and dinners, but you were ok to break away on your own if you wanted. So one night me and Josh had dinner on our own rather than with everyone, just because we wanted to try an awesome Mexican restaurant that had been recommended to us before we left Ubud (Taco Casa – the 8 layer burritos are amazing!). I also saw a few of the girls skip a night out because they were tired. I like that about it, there’s lots of fun nights out but no pressure to do everything.
The food and restaurants that we were taken to were pretty good though, always on-budget. My fave was the street food market on Gili T where I had the most amazing skewers for dinner and paid about £3 for a giant plate of food. Result.
Another highlight of the tour was our tour guide, Kent, who was really cool and fun to hang out with. He’s not one of those tour guides that rams information down your throats or is strict on times you have to be somewhere – he just offers info when relevant and is always flexible with what the group wants to do. There’s also a group chat on Facebook for everyone on the tour to communicate and share photos which I thought was a nice touch.
Finally my main takeaway from the tour was that it was great value for money at just £349 for the full 8 days. I mean, with these kind of things of course you can do it cheaper on your own. But I’m always recommending to travellers that if they’re going travelling on their own they should start with a week-long tour like this one to ease into the culture and meet a ton of cool people you might be able to travel with.
That certainly seemed to be the case with our tour as a lot of the guys have already planned to meet up again later in their travels and everyone was total besties with each other. In terms of nationalities and ages, it really varied on my tour with people from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany and The Netherlands, and ages were mainly in the early twenties from what I could tell, with a couple of people in their early thirties (I wasn’t the oldest for like the first time ever). So a good mix of different people.
Overall I was really impressed with the Bali Beaches tour, both with Real Gap Experience’s supportive team sending regular emails in the lead up to the tour and the fab tour guide on the tour itself. I’d be more than happy to go on a tour with them again for sure.
For more info on the tour, head over to Real Gap Experience for the full Bali Beaches trip notes.
Have you done a tour with either of these companies? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!
Total blogger transparency: I accepted the Real Gap Experience Bali Beaches tour free of charge but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I wouldn’t play you like that shorty.