A couple hours at Pura Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot, an ocean front Balinese Temple complex. What’s so special? Let me try to show you with some images I shot and by recounting my experience there.

As usual, I never seem to have enough time at the sites we plan to see. Maybe the place is just that awesome or I’m just too easily impressed, jury is still out on that. For our trip to Bali we chose a villa in the city of Seminyak and hired a driver to take us around. Since we landed in the morning and check-in was in the afternoon, we went to visit Pura Tanah Lot (Pura means temple in Balinese). After driving for what seemed like 45min or so we arrived at Tanah Lot. We paid the entrance fee at the car park entrance and proceeded in. After letting us alight at the entrance, our driver went to park the car and stayed with our bags.

Before you can get to the temples and altars, you have to walk through a plaza of shops and eateries, then a lane with more shops and eateries on either side. From what I could see the shops carry a variety of local made souvenir type items and some religious type bead jewelry. According our driver, prices here are cheaper than in town and we “must” bargain for better prices. We didn’t get a chance to try any of the food at Tanah Lot nor did we do any shopping because we decided to “see the site” first. A short 5 min walk down the lane and you’ll start to see intricate stone carvings of Balinese mythological beings and temple altars, which signals the start of the temple areas.

The time we went, mid morning/noon-ish, there weren’t too many people around, locals or tourists so it was a pleasant stroll around the premises. Surprisingly, to me, there were a lot of local photographers offering to take pictures of you, they are easily spotted as they tote around large, black, sling bags with the red ‘Canon’ logo on them. I’m not sure what the pricing is though as none of them came over to us (probably because they saw my camera and tripod). Anyways, the structures look old and weathered but not dilapidated nor antique/relic ish. the mythological stone carvings are brightly painted and look stunning as opposed to faded and peeling. The entire complex is basically litter free, a rarity in Asia, in my experience. Quite refreshing.

The “star of the show” at Tanah Lot is the the temple on top of this large rock. At the base of the rock is an altar within a shallow cave in which a few stone figures are displayed. There is also a spring of fresh water inside. Why is this peculiar? well, when it is high tide the rock is surrounded by ocean. When it’s low tide, you can walk right up to the altar. At the time we went, the tide was coming in. We did see people at the altar and a few brave people wading towards it. The water looked to be, at most, about knee high and it didn’t look to be too difficult a trek.  One of my daughters really wanted to go over for a look see while the other was a tad hesitant and the plan was for me to escort them one at a time. We walked up some stone stairs for a higher vantage point to view the temple and find a spot to set down our bags. So off came our socks and shoes. Thankfully, I had my typical travel attire on, t-shirt, hoodie, compression pants and track pants. So I pulled off the track pants and pulled my t-shirt as low as I could. With all my bits covered, I then put the rain cover on my ThinkTankPhoto, Speed Freak, waist bag. I can fit my Canon 7D2 with a 24-105 and my 5D2 with a 17-40, lenses and hoods attached! I mention all this because it is an awesome bag and my gear didn’t get wet at all! Read on for more details.

So off we went. No shoes definitely wasn’t a good idea but who wants to walk around in wet socks and shoes, right?. You can’t see what you’re stepping on and being a rocky sea floor it was uneven and sharp at some points with dips here and there that caused some balance issues. Plus the swash (the rush of water after a wave breaks) didn’t help. There are sure footed locals standing at various points between the shore and the altar giving you a general idea of where it’s most safe to walk but they didn’t really go out of their way to help. When we reached the altar, we were drenched from just below the waist. We didn’t account for how high the water would come up or how strong it would be after the waves broke. It didn’t look that bad from the shore!

At the altar, there were the local guides who show you where the fresh water spring is and you can take a sip from it. They will also ask you for a donation, quite um, enthusiastically. We made a donation and they subsequently squished rice on our foreheads and a put a plumeria flower in our hair, as a blessing. The stone carvings were quite eroded but you can still make out what they are. On either side of the altar is a way up to the temple. Both paths were gated shut when we were there so we couldn’t get all the way to the top. We did walk a bit up the path on the left to take some pictures before heading back. By the time we got to shore, we were drenched from belly/chest down. The local guides were very helpful on the way back we each had someone helping us back, which was awesome because the water had risen and felt more turbulent. Upon reaching the beach directly opposite the altar we noticed a cave and signage indicating that a “sacred snake” dwells in it, we looked in but didn’t see anything. We also didn’t venture in close enough for them to solicit donations either.

So we went back up the stairs to where my wife and younger daughter were waiting and still laughing at how ridiculous we looked getting to and from the altar and at how wet we were. It was at this point that my younger kid chickened out from making the journey to the altar. So I proceeded to take the rain sleeve off my waist pouch and SPLOOOSH a bunch of water splattered all over the place! I think we all gasped simultaneously. I opened up my waist bag and lo and behold, my gear was dry! The interior bottom was just slightly moist whereas the outside was wet. The water was trapped between the rain sleeve and the bag and for that long I would have expected my gear to be wet but nope, all dry! What a relief!

So off we went to explore the other areas, take pics and get dry. The premises is huge! We didn’t even get to the other side where there was another temple that, to me, looked really interesting! We had to leave to make our check in time but here’s a pic:

My wife and I found this place to be calming and serene, our daughters not so much, they did find it a nice place to visit though. I’d be very interested to come back during sunrise/sunset hours, I bet it’ll be even more picturesque.

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