Bali is an island and province of Indonesia, and includes a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida. It is located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. Its capital of Denpasar is located at the southern part of the island.
With a population currently 4,225,000 the island is home to most of Indonesia's Hindu minority. According to the 2010 Census, 92% of Bali's population adhered to Balinese Hinduism, 4% to Islam, and most of the remainder followed Christianity.
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species. In this area alone over 500 reef building coral species can be found. For comparison, this is about 7 times as many as in the entire Caribbean.There is a wide range of dive sites with high quality reefs, all with their own specific attractions. Many sites can have strong currents and swell, so diving without a knowledgeable guide is unadvisable.
Bali was inhabited around 2000 BC by Austronesian people who migrated originally from Southeast Asia and Oceania through Maritime Southeast Asia. Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are closely related to the people of the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Oceania. Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island's west.
Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian, Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, beginning around the 1st century AD. The name Bali dwipa ("Bali island") has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong pillar inscription written by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 914 AD and mentioning "Walidwipa". It was during this time that the people developed their complex irrigation system subak to grow rice in wet-field cultivation. Some religious and cultural traditions still practiced today can be traced to this period.
The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293–1520 AD) on eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. When the empire declined, there was an exodus of intellectuals, artists, priests, and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.
The first European contact with Bali is thought to have been made in 1585 when a Portuguese ship foundered off the Bukit Peninsula and left a few Portuguese in the service of Dewa Agung. In 1597 the Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived at Bali and, the Dutch East India Company was established in 1602. The Dutch government expanded its control across the Indonesian archipelago during the second half of the 19th century (see Dutch East Indies). Dutch political and economic control over Bali began in the 1840s on the island's north coast, when the Dutch pitted various competing Balinese realms against each other. In the late 1890s, struggles between Balinese kingdoms in the island's south were exploited by the Dutch to increase their control.
The Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 and were met by the thousands of members of the royal family and their followers who fought against the superior Dutch force in a suicidal puputan defensive assault rather than face the humiliation of surrender. Despite Dutch demands for surrender, an estimated 200 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. In the Dutch intervention in Bali, a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung. Afterward the Dutch governors exercised administrative control over the island, but local control over religion and culture generally remained intact. Dutch rule over Bali came later and was never as well established as in other parts of Indonesia such as Java and Maluku.
During the Japanese occupation, a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese 'freedom army'. The lack of institutional changes and the harshness of war requisitions made Japanese rule worse than the Dutch one. Following Japan's Pacific surrender in August 1945, the Dutch returned to Indonesia, including Bali, to reinstate their pre-war colonial administration.
This was resisted by the Balinese rebels, who now used recovered Japanese weapons. On 20 November 1946, the Battle of Marga was fought in Tabanan in central Bali. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, by then 29 years old, finally rallied his forces in east Bali at Marga Rana, where they made a suicide attack on the heavily armed Dutch. The Balinese battalion was entirely wiped out, breaking the last thread of Balinese military resistance.
In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly proclaimed State of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia, which was proclaimed and headed by Sukarno and Hatta. Bali was included in the "Republic of the United States of Indonesia" when the Netherlands recognised Indonesian independence on 29 December 1949.
The island of Bali lies 3.2 km (2 mi) east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. Bali and Java are separated by the Bali Strait. East to west, the island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (69 mi) north to south; administratively it covers 5,780 km2, or 5,577 km2 without Nusa Penida District, its population density is roughly 750 people/km2.
Bali's central mountains include several peaks over 3,000 metres in elevation. The highest is Mount Agung (3,142 m), known as the "mother mountain" which is an active volcano. Mountains range from centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Bali's volcanic nature has contributed to its exceptional fertility and its tall mountain ranges provide the high rainfall that supports the highly productive agriculture sector. South of the mountains is a broad, steadily descending area where most of Bali's large rice crop is grown. The northern side of the mountains slopes more steeply to the sea and is the main coffee producing area of the island, along with rice, vegetables and cattle. The longest river, Ayung River, flows approximately 75 km.
The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. Bali has no major waterways, although the Ho River is navigable by small sampan boats. Black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are being developed for tourism, but apart from the seaside temple of Tanah Lot, they are not yet used for significant tourism.
The largest city is the provincial capital, Denpasar, near the southern coast. Its population is around 491,500. Bali's second-largest city is the old colonial capital, Singaraja, which is located on the north coast and is home to around 100,000 people. Other important cities include the beach resort, Kuta, which is practically part of Denpasar's urban area, and Ubud, situated at the north of Denpasar, is the island's cultural centre.
The tourism industry is primarily focused in the south, while significant in the other parts of the island as well. The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs of Legian and Seminyak (which were once independent townships), the east coast town of Sanur (once the only tourist hub), in the center of the island Ubud, to the south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, Jimbaran, and the newer development of Nusa Dua and Pecatu.
Bali received the Best Island award from Travel and Leisure in 2010. The island of Bali won because of its attractive surroundings (both mountain and coastal areas), diverse tourist attractions, excellent international and local restaurants, and the friendliness of the local people. According to BBC Travel released in 2011, Bali is one of the World's Best Islands, rank in second after Greece.