Bali easily tops our list as one of the most popular holiday destinations among travelers. Whether you are searching for epic surf breaks, stunning waterfall hikes, or simply looking for some rest & relaxation, there is truly something in Bali for everyone.
One of Bali's most notable attractions is Mount Agung; an active volcano in the island's Northwest that is believed by the Balinese people to be a replica of Mount Meru; the center of the physical & spiritual universe.
On guided tours over the last few years, guides would joke about Mount Agung's activity & taunt tourists (myself included) with comments like "this volcano is long overdue to erupt again, so maybe today will be the day!" Everyone knew that this eruption was coming, yet it seems that no one really considered the reality of that eruption until recently.
After a number of rumblings from beneath the surface of the volcano this September, Mount Agung began releasing both smoke & ash clouds into the air. Almost immediately, Bali's volcano alert status was raised to its highest level & the evacuation of local villages began.
Today (December 11) the Bali volcano threat remains the same, but with airports open & many flights remaining the same, travelers are left wondering how dangerous travel to Bali really is.
IS IT SAFE?
Although an eruption is very likely (though not guaranteed), most regions of this spectacular island are still safe for travel & well out of harm's way.
The Bali Tourism Hospitality Task Force (established to handle tourism-related effects of a volcanic eruption) has declared a danger zone of only 12 kilometers surrounding Mount Agung (with the tourist hub of Kuta being approximately 70 kilometers away.)
With the government warning travelers to stay clear of the danger zone, that means that Karangasem is the only region expected to be affected by the eruption (should it occur.) Travel to the South is still being encouraged & the #BALIISSAFE movement continues to sweep the island.
Please Note: For travelers booking flight into Bali now (and trust me, there are still many) it is wise to purchase travel insurance at the time of booking. A number of delays experienced for travelers after the initial volcano rumblings were due to travelers, insurance providers & airlines being unsuspecting & unprepared.
WHY TRAVEL NOW?
So you may be thinking "Wait, why would travelers be CHOOSING to travel to Bali now?"
If your social media accounts are full of travelers (as ours are) you would see that many avid travelers are heading into Bali to take advantage of quiet beaches, uncrowded tourist sites (that are usually jam-packed) & airline / hotel discounts made to encourage tourists to stay & enjoy some time in paradise.
Many travelers also recognize that enough time has passed since Agung's first eruption that contingency plans are now in place with neighboring island airports & airlines to prevent long delays should Agung erupt again. So, while the threat of an eruption lurks, there is still only a small chance that vacations will be disrupted or flights will be changed & with no estimated timeline for Agung's next hissy-fit, this waiting game (& these deals) could last awhile!
WHAT'S THE RISK?
There are always risks involved with travel whether they be tropical storms, volcanic activity, theft or illness. Assuming that you keep well away from Agung itself (don't be THAT tourist) then your biggest risk would be flight delays on arrival or departure.
Since the first large puff of smoke & ash in November, the government in Bali has put contingency plans in place with neighboring airports & ferry services to allow delayed passengers free passage to Lombok & departure from the airport there.
Your next biggest risk as a traveler (should Agung erupt while you are there) would be ash fall. One of the biggest things being recommended to travelers right now is that they travel to Bali with a surgical mask or goggles in the case that a larger eruption occurs & wind currents blow ash into tourist hot spots.
Please Note: Even in the case of a larger eruption, it cannot be determined whether flights would be cancelled or ash fall would be an issue. Flight cancellations depend entirely on wind direction to determine where the ash cloud will land, and based on recent wind conditions it is predicted that ash would land over the sea & have no effect on flights or travelers at all.
The good news for Bali & travelers heading that way is that officials have now had weeks to prepare for the possible eruption of Mount Agung, meaning that steps have already been put into place to minimize destruction (within the danger zone) as well as to minimize any inconvenience for travelers arriving or departing the island during that time.
There are countless businesses outside of the "danger zone" in Bali that rely on tourism to feed & support their families. There are also countless beautiful beaches, towns & experiences to be had in Bali that are nowhere near Agung. Travelers who are still able to make it to Bali & enjoy their vacation there are encouraged to do so ... simply do so responsibly.