With its exceptional natural sites and indigenous cultures, Indonesia could become one of the world leaders in ecotourism with Bali playing a key role. However ecotourism development in Bali is still far from its potential, although increasing awareness and a more educated traveler has made this sector the most interesting growth segment of tourism in Bali today.
Historically, Bali attracted the rich, the cultured, and the bohemian, seeking the idyllic island life. Yet, this paradise situation eventually gave way to the advent of cheaper travel brought on by a new wave of tourists, many initially seeking the surf of Kuta. Low-end hotels and guesthouses quickly sprang up to cater to this new market.
To counter this tourist insurgency, the government of the day had a plan: containment. The maxim being that tourist revenues were good, but tourism on the whole was bad. The government attempted to keep this growing wave within the confines of a government-sponsored tourist enclave, Nusa Dua, but this proved to be short lived. Not only did tourism persist beyond the artificial boundaries, but it soon became clear that focusing tourism in one area at the expense of all others not only created an imbalance in tourist revenues but also led to an uneven and unsustainable demand for water, waste-disposal, and road use, not to mention negative ecological impact and coastal erosion.
Rolling forward to today when one would hope some lessons had been learned, the demand for basic utilities and the need to dispose of the waste and effluence of the millions of tourists leads many of the grand hotels of Seminyak and Kuta to still directly pollute the immediate seas and beaches on which their revenues rely.
The effects on the social strata and structure of Bali has been, to date, much contained, due in many parts to the self-policing and self-appointed village council, the banjar. They rule over social laws and are a necessary ally for any hotel, villa, or other business. Woe betide any who challenges their authority without just cause.
Tourists too have reacted against their irresponsible past. The noisy few that pollute the streets and bars of Kuta are slowly being outnumbered by a responsible and growing majority seeking the peace and natural charms of the original Bali. This is evidenced by the increasing number of eco- and socially responsible semi educational resorts. The Aman hotel group is possibly the most high profile tourist-dependant business that prides itself on bringing more to a community than it can take away.
Bali is now seeing a huge development in ecotourism resorts. While some of them are extremely good others make promises they do not follow through on. While in no way an exclusive list, we recommend the following accommodations, which are all trying to do something positive for the local environment: Menjangan Resort, Munduk Moding Plantation, Puri Lumbung Cottages, Sarinbuana Eco-Lodge, and Udayana Eco Lodge. Some newer resorts are fully off the grid, powered by solar or wind and even charge separately for air-conditioning such as Gili Eco Villas.
Among more dedicated offerings is C Bali and the village ecotourism network JED with their four initiatives in Sibetan, Kiadan Pelaga, Tenganan, and Nusa Ceningan.
The waters around Bali and Lombok offer some of the best diving in the world, however the coral reefs and the marine ecosystems face increased pressures from sedimentation, pollution, over fishing, reef bombing, cyanide fishing, and exploitative recreational activities. Various initiatives and teams of dive schools are working together to help promote the rejuvenation of damaged reefs, educate fishermen about safe fishing practices, and protect the reefs from any further erosion. The Gili Eco Trust (www.giliecotrust.com) works with all seven of the dive schools in the Gili Islands to outstanding success. In Permuteran, Reef Seen Aquatics have built the largest "Biorock" installation in the world while working with the local community to create other successful restoration projects. The World Wildlife Federation in Indonesia is working with Friends of the Reef to help protect the reef in the West National Park.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.