The island of Bali is part of the Republic
of Indonesia and is located 8 to 9 degrees south of the equator
between Java in the West and Lombok and the rest of the Lesser
Sunda Islands (Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba and Timor) in the East.
Flying time to Jakarta is about 1.5 hours, to Singapore and
Perth (Australia) 2.5 and 3 hours, to Hong Kong about 4.5
hours, and to Sydney/Melbourne about 5.5 to 6 hours.
The island of Bali has an area of only
5,632 square kilometers (2,175 square miles) and measures
just 55 miles (90 kilometers) along the north-south axis and
less than about 90 miles (140 kilometers) from East to West.
Because of this it's no problem to explore the island on day
tours. You can go wherever you want on the island and return
to your hotel or villa in the evening.
Located only two kilometers east of Jawa,
Bali's climate, flora and fauna are quite similar to its much
larger neighbour. The island is famous for its beautiful landscape.
A chain of six volcanoes, between 1,350 meters and 3,014 meters
high, stretches from west to east. There are lush tropical
forests, pristine crater lakes, fast flowing rivers and deep
ravines, picturesque rice terraces, and fertile vegetable
and fruit gardens. The beaches in the South consist of white
sand, beaches in other parts of the island are covered with
gray or black volcanic sand.
The wide variety of tropical plants is
surprising. You'll see huge banyan trees in villages and temple
grounds, tamarind trees in the North, clove trees in the highlands,
acacia trees, flame trees, and mangroves in the South. In
Bali grow a dozen species of coconut palms and even more varieties
And there are flowers, flowers everywhere.
You'll see (and smell the fragrance of) hibiscus, bougainvillea,
jasmine, and water lilies. Magnolia, frangipani, and a variety
of orchids are found in many front yards and gardens, along
roads, and in temple grounds. Flowers are also used as decorations
in temples, on statues, as offerings for the gods, and during
prayers. Dancers wear blossoms in their crowns, and even the
flower behind the ear of your waitress seems natural in Bali.
Elephants and tigers don't exist any more
in Bali since early this century. Wildlife, however, includes
various species of monkeys, civets, barking deer and mouse
deer, and 300 species of birds including wild fowl, dollar
birds, blue kingfishers, sea eagles, sandpipers, white herons
and egrets, cuckoos, wood swallows, sparrows, and starlings.
You can watch schools of dolphins near Lovina, Candi Dasa,
and Padangbai. Divers will see many colorful coral fish and
small reef fish, moray eels, and plankton eating whale sharks
as well as crustaceans, sponges, and colorful coral along
the east coast and around Menjangan Island near Gilimanuk.
You can expect pleasant day temperatures
between 20 to 33 degrees Celsius or 68 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit
year-round. From December to March, the West monsoon can bring
heavy showers and high humidity, but usually days are sunny
and the rains start during the night and pass quickly. From
June to September the humidity is low, and it can be quite
cool in the evenings. During this time of the year, you'll
have hardly any rain in the coastal areas.
Even when it rains in most parts of Bali
you can often enjoy sunny days on the "Bukit", the
hill south of Jimbaran Beach. On the other hand, in Ubud and
the mountains you must expect cloudy skies and showers throughout
the year (this is why the international weather reports for
"Denpasar" or "Bali" mention showers and
rain storms during all times of the year). In higher regions
such as in Bedugul or Kintamani you'll also need either a
sweater or jacket after the sun sets.
Bali's population has grown to over 3 million
people the overwhelming majority of which are Hindus. However,
the number of Muslims is steadily increasing through immigration
of people from Java, Lombok and other areas of Indonesia who
seek work in Bali.
Most people live in the coastal areas in
the South, and the island's largest town and administrative
center is fast growing Denpasar with a population of now over
370,000. The villages between the town of Ubud and Denpasar,
Kuta (including Jimbaran, Tuban, and Legian, Seminyak, Basangkasa,
etc), Sanur, and Nusa Dua are spreading rapidly in all directions,
and before long the whole area from Ubud in the North to Sanur
in the East, Berawa/Canggu in the West, and Nusa Dua in the
South will be urbanized.
This southern part of Bali is where most
jobs are to be found, either in the hotel and tourist industry,
the textile and garment industry, and in many small scale
and home industries producing handicrafts and souvenirs. Textiles,
garments, and handicrafts have become the backbone of Bali's
economy providing 300,000 jobs, and exports have been increasing
by around 15% per year to over US$400 million. Textiles and
garments contribute about 45%, and wood products including
statues, furniture and other handicrafts 22% to the province's
total income from exports. Silver work is ranked third (4.65%)
with 5,000 workers employed. Main buyers are the US and Europe
with 38% each, and Japan with 9%.
Important agricultural products besides
rice are tea, coffee, tobacco, cacao, copra, vanilla, soy
beans, chilies, fruit, and vegetable (there are now even vineyards
near the northwest coast). Bali's fishing industry and seaweed
farming provide other products which are important exports.
The new free-trade regulations will create
some problems for Bali's exporters as they do not allow to
employ children. Most children here work for their parents,
and this is part of the process of acquiring professional
skills and kind of an informal education which has been very
important in the Balinese society for centuries.
What makes Bali so special?
There is the combination of the friendly
people, the natural attractions, the great variety of things
to see and do, the year-round pleasant climate, and the absence
of security problems. And then there is Bali's special "magic",
which is difficult to explain.
As soon as you step off the plane you might
sense the difference. In the villages you'll notice the quietness
and wisdom in old people's faces, and the interest and respect
in the young's. Old men sit at the road side caressing their
fighting cocks. Beautifully dressed women walk proudly through
rice fields and forests carrying offerings on their heads
to the next temple. There is the smell of flowers, and in
the distance you hear the sound of gamelan music.
Gods and spirits have been an important
part of Bali's daily life for hundreds of years. Gunung Agung
- Bali's holy mountain - is internationally regarded
as one of the eight "Chakra" points of the world.
This may be more than an coincident. Watch out, the moment
you feel the magic of this island, you're addicted for the
rest of your life.