Our trip to Bali was an eye-opening one that proved not everything is as it seems in the tourism world. While tourism is a major part of Bali’s economy, it was sad to see the blatant disrespect for the environment and lack of infrastructure in place to help preserve Bali’s natural beauty.
Bali is known for its tropical beaches and exotic coral reefs which is perfect for diving and snorkeling. What you don’t see on the tourism ads is the amount of garbage filling the streets, rivers and oceans that is poisening its natural resources. While we are usually very positive on our blog and rarely have an incident that disappoints us, I felt compelled to share our story of snorkeling Menjangan Island in Bali.
After crossing the ferry from Java, we arranged to have a driver pick us up and take us to our home-stay in Pemuteran on the northern coast of Bali. The hour drive was by far the most beautiful we had seen during our trip. We drove through the Taman National Park which was filled with beautiful rainforests and grey monkeys lining the roads. This part of Bali felt very different from the rest. It was quiet, laid back and lacked the busyness and crowds we had experienced in Ubud.
When we arrived at the Taruna Home-stay we were greeted with a warm welcome and a freshly squeezed watermelon juice to quench our thirst. Let me just say if you ever come to Bali – come to Pemuteran and stay at the Taruna Homestay. I never gush over accommodation, but this place was beautiful, the staff were amazing and the price was right! ($50 for a non-air conditioned room and $75NZD for AC. including breakfast and wifi) The rooms were decorated in a modern Balanease design and the best part – it had an outdoor bathroom!!! It felt a bit weird at first, but it was completely private and you had the freedom of enjoying a refreshing shower in the fresh air or under the moonlight!
There was also a lovely pool and that we all enjoyed on the hot, humid day when we arrived. Jordan of course began creating mini competitions and games that we all had to part-take like who could hold their breath or do a hand stand the longest.
Just before sunset we took a walk along the beach to scope out our meeting point for snorkeling the next day. As we walked along the beach, you could see pieces of plastic and garbage scattered along the shore. It was some foreshadowing for our adventure ahead.
A group of young local kids were playing a game of soccer as their fathers tended to the small fishing boats just off shore. Me and the ladies browsed the local jewelry shop for some souvenirs while Jordan and his dad continued with their stroll.
The next morning we ventured over to the dive shop to get ready for our day snorkeling. Our guide was very accommodating and agreed to let us go out an hour early as Hillary and Kate had to get back to the airport that afternoon so we would need to end the trip a bit early. We got suited up and jumped in the small covered boat cruising over to Menjangan Island.
Menjangan Island is a small island located in the National Bali Barat (National Park) 8 km off the northern coast of Bali. ‘Menjangan’ in Indonesia means ‘deer’ because locals have been known to see herds of wild deer swimming to the island every spring! Since we were on the water an hour earlier than most we were the first boat to the dive site. Immediately I could see plastic bags and trash floating in the water so I was a bit hesitant to jump in but we strapped on our snorkel and fins and followed our guide to the coral reef below.
The rainy season in Bali is notorious for causing huge amounts of trash to be washed into the oceans. Last season it hit the media as the worst it has ever been with piles of trash combing the shores. While our experience wasn’t has dramatic as some of those photos, it still felt wrong to be swimming in the ocean, trying to take in the beautiful coral reef and colorful fish, all the while trying to avoid sucking in a dirty plastic bag into our snorkel.
The scenery was still quite beautiful and we spent a few hours at 2 different dive sites where we saw blue starfish, black and yellow flat fish and even found Nemo! This was the first time I had done proper snorkeling on a tropical reef so the colors and diversity of sea life was stunning. But the feeling of sadness for the lack of action to prevent this from occurring each year was still overwhelming.
Our snorkel operator was fantastic and was just trying to make a simple living in this sleepy beach town, so it’s no fault of his, but overall I feel the Balanese government should be doing more. Pemuteran was my favorite part of Bali and it’s sad to see it’s beauty tarnish by rubbish. There does seem to be a change in the younger generation like we saw in Lombok during our hike up Mt Rinjani, but it’s a difficult culture shift if there isn’t government support for infrastructure.
My feelings towards Bali are mixed as we had a wonderful family vacation with so many great memories, and while Pemuteran was by far the most beautiful area we visited, I felt the need to share our experience that turned out to be a bit disappointing.
Have you been to Bali? What has been your experience?