Natural Wonders of Java and Bali Have a Mystical Side
If there’s one thing that stands supreme amidst all of Indonesia’s sumptuous beauty, it’s the volcano. Indonesia, after all, is its volcanoes. Lush rainforest, vast seas of sand, dense woodland, and the remarkable variety of wildlife … they were all borne from lava and ash. Indonesia’s islands – abundant, luxuriant, verdant, and so very respectful of their own beauty – are lucky and beautiful children.
On Java and Bali – the two islands you’ll visit during Discovery Tours’ Indonesia: Java & Bali – towering peaks form a spine near each island’s center. From these heights, green blankets of land flow to the sea, cradling tiny villages, vibrant cities, and oceanside havens along the way. It makes for a magnificent setting, and a rich lesson in how Javanese and Balinese people nurture their relationship with their Indian Ocean islands.
Calming the Spirits
To understand the Indonesians’ connection to their natural world, you need to know only one thing: many Balinese people (and many older tribes on Java) believe that objects in the natural world such as animals, plants, and mountains carry a spiritual essence. All things, therefore, possess their own power which can be used for good or for evil.
Nowhere is this spiritual notion more apparent than in the history of Indonesians’ relationships to the volcanoes. Sacrifices have long thought to appease the mountain gods that spew smoke from their crowns. Stories of human sacrifice are merely the stuff of legend, though devout locals do participate in pre-dawn hikes to craters so that thay may sacrifice fruit, vegetables, rice, and livestock into the calderas.
Crops of the Gods
Volcanic soil makes for some of the most prolific farming. Certainly, Java and Bali have a huge bounty to show for their fortunate locale amidst this agricultural gold mine. Their economy in fact relies on this fertility; agriculture is the country’s second largest profit-maker after tourism. Throughout the countryside, farming terraces climb steep slopes and everywhere farmers work their land.
But in many regions, it’s not the farmers who regulate irrigation to their terraces and paddy fields. It’s the priests. Crops here are fed by a water management system known as Subak, which is based on a Hindu philosophy of “Tri Hita Karana” that fosters a good relationship with God, with other people, and with the environment. Put simply, this system creates an intimate tie among farmers, communities, and their temples.
Though it might sound odd for a priest to regulate water distribution in a land with plenty of water, it’s helpful to remember that the infinite elements of nature – trees, fields, crops, even water itself – are spiritual beings. So who is better suited to negotiate the needs of the spirit world with the needs of the people? Subak remains a crucial part of Indonesia; because of it, the resulting cultural landscape on Bali has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
For its natural beauty and rich wildlife, Indonesia is an unsung giant. It hails as the second most bio-diverse country on the planet, after Brazil. Dense forest covers about 60% of its land, much of it thriving with natural flora and fauna thanks to a combination of nutrient-rich earth and tropical climate. Its many islands – 17,508 of them, 11,500 of which are uninhabited by humans – further bolster a rich variety of species. As you might imagine, a healthy mix of Asian plants grow here, too, as Java and Bali were once connected to the mainland. We’re sure to spot some of them throughout our journey. However, more than a third of its 1,531 bird species and its 515 mammal species are endemic to these islands. Only Australia can claim a larger percentage than this.
With 50,000 miles of coastline in this archipelago nation, natural diversity also takes to the waters. Varied ecosystems – beach, sand dune, mangrove, coral reef, and others – support more than 1,650 species of coral reef fish. This is one of the greatest varieties on the planet, and it earned Indonesia membership in the Coral Triangle, sometimes known as the “Amazon of the Seas.”
Paradise on earth. It’s a phrase often used to describe Java and Bali. But their magnificent beauty goes deeper than this. In Indonesia, the natural world is also the spirit world, and vice versa. And the real beauty lies in the people’s respect for them both, and in what passes between them. Our Discovery Tours small groups bring you close enough to experience it all firsthand.
You can learn more about our Indonesia: Java & Bali tour here.