The Blue Lagoon, Bali, Indonesia
Photos and Words by Taylor Simpson
April 20th, 2019
I've long suffered from the idea that all tropical islands are the same. Cocktails at sunset, people baring too much skin, and sand...everywhere... So when we booked a month long stay in Canggu, Bali, I pictured days spent sunbathing, watching the surfers try to catch some waves, and eating endless amounts of fresh fruit. And while all of this proved to be true and quite enjoyable, it was the activities off the beaten path that made us spontaneously extend our stay another two months.
Admittedly, snorkeling and diving had not crossed my mind, but after seeing photos of the Blue Lagoon on the eastern shores of the island, I knew I had to go, even if just for the photos of crystal clear water framed by a rugged coastline.
Our day started early with a ride from two locals, one who spoke english, one who didn't. We talked about Balinese culture for almost two hours. He told us about the differences between Bali and the rest of Indonesia, how the culture is evolving with the younger generation, and where he grew up in the northern mountainous region of the island. His favorite part about living in Bali? Being out in nature almost all day, everyday.
This was something I had come to notice about the local way of life. Not a separation from the elements, but an integration. Life is lived mostly outdoors, in community with the lizards, cows, chickens, and dogs. All restaurants are open-air (I have yet to eat in an air-conditioned setting), and folklore says the presence of a tokay gecko in your home is a sign of goodluck. With this as background, I felt like I was heading into the heart of the island, where wildlife runs free, and we are merely observers.
As we neared the sliver of sand where the boats take off for the lagoon, I noticed that the least amount possible had been done to make this area accessible to tourism. A two-lane road all the way from bustling Denpasar, one parking lot, a couple of cafes, and one wooden table covered in snorkeling gear. Coming from sights like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, and Sentosa Island in Singapore, Padangbai felt remote and certainly off the beaten path.
We grabbed our gear and loaded in a boat with two other travelers, our two guides, and the local boat driver. About ten minutes later as we rounded the jagged edge of the shore, the driver killed the engine, and we floated to a halt, tying up with the other boats next to us. This was it! As I looked around, I instantly noticed how clear and truly blue the water was. Fish swam about us in abundance and came in colors, designs, and shapes I had never seen before. I hovered in bliss over the reefs teeming with life seemingly untouched by the tourism that has hit other parts of the island so hard in recent years.
We didn't stay all day, but those two hours spent on the water made me realize what tropical islands truly have to offer if protected from outside forces wanting to turn a profit. With tales of the decline in marine life around the world in famous areas like the Great Barrier Reef, I hope to some day, years from now, return to the Blue Lagoon and find that nothing has changed; that it has been sheltered from the long term affects of over-tourism, and that it still rests in perfect harmony with the local way of life.