Teeming with marine wildlife and booming as a tourism destination, Bali provides a varied range of volunteer opportunities. This island in Indonesia is every bit the idyllic tropical paradise — right from the heady party scene of Kuta to the peaceful rocky beaches of Nusa Penida.
But look a little closer and you will see Balinese children missing out on opportunities for want of better access to proper education and the natural habitat of many animals being destroyed. Unsustainable tourism and commercial activities adversely affect marine animals as well. Volunteer projects on this island seek to make lives better for both the local people and the wildlife. Consequently, Bali could be an excellent option for you to volunteer abroad.
- The island has three active volcanoes — Mount Agung, Mount Batur and Mount Bratan.
- Bali has some great surf spots. Kuta is perfect for starters, Canggu for intermediates and Keramas and Uluwatu for the experts.
- There are hundreds of spas at most of the island’s towns and they are oh-so-cheap!
- The world’s most expensive coffee in the world comes from Bali. It is called Kopi Luwak and its beans are collected from the digestion of the Civat Cat.
- One day in March every year, Bali observes Nyepi — the day of silence. On this day, most establishments remain shut, people don’t leave their homes and electricity is turned off in many cases. The reason for this ritual is to fool evil spirits into believing there is no one around so that they go elsewhere to look for victims.
Volunteer projects in Bali
You know best what drives you to volunteer abroad and especially why you would like to volunteer in Bali. There are many different projects where you can make a significant difference not only in the life of local communities but also the marine species that live around the island. Read on to find the kind of programs you can support as a volunteer in Bali.
You are interested in volunteering in an informal school setting with kindergarten and preschool kids? One program where you can do exactly that works with 2-5-year-olds from impoverished villages in and around the town of Ubud. The main focus of this kindergarten school project is to get the children excited about education and prepare them for primary school. You will teach very simple and basic English phrases and have them participate in learning games, singing songs and creating art projects.
In some programs you will support English teachers for older students and teach advanced grammatical and conversational skills. Though local Balinese teachers teach English in school, the opportunity to converse with a native, fluent English speaker is invaluable for the students and this is where you come in as a volunteer in Bali.
Other volunteer opportunities work in the field of health and hygiene education. Those programs encourage and inspire local children to care more about their personal health and hygiene and include teaching them how to brush their teeth, wash their hands as well as how to clean their body and clothes. As a volunteer in Bali, you will help improve the health care situation by running informative sessions and showing the children how they can live healthier lives.
As part of construction volunteer projects, volunteers will help to improve the local infrastructure of the community by renovating and repairing existing buildings. The volunteers will also be working as part of a team, with construction workers and local laborers, which helps to build a sense of solidarity within the community.
Sea Turtle Rescue
You also have the opportunity to work for a sea turtle conservation project as a volunteer in Bali. This program focuses on spreading conservation-based knowledge while assisting and caring for sea turtles. Based in the beautiful island of Nusa Penida, this program receives injured turtles from local fishermen and the dedicated team cares for the creatures until they are ready to be released into the sea. They also supervise new hatchlings until they are big enough to survive in the sea on their own.
The project has strong affiliations with several world marine conservation organizations where all the data about the turtles is then sent and tracked. So why not combine living by the sea for a while and giving back to its natural inhabitants?
Volunteering provides the opportunity to focus on what you want in life and make meaningful contributions to help make our world a better place to live in. For single people, this is also a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and world views. Volunteer projects have brought people together and helped forge lifetime friendships.
For couples & families
Volunteering abroad could be a great way to bond as a couple or a family. It teaches you what you can achieve as a team and is also a great way to sensitize your children for the inequalities and ecological problems they are not confronted with in everyday life.
Volunteering abroad with a group of friends or like-minded people can be a great opportunity to understand the compassionate and giving aspects of the character of your teammates. It is also a very beneficial team-building opportunity for colleagues.
Even on the days when you are not busy following your volunteer work tasks, you will definitely not get bored. Bali offers you plenty of great free time activities, sites to see and beaches to relax on.
Free time activities
Bali has excellent opportunities for sea-lovers. Spend a few days on the southern beaches to surf. If you’ve never surfed before, this is a great place to do it for the first time. To dive and snorkel, most people go to Lovina, but we recommend to not stop there! Go even further west to the village of Pemuteran because this is the perfect base from where you can head out to dive and snorkel in the Pulau Menjangan National Park.
Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan are islands close to Bali in the southeast that are also preferred by many divers. On the east end of Bali, you find the laid-back coastal villages of Amed and Candidasa that you should definitely visit during your time as a volunteer in Bali.
As a volunteer in Bali, you might also want to experience the absolute contrast to your daily work as well and there is no better place to party and meet new people on the island than Kuta. Since it is close to the airport, most tourists come directly to Kuta right after they land in Bali. Not too far from Bali is the island of Gili Trawangan, or simply Gili T, which is a place that attracts partygoers from all across the world.
If you want to relax after a night out or fancy a relaxing massage after your physically hard work as a volunteer in Bali, you will find a range of spa options at incredibly cheap prices. So don’t hesitate and go in for a proper pampering day, you surely deserve it!
Live like a local
When in Bali, make sure to try as many of the traditional Balinese dishes as possible! Start with the famous Nasi Goreng and wash it down with some of the popular Bintang beer. Also try the Balinese curries that are considerably different from the Indian ones. It’s easy to find a restaurant/pub that suits your budget in the towns. Options are limited as you move towards the rural areas but they also become just the more traditional.
For transportation, it is the easiest to hire a scooter and zoom around to explore the island considering the traffic bottlenecks you encounter in places such as Kuta. If you don’t want to ride long distances, take one of the many inter-city shuttles.
Places to explore
The place that gives you a peek into the heart of Bali like no other is Ubud. The quirky town has regular traditional dance performances, cozy pubs, alternative cafes, yoga studios, hundreds of spas and varied workshops.
From Ubud, daily tours leave before dawn to have visitors experience sunrise from the top of the active volcanoes nearby. You hike up to the crater and have breakfast that includes eggs boiled in the heat of the volcano! You may also just want to rent a scooter and explore the villages surrounding the town — ride through the famed rice fields and the incredibly deep, reassuring green of the thick vegetation.
And then there is of course the unique Balinese architecture. You will love the old houses and temples. Not too far away from the city is a gorge named Hidden Canyon. If you’re feeling adventurous, try hiking/swimming upstream, but make sure to take a guide along if it’s the rainy season.
Culture & religion
Bali is a Hindu-dominant island in an otherwise Muslim-dominated Indonesia. However, the Hinduism here is very different from the form of the religion practiced in India. The Balinese believe God resides everywhere and inside everyone. Though not overtly, the society is conservative and it’s important for visitors to keep this in mind as a volunteer in Bali.
It is possible to find English-speaking doctors in the towns of Bali. Bring pills for common ailments and ensure your medical insurance covers flying you back home at a short notice if required. Also, during your volunteer work abroad, you will make local contacts who could help you in case of an emergency situation.
You should be fine if you take the regular precautions you’d take anywhere in South East Asia. Don't leave important things unattended and don't get too drunk if you are traveling alone. Drinking a beer that is opened in front of you is fine anywhere but when trying the traditional Balinese alcohol, Arak, only drink at reputable places. If you need a ride, prefer app cabs and scooters over regular taxis.
Balinese people are usually at least bilingual. Most of them speak Bahasa Indonesia and Balinese. Because of the huge number of English-speaking tourists visiting Bali, a large number of local people speak at least a few words of English, but it’s always helpful if you can learn a few Balinese words.