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Exploring Bali's real rainforest on Mount Batukaru

Exploring Bali’s real rainforest on Mount Batukaru
By Electra Gillies, Contributor, Ubud | Mar 26, 2014

The forests covering Bali, though often referred to as ‘rainforests’, are actually lowland monsoonal forests.


However, in the central area of Bali lies the island's true rainforest, full of a multitude of species waiting to be explored.


In the middle lies the majestic Agung Batukaru volcano, known as Mount Batukaru. This is the second highest peak in Bali, yet is a little less popular with climbers than other mountains, as you have to pass through the dense and mysterious forest to get there.

Even if you are not planning on the climb, the area is still fantastic for spending a few days to explore the lush and verdant interior of Bali.

This forest is protected as it is home to a myriad of species. It is a primary forest that has evolved from the unique microclimate of fertile volcanic soil from the now-extinct Mt. Batukaru, along with a high level of rainfall and an elevated altitude that mean the forest has flourished.

It is the ideal home for a rich array of flora and fauna, including the Balinese luwak -- a member of the mongoose genus, which is more infamous in Sumatra for kopi luwak (civet coffee), also known as “cat poo” coffee, as the animal ingests the coffee beans before passing them out, after which they are roasted.

In spite of this, or precisely because of it, kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world.

The forest is also home to plenty of huge trees, including mahogany, cacao trees, vanilla, coffee and some primeval looking palm ferns. This type of forest is more synonymous with Java and the islands further west in Indonesia, like Kalimantan and Sumatra.

It is an ideal place to explore for those who would like a tropical rainforest experience but do not have time to travel beyond Bali.

Anyone with a moderate fitness level can discover the low-lying areas; a normal trek through the forest will take around three hours. At the other end of the scale, visitors can try a strenuous climb to the top of Mt. Batukaru and experience sweeping views across Bali. An early start before an entire day’s hiking is required to reach the summit and return.

Amid the forest also lies Pura Batukaru, a Hindu temple of some significance, being one of Bali’s directional temples. It has a seven-tiered meru, or thatched temple roof, signifying its importance, with twelve being the highest number of tiers possible. It is a sacred mountain sanctuary and royal temple of the Tabanan dynasty that was established in the 11th century by Empu Kuturan, a great Hindu Sage who established six main temples on the island of Bali.

The temple can be reached by road or, the more magical way, with a trek through the rice fields. Experienced guides from the area can be found or, if you would like to support an ecotourism initiative, you can use a guide from the Sarinbuana Trekking Guides Association (STGA).

Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, which set up the guides association, is a good option if you plan to stay the night. By taking a trek, you are supporting eco-income in the local community, which encourages ecotourism as a form of income rather than the exploitation of the ecosystem -- US$25 is donated from every trek you undertake.

The guides are knowledgeable about their local landscape and will show you cacao, coffee and vanilla growing wild as well as a plethora of bird, butterflies and other inhabitants of the forest.

It is a worthy project that not only supports local conservation but also community projects in the nearby villages. They can also guide you on cultural tours to the temple or up to the summit of the volcano.

If experiencing the rainforest with a little more luxury sounds more appealing, then the Waka Land Cruise experience will take you through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces to the heart of the Batukaru Forest for a trek, temple visit and a traditional lunch in their restaurant.

This tour is a comfortable and intimate way to experience not only the Batukaru area but also a drive through the rice terraces and scenery of rural Bali and experience the stunning countryside. Prices start from US$35 per person for the tours. If you are on honeymoon or feel like a little privacy, the tours can be tailor-made to suit you.

This is an area that is still very much overlooked on the main tours of the island and therefore it is an area you can explore with your guide without encountering other people.

Immersing yourself in the forest will awaken you to the number of species that actually inhabit and thrive in Bali. However, many species are slowly being driven into smaller enclaves due to the rapid development of the island, which is causing the loss of their habitats.

It is therefore important to protect these natural areas as well as to support them financially by visiting, so the benefits of nature tourism are fully realized.

Batukaru Forest is a deeply peaceful and mystical primary forest in Bali. Hidden away from other more populated areas, it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours or days immersed in nature.

Experience a rainforest trek, climb a volcano or stay a night and see the stars shine brighter than anywhere else in Bali. This is a haven for birdwatchers and anyone interested in the flora and fauna of the island. It is still a serene and largely undiscovered area, a combination of nature, culture and stunning scenery.
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Bali


Provincial Authorities in Bali Promise to Get Tough on Illegal Transport Operators and Illegal Guides
Bali News: Promises, Promises
(3/23/2014) The Bali Daily (Jakarta Post) reports that the provincial administration of Bali is once again promising to toughen enforcement on illegal tourist transportation and illegal tour guides.


In a somewhat seemingly contradictory, if not ironic, move, provincial authorities believe that enforcement could be improved by rewriting the current laws to provide for lighter sentences.

According to Ketut Arnawa of the Bali Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), throughout all of 2013 his office had taken legal steps against 324 violators of 27 by-laws, including violations of the province's tourism laws.

Said Arnawa: “Some of these violations were related to tourism, such as illegal tour guides and transport services. We have taken the matter to the court and the punishments ranged from ‘tipiring’ to deportation.”

Tipiring sees the violator brought before a special court to speed up the judicial process, typically resulting in a modest fine imposed by a magistrate.

Promising that enforcement would be increased on illegal tour guides and illegal tourist transportation in 2014, Arnawa said that his office had limited enforcement powers against illegal guides and illegal transport and even less enforcement authority against illegal accommodation providers - a matter left solely to the regencies.

“So far, 80 percent of the violations were found during inspections launched by our team, and only 20 percent originated from reports submitted by concerned citizens. In the future, we hope that the public will play a bigger role in reporting violations to us,” Arnawa explained.

The province is planning more surprise inspections of at least twice each month at tourist attractions in Bali to capture illegal guides and illegal transport operators.

86 tourist transportation operators were processed through speedy trials in 2013 and ended up paying a small fine.

While hundreds of illegal guides were rounded up in 2013, only 8 were actually brought to trial. Because the possible prison term for working as an illegal guide is six months means the amount of supporting documents needed to bring a case to trial is substantial, creating an overwhelming burden on law enforcement and prosecutors who are overwhelmed and fail to bring all those caught breaking the law to trial.

After four months is spent preparing the legal dossier for trial, many charged with acting as an illegal guide simply fail to show up on their court date. The maximum sentence of six months does not allow the suspects to be held until trial and while police do confiscate the suspects ID cards, these are easily replaced in the home village of the illegal guide.

A suggestion has been floated of increasing the monetary fine that can be levied against illegal guides and reducing the sentence to just three months, preparing the way for violatorsto then be processed in the less bureaucratic Tipiring court process. “By doing so, we would be able to send the violators to the ‘tipiring’ court and process hundreds of cases in one week,” Arnawa explained.

Foreigners found working as illegal tour guides are, however, a different matter. Once caught in the act they are detained and handed over to immigration for eventual deportation.
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Bali Island

Bali is located at the westernmost section of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. To Bali’s west lies the island of Java and to its east is Lombok. From east to west, Bali is only about 95 miles (153 km) wide and 69 miles (112 km) long with a land area of approximately 2,175 square miles (5,632 sq. km).


Coral reefs surround the island of Bali, creating an idyllic vacation area for tourists seeking scuba diving and snorkeling. Bali is a veritable paradise with white sand beaches in the southern part of the island and black sand beaches in the north, drawing tourist from around the world.

One of Bali’s striking characteristics is the major religion of the island. Approximately 93 percent of its three million people practice Balinese Hinduism. This fact is extremely relevant because Indonesia, with a population of 237 million, has the largest Muslim population in the world.

Anthropologists believe the island of Bali has been populated since prehistoric times. The first people on the island likely migrated from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia (Malay Archipelago).  Scientists have found human-made stone tools and earthenware vessels on the island dating more than 3,000 years old.

The earliest written records of the island’s history are stone inscriptions from the 9th century. Though little is known about Bali in particular around this time, it is believed that seafaring traders from India brought Hinduism to the Indonesian archipelago.

From 1293 to around 1500, an archipelagic empire called the Majapahit (mah-JAP-ah-hit) based on the island of Java ruled much of the Malay Archipelago. Even as the Majapahit Empire began to collapse into disputing sultanates, the dynasty in Bali maintained control on the island.

For this reason, many of the intellectuals of the Majapahit relocated to Bali, including Niratha, a priest credited with introducing many of the complexities of Balinese religion to the island. Also around this time, many artists, dancers, musicians and actors fled to Bali, thus generating an explosion of culture there. Today, Bali is renowned for its varied and highly developed art forms.

Most Indonesian islands increasingly embraced Islam and it became the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. Bali, on the other hand, retained its Hindu roots.

Balinese Hinduism permeates nearly every aspect of traditional life in Bali. The religion is a combination of Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia and existing local beliefs. Rooted in Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, Balinese Hinduism also incorporates many animistic and magical traditions of Bali’s indigenous people.

The religion of Bali is deeply connected with art and ritual, while the Islam of Indonesia is embedded with scripture, law and belief. The followers of Balinese Hinduism are particularly known for their graceful and gentle behavior.

Bali is the largest tourist destination in Indonesia. The tourism boom began in the 1970s and helped bring marked improvements to roads, health, education and telecommunications. Tourism is Bali’s largest industry, making it one of Indonesia’s wealthiest areas.

Despite its perceived remoteness, Bali has been impacted by the same Islamic extremism that affects other areas of the world. When militants bombed popular Bali nightclub area in 2002 and tried again in a shopping area in 2005, the tourism industry initially suffered each time, but tourists’ visits quickly rebounded.

Some Islamic extremists apparently view Bali as a decadent non-Muslim society in the midst of a predominantly Muslim region. The very fact is, however, that Bali is beautiful, modern, sophisticated, wealthy, exciting and recently relatively safe, making it a desired tourist destination of world renown.

Sources: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6788699.ece ; and http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/bali/history
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Sunset at Uluwatu


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Tourists enjoy Nyepi

Tourists enjoy Nyepi, Bali’s 
unique celebration


The annually observed and uniquely Balinese Hindu Day of Silence, Nyepi, is generally met with a positive response from foreign visitors spending time on the island during the occasion.

Ketut Ardana, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) Bali, shared with The Jakarta Post the weekend that foreign and domestic tourists generally did not specifically visit Bali for Nyepi, which this year falls on March 31.

“But they are happy when they [see] the Balinese observe Nyepi with its astonishing pre- and post-rituals,” Ardana said.

Nyepi marks the start of the new lunar year in the Balinese Caka calendar. On the Day of Silence, Balinese Hindus have to perform four abstinences known as catur brata penyepian, comprising amati geni (abstaining from the lighting of fire or lights); amati karya (abstaining from work); amati lelungan (abstaining from traveling outside one’s home); and amati lelanguan (abstaining from enjoyable activities).

All of these abstinences are aimed at the Balinese entering a state of self-contemplation, meditation and evaluation of their deeds during the previous year and praying for the best in the coming year.

All access to Bali, via the airport and its harbors, is closed for 24 hours.

No lights can be lit, all radio and television stations stop broadcasting in Bali, no-one is allowed outside their home or hotel except in an emergency. Only hospitals and emergency services will be in operation.

“Tourists have appreciated and been amazed at the unique rituals on the eve of Nyepi and enjoyed the darkness and quietness on the island for 24 hours,” he said

Local parades the night before Nyepi of ogoh-ogoh, giant effigies, have become interesting tourist attractions.

Meanwhile, Ida Bagus Wisnu Diwangkara, a Sanur businessman, said many hotel and villa owners were offering special Nyepi packages for tourists.

“March is usually low season for the hospitality business. Nyepi has boosted business for us as many visitors are willing to enjoy our special Nyepi packages,” said Diwangkara.

Ida Bagus Gede Sidharta Putra, chairman of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) Denpasar, said visitors would have to stay within the hotel complexes.

“But they just enjoy the quiet in Bali once a year,” Putra said.

Ida Bagus Kade Subhiksu, head of Bali Tourism Agency, said that the provincial administration had called on hotels, travel agencies and relevant tourist businesses to inform their clients of conditions in Bali during Nyepi, including the temporary closure of the airport and harbors.




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Bali International Airport closed for Nyepi

Bali International Airport closed for Nyepi
Those planning to travel to the fabled island of Bali towards the end of March, please note that the entire island will come to a complete standstill for the Balinese New Year of Nyepi which this year falls on Monday, 31st March 2014. To allow all to follow the prescribed rituals, all traffic all over Bali will come to a complete halt. No planes will be allowed to land or take off for 24 hours. All shops are closed and no one is allowed on the beach or on the streets.

Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, has sent an official announcement letter to four related ministries (Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Foreign Affair, Ministry of Domestic Affair, and Ministry of Communication) regarding the temporary closure of Ngurah Rai International Airport on the respected day. “The letter has been sent early (dated 30th December 2013) with the expectation that it can be distributed to all related parties, both nationally and the international world” said the Head of the Public Relations Bureau of the Provincial Government of Bali, I Ketut Teneng on Denpasar, Tuesday 25th February as reported by bisniswisata.co.

With the announcement, it is expected that both domestic and international airlines will not schedule flights during that day. However, although this is a public holiday for the whole of Indonesia, outside the island of Bali, all air, land and sea traffic as well as other activities continue as normal.

Nyepi is the ritual of the Hindus of Bali to welcome the New Year based on the traditional Saka Calendar. For, contrary to other cultures that celebrate New Year with vivacious festivities, the pinnacle of Balinese New Year is a day of complete Silence. Hence the name Nyepi, meaning “to keep silent” in the local language, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. Nyepi is a day fully dedicated to connect oneself more closely with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayers and at the same time as a day of self introspection to decide on values, such as humanity, love, patience, kindness, and others, that should be kept forever.

As a day reserved for self-reflection anything that may interfere with that purpose is strictly prohibited. Nyepi mandates a day of absolute quiet, based on the four precepts of Catur Brata:

  • Amati Geni: Prohibiting the lighting of fires, the use of lighting or satisfying pleasurable human appetites.
  • Amati Karya: Prohibiting all forms of physical work other than those dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
  •  Amati Lelungan: Prohibiting movement or travel; requiring people to stay within their homes.
  • Amati Lelangunan: Prohibiting all forms of entertainment, recreations or general merrymaking.


The sudden silence comes after the eve of noisy festivities on the beaches of Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Seminyak and others with parades of giant puppets called “ogoh-ogoh” accompanied by clanging gongs and other percussion instruments. At the end of the festival the ogoh-ogoh are torched and are totally engulfed in flames.

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed on the beaches or streets, and the airport remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth. There will be local watchmen known as pecalang to ascertain that this rule is obeyed. At night, all lights will have to be turned off. Hotels will close all curtains that no ray of light shines to the outside. All sound and music indoors should be held to its lowest volume.

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