By Ella Magnery

Where is Bali?

Bali is one of islands that make up the Republic of Indonesia. Its a group of islands that links Australia and South-East Asia. The islands of Indonesia can be found north of Australia. Bali is physically located 8 degrees south of the equator and is 115 degrees east in longitude.

Bali lies between the islands of Java and Lombok. Bali is over 5600 square kilometers in area - it's reputation and popularity far surpass it's size.

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Bali has a tropical climate because it is close to the Equator. The yearly temperature averages 31 degrees celsius. High humidity can be expected during the wet season between the months of October and April. The dry season is between May and September, this is when the humidity is at it's lowest.

The central mountain area is typically cooler than the lower coastal areas especially at night.

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Bali's natural environment varies from volcanic mountains and rainforest's to rice field terraces and beaches. Land clearing in Bali has led to the loss of many forests although there are some nature reserves and replanted forests.

Bali's central mountains include several peaks of over 3000 metres in elevation. The tallest is Mount Agung. It is known as the mother mountain and is an active volcano.

Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. Bali has no major waterways.

Until the early 20th century, Bali was home to several large mammals such as the wild Banteng, leopard and the Bali Tiger (which is now extinct). Todays wildlife of Bali includes snakes, geckos, squirrels, deer, monkeys and wild pigs. There are around 300 species of birds on the island such as kingfishers and bee-eaters.

The colourful reefs are home to many colourful fish, turtles, the giant Sunfish, giant Manta Ray, Giant Moray Eel, sharks and sea snakes.

Many plants have been introduced to the island which makes it difficult to distinguish which plants are really native. Some of the large trees include Banyan trees, Jackfruit, coconuts, bamboo and acacia trees. Numerous flowers such as hibiscus, frangipani, bougainvillea, poinsettia, oleander, jasmine, waterlily and orchids can be seen in Bali.

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Some of the beautiful flora and fauna of Bali

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The 2010 Census revealed a population of 3,890,757. Around 30,000 of these are expatriates living in Bali.

The population is continuing to rise and a provincial agency recently reported the numbers could now be as high as 4.22 million. This increase is due to a high birth rate and also urbanization. This rising population is challenging for the island.

The Balinese people are a community banded by the awareness of culture. The basic concept of conduct is based on social layers called "Kasta" or castes which is very complex and expressed in language and body gesture. Some basic attitudes can be found at all levels, particularly concerning what is polite and what is not.

Balinese is a Malayo-Polynesian language which is also spoken in Lombok and Java. The Bali Cultural Agency estimates that less than 1 million people in Bali still use the Balinese language in their daily lives. Indonesian and English are becoming increasingly used by the Balinese people.

Traditional Culture

Most Balinese adhere to the Balinese-Hinduism religion, whilst the majority of the rest of Indonesia are Muslim.

The Balinese worship many gods and spirits, whilst other religions believe in one god. The Balinese celebrate many different milestones throughout a person's life with elaborate ceremonies.

The Balinese have a strong community spirit and most families live in a community setting known as a banjar.

Balinese arts and crafts are unique and portray many historical references whilst incorporating Western influences.

The Balinese are surrounded by art throughout their lives. They make art out of the most basic necessities in their daily lives. However, artistic knowledge is not commissioned only to a special intellectual class, but is open to everyone at all levels. Painting, sculpture, carving and music have traditionally been the province of men, while women channeled their creative energy into creating lavish offerings to the gods. In every festival, you can see spectacular pyramids of flowers, fruit, and cakes up to two meters high, constructed with such love and adoration that it could only be meant for a higher being. Although a religiously regarded practice, Balinese art does not serve religion solely.

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