Ah, Bali. Magical wonderland of tropical beaches and delicious food, where the breathtaking scenery is beaten only by the famed hospitality of the locals.
Of course, it's also a tourist hotspot, a floating rubbish heap and a country of unrivalled economic leakage. The latter refers to money going in, but immediately flowing back out to foreign investors and companies.
There is definitely a good reason Bali has become such a popular destination. It truly is stunningly beautiful, and the local culture is enticing and welcoming. By any standards, it's well worth a visit. However, there are ways to travel that can actively reduce the negative impacts of tourism all the while enhancing its positive ramifications for local economies.
It just so happens that low-impact travel, slow tourism, conscious tourism or responsible tourism, whatever you choose to call it, is also the best way to have an authentic experience when travelling abroad. It often involves a more direct engagement with local cultures and languages and a more intimate connection with the natural features or urban elements around you.
It also means Bali might still be there for future generations to visit and appreciate. This is really the focus of low-impact travel: to preserve the world's beauty so that the future might also enjoy it.
So, how can you visit Bali, have the best experience possible, and maximise your positive impact on local culture and wildlife? Read on...
Local Economic Empowerment
Beyond enriching your life, tourism has the potential to become a powerful source of economic empowerment for regional families and industries. When choosing your accommodation, food and adventures, you can prioritise institutions which support local economies.
Arrange to stay in a homestay or guesthouse, where a family will proudly and happily take you in and immerse you in local lifestyles and traditions. Learn about cooking, art, temples, festivals, and landmarks; do as the locals do and enjoy a genuinely grass-roots experience of Bali.
Save yourself some coin and shop in local markets (with your reusable bags, of course!). The produce is fresher, cheaper, and you'll be supporting local farmers in the process. Markets are also great places to mingle with locals, attempt to speak the language, join in with regional customs like haggling and bartering - in many places they're a tourist attraction in and of themselves!
Many associations around Bali are working towards blending local empowerment with tourist immersion, employing locals or re-investing into community projects. You can be a part of this social progress when you choose these companies to arrange your activities or take you on tours, and you'll probably have a much richer and rewarding experience anyway.
Less is More
All the usual tips and tricks to reduce waste at homework just the same when abroad. Bringing your own bag and shopping in local markets helps you avoid both the use of plastic bags and the highly packaged items sold in supermarkets.
Water might be a little more tricky, but in the last few years, the Refill My Bottle app has come a long way. This allows you to find water-refill stations throughout Bali and Asia. You can always fill up your reusable water container at your accommodation, though, so there's no excuse for buying plastic bottles.
Use eco-friendly toiletries to minimise your plastic and wrapping waste, as well as the number of toxins filling Bali's water systems. As a bonus, these are also better for your body than the more commonly used synthetic toiletries!
Slow-tourism Activities in Bali
Hiking and Trekking: Bali's natural beauty is singular and striking, and there's no better way to experience it than getting in amongst it.
Volunteering with or contributing to local projects and foundations
Experience Tourism: Take workshops and classes offered by local industries so that you and the communities you visit can both grow!