Bali is developing fast and hotels are springing up left right and centre – most of which have little regard for the environment or bother to incorporate traditional architecture that is based on Hindu philosophy. So the best thing you can do? Try to stay somewhere more responsible that gives back to both the environment and the community.
Dotted around the island are a selection of great little hideaways that are individual, indulgent and based on green ideals, meaning you will not only avoid the same old hotel room, but you will be safe in the knowledge that your stay is helping to preserve the environment.
Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, immersed in the Batukaru Forest, is a wonderful place to explore the mysterious forests, hike down to natural swimming pools and finish the day with freshly prepared organic and raw food and deserts.
Supporting a host of village projects and training trekking guides, this mountain top resort embraces eco ethos and has some of the best views and stargazing on the island.
If you are staying in the busier Seminyak area, then Desa Seni is always a sublime sanctuary of serenity. A vibrant atmosphere of yoga lessons and fitness during the day, and a peaceful outlook of stars and candlelit terrace dining by night. This is a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Bali’s now crowded south.
2. Visit a conscious restaurant
There are plenty of restaurants that are embracing more holistic food philosophies in Bali. Nowhere is this more evident than in the town of Ubud that has become a magnet for wellness practioners.
One of the most scenic and healthy options sits a little walk through the rice paddies, perched over the verdant views encompassing the restaurant. This is Sari Organik’s restaurant, Bodag Maliah.
Not only do they produce fabulous organic dishes and an array of exotic fruit wine, but the organic farm also produces the vegetables, the perfect farm to table experience. Other ingredients are sourced locally from farmers and fair trade producers, meaning you’re eating chemicals free. As well as lots of incredible fresh fruit juice concoctions, the lychee and papaya wines add an added fizz to the dining experience.
Clear Café on Jalan Hanoman produces some exquisite fine dining options such as the snow pea tofu. On the Penestan Road, Alchemy is fast becoming a must stop café for raw cuisine and their famous vegan cheesecakes.
For the ultimate five star raw and vegan fine dining experience, head a little out of town to Fivelements Sakti Dining Room where the superb cuisine is served under a sweeping bamboo roof.
3. Pamper yourself at an organic spa
The choice of spas is overwhelming in Bali, it seems like every second shop is offering the holy trinity of ‘massage, manicure, pedicure’.
With the increase of chemicals used in skincare products today, be kind to your skin and the environment and indulge in a spa treatment that uses organic and handmade products.
Luckily, Cantika Spa on the way to the Sari Organik farm is not only a haven of relaxation, but also a grower and producer of 100% natural spa products, handmade in a traditional Balinese kitchen by founder, Ibu Jasi. You can even take lessons and prepare the creams and oils for your own treatment. Using traditional Jamu methods combined with a few personal secrets, the results of Ibu’s concoctions is a lovely smelling tranquility of soft pampered skin.
Jamu uses traditional Indonesian methods of ancient beauty rites that were usually reserved for a woman on her wedding night but have now become mainstream in most spas, the most popular being mandi lulur. This is a Balinese oil massage, followed by a scrub comprised of warming spices, such as cloves and ginger, followed by a flower bath.It is a cleansing and beautifying ritual that is both invigorating and relaxing.
4. Do a tour of The Green School
The greenest school on earth is hidden in the forests outside Ubud – a majestic masterpiece of design, constructed entirely from bamboo. A couple called John & Cynthia founded the school based on how they wanted their own children to be educated. It now hosts children from all over the world and invites visitors to join their free afternoon tours.
Spread over six hectares, the school follows a mainstream curriculum mixed with sustainable learning and a healthy dose of outdoor activities such as Balinese mud wrestling and bamboo tree house building. The main wow factor is provided by the stunning architecture throughout the school. Defying the normal perceptions of bamboo, the school twists and turns into remarkably elegant and undulating structures. The ‘heart’ of the school houses the library and is one of the biggest bamboo structures in the world spanning 25,000 square foot.
Even if you don’t have kids, this is a fantastic place to visit for anyone interested in green issues. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable resources in the world and its potential is endless.
The Green School supports bamboo farmers and also offers scholarships to Balinese children who will thrive in this natural wonder.
5. Explore the countryside with a bike tour
As the roads of Bali get more clogged with traffic, the use of an eco mode of transport to discover the quiet lanes and discover the Balinese countryside holds a lot to be desired. Bali Eco Cycling offers day trips where you start a downhill descent from the volcano near Mount Batur.
The trips take in a coffee plantation, Balinese village and temple. You can even learn to plant rice and learn about the ancient and UNESCO protected subak system. However, the most rewarding thing about this entire experience is the soundless peace of exploring the lesser-known areas of the countryside and getting off the beaten track. As it is mainly downhill, it is suitable for most fitness levels and a great way for the whole family to take in the breathtaking scenery of Bali in a unique and impact free way.
6. Learn to surf at the Eco Surf Shop
Surfing is one of the main attractions of Bali. Tucked away at the top of Jl. Nakula, Seminyak, is a diminutive shop containing some beautiful eco surfboards and products. Particularly cool is the Surfboard Ding Repair that comprises two-part soy epoxy and bamboo fiberglass to sort out any mishaps with your board.
There are a number of other surf related eco products on sale, including some beautiful surfboardshandcrafted from bamboo, the most renewable resource on the island. Properly utilized bamboo is stronger than steel, yet still light. So although they may look delicate, they will definitely give their fiberglass counterparts a run for their money.
The shop is also a classroom and the public face of the Soul Surf Project Bali. The project provides surfing lessons for children from foster homes and orphanages across Bali, in order to build up their confidence, educate them about the environment and provide them with skills for the future.
This is the first surf school in Bali where your money is put back into helping underprivileged children. So the project will not only teach you the art of catching a wave, but you’ll also be directly shaping the future of Bali’s next generation of surfers.
7. Eat sustainable chocolate straight from the farm
Big Tree Farms has built its ‘cathedral’ to chocolate outside Ubud. The creation of a couple of madcap eco Willy Wonka’s, this is the world’s biggest commercial bamboo building. It houses a chocolate factory that boasts pure, raw and sustainably made chocolate delights, straight from the cacao plant that grows wild in this part of Bali.
Set up by partners who wanted to make it ‘economically viable and ecologically sustainable’ to indulge in an eco friendly manner, the farm has had great success over the last few years both in Bali and abroad. As well as chocolate, the farm sells cashews, coconut sugar, Balinese salt and honey. Working with 14,000 farmers throughout Indonesia and supporting small holding organic produce and communities, this is definitely guilt free gluttony.
Tours run everyday and take you from ‘pod to product’ to see the chocolate making process and taste this amazingness in it’s natural form. Cacao pods are big and prehistoric looking. It is very different from commercially produced chocolate with a more earthy, nutty essence to the bitter darkness. Once you experience the real taste and the natural energy boost, you’ll be hooked!
8. Buy some bamboo bed linen
Bamboo is big in Bali due to its amazing adaptability for buildings, household furniture and, more surprisingly, fabrics that are soft as silk. If you haven’t experienced the feel of bamboo material, you are most definitely missing out. The fibers are also remarkably breathable and contain natural anti allergens, making it ideal for babies or people with allergies or skin problems. As bamboo grows extremely fast and manages to renew itself into full size within seven years, this is an inextinguishable resource on the island.
Consequently, many sustainably conscious people on this island are discovering and innovating with the sturdy bamboo plant. Bambooku in Seminyak makes a collection of 100% organically certified and luxurious sheets, clothes, towels and pyjamas. If you have not discovered the beauty of bamboo, this store is well worth a visit.
9. Visit Bali Barat National Park
The Barat National Park is in the north west of Bali and was established in 1941 to protect the endangered Bali Jalak (Balinese Starling). It is also a marine protected area and houses a rich biodiversity below and above ground. The park covers about 19,000 hectares, but once spanned 77,000 hectares. It is home to a variety of forests, such as primary monsoon forests and mangroves. In the marine protected areas there is incredible snorkeling and scuba diving off the peninsula and around Menjangan Island just off the mainland.
Many visitors do not make it up here because it is a four to five hour drive from the tourist packed south. This area is one of the most stunning and wild parts of the island and the drive through the middle of Bali or along the west coast is scenic to say the least. Guides can be hired to take you on treks through the forest where wild boars, monkeys, Menjangan deer and 120 bird species, including the Balinese Starling, can be seen. For more info visit the North Bali website.
10. Support a plastic bag free Bali
Two wonderful young girls from The Green School have created a petition on Avaaz to ban plastic bags on Bali. Motivating a whole generation of kids and adults to join in their ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ campaign, they have been working tirelessly giving presentations, creating t-shirts and of course, collecting signatures.
A pilot village in Pererenan has already signed up to go plastic free and many others are set to follow. Working side by side with local schools, villages and councils, they are slowly changing perceptions about plastic and the need to dispose of it and get it off the island. Over the past few years Bali has seen the amount of plastic accelerate with the unprecedented growth. The island does not have an efficient waste disposal system or enough high temperature generators to deal with the increase effectively. Plastic has been washing up on beaches by the truckload, blocking rivers and streams and literally clogging up the island.
The Governor of Bali has agreed to ban plastic bags completely if the petition receives 1 million signatures.
It has also motivated the Governor to look at the prospect of Bali becoming completely plastic free by 2015. So sign the petition and join the cause on Facebook to show your support and spread the word to make Bali a more eco destination.