Bali’s Ayung River is a sight to behold. Spanning half the length of the 90-mile-long island, the Ayung draws adventurers from all over to see the varied scenery — from dormant volcanoes to dense jungles — and to tackle the serious whitewater it offers up. Most join the crowded whitewater outfitters to run the rivers, while others make due with their own barebones expeditions.
There’s a more chill — and well-appointed — way to immerse yourself in Bali’s one-of-a-kind biodiversity and Indonesian cultural and, yes, whitewater: Head to the Four Seasons.
The company landed in Bali in 1993 with the opening of Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, a beachfront property built on the site of an ancient temple, and the destination’s first resort to launch the self-contained hotel villa concept, featuring the now obligatory plunge pool. Then, in 1998, Four Seasons Sayan opened its doors deep in the jungle near Ubud.
Sayan’s expanse is woven across fields of rice paddies while private villas hug the edge of the Ayung River. The resort’s main building — which was designed to resemble a rice bowl — houses hotel suites, a restaurant, and spa. Otherworldly in its design, it rises above the green canopy like a bamboo flying saucer.
The villa accommodations are equally stunning. Unassuming walkways lead to a traditionally Balinese wood structure that houses a rooftop pond brimming with pink lotus flowers. An internal stairwell descends to one door, which opens to a massive terrace that spills into a rectangular black ceramic-tiled plunge pool with lounging areas that edge a grassy expanse.
Then there’s the rafting. While the ending point of the new rafting adventure is at the hotel, the journey starts off site. A private van whisks you away on a 20-minute ride past Hindu shrines, acres of green fields, and movie set–worthy villages.
A local guide then gets you geared up for the three-hour expedition. His commentary of the resort’s culturally sustainable practices and the flora and fauna whizzing by is punctuated by a now and again safety precaution. At one point where the water levels out a bit, he encourages you to topple off into the murky water and float on your back down the river just ahead of a roaring dam.
Let’s be clear: This is a trip guided by the Four Seasons, not your dirtbag kayaking buddies, so plummeting over a waterfall is out. Instead, you make landfall, pay respect at a moss-covered holy place, and then navigate through a labyrinth of undergrowth back down to the boat (which your guide has tossed over the falls) for the final stretch of rafting.
A few minutes later, the hotel appears to rise out of the primeval forest before you. Now would be a good time to hit the hotel’s epic Jati Bar to sip the aptly named River Flow cocktail, made with whiskey, mint, cucumber, Drambuie, and cardamom. Jati, meaning “teak” in Balinese, stretches for more than 50 yards, affording ample views of the rapids below and the sound of the falls in the distance, the perfect spot to contemplate the next adventure.
A single room suite at the Four Seasons Sayan starts at $500 per night. Rafting Adventure package is $250 for two persons including gear recommended by the World White Water Rafting Association. FourSeasons.com/Sayan