As the email from the manager suggested, the last thirty minutes of the journey was rather bumpy. Accordingly the road got quieter and less polluted (apart from the dirt dust that was). We were getting more excited about our final destination, Bali Eco Stay, which promises heavenly retreat where “the rice paddies meet the jungle… surrounded by stunning organic rice fields, mountain fed streams, cascading waterfalls and spectacular views over treetops to the ocean”.
As the vehicle took its last turn, the driver announced that we have arrived at the estate. A view of rice terrace lined by a charming small river greeted us. Honking the car cheerily, he signaled the staffs to come and welcome us, promptly they came and greeted us with warm Balinese smiles. We were escorted immediately to our bungalow, Spring Water, the most private of them all. No administrative work, no passport checked or form filled, just a simple briefing of where things are and how things work.
Our elevated bungalow, which was built mostly of recycled natural materials, consisted of a bedroom with a double bed and a bathroom. No air conditioning system, of course, a large opening with no glass screen formed the central feature of the breezy bedroom. The shower and the sink were spring-fed. The water was so pure that we could drink of the tap directly. On the foot of the hut was a small rocky creek bringing pure water from the mountain, where guests could dip their weary feet. On the other side, lush rainforest-like greenery filled the scenery. We could hear nothing but the flowing water stream, insects and birds.
Eco resort is a welcomed trend in Bali. Developing in a worrying rate, Bali, is seemingly going towards an unsustainable future. While the tourism industry provides millions of job for the locals, it is not only increasingly depriving its natural resources but also creating adverse environmental impacts. Socially, it is also influencing the conservation of local culture and traditions. As the locals are increasing disconnect from their access to their ancestral lands, in the same time the youths refuse to work on the remaining agricultural lands. Tourism related jobs are paying better and do not require back-breaking labour under the scorching sun. More sustainable and responsible models of tourism industry-related initiatives are badly needed.
Ironically apart from the many pseudo “eco” establishments, there were very few true eco hotels in Bali; Eco Stay is one of them and they have a big goal “ to be an excellent model of sustainable tourism that will enhance the environment and show local villagers and guests a new way of moving towards a sustainable future. “
Built only five years ago in 2010 on a 2 hectare land, Bali Eco Stay was serious in implementing their integrated sustainability plans; their efforts ranged from its renewable energy system, waste and waste water management, permaculture farm, and community programmes. Helmed by John and Cath, and, Agung and Mini, two couples from Australia and the local village, the Eco Stay is slowly building their green reputation.
Designed by Norman Van Hoff, the buildings in respect with the local environment and culture were carefully sited in harmony with the natural contours of the land with no loss of rice paddies and minimal removal of existing farming vegetation. Vetiver grass was also planted to reduce run-off erosion. Any soil from water runoff is retrieved in our hydro catchment and re-used in the garden.
The bungalows were constructed using local renewable timbers and natural materials such as bamboo and coconut timber, employing traditional craftsmen. Although Bali Eco Stay in a high rainfall area all the bungalows are equipped with water pressure showers and dual flush toilets. All buildings use natural lighting during the day from windows and skylights. During the night the buildings are illuminated with low-wattage lightings to reduce energy consumption.
An organic permaculture garden provides the resort restaurant with many fruits and vegetables. Only plant based herbicides and pesticides are used in garden and grounds. All organic food waste is composted and used in the permaculture garden. In general, Bali Eco Stay utilises waste segregation and works with a nearby rubbish tip where locals make a living from selling recyclables.
All water is sourced from a river and spring and recycled back to nature via waste-water gardens. Waste is minimised and the aim is to re-use and recycle wherever possible. A successful hydro-power system was constructed with a goal to be off the utility power grid in the foreseeable future. At the moment this hydro electricity powers all of the resort except refrigeration, freezers and office computer. Generators are used as backup.
The Eco Stay also holds social sustainability as one of its pillar, as it is shown in its commitment to “give back” to the local society. In keeping with Eco principles, the land was leased, not purchased, from the original Balinese land-owners who are now an integral part of the business as office manager and restaurant manager. The Eco stay is not only supporting local suppliers and small enterprises, it also employing local staffs and regularly holds capacity building trainings as well as spreading awareness of the importance of nature conservation.
Learn more about eco-resort here
Postnote from Bali Eco Stay host, John Blundstone
All well and good being ECO but sustainability must be an all round accomplishment to keep moving forward both ethically and financially. With Bali having thousands of accommodation options to choose from, it certainly is an advantage to cater to a niche market which ECO tourism does. Bali Eco Stay has found this to be true and has a 68% occupancy rate with a much lower bottom line so the business side is certainly sustainable and the market is growing as the general population become more aware of green issues and are looking for something different than your average hotel experience and sitting by the swimming pool.
Operating a business in Indonesia can be challenging as regulations change on a regular basis but if one remains patience with the big picture in mind it can be rewarding for all in a sustainable way.
By: Devisari Tunas
Devisari is the Research Scenario Coordinator for Archipelago Cities at the Future Cities Laboratories (Singapore). Trained as an architect and urban planner, she obtained her PhD degree in Urbanism from Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands). Her current research interests focus on urban development pattern in the developing world (in particular Indonesia), urban socio-spatial fragmentation, housing, and sustainable urban development in general.
All images unless otherwise stated is courtesy of Bali Eco Stay