Bali is an Indonesian island located at Coordinates: [show location on an interactive map] 8°25’23?S 115°14’55?E? / ?8.42306°S 115.24861°E? / -8.42306; 115.24861, the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country’s 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island.
With a population recorded as 3,151,000 in 2005, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia’s small Hindu minority. 93.18% of Bali’s population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.
Temple offering in predominantly Hindu Bali island.
Bali was inhabited by Austronesian peoples by about 2000 BCE who migrated originally from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia. Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are thus closely related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania. Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island’s west.
Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, in a process beginning around the 1st century AD. The name Bali dwipa (“Bali island”) has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong charter issued by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 913 AD and mentioning Walidwipa. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system subak was developed to grow rice. Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period. The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293–1520 AD) on eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. When the empire declined, there was an exodus of intellectuals, artists, priests and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.
The first European contact with Bali is thought to have been made by Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman who arrived in 1597, though a Portuguese ship had foundered off the Bukit Peninsula as early as 1585. Dutch colonial control was expanded across the Indonesian archipelago in the nineteenth century (see Dutch East Indies). Their political and economic control over Bali began in the 1840s on the island’s north coast by playing various distrustful Balinese realms against each other. In the late 1890s, struggles between Balinese kingdoms in the island’s south were exploited by the Dutch to increase their control. The Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 and were met by the thousands of members of the royal family and their followers who marched to certain death against superior Dutch force in a suicidal puputan defensive assault rather than face the humiliation of surrender. Despite Dutch demands for surrender, an estimated 4,000 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. In 1908, a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung. Afterwards the Dutch governors were able to exercise little influence over the island, and local control over religion and culture generally remained intact.
Dutch rule over Bali had come later and was never as well established as in other parts of Indonesia such as Java and Maluku. Imperial Japan occupied Bali during World War II during which time a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese ‘freedom army’. In the 1930s, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and artists Miguel Covarrubias and Walter Spies, and musicologist Colin McPhee created a western image of Bali as “an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature”, and western tourism first developed on the island. Following Japan’s Pacific surrender in August 1945, the Dutch promptly returned to Indonesia, including Bali, immediately to reinstate their pre-war colonial administration. This was resisted by the Balinese rebels now using Japanese weapons. On 20 November 1946, the Battle of Marga was fought in Tabanan in central Bali. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, 29 years old, finally rallied his forces in east Bali at Marga Rana, where they made a suicide attack on the heavily armed Dutch. The Balinese battalion was entirely wiped out, breaking the last thread of Balinese military resistance. In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly-proclaimed Republic of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia which was proclaimed and headed by Sukarno and Hatta. Bali was included in the “Republic of the United States of Indonesia” when the Netherlands recognised Indonesian independence on 29 December 1949.
The 1963 eruption of Mount Agung killed thousands, created economic havoc and forced many displaced Balinese to be transmigrated to other parts of Indonesia. Mirroring the widening of social divisions across Indonesia in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bali saw conflict between supporters of the traditional caste system, and those rejecting these traditional values. Politically, this was represented by opposing supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI), with tensions and ill-feeling further increased by the PKI’s land reform programs. An attempted coup in Jakarta was put down by forces led by General Suharto. The army became the dominant power as it instigated a violent anti-communist purge, in which the army blamed the PKI for the coup. Most estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people were killed across Indonesia, with an estimated 80,000 killed in Bali, equivalent to 5 per cent of the island’s population. With no Islamic forces involved as in Java and Sumatra, upper-caste PNI landlords led the extermination of PKI members.
The Dutch first visited Lombok in 1674 and settled the eastern most part of the island, leaving the western half to be ruled by a Hindu dynasty from Bali. The Sasaks chafed under Balinese rule, and a revolt in 1891 ended in 1894 with the annexation of the entire island to the Netherlands East Indies.
Geography and Demographics
The Lombok Strait marks the passage of the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia that is known as the Wallace Line, for Alfred Russel Wallace, who first remarked upon the distinction between these two major biomes.
The island’s topography is dominated by the centrally-located stratovolcano Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3,726 m (12,224 ft), making it the third-highest in Indonesia. The most recent eruption of Rinjani was in June-July, 1994. The volcano, and its crater lake, ‘Segara Anak’ (child of the sea), are protected by a National Park established in 1997. The southern part of the island is a fertile plain where corn, rice, coffee, tobacco, and cotton are grown.
The island’s inhabitants are 85% Sasak whose origins are thought to have migrated from Java in the first millennium BC. Other residents include 10-15% Balinese, with the small remainder being Chinese, Arab, Javanese, and Sumbawanese. Since the Sasak population typically practice Islam, the landscape is punctuated with mosques and minarets. Islamic traditions and holidays influence the Island’s daily activities.
Economy and Politics
Proximity to Bali is Lombok’s blessing, and its curse. While only 25 miles separate the two islands, they are in fact worlds apart. “Indeed, overzealous tourism officials notwithstanding, Lombok is not “an unspoiled Bali,” or “Bali’s sister island.” Lombok is not Bali at all, and that is precisely its charm.” Lombok has retained a more natural, uncrowded and undeveloped environment, which attract travelers who come to enjoy its relaxed pace and the opportunity to explore the island’s unspoiled but spectacular natural beauty.
The most-developed center of tourism is Senggigi, spread in a 30-kilometer strip along the coastal road north of Mataram, while backpackers congregate in the Gili Islands off the west coast. Other popular tourist destinations include Kuta (distinctly different from Kuta, Bali) where surfing is considered some of the best in the world by leading surfing magazines. The Kuta area is also famous for its beautiful, untouched beaches.
Local Sasak children
While the area may be considered economically depressed by First World standards, the island is fertile, has sufficient rainfall in most areas for agriculture, and possesses a variety of climate zones. Consequently, food in abundant quantity and variety is available inexpensively at local farmer’s markets. A family of 4 can eat rice, vegetables, and fruit for as little as US$0.50. Even though a family income may be as small as US$1.00 per day from fishing or farming, many families are able to live a happy and productive live on astonishingly small incomes.
Following the fall of Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesia experienced a period of domestic unrest. At the same time terrorism in Indonesia further aggravated domestic unrest across the archipelago. In early 2000, religious and ethnic violence (ostensibly provoked by Jemaah Islamiyah Islamist agitators) flared up in the Ampenan area of Mataram and the southern area of Senggigi. Many foreign embassies issued Travel Warnings advising of the potential danger of traveling to Indonesia.
This period of unrest dramatically impacted tourism to Lombok. Tourism has been slow to return to Lombok, provoked in part by a worldwide reluctance to travel because of global tensions. Only since 2008, when most countries lifted their Travel Warnings has tourism recovered to the pre-2000 levels.
Both the local government and many residents recognize that tourism and services related to tourism can potentially be a major source of income to the Island. The island’s natural beauty and the customary hospitality of its residents make it an obvious tourist destination.
Emaar, Emirati property company planned to build a new town sprawled in 1,200 hectares in Central Lombok. It costs estimated at US$600 million. It will have a 7 km natural waterfront, which will support a marina, apart from luxury residences and five-star resorts by Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton will also have a world class golf course and retail amenities. The homes will employ tropical designs and low-rise architecture in tune with the surroundings.
Lombok now appears to be on the verge of a tourist boom. With the commercialization of Bali over the past few years, and with it the accompanying traffic and reduction in open, natural spaces, many tourists are discovering the charm of ‘Undiscovered’ Lombok. With this new interest comes the development of a number of posh boutique resorts on the island serving quality food and drinks, but just a stones throw away from rural, unspoiled countryside – much as Bali was decades ago.
Rinjani Mountain National Park
There over 20 villages surround Mt. Rinjani and there are many routes up the mountain, but the main access is from Senaru in the north and Sembalun Lawang to the east. The challenging three-day Rinjani Trek route from Senaru to the crater rim (Plawangan), down to the stunning crater lake then on to Sembalun Lawang, is considered one of the best treks in South East Asia. Those heading for the summit usually prefer to start in Sembalun Lawang.
A model for ecotourism in Indonesia, the community-based activities are focused on the Rinjani Trek Centre in Senaru, the most popular starting point for the tough trek.
Developed with New Zealand Government assistance since 1999, the Rinjani Trek Centre embodies under one roof (satu atap) the unique partnership of the National Park, tourism industry and local communities that has been forged to manage and protect the Rinjani mountain environment.
WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE
Gunung Rinjani National Park lies within the major transition zone (Wallacea) where the flora and fauna of South East Asia makes a dramatic transition into that which is typical of Australasia. The Park has a rich variety of plants and animals, although they can be hard to spot due to the terrain and rainforest cover.
Sometimes seen early in the mornings is the rare black Ebony leaf monkey, known locally as Lutung.
The Long tailed grey macaque or Kera is common in Lombok and older males are seen on the crater rim.
Rusa deer are forest dwellers and are occasionally seen along the Rinjani trek trail.
The smaller Barking deer or Kijang has an alarm call with a distinct dog-like bark. Look for the disturbed ground where the Wild pig or Babi hutan has been foraging. Also found in the forest is the Leopard cat or Bodok alas, Palm civet or Ujat and Porcupine or Landak.
A variety of colourful birds live in the forests of the Park. Perhaps the best-known icon of the Park is the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo that is not found any further west of Lombok.
Many of the forest-dwelling animals, insects, birds, civets and monkeys owe their survival to the wild fig tree or Beringin as a provider of food and shelter.
The pine-like Casuarina species, Cemara, are a feature of the grassy higher slopes.
Orchids or Anggrek are also a feature of the grassland areas, as is Edelweiss or Bunga Abadi growing above the tree line; it is a beautiful icon of the Park and one of our best-known sub-alpine plants.
Rinjani Trek Centre
The Centre is located at the trailhead above Senaru traditional village. It offers information and displays for visitors on the trek, the National Park, Sasak culture and a range of activities available in Senaru.
Displays include maps, Park interpretation, village walks and environmental guidelines. All trek arrangements can be made here, cultural tours booked and purchases made of local produce and handicrafts.
| Park Fees
Fees are paid at the Rinjani Trek Centre idr 150.000 /pax. They contribute to the protection, maintenance and management of the National Park, Rinjani Trek route, village attractions and visitor facilities.
Guides and Porters
Trained and licensed guides and porters are available. You will need three days and two nights to trek from Senaru via the spectacular crater lake, to Sembalun Lawang (or the other way). More time will be needed to explore the summit of Mt. Rinjani.
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