Bali, the perfect place for holidaymakers. A place where you can unwind in the turquoise waters of the Gili islands, dine on fresh organic produce in Ubud’s eccentric cafes, revitalise in a day spa in one of Seminyak’s endless health resorts or spend some time bargain-hunting and haggling through the busy streets of Kuta.
You must take your hat off to this small Indonesian island that has doubled its intake of tourists in the past six years. Last year Bali received more tourists than its whole total population, and while tourism is an industry that has greatly improved the social end economic status of the island and its residents, there are some things they are doing right, and other areas that could do with a bit (or a lot) of improvement.
While Bali is a great destination for all the reasons mentioned above there is one area where Bali fails to meet the responsible tourism standards that we care about so much, and that area is animal tourism. With mass tourism often comes the influx of animal exploitation and it seems, as with the rest of its south east Asian counterparts, Bali has fallen into that bad habit.
Start with the number of elephant ride attractions advertised on nearly every tourist office in the main cities of Kuta and Ubud. At these attractions the animals are forced to do tricks and endure endless elephant rides using heavy saddles and often hold more than one person at a time. If the elephant doesn’t obey then they are jabbed with sharp bamboo sticks, sometimes to the point of being wounded. There are currently no organisations in Bali that provide ethical elephant encounters to our standards.
There are the marine attractions where dolphins are kept in small enclosures with unclean water and forced to do tricks for human entertainment. Other sea-life, such as turtles, are confined in small spaces and thrown for a photograph at the next tourist who walks through the door. Some zoos cage sedated animals that are used for photography purposes and they are caged in enclosures that don’t anywhere near imitate the natural environment of which they come from.
Then there is one of the lesser-known animal cruelty attractions that people will encounter, the world famous Luwak (Civet Cat) Coffee. While there was a time that Luwak Coffee exploded in the Bali tourism industry and everyone was excited about the great tasting civet-poop coffee, recent reports show that civet cats are caged in small enclosures and force-fed to feed the high demand for coffee.
You don’t have to spend too much time reading Trip Advisor reviews of animal attractions in Bali to see that there is a serious issue that needs to be acknowledged.
“Worst mistreatment of animals ever witnessed”
“Horrifying and traumatic”
“Very sad looking animals in poor enclosures”
But it’s not all bad news. While there are so many improvements to be made there are things that we can do to end this cycle of animal exploitation. It is important to speak up about any animal abuse that you witness. The Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) is a non-profit organisation based in Bali that works to save, protect and improve the lives of all animals in Bali and beyond. Read their guidelines to Responsible Tourism in Bali or contact their 24 hour hotline on 081 138 9004 if you wish to report an incident.
Make ethical choices when you visit Bali. Instead of visiting zoos or riding elephants try these suggested animal encounters as an alternative, which don’t encroach on the animal’s welfare and also provide a better, more ethical and rewarding experience.
The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, Ubud
Located on the fringe of Ubud’s city centre this temple-ridden forest is home to over 300 cheeky grey-haired macaques. I emphasise the word cheeky as they’ll be happy to steal your food if you take your eye off it for one second, but aside from that it’s a great way to get up close to these creatures in the wild.
The Bird Village of Petulu
Every evening at around 5:30pm hundreds of Storks (Kokokan Birds) fly to the trees of the Petalu Village to sleep for the night. Visit the village to catch a glimpse of these birds that nestle in the trees above the rice paddies. Legend goes that the villagers once tried to stop the birds from staying here and during that time half of the villagers got ill. Since then the birds have held spiritual meaning within the village, and many believe the birds are supernatural guardians that protect and provide good-luck to the people.
The Turtle Conservation And Education Centre
The Turtle Conservation And Education Centre was built as a solution to eradicate illegal turtle trading on Bali. The centre provides education and awareness to both tourists and locals about the importance of turtle conservation in the area. Here you can see three different species of turtles, baby turtles and a rare albino turtle, however, unlike other attractions, tourists are not permitted to hold the turtles as to ensure they are not stressed or harmed. The centre runs primarily off support from donors and the help of its volunteers and it’s well worth the visit to support the wonderful work they do for turtle conservation and awareness.
Gunung Leuser National Park
If it’s real wildlife you wish to encounter, Lion Air fly to Medan Sumatra from Denpasar daily. While it’s a good four-hour flight and four-hour bus ride you’ll land yourself in the middle of the Gunung Leuser National Park, with the world’s second largest concentration of Orang-utan. Join one of the many treks available and spend one or two days hiking through dense rainforests and getting up close and personal with a variety of species, including the great and wondrous Orang-utan.