Last week Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster announced a ban on all tourist activities on Bali’s twenty-two mountains.
The decision was praised by some as an impactful way to eliminate disrespectful behavior on the island’s most sacred sites, but for many local people and business owners, the ban has created an overnight loss of livelihood and financial security.
Governor Koster’s decision to ban all but a few activities on the mountains has had an impact on the local community, domestic tourists, and international visits too.
Koster told reporters, “This [ban] is in effect forever, and local regulations will be issued to regulate everything. [The ban is] not only for foreign tourists but is including domestic tourists and local residents.”
He outlined the rare occasions when people would be allowed to conduct activities on the mountains, stating the ban is all-encompassing “unless there are religious ceremonies or disaster management and special activities that are not for tourism activities.”
@tr4velwithmel A must do if you are travelling to Bali! We were staying in Ubud which was a great location to do it as it only took us an hour to get there! #mountbatur #travellingbali #baliwhattodo #mountbatur #mountbaturbali #mountbaturvolcano #mountbatursunrisetrekking #ubudbali #thingstodoubud #thingstodoinbali #traveltips #travelguide #guisetobali #balitraveltips #balitravelguide ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim
This has triggered a backlash by local guides and communities who depend upon tourism activities in the mountains and volcanos for their lives and livelihoods.
Although Bali is a destination synonymous with beaches and jungles, the mountains and volcanos on the island have provided the environment for some of the province’s most popular and in-demand tourist activities.
The sunrise hike to the summit of Mount Batur is one of the most highly sought-after tourist activities on the island.
Thousands of tourists hike the mountain every month, with hundreds more taking sunrise jeep tours around the volcano’s slopes.
@imiloah very disapointed lol🥲 #bali #batur #mountbatur #mountbaturbali #mountbaturvolcano #fypシ #travel #balinese #balitrip #mountbatursunrisetrekking #mountbaturtrekking ♬ Oh No – Kreepa
Mount Agung, the highest peak on the island, is another important cultural landmark that, until now, has provided a source of income for local communities who support tourists with hiking to the summit.
It is not only guides who have lost their jobs but drivers who have lost part of their income; locally run guest houses and even restaurants in these areas will see a sharp downturn in tourist visits.
Following feedback from local leaders across Bali and communities pleading for financial support in the wake of the ban, Governor Koster has announced that those who have incurred job losses will be able to find work as mountain and forest rangers.
@mountbaturvolcano_ Join us for the great Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking. The best outdor activity of Bali volcano with the best local guide. #localguide #mountbaturbali #volcano #fyp #tourguide #tour #bali #experience #explore ♬ оригинальный звук – edits.mma 🐉
Governor Koster is concerned that the tourist activities in the mountains have not been generating sufficient tax for the provincial government.
Noting that annually the provincial government generates IDR 100 million from activities on Mount Agung and IDR 1 billion from activities on Mount Batur.
He shared that he has been in communication with the High Priests of Bali (Sulinggih), and together, the conclusion has been reached that the revenue generated by tourism activities in the mountains does not outweigh the risks assessed with not protecting the sacred nature of the mountains.
He explained that he and the Sulinggih believe that Bali’s mountains being utilized as tourist attractions desecrated their holy nature and did not provide sufficient state tax.
This discussion has been ongoing since the Governor first tabled the idea of banning activities in the mountains back in February.
According to Governor Koster, “Very few foreigners have climbed the mountain, mostly [domestic tourists]…Compared to income and risk, if the aura of Bali continues to decrease, the purity of Bali continues to decrease, then the attractiveness of Bali will decrease. If Bali’s attractiveness decreases, the logic is that in the future, people who will visit Bali will decrease.”
In terms of work for guides who have lost their jobs, Koster suggests that they can become forest and mountain rangers.
He explained, “There is a solution, they are appointed as contract laborers, and their income is even higher [than] if they are erratic guides.”
Governor Koster said that there are just 267 official mountain guides in Bali, though the number of informal guides offering tours and hikes on the mountains increases this number.
The backlash from local leaders continues as stakeholders are coming together to create a class action lawsuit against the authorities for the ban on activities on the mountain.
Anak Agung Ngurah Manik Danendra is behind the class action movement. He told reporters, “There’s no need to forbid residents from going up the mountain to make a regional regulation. It’s enough just to make an appeal and make guidelines if you want to climb a mountain .”
In response, Governor Koster told reporters, “Oh, go ahead; that’s his right (to sue). It’s a different opinion.”
For tourists keen to see a sunrise from a volcano summit or climb a mountain during their time in Bali, it looks like the easiest way to do so moving forward will mean an added adventure.
Mount Rinjani in Lombok is still open for hiking, and the island is accessible via the fast boat service from Bali.
Similarly, Mount Ijen in East Java is reachable within a 6-hour drive from central Bali and is set to boom in popularity now it has achieved a UNESCO Global Geopark Status, like that of Mount Batur in Bali.
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