Bali. This island paradise in Indonesia is consistently one of the most visited places by foreign travellers each year. For Aussies like me, it’s almost an extension of Australia – just a cheaper, more fun version with better weather. For travellers coming from further afield, it’s more unknown; an irresistible combination of culture, breathtaking beaches and perhaps a chance to eat, pray, love their way through their annual holiday leave.
Bali has such allure, it’s almost easy to forget that it is one of about 17,000 islands in the archipelago that makes up Indonesia. For those travellers looking to explore some of these lesser known isles, or more remote areas of Bali, we’ve come up with five reasons why you should rethink your next resort holiday to Kuta and explore beyond the tourist trails.
1. Overtourism is a huge issue for the Balinese people and the environment
Tourism in Bali grew by 10 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to Badung Regency Tourism Office, and is on track to increase further in 2019. About 1.2 million Australians alone travel to Bali every year – that’s nearly five per cent of the entire population. While tourism is a huge source of income for the Balinese economy, this level of growth can put a strain on the local people and the environment. With so many people crowding the beaches and UNESCO-listed rice paddies, there comes an increase in rubbish left behind, erosion of the landscapes and even a strain on the sanitation systems. On top of this, hardly a week goes by where you don’t read a news story about badly behaved Instagrammers and drunken hooligans. Yep, it’s safe to say with great tourism comes great responsibility.
If you’re set on visiting Bali (which you definitely should be), there are plenty of ways you can practise responsible tourism. For a start, check out some of the lesser-visited areas of the island, like Lovina or Sideman, rather than gravitating solely to busier areas like Seminyak or Kuta. Or, you could book a tour with a responsible tour company like Intrepid that will ensure your tourism dollars are being spent supporting local businesses.
Alternatively, if you want to enjoy an Indonesian island adventure somewhere outside of Bali, there are plenty of choices. Lombok and the Gili Islands are a stone’s throw away from Bali and offer a range of beautiful beaches to recline on. Otherwise you could leave the choice up to someone else and cruise around a range of uninhabited islands on a small ship.
2. Island-hopping is always fun
Come to think of it, why limit yourself to a holiday on one island, when you could visit one or two different islands every day? On Intrepid’s 8-day Indonesian Island Cruise, you’ll visit more than eight different islands, many of which you’ll have almost all to yourself. When I did this trip earlier this year, one of my favourite parts was that I only had to unpack once yet had the joy of waking up at a different island every day. I can’t imagine an easier or more stress-free way to cover so much ground (or sea) in such a short amount of time.
3. You can balance out the cocktails by getting active
If the idea of lying on a beach sipping cocktails isn’t for you, there are plenty of other ways to explore Bali (and Indonesia, more broadly). Try an active trip across Bali, Lombok and the Gili Islands, where you can alternate between biking, hiking and rafting; or if you’re a passionate cyclist, a cycling trip is a great way to see some of Bali’s lesser-known parts. Or, a trek through mountainous Sulawesi will allow you to really get away from the crowds and see some of Indonesia’s stunning landscapes, meeting some friendly locals in villages along the way.
4. There’s more to Indonesian culture than Bintang and yoga
… Not that I have a problem with either, but it’s easy to forget that each Indonesian island has its own unique culture, religion and history. For Indonesians, having an official religion is a compulsory way of life (it’s even printed on their national ID cards). While the Balinese majority are Hindus, neighbouring Lombok’s Sasak people predominantly practise Islam. And beyond religion, different villages on different islands will have their own traditions and cultural practises – just like the Ma’nene death ritual, or the ‘ceremony of cleaning corpses’, a 900-year-old tradition where the Torajan people from Sulawesi dig up and spend time with the dead.
5. You can see wildlife that isn’t found anywhere else in the world
When you head out into the wilds of Indonesia, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter many unique animals, some of which can only be seen in this neck of the woods. Komodo Dragons are only found in Komodo National Park; on our tours we alternate visiting Komodo, Rinca and Flores, to help spread both the positive (and negative) impacts of tourism across all three main islands. Taking a walking tour with a knowledgeable local ranger among these giant reptiles is a truly memorable experience. Otherwise, an expedition to Kalimantan to see the orangutans of Indonesian Borneo is a spectacular way to holiday. Board a traditional klotok boat and spend time cruising around Tanjung Puting National Park in search of local wildlife, including the elusive orangutan.
Do you want to explore the diverse islands of Indonesia? Why not book a spot on our Indonesian Island Cruise, so you can visit many islands on one trip. Otherwise, view our full range of Indonesia and Bali tours.
Hero image by Amy Foyster.