On Rural Routes
All around the world, the concept of eco-tourism is blossoming and taking hold. Its popularity is due to an increasing environmental consciousness, a reaction to the destructive aspects of mass tourism, people’s need to escape their hectic, high-pressured lives, and the wonderfully rejuvenating effect nature has on the human psyche.
Bali has also been embracing eco-tourism in many forms throughout the island. Beyond southern Bali’s mass-tourism belt, you’ll find increasing numbers of eco-resorts, boutique hotels, spas, retreats, and eco-friendly outdoor activities. Indeed, Bali is an absolutely perfect locale for eco-tourism, in all its guises. Why? Bali’s abundant, varied and lush nature, Bali’s intact, authentic culture and arts and the ongoing traditional lifestyle are perfect opportunities for eco-friendly outdoor activities and adventures.
Today’s conscientious travelers want to support resorts and travel businesses that don’t harm the environment, to surround themselves by undisturbed and pristine nature, and to join in outdoor adventures that don’t negatively impact the earth. They want to eat, live, and play in a manner healthy for both their own bodies and the environment. Does this sound like you? Read on.
In Bali, two of the best eco-friendly outdoor activities that both travelers and expats can enjoy amidst the island’s astounding natural environment are hiking and bicycling. Bali offers many options for both.
If you’d like to cycle in Bali you’re in luck, because bicycling has been taking off here during the past decade. Dozens of tour operators now offer guided cycling tours through Bali’s stunning rice fields. One company even offers more rugged off-road cycling on forested mountain trails. Rental bicycle shops are cropping up all over the island, particularly in Sanur, Nusa Dua, Ubud, Lovina and even at remote Amed on Bali’s far northeast coast. Several international-quality bike stores have opened including Rodalink, Giant, and Specialized in Denpasar and The Bike Shop on Jalan Bypass. The Bali Cycling Federation has been established and several local cycling clubs have sprung up. November brings the annual BaliAudax international advanced bicycling challenge to Bali, a 2-day race around the entire island. And increasingly more Westerners are bringing their own bikes with them to pedal around the beautiful island.
So take your pick! Would you prefer renting a bike and meandering around on your own? In Sanur and Lovina you can pedal beside long stretches of beach. In Nusa Dua you can cycle through lush landscaped gardens and head out to the hilly Uluwatu headland. In Ubud, meander around charming shady neighborhood roads visiting boutiques and cafes, or head out into the rice fields. Bicycle rentals are an inexpensive, easy way to wander around freely for a day. Look for bike rentals or ask around wherever you’re staying.
Guided bike tours are more costly, but offer an organized tour with guides who will teach you about the local lifestyle, take you to a rural village for lunch, and lead you downhill on an easy glide through gorgeous rice fields. You can find tour operators in guidebooks, travel offices, and from brochures scattered around shopping areas. If you prefer more challenging off-road cycling, check out Bali-Trailblazers.
If you’re super fit and like tough challenges, check out the annual BaliAudax international advanced bicycling challenge.
If you’re more independent and really want to explore Bali, you can easily cycle around the entire island on your own. It’s only 500-700 km the whole way around, depending on which routes you take, so you can comfortably tour Bali in 1-2 weeks, or go even more leisurely to explore Bali’s fascinating culture and scenery more fully. You can either buy a new bike in Bali or bring your own. Either way, you’ll be able to get parts, repairs, and service with no problem. Bali’s roads are in good condition and drivers are well-aware of smaller vehicles like motorbikes and scooters sharing the roads. Expats living in Bali have the option to pedal around the island in stages, one area for each weekend or day off.
Bicycling around Bali will immerse you in the daily lives of Bali’s local villages, towns, and rural areas. You’ll pedal past rice fields, along beautiful coastlines, up volcanic flanks and through windy, lush mountains. The entire way you’ll be surrounded by nature and in personal touch with the locals. You’ll reach authentic Balinese places that very few tourists even know exist. Wherever you go, you’ll find plenty of local food to eat, inexpensive places to stay, and friendly, curious, helpful people. In short, you’ll experience the real Bali while staying fit, going at your own pace, spending your money in local communities, and not harming the environment. It’s the epitome of eco-adventure in Bali.
If you’re more into hiking, Bali also offers several options, even though the notion of hiking has not spread as extensively as cycling has. Bali has only two well-known hikes: climbing Mt. Agung and climbing Mt. Batur. Both are generally done as guided hikes, employing local hiking guides near the mountains or organized through hotels and tour agents around Bali. Generally, the hikes start in the middle of the night in order to reach the peak for sunrise. Details on these hikes can be found in guidebooks, at any tour agent, or at your resort’s activities desk.
Although less known, many other hiking opportunities are available in Bali. One rewarding hike is the climb up the 1,700 steps of the Pura Lempuyang Temple, near Tirtanganga and the city of Amlapura. The 7 tiers of the Lempuyang Temple are located along the steep route between the parking lot, near the base of the mountain, and the mountain peak. The route itself consists almost entirely of steep stone steps going up through a dense, damp rain forest with trees dripping in vines, ferns, and moss. At the top you’ll enjoy astounding views of nearby Mt. Agung and sweeping views all the way to both Bali’s south and north coasts. Hiking Pura Lempuyang takes about 1 hour each way.
Another great hiking option is to take a guided trek in Bali’s far western Bali Barat National Park. The park’s interior is rarely visited and completely un-developed. Anyone who wants to hike in the park is required to obtain a permit and hire a fairly pricy guide to escort them. If costs aren’t a deterrent to you, hiking Bali Barat National Park can be a rewarding experience, a chance to see wildlife and a glimpse at Bali that very few people see.
If you prefer independent hiking without any fees or guides, head over to Amed, Bali’s remote northeast coast. Amed offers loads of great hiking opportunities in the seaside hills that hug the coast. Amed is famed mainly for its coral reefs and for its charming little boutique resorts that dot the coves and headlands. Locals traditionally engage in fishing, farming, and salt-making. Many live in small thatched houses up in the hills. Consequently, they’ve made an intricate system of paths to get around between their houses, fields, water sources and the coast. Hiking along those local trails takes you past villages, houses, fields, cows, roosters and offer spectacular views of Bali’s north coastline.
So, if you’re a proponent of eco-tourism, you’ll find plenty of that in Bali. If you’re itching to stay fit while surrounding yourself with stunning natural scenery, that’s easy to do here. Just step beyond south Bali’s tourist belt and get rolling.
Text by Lash
Lash is an American nomadic world traveler who’s been exploring Asia solo since 1998. An avid outdoor enthusiast, you’ll generally find her hiking, mountain climbing, bicycling, scuba diving and snorkeling around Asia’s bountiful natural areas.
She first visited Bali in 2000, during which time she climbed all of Bali’s main peaks and cycled around the eastern half of the island. She has returned to Bali most years since then, staying 2-6 months each time. Since 2007 she has spent three 4-month stints in Amed, where she’s hiked extensively. In 2010 she completed her second bicycle circumnavigation of the island as research for her guidebooks, Hiking in Bali
and Cycling in Bali
. Her guidebooks now are available in print on Amazon, while its ePub, pdf, and Kindle versions are available at www.lashworldtour.com
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine