Indonesia

Komodo Islands

August 19, 2020

LocationLabuan Bajo, Komodo Islands – Indonesia

Photography Helen Janneson Bense

Where to stay – Labuan Bajo Sylvia Resort – Liveaboard @stravel.co – opt for an air conditioned private room. All your meals will be included and they were able to cater to my plant based diet, yet you might want to grab a few supplies and snacks from Labuan Bajo before you set sail. They have filtered water on board you can refill with your reusable bottle.

What to bringReusable water bottles, straws, food containers, food wraps, cutlery, wet/dry bag, backpack, snorkel gear (I’m a fan of Scubapro), bikinis and cover ups, modest clothing, underwater camera, hiking shoes, flip flops, reef safe sunscreen, noise canceling headphones (for the boat noise), sunhat, sea sickness medication, snacks

2020 has been a year! While there has been so much heartbreak, we’ve experienced a worldwide awakening. The emotional challenges have been a catalyst for some deep personal growth and healing. It’s really brought into focus what matters most. I’m filled with gratitude for my life, connecting with my family, and supporting our global community in need. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to slow down, create more intentionally and breathe for a while. It’s been a chance to exhale deeply. Time has also been a treasured gift to reflect upon some of my amazing experiences that I never fully integrated and shared. I love that by sharing my experiences here; I get to create a permanent space for them to live once again. After the year it’s been so far, it fills my heart with joy to relive this adventure from what feels like a lifetime ago. And yet this was just last year, and an almost completely different me.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a place so otherworldly like Komodo Islands. Accompanied by a wonderful group of bloggers, members of Indonesian tourism, experienced local boat crew, we set sail for 3 days to explore the islands. We set off from the main hub of Labuan Bajo, the westernmost tip of the Flores island. Our first stop was Kelor Island. I was first struck by the multiple shades of turquoise water and the breathtaking landscape. As I looked closer, I saw local children playing soccer with an old plastic water bottle. I soon realised that the rubbish that lined the shores at Labuan Bajo, was also making its way to this once pristine island paradise. We climbed the many steps to the top and were rewarded with grand views of the surrounding islands and ocean. It was an easy climb, however I would recommend good shoes and a beginner-moderate fitness level to get to the top and back down again.

From here we set sail to Kalong island to settle in for the night and watch the sunset while the bats took off into the night sky. It was such a sight to see! For over 15 minutes, hundreds upon hundreds of bats flew from the mangroves across the sunset sky, some with a wingspan of up to 1.5m!

I would love to say that first night was a good night’s sleep on the boat. Boat trips always take some adjustment for light sleepers; the motion, the generator sounds, the smell of fuel. We had a 4.30am wake up to hike to the top of Padar Island for sunrise. I was a little worse for wear to say the least, but I was up and excited for adventure. This hike was probably one of the more challenging I’ve done. It feels like a million steps to get to the top, though it’s roughly 700 steps. I would suggest a moderate fitness level for this one, good hiking shoes, sunscreen, setting off as early as you can, and taking lots of water because it gets very hot. It’s about a 2 hour boat trip from Labuan Bajo if you don’t want to go for sunrise or sleep overnight on a boat. For me, it really was worth every bit of muscle pain and bad nights sleep to watch that sunrise over the water and light everything up. As the sun rose, tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I watched the pastel colours changing with the light over the majestic island landscape. With black, white and pink sand beaches, Padar island is one for the adventure bucket list for sure.

Next we headed off to the very Instagrammable Pantai Merah, also known as Pink beach. Why is the sand pink? A microorganism, known as Foraminifera, produces the pinkish red colour pigment on nearby coral reefs. The broken coral then washes up onto the beach. The intensity of the pink colour varies due to the amount of coral found in the sand. The contrast of pink sand and vibrant turquoise water makes it feel otherworldly. It’s worth mentioning that even though you might not see Komodo dragons here, they are known to live on the island and they are also very good swimmers, going from one island to another within Komodo National Park. I didn’t realise this while I was having a relaxing float in the water by myself that Komodo dragons could be swimming by me!

The next part of our journey was to Komodo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the Komodo dragons up close and personal and meet the locals in Komodo Village. I was once again stunned by the amount of plastic rubbish along the shores. We met some local children from the village who were playing here with these mounds of plastic junk. I’ve included some pictures showing this because I feel it’s vital we realise that these beautiful places will only stay pristine if we keep them that way. The strong currents are constantly bringing more and more rubbish to the shores, killing marine life along the way. We must be mindful of plastic use and disposal during our visit to places where proper waste disposal systems are not in place. Your best option is to bring your own reusables and choose eco tours like @stravel.co. If you do use plastic, please collect all your rubbish and take it home with you to recycle properly. Placing it in a local bin means it will most likely end up in the ocean. Taking your plastic rubbish home may feel inconvenient, but please look at these pictures; the beauty and the pollution and think about the larger impact of leaving your rubbish behind.

Komodo island had a very eerie feel to it. I’m not sure if it was because I knew that deadly Komodo dragons were here in their natural habitat and I felt like the intruder. As I took part in the very touristy experience walking along with a guide, and stopping for a very staged photo op with a Komodo dragon, I started to feel uneasy about this entire experience. It didn’t sit right for me. I didn’t want to take a photo. I soon learnt Komodo dragon numbers are in the decline. The over polluting, the poaching, burning of their habitat, relocating, climate change (rising temperature impacts on the survival and sex of their offspring), and over tourism (feeding the dragons, affecting their mating habits) has endangered the species. Concerns have arisen that Komodo dragons could be extinct within 50-100 years. In 2019 the Indonesian government had called for a closure of the island for 1 year to help replenish numbers and then back flipped on that move. As much as I loved learning about Komodo dragons, I also feel like there are parts of this world that I’d rather not be able to see, knowing that my lack of presence will work towards protecting these species. My hope is that a sustainable eco-tourism approach will be maintained moving forward.

After this wild adventure with the dragons, we set sail for one of my favourite spots of this entire trip – Taka Makassar; a sandbank island amidst the archipelago. We settled in for a much-needed sleep after a huge day. After a much better sleep, I woke before sunrise to the calm and soothing sounds of the ocean. I watched the sunrise from the top of the boat with 360 degree ocean views. After breakfast we set off in a smaller boat to Taka Makassar for some snorkelling and swimming in crystalline blue waters. It’s a tiny sandbank that gets very busy, so it’s best to visit early in the morning. We experienced some of the cleanest waters I’ve seen. It reminded me of the Maldives. From here we took our small boat to Manta Point to snorkel with the Manta rays. I was amazed at how many there were as soon as I dove into the water. Snorkelling in and around this area was absolutely amazing, and in hindsight I’d probably spend a lot more time here next time I visit.

For the afternoon we visited Kanawa Island. Another fabulous snorkelling spot with crystal clear turquoise waters. We spent the afternoon hanging out on the beach, doing some painting and relaxing together. This was the last of our island stops before heading back to Labuan Bajo.

Labuan Bajo has such a rich cultural history. Make sure you head to the Melo village to experience the mesmerising Tetek Alu and Caci dance with the local tribe. These dances are an important part of their cultural identity and ceremonial life. The ocean vista from high in the mountains is breathtaking. Supporting locals is an important part of sustainable tourism. When we visit these places, we must show respect and consider the impact to the locals. A few ways to show your gratitude for being able to visit these beautiful places – buy your art and treasures directly from the locals, show respect for their customs and cultural protocols, and always take all your rubbish with you.

I’m grateful for having this space to share this beautiful adventure with you all. I hope you enjoy the pictures and this post. Feel free to ask any questions. I’d love to help you create your dream Komodo Island itinerary when it’s safe to travel again.

With love and gratitude, Helen xx

Copyright images and text Helen Janneson Bense 2020

Sunsets and Moonrises

May 4, 2018

PhotographyBobby Bense

Model/Styling/EditingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationBawah Island, Indonesia

Outfit DetailsMidsummer Star Jewelry

Rings – Parallel Worlds | Persia Rainbow Moonstone | Transformation Rainbow Moonstone | Arabian Rainbow Moonstone | Transcend Rainbow Moonstone | White Light | Delicate Tiara

Necklaces – Cosmic Mandala | Snowflake Mandala

Bracelets – Cosmic Mandala | Celestial Star | Snowflake Mandala Moonstone | Star Mandala

Girl Next Door Skirt | Dana Top | Vamp Crystalize Push Up Bra | Just Dive in ScarfJe T’aime Hat

Have you ever seen a sunset and a moonrise at the same time?! I never know which way to look as both views are so beautiful! I still find it absolutely phenomenal that nature produces this kind of magic! How lucky are we!

We were so humbled by nature’s beauty on our recent trip to Bawah; the golden sun flares shimmering over the iridescent turquoise lagoon and the majesty of the moon as it rose against the pastel glow of the sky.

What a night it was, decked out in my absolute favourite dainty moonstone jewels from Midsummer Star, in the most perfect setting. As we were getting ready for an island style dinner I felt called by the full moon. The next thing I know I’m back in a bikini and in the ocean for an evening swim! haha! ;)

As the biggest jewelry lover ever, my dresser is filled with Midsummer Star pieces from every one of their gorgeous collections. The intricate designs and shimmery moonstones speak to my soul and are some of my favourite sterling silver pieces. I get so excited for their new collection drops! And how well do they all pair with each other. It’s always so easy to style and stack them up.

And seriously Bawah is the most dreamiest place on this planet! We are gearing up for more island adventures tomorrow so keep your eye on my instagram and stories for all the behind the scenes! Until then lovers have an awesome week and hope you can feel all the good vibes I’m sending out. And make sure you check out Midsummer Star’s latest release! It’s insanely good!

Love and Gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020

Bawah Reserve

April 28, 2018


PhotographyBobby Bense

Model/Styling/EditingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationBawah Reserve, Indonesia

Outfit Details

SwimwearAdrianna Sandy Blanket Stitch bikini | Cloud Dancer One-piece | Hung up on you One-piece | Camilla One-piece (similar)

Dresses/ SkirtsCelestial Mini Dress | Ionic SkirtAnastasia Lace SkirtJust Dive in Scarf/Sarong | Siren Song kimonoGirl Next Door Skirt

TopsDana Top

HatsJe T’aime Hat | Riviera cap

SunglassesClassic Round ray bans

JewelryOrbit Gold necklace | Galaxy Charms Gold Bracelet | Rings

This was one of those moments when you stumble upon a piece of paradise so pristine and so perfect you are torn between keeping it secret or sharing it’s beauty with the world. Of course we have to share this magnificent place and we want everyone to experience it for themselves. This is barefoot, sustainable luxury and it’s truly heaven on earth.

Bawah is so much more than an island. It’s an archipelago consisting of 6 beautiful islands, a reserve filled with marine life and wild life, and an experience waiting to bring you back to your true nature. There are 3 gorgeous lagoons and 13 beaches, with the whitest sand and clearest, crystal clear water. You can explore the islands by catamaran, by kayak, by snorkel and by stand up paddle board. And you can hike to the top and explore the magical vista from above. It’s truly a sight to see and a great way to discover the beautiful native flora that grows on the island.

We traveled with our two children, Jade and Jacob (12 and 9), and it was the best family holiday we’ve had. It was so wonderful to watch their confidence build as they bravely dove deep into the lagoon and explored the beauty of the underwater world. I loved seeing their personalities blossom as they interacted with the staff and how eager they were to explore and experience.

We had such an easy and seamless travel experience getting to Bawah. We flew to Singapore from Perth via Singapore airlines and it was such a great flight. From here Bawah Reserve organised our VIP fast track travel experience via ferry to Batam, Indonesia and then a seaplane into Bawah. It took maybe around 3 hours total and it was so cruisy and comfortable with minimal waiting. Landing at Bawah was just the most beautiful view I have ever laid my eyes on. Seeing it from above on such a clear day was incredible! The welcome we received was so heart warming and we instantly fell in love with everyone and this island paradise.

We stayed in an overwater villa which gave us the option for easy snorkeling right from our deck. Our family loves to snorkel and we were lucky enough to see starfish, rays, baby sharks, and the most brightly coloured fish imaginable! When we weren’t snorkelling we enjoyed in villa dining while watching the beautiful turquoise views and sunsets. One evening we were even picked up by boat for an island sunset cruise right from our villa! It was the best! There is just so much to see and explore that your inner child will be shining ever so brightly and just bursting with excitement for the possibilities each day.

Ok let’s talk food because wow the chefs here really know what they are doing. I can not fault them in any way what so ever. The concept is everything is included when you book at Bawah. Your room rate covers all your meals, your water activities, your spa treatments, your sea plane transfers and your dedicated hosts who will take the very best care of you during your stay. The chef will meet with you and create your dream menu catering specifically to your every need. In our family, we have me who is vegan, Jade who is vegetarian and Bobby and Jacob who eat almost everything, except 3 of us are all gluten free! haha! It’s a lot and gets very confusing when we travel. Not here though. Not one bit. They not only ensured our dietary requirements were met, they went above and beyond to create some of the most gourmet culinary experiences I have enjoyed as a vegan. I felt so spoilt! I’m so ok eating fairly simply as it agrees well with my body and health, but it was so wonderful to have someone put so much effort and energy to create these meals for us each day. I never ate the same thing and I was always so pleasantly surprised and in awe of their creations.

We had two wonderful hosts take the best care of us too. Always ready to help us with anything. Big shout out and thank you to both Bayu and Mohra. It’s so helpful for us as travel bloggers to have understanding hosts who can help us out to manage our time so efficiently so we can make the most of our experience.

Bawah is the place you’ll make everlasting memories at, it’s where you’ll connect deeply with yourself, your family, your partner and nature. It naturally brings out your best self and I hope you all get the chance to visit this incredibly special place. If it’s not on your bucket list already, put it at the top! Seriously!

We are filled with gratitude for our dream trip to Bawah, and will cherish every moment of our experience.

Now we are gearing up for more adventures and we’re also talking about running a travel workshop! Let me know if you’re interested in learning how to become a travel blogger? We will be sharing everything from how to build your blog to creating and editing beautiful imagery. Email me if you’d like to hear more and want to travel with us.

Much love and gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020

Nusa Lembongan

September 1, 2017

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

Model/StylingHelen Janneson Bense

Location – Nusa Lembongan | Villa SayangThe Lembongan Traveller

Outfit Details

Camilla Sign of Peace Dress | Camilla The Blue Market Overlay Dress | Hello Molly Sunset Maxi dress

Poupette St. Barth Jolie Mini Skirt | Camilla Hush Hush One Piece

Kivari Mystic Blouse | One Teaspoon Bonitas | Herschel Supply Co. palm backpack

Del Maar Dominica Bikini | L Space Shadow Palm Bikini | Del Maar Palmas Bikini

Sara Designs Panama Hat |  AOS Hat | Rayban Sunglasses | Anna Beck Jewelry

I’ve finally found my favourite part of Bali…a short boat ride from Sanur, Nusa Lembongan is for the gypset at heart, looking for that tranquil, relaxed island vibe with all the luxuries one could wish for.

We stayed in the beautiful Tamarind bay at the amazing beachfront Villa Sayang. The Lembongan Traveller, who are Lembongan experts, sorted out all our travel details for the most enjoyable, relaxing and seamless holiday. Everything went beautifully and we were able to experience and see so much during our time, whilst still moving at that lovely slow island pace we love so much.

We were blessed with some absolutely stunning sunset views, pristine surf, supping and snorkelling at our doorstep, and the best food and staff one could hope for. Villa Sayang is the perfect villa for families, groups and couples, as you can book either the entire residence or just a couple of rooms of this multi-leveled villa estate. With picturesque infinity pools overlooking the ocean, a villa boat, snorkelling, surfboards and sups at your beck and call, and happy, smiling faces always ready to assist you with anything, it’s hard to leave this place.

During our island stay we were lucky enough to experience some very cool boat trips. The highlight was taking a catamaran to Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida and snorkeling with some seriously giant, vibrant fish in the most unbelievably clear turquoise waters. We sat on the beach, sipping coconuts, feeling a million miles away from everything, not a worry in the world. As a bit of a foodie and always on the health conscious pulse I was so happy with my options here. We particularly loved Hai bar and grill, situated right on the beach and perfect for sunset views with some really good cocktails. For some fresh, local balinese style food check out Nyoman’s warung, and if you’re chasing unicorn pastel sunset skies like us then definitely head to Sandy bay beach club.

So if you’re looking for the kind of holiday where there are no cars, no crowds, and you can completely unwind, spend your days on the water, and enjoy delicious food with beautiful energy around you, head to Nusa Lembongan and make sure you organise your trip through The Lembongan traveller as they really know their stuff.

Enjoy your travels and let me know where your next adventure is!

Love and gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020

Every Shade of Blue

May 28, 2017

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

Drone PhotographyLook Down Bali

Model/StylingHelen Janneson Bense

LocationAzul Beach Club, Bali Mandira – Legian | Nusa Ceningan | Nusa Penida – Bali, Indonesia

Nusa Penida Boat tripSeaduction

Outfit Details

Dresses –  Chaouen Maxi | Silk Blue Gown | Brazen Blush Dress | Palma Australia LaceMaple Maxi

Tops/SkirtsStardust Sequin Cami | Tropez Embellished Tunic | Mini Skirt Galaxy

Swimwear –  Hush Hush One Piece | Handiras Hold One PieceAlena Luxe One Piece |  Inle One Piece | Singing Wells One PieceDip Dye Mandala One Piece | Gypset Bikini

KimonosSting Ray Cover | Safi Kaftan

Jewelry – Lakshmi Mala | Blue Quartz Drop NecklaceGypsyLovinLight Shop

HatsThe Beverly | Arizona

So excited to share with you our recent Bali adventures to the magnificent Azul Beach Club and Bali Mandira. We spent easter here with the whole family, enjoying many awesome events, including the ultra cool LushLand Sunset Sesh where we danced all night long under the stars to some amazing tunes and first class performances. It’s now become our Bali home away from home. Picture a 3 story bamboo treehouse overlooking the beautiful ocean with those perfect Bali waves rolling in. Envision a spiralling bamboo staircase taking you to the best sunset view, a tiki bar made of geodes in beautiful ocean blues, and a wall feature shimmering with the iridescence of abalone shells. Everything from the infinity pool, the spa, the lights, the music, the cool vibes, all the little details…. it’s candy for the eyes and soul…and I haven’t got to the best part! The food, the drinks, the service! Next level Bali! All the tiki cocktails are prepared with premium rum, served in custom made glassware. You’ll find yourself in culinary heaven eating only the yummiest cuisine created by one of Bali’s most celebrated chefs using the finest quality ingredients. So if you haven’t been to Azul Beach Club yet, seriously you must go! Book yourself a poolside cabana, order an Island Nectar (my favourite) and definitely indulge in all the food…everything is delicious and we seriously tried the entire menu! For the perfect sunset dinner experience, book a pod overlooking the ocean!

If you are visiting from afar, then check yourself in at Bali Mandira. You’ll have easy access to Azul and you’ll have everything you could need right there. Amazing pool, swim up pool bar, kids club, beach, water slides, club benefits and more. We really loved our stay in the Pool villa which had an adjoining room for the children. We indulged in a floating breakfast in our pool for something a little extra special and fun! We highly recommend the day spa, the rooms and massages are incredible! After our massages we headed back to our room and relaxed in our very own flower bath. It’s sure to transform you into a state of complete bliss. And after all, we all need a little pampering on holidays. Once you’re nurtured and feeling loved up and energised, try the SUP yoga in the beach pool. It’s a safe and easy environment to experience this and it’s just so much fun! I can’t wait to do it again!

You can probably see from my images that we had an incredible time here. We love Bali and we have visited and stayed in many different places. We are really particular with where we stay and only recommend the best. This is a really great affordable spot, perfect for families and couples. For adult free time, Azul offers a quiet space by their infinity pool. For family fun, the beautiful large beach style pool at Bali Mandira is your go to. We experienced everything from a romantic dinner on the beach to a traditional balinese cooking class with the family.

We were lucky enough to spend a day circumnavigating Nusa Penida on this trip aboard the Seaduction. We set sail from Sanur with a fun crew, equipped with the amazing drone skills of Look Down Bali and a sense of adventure. It surely was a wild experience as we journeyed by boat around the more remote parts of this island. The colour of the water was simply breathtaking. I think I said WOW only about a hundred times! It was like being in an entirely otherworldly land. I was secretly waiting for dinosaurs to appear haha!

Big love and thanks to our hosts, Azul Beach Club and Bali Mandira, for one of the most wonderful family holidays we’ve had. We were so well taken care of, every need anticipated, and as we interacted with other guests, we could see everyone was feeling the same. It’s a truly special place. I hope you all get the opportunity some day to enjoy this island paradise.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020

Heart of Bali

November 5, 2016

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PhotographyBobby Bense

Model/Creative DirectionHelen Janneson Bense

LocationKupu Kupu Barong | The Edge View Villa – Bali, Indonesia

Outfit Details

Wild + Free Dress | Wrap around me Dress | Slice of Harmony DressDasha the Label

Indie + Harper JewelleryTurquoise Feather Navajo NecklaceNavajo Hand Carved Bracelets | Rings – Mandala Divine | Tibetan TurquoiseMermaid | Zuni | Opal Moon | Feather Turquoise 

Finally we had the opportunity to venture to Ubud on our recent Bali travels. The peaceful energy was palpable the moment we stepped out of the car. There was a zing in the air, a calming effect created by the mystical surrounds and gentle culture. It felt as though we had just entered the heart of this amazing island.  The flowing river and nearby waterfalls make it such a perfect area for water explorers. I instantly fell in love with our elevated spot and our river view villa at Kupu Kupu Barong. We would end our days of family adventures with flower baths taking in the river views with an incredible backdrop of the jungle and Mt. Agung.

We thoroughly enjoyed a little pampering at Kupu’s world renowned L’occitane Tree spa and it was simply amazing…picture open air massages, perched atop of mango trees, high above the jungle where you can hear birdsong and the flowing river, and feel the essence of this mystical land.

And there was so much more… dinner by candlelight in one of the most romantic settings imaginable. An entrance lined with aromatic flowers, a twilight dinner set up for two, floating on a private pool twinkling with sunset reflections and a majestic mountain vista. It really is all kinds of heaven at Kupu Kupu Barong.

All the while I was blessed to be dressed in the best resort clothing from the divine Dasha the Label and Indie + Harper Jewels. These flowing fabrics and styles were perfect for the Balinese climate and fun family holidays with my tribe.

If you get the chance to visit Bali, I highly recommend the trek to Ubud and definitely book a stay at Kupu Kupu Barong! We are already dreaming of going back :)

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

All text and images copyright © Helen Janneson Bense 2020

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