When I was walking on the beach in Bali, a full, unopened plastic water bottle washed up and hit my leg. I knew ocean plastic was an issue but until I was literally directly hit by it, I didn’t think there was anything I could as a tourist.
A high percentage of Bali’s waste comes from tourists. So, I got in touch with a local business owner in Bali to learn more about the ways tourists can help, not harm, this island and its surrounding oceans.
Polina from creamgirlswear suggested three main ways to reduce ocean waste – participate in ocean clean ups, use zero waste products, and ensure you have waste management services. I’ve also included a quick list of things to do in Bali for ethical travel!
Full disclosure – I’m an Amazon and Booking,com Affiliate. I am not sponsored by any company or organization list and clicking or buying off these links doesn’t make me any money, aside from the Amazon ones.
Why Ethical Travel in Bali Matters
Bali’s tourism has skyrocketed recently, it now makes up 80% of their economy. If you went to Bali in the early 1960s, you’d only have a handful of hotels to choose from. Now, it’d be impossible to count how many Bali hotels there are – including huge beach resorts catering solely to tourists.
Bali was ranked by TripAdvisor as the top destination for tourists in 2017, but it also ranks top in the world for its levels of ocean waste. It’s important to protect this island’s waters – Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, meaning it’s got some of the highest marine diversity in the world. Indonesia is among the top five countries in the world for ocean waste contributions, these five countries alone account for 60% of the ocean’s plastic.
This quote from a National Post article is spot on –
“Asia’s rapid economic development over the last 30 years has resulted in a tidal wave of consumer garbage that has utterly overwhelmed local systems of containment. The exceedingly rare North American sight of a beach strewn with garbage isn’t all that unusual in eastern Asia — nor are open-air dumps adjacent to coastal areas. “
(Thanks to the lovely Claire Brubaker for sharing this article with me!)
So no, Starbucks banning plastic straws is not going to save the world. But there is some hope in the dark – Bali’s local organizations and companies are doing amazing work to help curb this issue.
I was amazed by Bali – parts of Ubud were like a jungle dreamland and the rice fields are truly something amazing. But I left feeling uneasy about the sheer amount of waste I saw. Bali is lovely, but if travelers want to keep enjoying Bali’s natural beauty then we have to start traveling more ethically.
The Best Ways Responsible Tourists Can Help Reduce Ocean Waste in Bali
Ocean Waste Clean Ups – Here’s a facebook group I found that organizes ocean cleanups regularly in Canggu. One Island One Voice held a mass ocean clean up – they might do another event but obviously, you can also do your own ocean clean up by going picking up some trash at any beach.
BYOB – Since Bali’s tap water is not safe to drink, water bottles are littered everywhere. I brought a water bottle, chlorine tablets, and filter with me. I was able to fill it up every day in my hotel room. It took me 15 minutes, I got a bit of an arm workout, and I had clean water for the day. The water did taste chlorine-y so I’d suggest flavouring yours with fruit or Mio.
This is the exact stuff I had –
More packing and planning tips: How I Planned My First Southeast Asia Trip
Buy Zero Waste – Bali’s first zero waste bulk store just opened in the Canggu area! Buying bulk zero waste foods is a great way to reduce plastic and support a business passionate about this cause.
(for longer trips) Arrange Recycling Collection services – A huge part of Bali’s waste problem is waste mismanagement. Thankfully, there is a company in Bali working to combat this by providing private waste management services. Polina recommends this company to anyone coming to Bali for a few months!
The Good News – Things to Do in Bali for Ethical Tourism
Take a Bali Shark Tour – Founded by a Hawaiian surfer, the company convinces shark poachers to become tour guides and offers tours where you can swim with sharks in a safe and ethical way. Bali Sharks is the world’s first Shark rescue and release program (250 sharks saved so far!). They are located near Denpasar, on the east side of the Island and tours start at 7am daily.
Visit Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre – The sea turtle trade in Bali has led to a massive decline in the number of turtles swimming in Bali’s oceans. That’s where Serangan TCEC comes in – they aim to educate tourists, save turtles, and support the economy through employment opportunities for Serangan locals. Some turtle centers are more for profit than for conservation – this one is supported by the Governor of Bali and WWF so you know it’s legit!
Enjoy the protected Bali Barat National Park – With snorkeling areas and over 160 species of birds, this park seems amazing. Menjangan is particularly popular for diving! The only downside to this place is that it quite difficult to get to – a full 100km from Denpasar. For instructions on how to get there and what permits you’ll need check out this official Indonesian tourism’s page about the park.
Opt for Alternatives to Luwak Coffee – Bali’s coffee has drawn worldwide reputation, and that’s exactly why you shouldn’t try a cup. The coffee is basically made from cat poop. The popularity of this coffee has led to it being mass produced, and animals abused. Claire summed it up in her blog post about ethical animal tourism in Bali “the animals are kept in small cages – they are normally solitary creatures and like to have a lot of space around them so this distresses them highly. They are also forced to eat an unnatural amount of coffee cherries so their poo can make the perfect amount of kopi luwak.” Gross.
You can still support the local coffee industry, and not drink cat poop coffee, by opting for this Organic Coffee Plantation in Munduk. Although it is a bit off the beaten path, if you want to truly support a local Balinese coffee business that doesn’t use Luwak Coffee – this is the place to go to.
If you’re going to Thailand as well, check out my post on Elephant Nature Park – an amazing example of ethical travel in the mountains of Chaing Mai!
Environmental Organizations and Volunteering in Bali
I’m writing an article on how to find sustainable volunteer opportunities, but in the meantime, here are some sites I found for Bali in particular.
Here’s some more environmental organizations in Bali doing great work:
I know we can’t all be David Suzuki and I love a cocktail by the beach as much as any other sleep-deprived uni student. I’m sharing this article to help spread the word about the options that are out there – Bali is so much more than just beach clubs and surf waves, it’s an amazing island that needs preservation.
If you’re planning a trip to Bali or want more information about anything I’ve mentioned, feel free to DM me on Instagram! I’m always on there helping out other student travelers.
Share this article to help others plan ethical travel in Bali!