Earlier this year, Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster announced that he would ban all activities on the island mountains “forever” as a result of badly behaved tourists disrespecting the holy nature of the landscapes.
The announcement caused a huge backlash from local communities and tourism operators who depended upon running tourism activities in the mountains for their income.
Now, as the uproar has started to die down, some local communities have found poignant ways to encourage respectful and understanding behavior by tourists.
Bali is home to twenty-two mountains, the most famous and sacred of which are Mount Agung and Mount Batur.
Both mountains see thousands of tourists every month; lesser-known and smaller mountains, like Mount Abang, receive a fair amount of tourist interest and have generally been better respected by international visitors.
@gypsyinsneakers_ 3 volcanoes in a row 😍 #mountbatur #mountagung #mountabang ♬ original sound – Gypsyinsneakers
Despite Governor Koster’s wishes to ban all activities on all mountains in Bali with immediate effect, most tour operators are still running hikes for tourists.
On Mount Abang, which sits between Mount Agung and Mount Batur, close to the banks of Lake Batur in Kintamani, tour guides have found a great way to promote and protect Balinese culture without canceling their operations.
The Abang Erawang Tourism Awareness Group has now made it mandatory for tourists who are hiking on Mount Abang to wear traditional Balinese clothing and pray at the local temple before setting off on the trail.
Mount Abang may not be as famous as Mount Agung or Mount Batur, yet the trail is challenging, rewarding and much loved by the ever-growing hiking community in Indonesia.
@hfzxglmr 4 active volcanoes in 1 video, the most beautiful hiking routes in Bali, Indonesia 🇮🇩⛰️ #hiking #foryoupage #hikingadventures #nature #bali #mountbatur #fyp #mountagung #mountabang #mountrinjani ♬ i say hoooooo – bestspedup ❊
The Head of the Abang Erawang Tourism Awareness Group, Surantata, told reporters that hike leaders are making a concerted effort to educate hikers before setting off.
Tourists are not required to register before setting off; they must observe a prayer and take part if they wish; hikers must know where they can and cannot sit down on trial, avoiding places of worship and sacred sites.
Hikers must not be under the influence of alcohol and must wear traditional Balinese clothing.
Hikers may, of course, wear practical hiking gear, but men must now don a udeng headdress and women a sarong over their hiking leggings or trouser.
Men are also invited to wear a sarong. These rules apply to everyone; local people, domestic tourists, and international visitors.
@zamoozi Mount Abang #hiking #mountain #mountabang #sunrise #bangli #bali ♬ original sound – zamoozi
The new rules have been socialized and agreed upon by the local community, who feel confident that the new policy is a smart way to help promote respectful behavior on the sacred mountain.
The move comes after an increasing number of reports, even viral videos, of tourists disrespecting sacred sites in Bali in the most distressing ways.
In March 2023, a Russian tourist known only by his first name, Yuri, was deported after he posted a video online exposing himself at the peak of sacred Mount Agung.
The video triggered a huge backlash in Bali, and despite attending a cleansing ceremony and restorative justice meetings, Yuri was deported by Immigration officials on the grounds of breaking Indonesia’s laws on public indecency.
Despite Governor Koster’s announcement in June suggesting that the ban on all activities on all mountains for all people appears to be immediate and forever, his announcement was a verbal one and has yet to be followed up by legislative changes.
As such, many tour operators are still offering tourists the chance to experience the sunrise hike at Mount Batur and Mount Agung.
Speaking in June, Governor Koster told the media, “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 added that even local residents will not be permitted access to their mountains “unless there are religious ceremonies or disaster management and special activities that are not for tourism activities.”