Exploring Bali While Mt Agung Erupted February 21, 2018 / Hello everyone! Since returning from my trip to Indonesia in December, I’ve had a few client requests for Bali trips. I’ve had even more clients interested in Bali but who are worried about safety due to Mt. Agung’s recent activity. I was en-route from Eastern Indonesia (Raja Ampat!), to Bali when the volcano woke up, sending a huge cloud of black ash into the air for days. Thankfully, I was on the ground with my Indonesia ground operator – the company who I go to in order to put together client itineraries filled with guiding, authentic experiences and the best hotels. They handled absolutely everything (Wondering what I’m referring to? Read more about my job here!). And I mean everything! I didn’t lift a finger to switch my flights – we were rerouted to a neighboring island and took a ferry to Bali. We had to be creative in order to reach Bali but I had experts who live in Indonesia helping me every step of the way – one of the many perks of booking trips through travel advisors. We continued exploring Bali while Mt Agung erupted for the next few days and I’m so glad we didn’t cancel our trip. You may be wondering why I was trying to get to Bali while the volcano was active and others were trying desperately to leave the island. I felt completely safe going to Bali because my Indonesia ground operator kept me informed about the situation as it progressed. Mt. Agung is located in eastern Bali. Farmers and villages occupy this area (Did you know that volcanic ashe makes very nutrient-rich soil?) so the spots in Bali where we were headed were far enough from Mt. Agung that we weren’t personally affected. The closest location in Bali to Mt. Agung that I ever visited was Ubud, which was roughly 45 miles away. There was an evacuation put into effect for anyone within a 10 miles radius of the volcano. However, I only heard of a handful of hotels closing because they felt they were close enough to the evacuation area to do so. I was with a group of travel advisors from around the US and we did have a discussion about whether or not it was insensitive for us to continue with our trip while locals were evacuating their homes. We all wholeheartedly agree that the trip should continue for various reasons: We had flown across the world to get here and learn about Indonesia, most specifically Bali, for our clients. We were assured that the areas of Bali we were visiting were safe. Bali’s economy depends on tourism. We wanted to see for ourselves firsthand instead of relying on the media. I want to drive the last point home to encourage you to keep visiting Bali. When we were in Ubud during our trip, we went on a handful of hotel site visits. All the hotels were gearing up for Christmas and winter break travelers. During the first week of December when we visited, most hotels generally operate at 40-60% occupancy each year. In comparison, most hotel general managers told us they were operating between 5-20% occupancy due to volcano-related cancellations. Hotels were receiving as many as 200 cancelled hotel nights before the end of the year. So we could see that the tourism industry was really hurting. In addition to the hotel industry, restaurants were empty. The traffic was extremely light – if you know anything about Bali, then you know that the traffic is generally horrendous. It was a welcome change for us, but not so much for taxi and motorbike taxi drivers who depend on tips. Tourism is one of Bali’s biggest moneymakers. Locals’ were experiencing shorter work hours, or even temporary unemployment because the high staff numbers weren’t necessary. While they weren’t being fired, employees were given a few weeks of leave until occupancy increased again. Whether this leave was paid or not depended on the hotel. The only way for locals to return to their jobs is to increase the number of tourists visiting the island. While we were there, our group kept up with the media to see how they were painting the volcano eruption. In general, the media advised people not to travel to Bali. The worst headline we saw said something along the lines of “Holiday From Hell.” I couldn’t believe it because I was enjoying everything the island had to offer. The only reason we could fathom that a trip to Bali could be considered “hell” was if you were trying to fly out. The airport closed for roughly a week so many travelers felt stranded without a way to get home. Seeing as I am not a fan of flying and airports, I get it. It’s a pain in the butt. It’s frustrating and as always, we all wish we could avoid inconvenient travel. BUT I got on the island and I knew I could get off when I needed – it may just have been via boat instead of via plane. I was lucky that the airport reopened a few days before I left for home. Exploring Bali While Mt Agung Erupted Please, keep traveling to Bali. The island is a magical place; its safe and its people are warm, proud and welcoming. Mt. Agung has calmed down since my visit, although the really big eruption never came. It may happen tomorrow. It may happen later this year or in five years. Who knows? Don’t let the possibility of a volcano eruption stop you from visiting and supporting the island. Just like the Caribbean after this past hurricane season, locals want you to continue traveling to Bali. Pin me for later!