The Bukit (literally 'hill') is the limestone peninsula at the southern extremity of Bali which has an elevation of about 50m above the surrounding ocean. It's a much drier part of Bali than many other areas, the earth is rocky and not very suitable for rice cultivation — visitors from Australia will find it strikingly familiar. As rice isn't grown, there's very little cropping of the land, but instead gently rolling scrubby hills often dotted with cows and little else.
Historically, the people in this region have been very poor and the story goes that in old times, drinking water was hauled in from the Kuta area. Today, some of the poverty has gone, but the water issues remain — the Bukit is basically a massive limestone rock with just about zero water storage ability. That developers continue to build private pool villas and sprawling resorts on the Bukit is testament to how ridiculously asinine and short-sighted some of the development on Bali truly is.
Driven by both cashed up foreigners and Indonesian investors, land prices and land grabs alike have soared but precious little of the cash sloshing around is trickling down to address such pesky issues as road repairs and other infrastructure work. As a result traffic can be a major headache and the area remains very poorly served by public transport.
The Bukit rose to international attention through the 1970s seminal film The Morning of the Earth by Albert Falzon. While Bali was already a surfing destination, this film brought Bali's culture and staggering beauty into Western cinemas and had an indelible impact on the surfing community. As Falzon says:
"The sequence at Uluwatu was a two-day affair. The first time I went to Ulu's it was two feet … the smallest I've ever seen it even after visiting Bali countless times. A few days later the beach break came up so we decided to go to Ulu's and see what it was like … when we walked to the edge of the cliff there were lines all the way to the horizon … it was about ten feet. We surfed and filmed there all day much to the amazement and amusement of the locals who had never seen surfing before and spent the night against the cliff on the small beach next to the cave. It was a full moon and with Rusty playing his guitar, a few Balinese fisherman perched on the rocks against the cliff face and an exploding sea not far in front of us it was a pretty memorable experience."
The limestone of the Bukit has helped to create some of Bali's best surf breaks and most breathtaking beaches. If you're a sun hedonist, surfer or not, the Bukit should be considered a must see, even if the traffic can be awful.
By Adam Poskitt.