This summer, plan an outdoor adventure that is good for you and Mother Nature
Bali’s fabled beauty is threatened by over-ram- pant tourism development and the local communities are facing major environmental challenges – from waste management and water shortages to livelihood losses for farmers and fishermen. Reality also finds the island’s southernmost province transformed into a teeming metropolis. But with an eye for adventure and a good pair of walking shoes you can minimise your impact and be an eco-conscious explorer. Bali’s great outdoors beckons. Amid the gridlocked thor- oughfares of Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak that may be devoid of lush vegetation, a few natural gems – both high profile and hidden permit a rediscovery of the manifold shades of green growth and blue waters that define Bali’s natural wonders. So, what are you waiting for?
Think Like a Farmer
While tourism has long since replaced agriculture as the primary source of income, subsistence and commercial farming continue in every corner of the island. Consider a visit to a local farm to learn about Bali’s rice, sugar, cacao, coffee, and cashew cultivation. Learn how local ecowarriors are applying agricultural principles to restore the island’s delicate ecology.
Pay a visit to Coral Gardens and Mangroves of Serangan Island and go to the Training Center for Integrated Ecological Development’s (BLKPET) 6.5 hectare coral garden on a snorkeling expedition and plant your own baby coral in Serangan Bay. They plant coral to restore the area’s marine diversity and the village fishermen’s livelihood. The ocean farmers are dedicated to revitalising Serangan’s decimated coral reefs – the result of a disastrous land reclamation project. They also recently launched a mangrove restoration programme by planting more than one hundred seedlings to form the shape of Serangan Island’s iconic animal: the sea turtle.
For the chocolate lover, there is no grander destination and homage to the cacao bean than Big Tree Farm’s Bamboo Chocolate Factory. While the company’s speciality is export, its vision is to support local communities by sourcing organically and sustainably grown salt, chocolate, coconut sugar, and cashews. The Chocolate Factory is the largest commercial bamboo structure in the world and production site for Big Tree Farm’s signature, cold-pressed cacao. Tours are available on weekdays and, naturally, include chocolate samples. In 2011, in partnership with the Environmental Bamboo Foundation, the folks behind BaliSpirit launched a composting and seedling bamboo development project to improve irrigation and support agriculture and handicraft production in Desa Songan, Karangasem. Take part in one of Bali ReGreen’s excursions and plant your own seedling through its bamboo adoption programme. Bamboo is a high yield crop and is ideal for water catchment to reduce runoff in arid Mangrove Seedling climates.
Mingle with the Wildlife
Bali’s oceans and forests boast stunning zoological diversity. Through conservation programmes like Besikalung Wildlife Sanctuary on Mount Batukaru and Bali Barat National Park in the west, as well as welfare programmes like the Bali Wildlife Welfare Sanctuary in Tabanan, skilled stewards of living things are safeguarding the future of the island’s marine and tropical species. You can join several turtle release programmes that attract school children and adults alike to send little hatchlings out to sea, but not all prioritise conservation over tourism. The Bali Sea Turtle Society is a standout for sea turtle and habitat protection. You can join their conservation efforts every 45-60 days, the turtle mothers’ average incubation period. As a newly inducted member of the Sea Turtle Rangers, you will be invited to a sea turtle release on the sands of Kuta beach. Abundant with more than forty species of protected Indonesian birds, the Bali Bird Park maintains an active breeding and conservation programme for the Pesquet’s parrot and endangered Bali starlings. Indonesian owls are housed in a grand Toraja house, and other habitats host 250 bird species from the Indonesian archipelago and Latin America, Africa, and Australia.
The park’s two hectares provide plenty of space for you and the free roaming peacocks to stretch your respective legs and wings. Owned and managed by the village of Padangtegal, Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary attracts thousands of monthly visitors, but is home to more than 1,000 long- tailed macaques. The Sanctuary hosts the Balinese Macaque Research Project, through which researchers from the University of Udayana (Denpasar), Guam, and the United States investigate the monkey’s mating, migration, and range patterns. The forest is a sacred Hindu site and the site of Padangtegal’s Pura Dalem (Temple of the Dead).
Explore on Your Own Two Feet
Beyond the casual beachside jaunt or amble along rice field footpaths, Bali’s designated jogging tracks and extensive, pedestrian-friendly paths yield picturesque panoramas. Offset that big carbon footprint from the long flight with a jalan-jalan (stroll) through Bali’s natural pleasures. Plan to have a Sanur Beach Walk. The beach extends from Padang Galak to Merta Sari Beach, and Sanur’s paved footpath presentsva seaside promenade without getting sand in the shoes. Set out early to catch sunrise at Padang Galak or at sunsetvto hear the wind whistling through the bamboo penjor (curved bamboo poles) in Merta Sari.
The track is perfect for distance runners, offering a sixteen-kilometre, out and back course. You’ll pass Balinese splashing in the surf, iconic jukung fishing boats, and plenty of drink stalls where you can replenish with a young coconut. On occasion, you’ll come across Hindu worshippers praying seaward as part of melaspas, ritual purification ceremonies.
While off the beaten path for the usual outdoor adventurer, the city of Denpasar features plenty of green spaces. A must-see surrounds Renon’s Bajra Sandhi, a magisterial monument in the shape of a Hindu priest’s bell, the Majestic Monument Bajra Sandhi. The park is a favourite starting point for Bali’s division of Indo Runners. A treelined jogging path forms its circumference and provides plenty of shade. Drop by for a few laps early in the morning or early afternoon to avoid the throngs of hawkers and family foot traffic.
Located in Kesiman on the Ngurah Rai Bypass is oft-overlooked cultural village and family recreation park, The Rice Fields of Kertalangu. Spread across eighty hectares, the entrance may deter with its dilapidated and abandoned pavilions and dirty fishponds, but a 1.25-kilometre rice field walk forms the heart of the property. Here, you can observe every phase of wet rice field cultivation, from seed sprouting and seedling planting to harvesting and field turnover. The path is also lined with pumpkin patches, guava trees, and fields of flowers harvested for sale at the Denpasar market as Hindu offerings.