Tourist reveals dark side of picture perfect Bali waterfall: ‘Bloody reality’

A travel blogger on a trip through Indonesia has revealed the harsh truth about holidaying in Bali after a visit to a secluded attraction went wrong.

Dale Philip is a Scottish YouTuber who has travelled all over the world but it wasn’t until he reached Pengempu waterfall — a half hour drive from Ubud in the centre of Bali — that he got an “unexpected surprise”.

“I’d seen this place looking amazing in many flashy, glamorous Instagram photos but when I arrived there myself, I found out that it was covered in garbage,” he wrote on social media.

The rubbish at Pengempu waterfall (left) and Dale Philip in front of the waterfall in Bali (right).The rubbish at Pengempu waterfall (left) and Dale Philip in front of the waterfall in Bali (right).

In a video which has since gone viral, racking up more than 943,200 views on TikTok, Dale exposed what was waiting for him at the hidden waterfall.

“I did not expect to see all this junk lying here,” he told his followers while panning over piles of litter that had collected along the riverbed. “That is an absolute shame! An absolute bloody shame. I bet you don’t see that on anybody’s Instagram photos…well that’s the bloody reality isn’t it.”

Moving between the beauty of the gushing waterfall behind him and the trash that had gathered at the bottom of the waterfall, Dale went on to say that he had considered taking a dip.

“[But] it’s just not going to be clean, especially with all this junk and everything, it’s probably not safe at all to be swimming in that water,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it would make me sick.’

Where did all the trash come from?

Hopeful the mess wasn’t a result of his fellow tourists, Dale suggested that the rubbish may have flowed down the river, rather than have been dumped by those who’d come to visit the area.

“I guess with that being a waterfall, maybe it’s not actually people coming to the waterfall, like sitting there, drinking their Teh Botol (Indonesian iced tea), and chucking it in the waterfall,” he said. “It probably came from further up the river and it’s just washed all the junk down.

But speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Professor Joseph Cheer from Western Sydney University explained that “certainly having more tourists there [in Bali] magnifies the number of single use plastic bottles going into the bin”, and places further pressure on Bali’s plastic problem which stems from poor waste management infrastructure.

He added that the trash troubles are also “typical of tourism on islands”. “Very often tourism requires the importation of things that are in plastic and glass,” he explained. “And this is what tourists want, right?”

Two people collecting rubbish in a river in Bali.Two people collecting rubbish in a river in Bali.

Environmental activists collecting plastic trash on a polluted river in Denpasar, Bali. Source: Getty Images

Warning sent to travellers

Professor Cheer, who’s also the co-hair of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council for the Future of Sustainable Tourism, said the video is a timely reminder to tourists that Bali doesn’t have the capacity to recycle and deal with vast quantities of plastic, and that we should all rethink our use while on holiday.

“The question is, when you go to these islands how can you modify your behaviour as a tourist to ensure that you’re not compounding the problem?” he asked. “Consider your consumption of things and how this compounds the challenges that a small island community like that faces.”

But Professor Cheer conceded that the Indonesian government would also have to take action to address the plastic problem.

“If tourists took their own drinking bottles and the authorities provided drink fountains that provided safe drinking water, you could make those small changes, right?” he asked.

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