Bali was one of the Indonesian provinces that struggled the most during the pandemic a few years ago, and the halt of tourism on the island then has forced the local government to put more commitment into sustainable tourism in Bali.
In 2020, the local government issued Bali Provincial Regulation No. 5 of 2020, highlighting the standards of sustainable tourism implementation in Bali that refer to Tri Hita Kirana's philosophy with the local wisdom Sad Kerthi in their practice.
Tri Hita Kirana's philosophy upholds the balance of the relationship between humans and the three other entities: God, fellow human beings, and nature. Meanwhile, Sad Kerthi consists of six items to preserve in order to protect our living environment: the ocean, forest, water source, society, self-balance, and the ancestors.
The tourism industry has become Bali's main economic growth for decades. The island is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, from the pristine beaches to lush rice terraces. However, most travellers coming to Bali usually focus more on the destinations in the island's central and southern parts, which leads to over-tourism in these areas.
To avoid overtourism when travelling to Bali, you can explore the off-the-beaten-path destinations on the island. The northern part of Bali is full of lesser popular touristic sites worth visiting, including Lovina Beach or Pura Ulun Danu Beratan in Bedugul, the temple that you can see on the Indonesian money of IDR 50,000 banknote.
Due to the increased demand for accommodation, many rice fields have now been converted into hotels, resorts, or entertainment venues to fill the gap. In addition, the large number of visitors in Bali also may lead to gentrification due to the increased cost of living on the island.
You can also consider staying at a community-based homestay in Bali as accommodation. Some villages in Bali offer sustainable tourism for visitors where they can stay at the local's family home to learn about the local culture.
Respecting local customs and traditions in Bali is essential to show appreciation for the island's rich cultural heritage and build positive relationships with the local community.
Dress modestly, especially when visiting temples and sacred places in Bali.
Always ask for permission before taking photos. Some places in Bali are sacred, and they shouldn't be photographed. Knowing this before taking any pictures around the island is important, especially if you visit Bali during their local ceremonies.
Do not step on offerings or sacred objects. You will find some woven bamboo containers with several items like rice, flowers, and incense sporadically around the island. Be aware that these are seen as sacred by the locals, and you can show your respect by NOT stepping on these containers at any cost.
Avoid pointing using your index fingers at any shrines in Bali. It is seen as disrespectful by the locals. Alternatively, you can use your thumb if you need to do it.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon, especially when visiting sacred sites like temples.
Do not use your left hand if you want to eat with bare hands like locals. Using your left hand to eat would be considered improper and unclean, as locals use their left hand to clean themselves.
Instead of shopping at big chain stores or international brands in Bali, you can help sustain local businesses by shopping directly with them. Rather than going to McDonald's, you can visit the nearest local warung to try authentic Balinese meals.
While big souvenir stores like Krisna or Agung are more popular in Bali, you can also buy from the local markets - or directly from the local artisans - if you want to purchase some souvenirs to bring back home. Most shops in some tourist sites in Bali are locally owned, and you may get them much cheaper than those big stores if you know how to haggle.
Starting in 2019, Bali officially banned single-use plastics, including plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam. Be sure always to bring a reusable bag when you go for groceries or plan to take away your meals from a warung or restaurant.
Most garbage containers in Bali are split into two types of waste: organic and inorganic.
Avoid feeding wildlife in Bali, including monkeys or stray animals.
Refrain from taking or buying products made of shells, coral, or animal parts as souvenirs.
Protect Bali's reefs by using a natural non-nano, mineral-based sunscreen such as a zinc or titanium oxide-based product. .
When choosing ethical tours and experiences in Bali, think about how the experience directly impacts locals and whether it harms nature and the environment.
There are some initiatives and projects to promote sustainability in Bali's tourism, which include the following:
Turtle Conservation And Education Center (TCEC) in Serangan contributes to preserving Bali's marine biodiversity, including rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing endangered turtles to their natural habitat.
Panglipuran Village in Bangli Regency opens its home for tourism while preserving the traditional Balinese culture and introducing it through its sustainable tourism program.
Taman Sari Buwana in Tabanan offers a semi-social activity based on sustainability by introducing traditional Balinese agriculture techniques to visitors.
Bali's Biggest Clean Up is an annual event initiated by One Island One Voice where you can participate in their cleanup initiatives around the island.
Some popular tourist activities in Bali which aren't ethical include:
Visiting monkey forest - Too many visitors feed the monkeys despite the regulations against it. Instead of relying on nature for food, this has led to a dependency on human food. As a result, monkeys can be aggressive towards tourists in an attempt to get food.
Riding elephants - Elephants used for riding are often subjected to cruel training methods, typically involving physical and psychological abuse against the animals.
Visiting luwak coffee farms - The production of luwak coffee involves harvesting coffee beans consumed by luwak, the Asian palm civets. In this type of farm, these civets are usually kept in captivity and fed a diet of coffee cherries to produce coffee beans in large quantities.
Visiting Bali Zoo - Apart from the concern about animal captivity, Bali Zoo also offers some unethical programmes involving the animals, including breakfast with orangutans or taking photos with a tiger.
There are various opportunities to volunteer and give back to the Bali community, whether through some NGOs or community-based groups around the island.
Essentially, there are some volunteering activities that you can consider joining in Bali, including:
Joining the local initiatives that focus more on environmental conservations, such as beach cleanups, tree planting, or coral reef restoration.
Volunteering in the education sector, including teaching English or other skills to locals.
Supporting animal welfare organisations by volunteering at animal sanctuaries in Bali.
Getting involved in some community development projects in Bali, whether it is the initiative to improve the living conditions for the locals or assisting local farmers in the agriculture sector.
Planning a trip to Bali? Read our Bali travel guides.
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Last Updated 26 July 2023