White water rafting was introduce to Bali by Nigel and Yani in the 1980’s and was the first major tourist participation adventure tourism on the island and was an instant success. Many have followed the lead of Nigel and Yani and over the years there have been 35 rafting companies on the island - some have failed – however Bali Adventure rafting has gathered strength, to the extent that the company is currently upgrading the rafting in a multimillion dollar project on a new property.
The rafting was and is a spectacular success, but the couple’s first tourism venture was the famous Yani’s restaurant and bar in Kuta. In the 1980’s Nigel realized that there was no restaurant in Kuta servicing the growing Australian market and Yani’s was born. It was not an overnight success, the success came with hard work, long hours and personal sacrifice.
When they began this venture it was the start of a 30 year adventure which expanded and progressed in hand with Bali’s tourism industry. They began with no money and borrowed from family and friends for start up. The restaurant served quality food that Australians were accustomed to at home and remained open all night with Nigel and Yani and their young family living on the premises.
They pounded the street during the day handing out flyers to fill the restaurant at night and in time it became a by word in all Australian travel plans for Bali.
The white water rafting operation began in 1989. Planning, safety, a quality product and marketing were all contributors to the venture, but the most important ingredients were the determination, drive and faith of Nigel and Yani. It was so successful that semantics of the government of the day closed the operation for two years, but Nigel and Yani fought back and their rafting operations resumed in 1996.
During that time, although Bali Adventure was not operating they continued to advertise in this newspaper which was approached on day by a man purporting to be from the Mason’s, cancelling the advertising. The newspaper approached the Mason’s a few weeks later and discovered that they had not cancelled the advertising, but in fact were angered that the newspaper had done so. It was discovered that the person cancelling the advertising, claiming to be an emissary of the Mason’s was in fact an employee of the then governor’s office.
It was during this hiatus that Nigel turned to his love of the environment and with his wife and children planted ( at their own expense) between 150,000 and 200,000 mangrove trees on the mud flats at the back of their property – a labour of love that continued for ten years during which time they were chastised, accused of attempting to create a new tourist venture on government land and given only abuse and no praise – it was the BG period (before green). It all ended in 2005 when the government sent men in with chain saws to cut down every single tree to make way for a sewerage farm.
The biggest shining jewel in the company’s adventure crown in the Elephant Safari Park at Taro near Ubud. The 3.5 hectares of botanical gardens, 30 elephants and world standard facilities is constantly being proclaimed by media, international television programs, wildlife expert and international celebrities as the best park of its type in the world.
The Elephants Safari Park boasts a luxury residential lodge, an international standard restaurant, bars, a museum, an elephant information centre, a boutique gift shop, a souvenir photo shop, a wedding pavilion, a wellness spa, a fitness center, elephant bathing lakes, an Amazon fish pond, a helipad and scores of support facilities including a research laboratory, engineering and gardening workshop, a hotel laundry, three public car parks and a staff parking lot, a manure recycling area, generating and electrical plant and buildings, a kitchen and bakery complex and elephant relaxing areas and feeding pads.
The couple have spent $1,5 million on the development of gardens at the park. Their expertise and drive is also evident at the Bali Bird Park where for a period of time the Masons were the majority share holders. Their energy and enthusiasm saw the complete revamp of the gardens at the park and also the greatly expanded visitor numbers though the gate.
When they discovered staff were stealing $12,000 per month, they took action to remedy the situation and were confronted by unions, disgruntled staff and a host of other problems so Nigel and Yani sold their interest and concentrated efforts on the Elephants Safari Park and have never looked back.
Along the way they developed a doll factory in Bali which is now in its twenty second year of operation.
The company produced an internationally acclaimed elephant documentary entitled ‘Operation Jumbo’ which traced the 3000 kilometre journey of endangered elephants from Sumatra to Bali and has now been viewed by millions of people around the world.
Nigel has also written a best selling children’s book – The Tale of the first white elephant in Bali.
The former Australian record and electronics company executive came to Bali because he was ‘burnt out’ and suffering from a failed marriage.
Nigel Mason is one of the ‘old school’ expatiates who came to Bali not to make money, but to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle and in doing so has played a significant role in improving the lifestyle, pride and future of every Balinese on the Island.