Swimming and snorkeling through seaweed, going down and up hundreds of stairs to take a dip in a natural pool, and sleeping under a tent on a clean white sand beach were the highlights of our last adventure with NEWBali a few months ago. If you have used their remarkable service before, you know that their founder and regular chaperone Martin Tirta is a tireless man; which makes knowing his contrasting back story even more interesting.
Back in 2008, Martin was a small business owner in Jakarta that had had enough of the high pace of the nation’s capital. For the first time in his life, he decided to just go visit the one place he had always been curious about: Mount Bromo. What happened then was an eye opener for Martin, realising that that much beauty practically just stood there in the same country and island where he was born and grew up. What started as a getaway extended into an exploration through various regions of East Java, including Sempu Island. It became a ritual ever since; in the following two years, Martin determined to travel to a part of Indonesia at least once a month, falling deeper in love with its greatest natural allures on every trip.
In 2010, Martin made a rather ludicrous decision to move to Bali, after finding out that many foreign tourists were starting to skip Bali because of its overexposed status. His goal was to go further, higher, and deeper than the other common tourist spots, and introduce his findings to those who were interested to learn and explore more. Crazy, maybe; because apart from the very cool agenda, Martin didn’t actually have a plan in terms of how and where to start. So he just began to search for the island’s hidden places, areas where no tourist ever reached. Since the southern part of the island is practically burnt out with hotels, restaurants, and cafes, Martin roamed the rest – the north, east, and west – and found out about astonishing places such as Sekumpul Waterfalls or Aling Aling Waterfalls, all the while studying about how tourism works in Bali.
Based on that learning and exploring experience, in 2013 Martin finally started NEWBali – the NEW stands for North, East, West. Martin and his team will take you trekking through rice fields, diving down a waterfall, climbing a rocky cliff, swimming in the water of a pristine untouched beach, or take you on a sunrise package that’s doesn’t involve driving up to Kintamani at 3am like most tour operators do. Other than guaranteeing you a hidden gem you’ve never heard before, they also intentionally construct their tours intricately different than the rest, making the experience not only captivating but also incredibly rare – something that somehow feels like a luxury when you’ve tried everything else in southern Bali. It’s not all about business and travel for Martin and NEWBali, though. He also expects those unchartered territories will get the attention they deserve via social media posts or travel blogs, which in time will make more people come and eventually contribute to the local community.
Clearly three years aren’t enough to open up paths to Bali’s most hidden secrets, but many people have started to notice NEWBali’s presence, so Martin and his explorers are going along the right path indeed. So what’s next for Martin other than exploring, planning, and taking people through unexpected adventures? It’s time to go beyond his focus of the last seven years. Since his Bromo trip back in 2008, Martin has travelled to nearly every corner of the country, but then he realised that his passport had expired. So Martin renewed his passport and went travelling abroad. He spent three months in ten countries and 20 cities all over Australia, Europe, and North Africa. This guy sure knows how to take a (long) break.
Lastly, we asked Martin about his favourite hidden spot in Bali, to which he answered without any hesitation, Nusa Penida. The little island is mostly famous for diving, but Martin found that the island offers so much. Serene beaches and cliffs, and a slower pace compared to the already laid back Bali, making it perfect for an adventure. Martin also gives us one last advice in exploring new places: wake up early. Everybody goes to see the sunset, but not everyone is there for the sunrise – be one of those who is.