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Bali, the island of the Gods

Bali, the island of the Gods

After visiting the island of Sumbawa, I decided to head for its neighbouring and famous Bali. I have to admit that the more I got to know the island, the more I got to know it. I spent the first few days in Kuta, an area very close to the airport and famous for being a hub for travelling and for its nightlife. To me it reminded me of a kind of Indonesian Ibiza but with a different kind of tourism: flocks of young people in their twenties from Australia and all over the world occupy the streets and discos every night to get drunk and dance until dawn, creating a strange atmosphere of contrasts. 

This place is also famous for its waves, as it has one of the best beaches for learning to surf. I was surprised to find that, in the 8 km of beach it has, there are very few places dedicated to bathing. The currents are very strong, so you can only go for a dip without a surfboard in designated areas where lifeguards check that nothing happens to the swimmers. Every afternoon, the beach becomes a hive of activity, a mixture of locals and tourists who come to enjoy the beautiful sunsets, a highly recommended experience!

On my first day I went to eat at a restaurant near the beach and the waitresses were quite agitated. I didn't know what was going on but it turned out that there was some kind of "baby crocodile" in the restaurant's temple and while I was drinking a Bintang, Indonesia's most famous beer, they beat it to death. This kind of thing (and many more) is what makes you remember where you are... Because in places as touristy as Bali you can often forget the feeling that you are 18,000 km away from your homeland and above all it is a place where the basic needs of part of its population (health, education,...) are not covered.
After a few days in Kuta I went up to the northwest, to a village called Candidasa where there is a project I want to visit. I found out about the project through Jordina, a Catalan girl who has been working there for two months. It is located in a tiny coastal village with two streets: one for the Muslim community and the other for the Hindu community. Although in Indonesia there is a Muslim majority, in Bali more than 80% of the population practice Hinduism, they call it Balinese Hinduism and it has small differences as they combine it with animist practices. They are very believing and there are temples everywhere, I was surprised to see that almost in every house, hotel or restaurant you can find temples. That's not counting the temples in the villages, towns, cities, etc.

The project belongs to an international foundation, but this particular project in Bali is small and needs many volunteers. They provide supplementary education for children without resources, English classes, computer classes, etc. In Bali it is the same as in Sumbawa, there are many families who cannot afford the costs of public school and so they send their children to work in the rice fields, thus perpetuating the circle of poverty in which they live.  
Volunteers give English, computer and maths classes, games workshops, etc. They are housed in the centre itself, which is a huge complex with several classrooms, work offices, a volunteer house and even a swimming pool, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.  almost on the beachfront. They teach 4 hours a day but the rest of the working day is dedicated to preparing the classes or administrative and logistical tasks.

Entrance to the project

Sunset in Candidasa


This area has an absolutely enviable environment with landscapes that are etched in the retina. As soon as you get a little higher up you can enjoy privileged views where the green of the rice fields contrasts with the blue of the sea. 

Very close by I discovered one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to in my life. They call it White Sandy beach and it combines sand so fine that it looks like you are walking on flour, turquoise waters that hide corals and fish of all colours and in perfect condition (you can't dive, only snorkel) and to top it off, it is surrounded by palm trees, rice fields and volcanic stone cliffs. The only thing wrong with the beach is that there are a lot of warungs (that's the name of the local restaurants) and they all have hammocks spread out along the beach, so I guess that's a big downer for it not to appear on any of the many lists of the best beaches in the world.

Local musician in Pasir Putih (White Sandy Beach)
A few days later I head to Ubud, a town famous for its art and culture. This is where artists from all over the island are concentrated, mixed with tourists who have been caught by this city, organic restaurants with delicious juices, rice fields again, temples and offerings everywhere.

Offerings that you find everywhere. This one on a pavement in Ubud

I have come here to meet with the director of a foundation that has several projects both on the island of Bali and in Borneo. They work in very different areas but all are related to the environment and education.
- On the island of Nusa Penida, a tiny island just 14km southwest of Bali and surrounded by virtually untouched coral reefs, they have a sanctuary to protect endangered endemic bird species. Here volunteers can carry out different activities related to reforestation or work with the community: English classes, organic gardening, tree planting, waste collection (waste management and excessive pollution is one of the biggest problems Bali faces). This small island is a very tranquil place, receiving very little tourism, so the authenticity of the experience is guaranteed. In case you didn't know, Indonesia has the second highest rate of endangered birds in the world and this project has managed to involve the community of forty-one villages both on Nusa Penida and the nearby islands (Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan) to join the fight to protect the endemic bird species. On the other hand, when the nesting season arrives, they also protect the sea turtles. It is important to mention that the mortality rate of these beautiful animals in some cases reaches 80% of the fertilised eggs. Volunteers protect the natural nests from the main predators and monitor to obtain more information about the different species of turtles that come to this beach to lay their eggs.

- In another area of Bali, a couple of hours from Ubud, this same foundation also has a centre where they care for rescued animals, most of them victims of poaching or illegal trade. They have more than forty animals, including birds and primates, and the idea is to rehabilitate them so that they can be reintroduced to their natural habitat. habitat natural.

- On the island of Borneo they started working in 1997 for the rehabilitation and release of orangutans. They are currently working on the rescue of orangutans, Malayan bears and sea turtles. Volunteers collaborate in a wide variety of tasks (community empowerment, reforestation,...) but if you want to go exclusively to work with orangutans, this is not the place for you, as volunteering in this area is not allowed due to a change in Indonesian legislation in 2002, although if you are lucky, you will be able to see orangutans in the wild and even crocodiles!

Next stop: Spain!

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