After a long trip from all corners of the globe, we arrived in the small town of Tulamben on the northeast coast of Bali. It was dark by the time we arrived from the capital, Denpasar, so we weren’t able to see our surroundings until the next morning. What we did know, based on the breeze, the smells, and the snorkel gear, was that we were very near the ocean.

After digging into a scrumptious dinner and yummy fresh fruit drinks, we drifted off to sleep in our comfy rooms.

Morning brought sunshine, an ocean breeze, and the clouded peak of Mount Agung, Bali’s tallest point and largest volcano. At 3,031 meters tall, Agung dominates the small Indonesian Island and provides a stunning backdrop to the lush tropical vegetation. When the clouds parted by lunchtime and we had a break from our orientation meeting, we had a glimpse of the rock peak directly from poolside.

Two representatives from local NGOs joined us to present their hard work. Trash Hero and Peduli Alam have been working to deal with the growing problem of garbage and plastic in Bali. With no developed central waste collection and disposal system on the island, most of the garbage ends up in the countryside, in the ocean, or being burned. This presents a massive problem for an island where 80% of residents rely on income from tourism. Around five million people visit Bali every year, with the average tourist using two recyclable plastic bottles every day—in a place where recycling facilities are almost nonexistent. We’ve already done our part by being gifted reusable straws (made of stainless steel) by our trip leaders and making an effort to not use any plastic bottles by refilling our own water bottles. Also, we spent a few hours on a beach cleanup in front of our hotel in Tulamben and managed to collect 13 bags of trash, along with a huge mass of lines and nets. An impressive feat for a short time, but it did show us that we can make a difference in tackling such a massive problem.

Students rolling up their sleeves to clean the waterways near the beach. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney

Students rolling up their sleeves to clean the waterways near the beach. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney

Noor and Esther scouring the beach for trash. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney

Noor and Esther scouring the beach for trash. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney

With a busy day already behind us, we settled in for some more Balinese food including some vegetarian options. Tempeh is a local specialty made from soybeans that are sometimes fried or cooked in yummy sauce. This cripsy version of tofu is totally awesome with fresh pineapple, papaya or orange juice then some rice, and chicken satay with peanut sauce, and you’ve got yourself a perfect end to an amazing day in Bali. We can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Mount Agung from Liberty Dive Resort in Tulamben, Bali. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney

Mount Agung from Liberty Dive Resort in Tulamben, Bali. | Photo: Trip Leader Whitney