Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is one of the country's 33 provinces with the provincial capital at Denpasar towards the south of the island.
With a population recorded as 3,551,000 in 2009, the island is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. About 93.2% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, while most of the remainder follow Islam. It is also the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned for its highly developed arts, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.
Bali was inhabited by about 2000 BC by Austronesian peoples who migrated originally from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia. Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are thus closely related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania. Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island's west. The island of Bali lies 3.2 km (2 mi) east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. Bali and Java are separated by Bali Strait. East to west, the island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (69 mi) north to south; its land area is 5,632 km².
Bali's central mountains include several peaks over 2,000 metres. The highest is Mount Agung (3,142 m), known as the "mother mountain" which is an active volcano. Mountains range from centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Bali's volcanic nature has contributed to its exceptional fertility and its tall mountain ranges provide the high rainfall that supports the highly productive agriculture sector. South of the mountains is a broad steadily descending area where most of Bali's large rice crop is grown. The northern side of the mountains slopes more steeply to the sea and is the main coffee producing area of the island, along with rice, vegetables and cattle. The longest river, Ayung River, flows approximately 75 km.
Tanah Lot Temple
The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. Bali has no major waterways, although the Ho River is navigable by small sampan boats. Black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are being developed for tourism, but apart from the seaside temple of Tanah Lot, they are not yet used for significant tourism.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water Temple
The largest city is the provincial capital, Denpasar, near the southern coast. Its population is around 491,500(2002). Bali's second-largest city is the old colonial capital, Singaraja, which is located on the north coast and is home to around 100,000 people. Other important cities include the beach resort, Kuta, which is practically part of Denpasar's urban area; and Ubud, which is north of Denpasar, and is known as the island's cultural centre. Three small islands lie to the immediate south east and all are administratively part of the Klungkung regency of Bali: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. These islands are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait.
To the east, the Lombok Strait separates Bali from Lombok and marks the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The transition is known as the Wallace Line, named after Alfred Russel Wallace, who first proposed a transition zone between these two major biomes. When sea levels dropped during the Pleistocene ice age, Bali was connected to Java and Sumatra and to the mainland of Asia and shared the Asian fauna, but the deep water of the Lombok Strait continued to keep Lombok and the Lesser Sunda archipelago isolated.
Bali lies just to the west of the Wallace Line, and thus has a fauna which is Asian in character, with very little Australasian influence, and has more in common with Java than with Lombok. An exception is the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, a member of a primarily Australasian family. There are around 280 species of birds, including the critically endangered Bali Starling, which is endemic. Others Include Barn Swallow, Black-naped Oriole, Black Racket-tailed Treepie, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Treeswift, Dollarbird, Java Sparrow, Lesser Adjutant, Long-tailed Shrike, Milky Stork, Pacific Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Sacred Kingfisher, Sea Eagle, Woodswallow, Savanna Nightjar, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Yellow-vented Bulbul, White Heron, Great Egret.
The rich coral reefs around the coast, particularly around popular diving spots such as Tulamben, Amed, Menjangan or neighboring Nusa Penida, host a wide range of marine life, for instance Hawksbill Turtle, Giant Sunfish, Giant Manta Ray, Giant Moray Eel, Bumphead Parrotfish, Hammerhead Shark, Reef Shark, barracuda, and sea snakes. Dolphins are commonly encountered on the north coast near Singaraja and Lovina.
Many plants have been introduced by humans within the last centuries, particularly since the 20th century, making it sometimes hard to distinguish what plants are really native. Among the larger trees the most common are: Banyan trees, Jackfruit, coconuts, bamboo species, acacia trees and also endless rows of coconuts and banana species. Numerous flowers can be seen: hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, poinsettia, oleander, jasmine, water lily, lotus, roses, begonias, orchids and hydrangeas exist. On higher grounds that receive more moisture, for instance around Kintamani, certain species of fern trees, mushrooms and even pine trees thrive well. Rice comes in many varieties. Other plants with agricultural value include: salak, mangosteen, corn, Kintamani orange, coffee and water spinach.
The population of Bali is 3,151,000 (as of 2005). There are an estimated 30,000 expatriates living in Bali. Unlike most of Muslim-majority Indonesia, about 93.18% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, formed as a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia. Minority religions include Islam (4.79%), Christianity (1.38%), and Buddhism (0.64%). These figures do not include immigrants from other parts of Indonesia.
Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and the vast majority of Balinese people are bilingual or trilingual. There are several indigenous Balinese languages, but most Balinese can also use the most widely spoken option: modern common Balinese. The usage of different Balinese languages was traditionally determined by the Balinese caste system and by clan membership, but this tradition is diminishing. English is a common third language (and the primary foreign language) of many Balinese, owing to the requirements of the tourism industry.
Bali is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts. Balinese percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan, is highly developed and varied. Balinese performing arts often portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana but with heavy Balinese influence. Famous Balinese dances include pendet, legong, baris, topeng, barong, gong keybar, and kecak (the monkey dance). Bali boasts one of the most diverse and innovative performing arts cultures in theworld, with paid performances at thousands of temple festivals, private ceremonies, or public shows.
Tourism, Bali’s chief industry, has provided the island with a foreign audience that is eager to pay for entertainment, thus creating new performance opportunities and more demand for performers. The impact of tourism is controversial since before it became integrated into the economy, the Balinese performing arts did not exist as a capitalist venture, and were not performed for entertainment outside of their respective ritual context. Since the 1930s sacred rituals such as the barong dance have been performed both in their original contexts, as well as exclusively for paying tourists. This has led to new versions of many of these performances which have developed according to the preferences of foreign audiences; some villages have a barong mask specifically for non-ritual performances as well as an older mask which is only used for sacred performances.
The tourism industry is overwhelmingly focused in the south, while significant in the other parts of the island as well. The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs (which were once independent townships) of Legian and Seminyak; the east coast town of Sanur (once the only tourist hub); in the center of the island Ubud; to the south of the airport is Jimbaran and the newer development of Nusa Dua.
One of Bali's main tourist incomes is from the Scuba Diving Industry. It is an industry that has thrived over the past decade or so with the influx of new tourism and the great array of dive sites available. The seasonal Mola Mola (oceanic Sunfish) bring in large numbers of guests during the months of July - October, with Nusa Penida being the most frequented dive location. Bali diving is also on up in the Professional Development market where training happens for recreational divers who want try a new challenge can step up to the level of PADI Divemaster and Instructor. In fact recently one particular dive outfit in Sanur Bali has offered to the world a chance to train in Bali completely free for 7 months up to PADI Instructor level.
Bali, received the Best Island award from Travel and Leisure 2010. The award was presented in the show "World's Best Awards 2010" in New York, on 21 July. Hotel Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran also received an award in the category of "World Best Hotel Spas in Asia 2010". The award was based upon survey results of travel magazine Travel + Leisure readers, during the period December 15, 2009 through March 31, 2010, and was based upon several criteria. The island of Bali won because its natural state is uniformly attractive (both mountain and coastal areas), tourist attractions are diverse and widely distributed, the excellent availability of restaurants food (international and local), and the friendliness of the local people to visitors.
ASIA is probably one of the most enigmatic continents in the world. Not only is it rich in very diverse cultures, but it is also rich in history. You will never run out of wonderful places to visit in this wonderful and mysterious continent.