Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Bali offers more attractions for tourists

By I. Christianto

NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): Clean beaches, beautiful views, grand hotels, warm smiles, religious ceremonies, and cultural festivals are all characteristics of a holiday in Bali. This and more makes the tiny island province Indonesia's premier tourist destination for both local and foreign holiday-makers.

Bali is known worldwide as a paradise island. The predominantly Hindu province has undergone a drastic transformation since being developed as a tourist resort. It has been turned from an island with an agricultural-based economy to one where most of its four million residents make their living from tourism, either directly, such as working in hotels and restaurants or indirectly, such as making garments and souvenirs which are then sold to tourists.

Now many people on the island are looking for additional ways to attract even more tourists.

Traditionally Bali was never home to camels and elephants. But today there are many of these large animals on the island today. Businessmen have imported them and hope to exploit their exotic nature in attracting tourists.

Bali Camel Safaris, run by PT Bali Unta Safaris, is located in Nusa Dua within the Nikko Bali Hotel. Operator Kent May said the service was growing quickly. "We started this service when the Nikko Hotel opened in December 1996, but it has been really growing in the past seven months," he said.

He said they now had seven camels, originally from Australia, already trained to walk on the beach.

Visitors pay US$26 (adults) or $13 (children) for a one hour ride through tropical bushland and along the beach.

"No experience is needed, we have qualified handlers who guide the safari," May said.

He said each camel had been trained for about four months. "No special treatment is needed for the camel to live in Bali. For daily feed, we give grains and grass. It costs about Rp 1 million per month in taking care of each camel."

In addition to camel safaris, there is also the Elephant Safari Park in Desa Taro in Ubud. The facility, run by Bali Adventure Tours, allows visitors to interact with the animals. Tickets range from $25 to $175, depending on ages and routes.

Nigel Mason of Bali Adventure Tours said there were 17 Sumatran elephants in the park.

"The safari meanders through forested areas with distant views of rice fields," he said.

A couple from the United States recently had their wedding ceremony while riding the elephants. This proved spectacular as local media reported that the couple had become the first couple in Indonesia to get married on elephants.

Water sports is another adventure activity popular in Bali. Tourism operator Sari Tanjung last year introduced dive and water sports along the Tanjung Benoa beach.

I Nengah Witantra of Sari Tanjung said that there were 20 companies offering similar activities along the beach which was near the island's premium resort area, Nusa Dua.

"You can go parasailing, banana boat riding, jet skiing, snorkeling, diving, coral fishing and on dolphin tours," Witantra said.

At Sari Tanjung, visitors pay between $35 and $75 for a package of three activities, including insurance. Alternatively guests that just walk in can pay in rupiah, Tantra said.

"There are about 30 guests here everyday during the June to December period. But it can be up to 50 during weekends," he said.

He said some 60 percent of the guests were Indonesians, while foreigners were mainly from Australia and Japan.

Rivalry is quite fierce in services, but not in pricing. "We have agreed to set the same price. There is an association (of water sport operators) which will summon a company which violates the agreed price."

The water-sports complements the already popular adventurous activities like rafting, bungy jumping and kayaking that are already readily available.

A senior executive of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation, A.A. Gede Rai told a recent seminar, that the focus for development should remain in quality tourism in a clean environment with strong culture values. He said the target market should be quality high paying visitors not millions of mass tourists.