Asia, Bali, Travel

Bali’s dirty not so little secret

Bali one of those places on everybody’s bucket list. You’ve seen those beautiful pictures and now you want to go. That’s just how I felt, so long story short I went and began to wonder. Bali is without a doubt an interesting destination and it is worth going to for so many reasons. Every destination is an experience and worth going to in my opinion anyways. But why is there this side of Bali nobody talks about?

Bali is unbelievably dirty and polluted

That doesn’t mean your Bali trip can’t be an overall enjoyable experience but I just can’t ignore that. Fair enough, you might not notice it immediately as you drive from the airport to your hotel, but that’s about as long as you can close your eyes from this uncomfortable truth. The beach is dirty. The streets are dirty. The water is dirty. Everything is so dirty!

Bali's dirty secret - the shocking truth about how pollution is ruining paradise

Well I’ve only seen a small part of Bali, the Canggu and Seminyak area, and admittedly that might not be representative for all of the island, but… The beach is was so looking forward to and embraced with a morning run, left me devastated. It was covered in plastic bottles, shopping bags, cans, food wastage, old flip flops and even a dead turtle. The biggest turtle I’ve ever seen just washed ashore and no one even paid any attention. Well I am not an expert but it was completely undamaged from the outside so I make the wild guess the crazy pollution might have something to do with its death. I walked back to the beach with my phone after the run to take a picture, but by then turtle already started to get degraded…

I couldn’t believe all of this goes unnoticed and turns out it doesn’t really, it is just broadly ignored on social media, travel blogs and forum

Indonesia  is the second biggest marine-polluter after China. Tons of garbage were washed ashore in Bali after the rainy season each year. According to this article by The Telegraph hotels just bury the garbage in the sand to keep up the illusion. But the problem doesn’t even stop here. Garbage gets dumped by the road sides and Bali’s waste management just can’t keep up. As a result, drink water supply is threatened and the population’s health is put at risk.

Bali's dirty secret - the shocking truth about how pollution is ruining paradise

Years ago already, in 2012 after a trip to Bali, surf world champion, Kelly Slater, tweeted “If Bali doesn’t #DoSomething serious about its pollution, it’ll be impossible to surf here in a few years. Worst I’ve ever seen.”
And while the pollution has worsened since, there are also some efforts in place to clean the island up. Earlier this year around 12,000 volunteers collected 40 tonnes of garbage across Bali, according to the One Island, One Voice campaign. Another local group called Bye, Bye Plastic Bags organizes further rubbish pick-up events. They also convinced Bali’s governor to commit to a plastic bag free island by 2018. While that is awesome it is just a drop in the quite dirty ocean and more government efforts are needed.

All of this is not to say don’t ever go to Bali

but it is important to be aware and it’s time to make this issue known. The more the issue is known the higher the pressure on authorities to act. Tweet, complain to your hotel, mention it in your reviews, don’t take straws with your drinks, tell your friends or support the One Island, One Voice initiative with a donation. You get the idea… It’s time to make Bali’s dirty pollution secret known and to #dosomething.

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Bali's dirty secret - the shocking truth about how pollution is ruining paradise

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17 thoughts on “Bali’s dirty not so little secret

  1. That is really a shame to hear about how polluted it is there. It makes you think twice about going to a place when you hear about this stuff and it makes you think by going you are supporting an industry that is ruining the country. I’m not sure if it is just the tourism industry though. Hopefully this changes because I feel for the people that live there.

  2. I’m planning a trip to Asia and Bali was on my list. Obviously the pictures of Bali look amazing. I wasn’t aware of such a big pollution issue

  3. This is so sad. It’s true, most people see Bali as a paradise and can be holed up in their beautiful all inclusive resorts, but scratch behind the surface and everything you described is true. We all need to be more responsible as travellers and spread the word.

  4. This was terrible, but so important to read and to get the word out further. As frequent tourists, my husband and I always do what we can to leave as little impact as possible – be it city or beautiful paradise like Bali. I saw a volunteer trash program like the one you mentioned when I was on Ko Lanta, but unfortunately wasn’t there on the right day. It’s great to volunteer in things that make a difference to the places you visit.

  5. I was in Bali a while ago but I didn’t notice anything too bad. It was a short trip, though, and I live in Thailand so I’m kind on used to the streets and beaches being dirty (and it breaks my heart). Anyway, I always try to do my bit and also educate the younger generation.

  6. This has been a true problem for years and I’m surprised people don’t talk more about this. I have been in and out from Bali for the past five years and the situation just keeps getting worse and worse. Exploded amount of tourists combined with a lack of education and lack of infrastructure is the main cause of the problem I suppose. It does get me a pissed off sometimes (and I myself am also guilty of this) that medias like Instagram are only showing the sugarcoated image of Bali with perfect white beaches, which in fact is altering the reality. I do hope the pressure gets so tough that Indonesian government actually starts to do something about this problem.

  7. It’s good to hear the truth about Bali. I’ve been to many other cities in Indonesia and they were all dirty too. Still, people only photograph the beautiful parts!

  8. It’s good to hear the truth about Bali. B I’ve been to other cities in Indonesia and they were all really dirty so I’d expect Bali to be the same. Still, people only photograph the good stuff!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this article. Everyone of us should raise the awareness about pollution instead of closing our eyes. I once swam in the ocean in Bali surrounded by plastic bags and bottles. I stopped swimming because it was just disgusting.

  10. If everyone does their little bit, paradise can be regained. I think articles like these are positive steps in generating awareness, so that we all extra conscious about what we leave (or don’t leave behind) while in places like Bali.

  11. The government mist have Ben trying their beats but really people just don’t help. Why on earth will they turn the waters to their bins? I know Bali is beautiful just people’s indifference that’s causing mich headache, both locals and visitors. So sad about the tortoise

  12. […] What’s paradise for some is a paradox for others. And here’s the thing, I enjoy vegan food, I do yoga occasionally (very unsuccessfully) and I wish I could surf. I love a lazy day slurping cocktails in a beach club, but the problem is the pure overload of all of that. It’s extreme and has a certain pretentiousness to it that feels out of place. Vegan and organic everything in an island that’s drowning in garbage. […]

  13. Oh my! This is so sad. I hope the mission to clean up the island succeeds and Bali becomes the Paradise that it was earlier. The turtle really is depressing.

  14. I’ve been to Bali about 4 years ago (and in fact I’m going to Indonesia again in 4 weeks). I was diving with Trawangan Dive back then on Gili T. and they were trying to get a hold of all the trash that was floating in the ocean and the litter at the shore. There was a special dive where volunteers could help collecting trash while scuba diving with the staff of the divebase. A great idea. I read this spring on one of their Facebook posts that Indonesia even had to send military & police to clean up the Gili island’s shore… crazy. You cannot run marine conservation (hawksbill turtle conservation btw.) and have litter all over the place :/ .

  15. I haven’t been to Bali yet. I went to Indonesia just this year but I preferred Yogyakarta. I have known Bali for it awesome beaches as that what the travel blogs and other media shows. I haven’t read a blog that tells the other sides of Bali which you mentioned in here. I think posting about its other sides is one good way to alarm the department of tourism in Bali. They should take actions on it before it is too late.

  16. Good on you for bringing this and the initiative into the light. I had a similar experience when we were in Borneo. I couldn’t believe how polluted some of the islands were and how people just seemed to turn a blind eye to it. We as travellers need to do what we can to not contribute to this. We are not the only solution, but can help ensure generations to come can enjoy the beauty that we experience.

  17. Ich finde es toll und wichtig , dass du auch sowas thematisierst.
    Hoffe , dass es viele lesen und dass sich in Zukunft etwas bewegt !

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