Hopefully over the next two years I'll be sharing some amazing stories and photos, from what I know is going to be a life-changing experience.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hunting Dolphins...and Tourists

Dolphins off the coast of Lovina
I was recently in Bali, and we decided to go early morning dolphin watching.  We got it all set up with a guide, who arrived at the beach in front of our hotel in his boat.  We seemed to be heading out quite a ways, and at times I really wasn't sure that the boat was going to make it.  Nevermind the fact that the boat itself was not in particularly good repair, and the 'captain' couldn't figure out which plank fit into which groove to become stable seats.
It was obvious that we were nearly the area where the pod feeds because there were at least 20 other boats just like ours milling around.  We spent the next hour chasing dolphins - one boat would see them, and then we would all go in that direction, snap some photos, and then wait for the next sighting.  I spent the entire time felling conflicted - I was enjoying seeing the dolphins, but it really felt like dolphin hunting, where the only people who benefit are the locals who are making the money.

One of the many shops along
the path to Gitgit waterfall.
There were quite a few times where I felt this attitude of the locals offering anything and everything to tourists, all in the name of making money.  Of course I met lots of people who were truly kind and friendly, but most of the time it was obvious that the offer was to really made so that they could benefit.  Particularly when hawkers would get mad and sometimes aggressive when I turned them down with a polite "no thank you".  There were a few times when I even got a "why you come to my country and then won't...." give them a good price, look in their shop, whatever.  As we walked to Gitgit waterfall, the path was lined with shops.  Ok...down the main tourist drag in Kuta I understand...but in the middle of the jungle on the way to a waterfall?? And this, I think, is the crux of the problem facing areas that rapidly went from fairly isolated, self-sufficient communities, to large tourist destinations.  Of course they feel like the tourists owe them - they regularly experience power outages and water restrictions so that the big hotels can have air-con and hundreds of flushing toilets.  Rice paddies are being purchased to turn into resorts...and now the locals have lost their tranditional employment AND food source.  Not only do the Balinese need a job to pay for rice, it's expensive because it's being imported, as the island is no longer self-sufficient.    We call this progress?

No comments:

Post a Comment