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Bali Eco-tourism

Eco-tourism in Bali gets its much-deserved time in the spotlight

Reinhard Hohler, eTN Ambassador  Jul 01, 2009

Eco-tourism is a modern niche market product, which will grow even in the wake of the global financial crisis. Spiced with adventure, it is a kind of tourism that guarantees fun, education and fitness. Bali ECO Adventure is a company, which started operation just a year ago and already offers a must to do as well as unforgettable program.

I was introduced to this company through the support of Mr. Andre Seiler from Switzerland, who is the Managing Director of Asian Trails in Bali/Indonesia with a long-time travel and tour experience in Southeast Asia. When I visited him in his new office at Sanur-Denpasar recently, he was sure that Bali Eco Adventure is offering the right product for me to know for my inquiring spirit. Thus, with a driver and guide off I went.

Bali ECO Adventure is perfectly located alongside the densely forested Tegalalang area, roughly some12 km north of Ubud in the village of Bayad. Early in the morning, we left Sanur, where I stayed in the Villa Nirvana Guesthouse near the comfortable Bali Hyatt Beach Resort, to pass the handicraft villages of Batubulan, Celuk and Mas towards the centre of the island. Reaching the village of Tampaksiring on the way further north towards Mount Batur, we arrived at the simple Eco-Lodge, where Swiss Peter Studer and Bayad Mayor Ketut Sunarta were busy to entertain a group of students of an international school in Bali.

Both entrepreneurs had worked together to create an over 5km long trekking path leading through the lush jungle with breathtaking views of the Petanu river valley. Altogether 17 stopping points allow discovering the world of tropical fruits, herbs and spices. There is a “plant your own tree” location, where visitors can chose among different kinds of fruit. A spice garden is offering the study of more than 30 different tropical spices, while an herbal garden has more than 50 tropical herbs. Moreover, there are a pumpkin garden, natural vanilla garden and a “rambutan” fruit garden. Genuine rice fields are laid out along the hiking path and are watered by an intriguing system of the traditional Balinese “subak” organization.

The highlight of the visit is to walk through a mystical and unique underground labyrinth of tunnels with a total length of 1.5km. In countless hours, local farmers have cleared and cleaned up a large part of the underground tunnels, so tourists can easily visit. It is certain that early rice farmers have established this phenomenal network as an irrigation system for their rice terraces along the valley.

The Goa Maya Cave is located right in the heart of the network and it is assumed that this sacred “Hindu” cave was built in the 11th century, when there was a battle between God Bhatara Indra against the evil King Raya Mayadenawa. As God Bhatara Indra won this epic battle, he got immortality from God Bhatara Siwa. He then built the Goa Maya Cave as a place for meditation.

At the moment, Mr. Peter Studer is constructing some 9 simple bungalows for sale, if someone wants to leave the material world behind and live at this sacred place nearby. A relaxing restaurant at the Eco-Lodge is offering Balinese food and fresh fruits, herbs and spices. Visitors are welcome and an entrance fee of US$25 includes a guided tour with lunch.

On the way back to Sanur, I visited the famous Penataran Sasih Temple at the village of Pejeng, where Indonesia’s biggest kettledrum is found called the “Moon of Pejeng.” This kettledrum is an artefact of the pre-historic Dong Son Culture of Northern Viet Nam. At the beginning of the Christian era, bronze casters in Java and Bali had already mastered the lost-wax technical process and the “Moon of Pejeng” is certainly a local work. The German naturalist G.E. Rumphius has published in 1705 the oldest description of this kettledrum having worked for the Dutch East India Company.

Another cultural highlight during a visit in Bali is the view of the stunning Tanah Lot Temple in the Tabanan District at the Indian Ocean. A Hindu priest from Java has built this offshore temple in the 15th century. Near this temple, there are five bigger shrines on land nearby. Also, there is a holy spring at the temple, which can only be reached, when the tide is low. If the tide is high, the temple seems to float in the sea – a perfect place to watch the sunset. I was very surprised that the whole setting of this place of worship has not yet activated UNESCO to declare Tanah Lot as one of the “World Heritage” sites. So far, there is only Le Meridian Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort with its 278 luxurious guest rooms nearby, which is absolutely Bali's best.

Bali is still a preferred and ideal holiday destination, especially for Australians and Japanese. As “Thai AirAsia” is flying to Bali from Bangkok on a daily basis, it is hoped that Thai people will soon discover this “Island of the Gods” in the future.

For accommodation, there are many options at the beaches of Sanur or Kuta. In Sanur, there are Accor’s Sanur Mercure near the Royal Bali Yacht Club to re-commend and also the 4-star Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel at Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai.

Out in Kuta, there is Accor’s newly built Pullman Bali Legian Nirwarna with its 382 rooms and nine restaurants. Swiss Hotel Manager, Mr. Robin Deb, told me that the soft opening is on 09.09.2009.

Not far from Accor’s Sofitel in Seminyak, is “Space at Bali” with six stylish, luxurious, two-bedroom villas set in a row with tropical gardens and swimming pools. All six villas can be connected and are ideal for private parties and special events. Private butler and chef service is in order. Mr. Roger Haumueller, Director of the exclusive “Asian Trails” property, is also Managing Director of Asian Trails in Bangkok.

While Kuta, with its myriad of entertainment places, is a must for the younger generation of visitors, Sanur is still the heaven for predominantly older people to stay, especially from good old Europe, to holiday and relax at its 5km long stretch of sandy beach. Mount Agung in the east can be seen, if weather conditions allow. Easy to reach from Sanur is the coral island of Lembongan, which is located between Sanur and Penida Island and can be reached by private available charter boat for 20USD one way.

Another option to visit is the former property of the famous painter from Bruxelles/Belgium, Mr. A.J. Le Mayeur de Merpres (1880-1958), who arrived in Bali in 1932 and married the local beauty – Nyoman Pollok (1917-1985). Their impressive living compound in Sanur at the sea is today a museum and can be visited every day.

Last not least, the extensive “Museum Bali” in Denpasar is worth a visit to study Bali’s unique culture and religion, which are and will be always associated with water.

Eco-tourism in Bali gets its much-deserved time in the spotlight

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