Diving & Jungle Adventures in Indonesia

Hi friends, happy Friday! It feels so good to be back on the blog today- big thanks to Peggi for taking over on Wednesday… did you see her mushroom lamp post? You know I love a fun light fixture. I realize everyone is in Halloween and Holiday mode right now, but I had a few requests to share some images from my recent trip to Indonesia- plus selfishly, I enjoy documenting our travels here to look back on. I figured I’d pull together a quick photo journal post for you today, in case you missed the snippets I shared in real time on Instagram. Emmett & I try to plan one scuba diving trip each year (a must for divers who live landlocked!), and this year we joined our dive buddies in Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. Given the travel time was 36+ hours, we spent a full two weeks exploring Bali (Ubud, Canggu, Uluwatu, Seminyak, Tulamben, etc), to make our travel worth the long trek. Click through for a glimpse at our time spent there and to catch up…

We flew from SLC > LA > SYDNEY > BALI … it was a lonnng two day journey with a 14 hour time difference. Needless to say, I’m still readjusting- and we got home late last Sunday. Emmett & I have been waking up at three each morning, ready to start the day. Oof! I am glad we decided to stay in Indonesia for at least two weeks, because believe me when I say- it’s a haul and there was plenty of inspiration to be found.

This was both mine and Emmett’s first time to Asia and we both absolutely loved it. We’ll definitely be back… just as soon as we’ve had enough time to forget how agonizing that long flight was. Ha! We explored the ocean, the jungle, cities, and villages. It felt like the perfect vacation packed with both adventure & relaxation. The food was amazing, the people were incredible & SO so kind, and the diving is the best we’ve seen yet. The exchange rate also worked to our advantage making things extremely affordable- I’m talking $8 massages and $2 beers (I think we’ve had enough Bintang to last us awhile).

We visited temples, hiked in the humidity, trekked mossy stairs in the jungle, relaxed at spas, admired the beautiful architecture, took in the amazing culture, ate delicious food, enjoyed gorgeously designed hotels, and even met some professional Indonesian dancers after their phenomenal performance. It’s safe to say it was one of our best vacations!

Our travel & dive buddies also got engaged on the trip (during our layover in Australia), so it was extra special to celebrate with them. I won’t list their names, in case they have more friends & family to share the news with, but I’m sending another congratulations their way here on the blog! We are so happy for them and it made our time away even more memorable. Emmett & I knew the plan in advance, so I was able to take some sneaky photos for them, people were cheering, and it was pretty much the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It turned into two weeks of celebrating!

Of course the designer in me was snapping lots of furniture, architecture, and material photos. There were so many intricately woven textures I just couldn’t get enough of, and already being a fan of Asian inspired design- this trip felt very inspiring from a creative perspective.

The jungle pleasantly surprised me. Despite the insane humidity and relentless mosquitos, the vegetation and vibrant green color palette was stunning… seriously something out of a fairytale. Do you spy Emmett down there on the lounge chair, pictured below?

Every where you look, there is beauty to be found. I constantly had my phone in my hand snapping photos. The sunrises & sunsets in Labuan Bajo were my favorite. We were up early for diving to catch the sunrise, and the sun sets early- so we could easily catch and photograph both.

My biggest worry going into the trip was food because I have a severe shellfish allergy and can be picky about certain seafood. I carried my EpiPen everywhere with me and had zero issues. I mostly stuck to vegetarian dishes, which were all fantastic- they have a much better selection than here at home. Being on antibiotics for RMSP the entire trip, eating healthy made me feel better and was delicious. I can’t say enough good things about the cuisine- I had no reason to worry! Everything I ate was fabulous and filling.

Speaking of food, my favorite restaurants (the four of us agreed!) was Gooseberry closely followed by Yuki. Both require reservations, and the decor was spot on at each restaurant. Good food & good design- that’s a major win in my book! Take a peek below…

I also fell in love with these chairs at Hotel Viceroy (below)… such a pretty shape and finish! At this particular stop (we switched hotels five times, hopping around during our trip), the hotel owner’s poodle LOVED us. The staff kept apologizing because “Bobo” kept following us around, which totally made our day. We were all about the dog cuddles. We always miss Cash & Cros while traveling.

Another highlight was taking motorbikes around the city. We visited the rice fields, Monkey Forest, local temples, and markets. I brought home some cool ceramics, and met a few local artists- I’d love to try to arrange a collaboration for our Tuesday Made shop!

Per usual, Emmett & I also got tattoos, ha. His is huge (he’s trying to finish his upper sleeve), mine is small- but my favorite so far. Bali has some seriously talented tattoo artists.

One topic I did want to address is responsible tourism. Have any of you watched this documentary? It’s a good one and worth a watch. We try to spend our money in local places, support ethical & family owned businesses, and make sure our vacation money is going back into the community. We also try to leave the places we visit as we found them- I’d love to do an ocean cleanup or coral restoration dive for our next trip. Much like the “leave no trace” outdoor rules here in the states, we practice that on vacation as well. Two things really saddened me on this trip… 1) the amount of trash floating in the ocean & on the shoreline, and 2) seeing some animals in very bad situations. I’ll share more below…

I know you’re probably wondering what I mean by number two, so I’ll elaborate on that (surprisingly, it’s not stray or abandoned dogs… although there were plenty I wanted to bring home with me). I’m actually referring to the dragons at Komodo National Park. We specifically avoided elephant “sanctuaries” after digging deeper. We also had planned to go kayaking or rafting and ended up scrapping that idea altogether after we found out the company that looked pretty legitimate also ran a shady elephant business. Back to Komodo Park though… despite reading about conservation efforts at Komodo- on paper it seemed like a safe bet and something fun to do on our decompression day (you can’t fly the day after diving). The park visit didn’t go very well and the dragons looked sedated & drugged. It was honestly a very sad situation for many reasons. Maybe I’ll copy my google review in the comment section below, if you’re curious about the details. It’s something I’d definitely avoid next time. I was pretty bummed we spent our money there, which basically felt like a tourist trap. I’d recommend skipping it- even though it’s quite popular. That was really my only complaint of the entire trip. Everything else we did and contributed toward was magical & memorable!

On a happier topic… the diving was absolutely unbelievable! We saw turtles, rays, sharks, coral, macro marine life, larger ocean inhabitants, pretty much a little of everything. It was the best and most challenging diving I’ve ever experienced. I knew we were in for a treat when our Australian dive guide told us the currents were SAVAGE. I wasn’t sure if it was an Aussie thing or if he was being serious. It turns out, he was serious.

I’m glad Emmett & I decided to practice our skills and get our advanced certification over the summer. This spring, we’re going to level up again and become rescue divers. We both enjoy it so much! Tattoo hint… Emmett’s is dive related. Should I hop on IG and show you both of ours today?

Ok, I promise I’m done talking about summery topics and travel for awhile… at least until another seriously cheap flight deal comes along (get my tips for snagging those here). I’m halfway joking! We need to save up and get some house projects done. I hope everyone has a fun Halloween weekend ahead! We’re hosting our annual party (I’ll try to share photos) and my birthday is on Sunday, so it’s sure to be an eventful weekend. Scorpio season is in full swing! Next week on the blog, I’m digging into all things holiday- so it will be there for you whenever you’re ready… it’s actually kind of nice to tackle it early, so I can enjoy the holidays once they roll around- rather than working crazy hours. Anyway, cheers to a wonderful weekend ahead! Please let me know if you have any questions about our travels in Indonesia. I’d be happy to answer any questions and chat in the comment section below… thanks for reading!

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  1. Good morning! Deep sigh. Your vacation photos and recaps are always the best! While I absolutely love the ocean images, this time I was most captivated by the jungle scenes. The mossy steps, treetop views and the terraced rice fields? Jaw-droppingly magical. The resorts look pretty spectacular too. And did you say $8 massage? Heaven. I’m interested to know your motivation for switching hotels so frequently. Were you just trying to experience every awesome spot that you could, or were the locations more strategic for your various adventures? I kinda love the idea! I have such a tough time deciding once I start perusing all the stunning promotional images. Hotel smorgasbord for the win! Speaking of smorgasbord, I bet the food was divine! My minimal research tells me that Indonesian food is easily (often naturally) vegan. Is it wrong that food might be my second favorite thing about traveling? (Or maybe just living!🤣) I appreciate you touching on responsible tourism. What a tough subject! Supporting the local economy while avoiding exploitation takes research and finesse. As for savage currents and tattoos, no thank you, ma’am. But I do enjoy how much you enjoy them. Ha. And a collab for your shop? How freaking cool would that be?! So much fabulousness…and now your birthday weekend! Non-stop fun for the Gibsons! I hope you have the most amazing party! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for IG stories. In the meantime, happy Pizza Friday, friends!!

    1. Thanks, Peggi! Happy Friday! The jungle was amazing… definite Jimanji vibes. Ha! We like to explore multiple areas and when you’re primarily walking, we find it’s just easier to switch hotels to experience new spots. The motorbikes also came in super handy! They were only $10-$15 a day to rent. We always pack light (we each only took one backpack for 2.5 weeks), so hotel hopping is easy! And if you get a place you’re not that into, it’s nice to keep mixing things up- some were definitely better than others. It also helps with hotel points, so we could take advantages of free stays and incentives. Omg, the food was INCREDIBLE, and so many good vegan options. We’re all about food. We were constantly eating, which was wonderful. Savage currents and tattoos makes me sound more adventurous than I am, but I’ll take it. Ha! I would love to line up some Indonesian ceramicists for the shop. Once I catch up, I’m going to get to emailing and see if I can make it happen. I tried that in Italy and shipping was outrageous, but we shall see. Enjoy your pizza Friday! xo

  2. Welcome back Sarah! Looks like you had quite the adventure and the time of your life. So happy you enjoyed. Yay! Your pictures are stunning and you two are the cutest. What a long journey though, jet lag indeed 😳 While Italy is more my speed ( I’m afraid of the ocean even though my childhood home was on an island Lol) I loved reading your post this morning, I could feel your excitement and enthusiasm. I was saddened to hear about the stray dogs and Komodo’s but I’m so proud of you for raising awareness.
    I’m super excited to get my box of goodies today from the shop 😍 Although I think I snagged the last few strands of beaded garland. Yikes! I hope you can get more as it’s only October 😬 Happy Birthday Sarah! Sounds like a fun filled weekend ahead 🥳🥂🎂 Happy Friday 🍕 everyone!

    1. Thank you, Colleen!! We had such a wonderful time and made amazing memories. Very thankful we were able to go! I’m SO happy you snagged that garland- it’s my favorite. Once our holiday inventory is gone, it’s gone… we’re not able to get restocks in time before Christmas. I hate that we have to share holiday so early, but it really is because of lead-times and things selling out. It’s still crazy times in the design & home industry. Have a wonderful and sunny weekend :) xo

  3. My Komodo National Park Review…

    “As someone who frequents national parks and cares about the ethical treatment of animals and conservation, I was deeply disappointed by our experience at Komodo National Park. Aside from the amount of trash (which I watched a baby dragon attempting to eat), and the unkept facilities- 3 inches of standing water on the bathroom floor, the most concerning part of our visit was the dragons. Upon entering the park, I immediately recognized livestock syringes amongst the trash under the waiting area. Having an agricultural background, I know these are for large animals, that was my first red flag. I wondered if the dragons were being sedated or medicated in some way. Our guide proceeded to show us around, not really keeping an eye out for these naturally aggressive reptiles. He led us right to two centrally located dragons surrounded by a circle of 40+ tourists. The guides were encouraging people to get closer for the perfect photo, seemingly not worried about boundaries or safety. The dragons looked lethargic. Our diving buddies visited the day prior and the dragons were in the same area, surrounded by people for photo ops. I directly asked the guide if they were sedated and he deflected my question. These animals have thrived here for centuries and it’s sad to see them in this state for the sake of tourism. I wish we wouldn’t have spent our money here, supporting this… despite the glamorized marketing campaigns scattered throughout the island. Similar reviews to my own were immediately deleted- also concerning.”

  4. Enjoyed your recap on your trip to Bali! It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I am sure even more so in person. Your pictures feel like they are out of National Geographic. I enjoyed you sharing landscapes but also restaurants and design inspiration.
    So proud of you & Emmett for being conscience about what you spend your money on when traveling. Thank you for bringing that up. We try to but I admit to falling for tourist traps as well and regretting them. The fact that they deleted your review says a lot!
    Give me all the $8 messages and spa experiences! Congratulations to the newly engaged couple! They had a great photographer and friend to caption a special moment! I was just talking with a friend and she was telling me about the couples she knows who got engaged. It really must be something in the air or water! Ha!
    Curious question but when you travel with friends do you do most things together (eating, excursions, etc) or do you do most things separately? Weird asking this but thank you for indulging me.We have been considering asking friends on a trip (kiddos too busy) & we enjoy just letting the trip unfold but also plan some things high on list.
    Yes to seeing the tattoos! Happy you had a great trip but hope you have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY weekend! Look forward to reading about the Halloween event at home.

  5. Forgot to commend you both on diving and taking on rescue diving. That is great! Your pictures of the sleeping turtles was awesome! You need a still of that! And…how do you take a small suitcase/backpack for 2 weeks? Show me your ways! I go only 3 days and I have a full carry on and duffle bag loaded with a purse too. Unfortunately, my daughter is the same way. That was her only complaint about the travel bit was too heavy suitcases and backpacks.

    1. Thank you so much, Danna! The sleeping turtles is my favorite dive to date. I hope we can dive that same location again someday- it was nothing short of magical! With every trip we take, we pare down and get better at packing. It has taken some practice, but these days we only pack the essentials! What a sweet compliment about my photo- it was an easy place to photograph. Thanks Danna! Something is definitely in the air or water for all of these engagements. Has your daughter started planning? Such an exciting time for the both of you! Great question about traveling with friends. For us, it totally depends on the friends. The couple we dive with and went on this trip with… we pretty much do everything together (activities, dinner, drinks, etc). There was only one night that we decided on different dinners, so we ate separately (out of 2.5 weeks). Ha! We just travel really well together. Even when we were all too tired to eat out after diving, we ordered room service in the same room to hangout and have dinner together. Of course, neither couple cares if the other wants to do their own thing- we just travel so similarly. With other friends, we definitely split up more often. I think it also depends on what type of trip it is… more spontaneous, room to go with the flow, or something that requires a lot of planning. I think it’s important to know before you go and set expectations! I hope that helps. I’ll work on grabbing some IG videos tmrw :) Thank you for the birthday wishes!!

  6. I don’t even know where to start…I think this trip of yours is my favorite. The jungle scenes you shared on Instagram, and here, pull me in and make me want to adventure. I love hiking through jungles! The moss, the overgrown vegetation, and all the variations of green to be found…so stunning. Congratulations to your friends! What a beautiful way to kick off a vacation. The hotels you stayed in look divine. I think part of the reason I enjoy beach retreats is the island inspiration in the hotel design. All of the woven and wooden goodness with the local flair speaks to me. I love that you and Emmett are responsible in that way with your travels-it’s such a good point to bring up that I’m not certain many people would think of. Jeff and I are the same. Whenever possible we choose to support the smaller local businesses. I’m sorry you had to experience that at the Komodo park. We narrowly avoided a similar experience on one of our trips…that’s never fun. I would love to see the tattoos you chose this time around. Cheers to our birthday weekend, Halloween festivities, and jumping into the season ahead! Have a great weekend Sarah! Xo

    1. Really?! I love that you enjoyed it. I would go back in a heartbeat! There were so many beautiful woven textures and materials. That’s my preferred island decor. I’ll try to remember to post some tattoo IG stories tmrw! Mine is a botanical sketch and Emmett’s is a vintage dive helmet. They turned out so cool!