Ecotourism in Bali

Pelaga is one of four villages that make up Jaringan Ekowisata Desa ('Village Ecotourism Network," or JED), a cooperative that aims to channel the benefit of tourism directly back to Balinese communities, while providing visitors with a substantive rural experience. Another is Sibetan , set in the foothills of mount Agung, the island's highest and most venerated volcano. Sibetan is perhaps best known for the cultivation of snake fruit, which some enterprising Germans recently taught locals to turn into a sort of tropical schnapps. Nusa Ceningan, a somnolent isle of fisherfolk and seaweed farmers, is also part of the network, as is Tenganan, a walled village dating back to the 11th century whose residents, known as the Bali Aga- literally, "original Balinese" - are renowned for their pre-Hindu customs and distinctive double-ikat weaving technique.

Pelaga is the most visited of the four JED villages, all of which derive their main income from agriculture. In Pelaga, that means export-quality Arabica coffee, which villagers sell to a wholesaler in Java. As we amble through the maze of trails that crisscross the village's plantations, Pelaga was where it was first cultivated on Bali. The network gives you access to the inner workings of places by the people who actually live there and who have a stake in protecting it. "Every year in Bali, 200 hectares of farmland are lost to tourism and real estate development."

Visit Pelaga, situated far from the crowds of Kuta and Seminyak some 1,100 meters above sea level, and your first impression will doubtless be the sheer beauty of the surroundings. Central Bali is like one vast garden of orchards, plantations, and rice fields, spread across an undulating landscape punctuated by volcanic peaks. You'll be greeted in Pe1aga's bale subak, a large thatch-roofed pavilion that acts as the administrative center of the village's subak association, which coordinates the irrigation of the paddies. (Pelaga's Subak comprises 170 families, and like all such associations, it involves a complex cycle of rituals reflecting the tripartite Balinese principal of Tri Hita Karana - roughly, " there paths to prosperity" - which advocates balance between people, nature, and god.) You'll be served local coffee laced with cinnamon from an earthenware pot steaming over a wood oven, before setting off on a tour of the coffee plantation or, if you'd rather, a longer three-hour trek that lakes in a waterfall and some fine views. The lunch is a buffet-style interpretation of the classic Balinese rijsttafel, a sampling of dishes - minced pork satay, peanut-sauce salad - that rely on organic ingredient grown or raised in the near vicinity.

Nusa Ceningan
Nusa Ceningan, the lesser known neighbor of touristy Nusa Lembongan , just off Bali's cast coast. Here, concerted action by the community kept out a development consortium that was seeking to purchase the entire island and fill it with star rated hotels. "We're now trying to draw up a strategy for managing the island based on our own sustainable principles," says my guide I Gede Lama as we eat a lunch of freshly caught tuna, purchased from some fishermen we stumbled upon during our morning tour of the 300-hedare island. Fishing, unsurprisingly, is a staple industry here, hut seaweed farming is the mainstay of Ceningan’s economy. At low tide, villagers drag their skiffs into the shallows and fill them with the Euchema Cotonii and spinosum grasses, harvested here for export as ingredients in the cosmetics and food industries.

After making the 45-minute crossing from Bali by speedboat, visitors to Nusa Ceningan usually spend the night at a lodge in the island's hilly interior. Activities include canoe trips out to the seaweed farms, snorkeling, and a moped tour of the island that takes in the rugged beauty of its western reaches, which receive a constant battering from the high swell of the Lombok Strait.

The packaging of culture is inevitable with mass tourism, and in Bali, visitors typically encounter it through carefully choreographed performances. You won't find anything staged at any of the JED villages. But that doesn’t mean you won't witness a temple ceremony or even a more intimate rite of passage in someone's home. It really iust depends on what’s happening that day.

"Next week, the pandanus-leaf wars are taking place in 'Tenganan," Gede Astana tells me as I bid him farewell back on the Bali mainland. "You should come.'· I've heard of this ancient gladiatorial ritual, unique to Tenganan, where young men do good-natured battle with thorny Pandanus leaves and woven shields, often drawing blood. "You can eyen join in if you like," Astana adds with a laugh. I tell him I'll go - but only to watch. I prefer my cultural immersion to be as painless as possible. 

Related articles:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
brownieskien Copyright © 2009 Blogger Template Designed by Bie Blogger Template