Visitors flock to Canggu beaches despite temporary closure

Photo taken in February 2020 of beachgoers at Batu Bolong Beach in Bali. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo taken in February 2020 of beachgoers at Batu Bolong Beach in Bali. Photo: Coconuts Media

It appears that people have been flocking to beaches in Canggu this week, with reports of visitors jumping over barriers and making their way through the bushes, despite local authorities saying that the beaches are still officially closed. 

“People have been flocking to the beach, we along with village officials are still not allowing them to access the beach and we’ve been telling them to go back home,” I Gusti Agung Ketut Suryanegara, who heads the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in Badung, told Coconuts Bali. 

“But what happens is they would be going [to the beach] very early and through various entry points, including jumping over walls or through the nearby restaurants and stalls, through the stream or bushes, and we can only tell them to go back without giving them any sanctions.”

Photos of people walking, lounging, and surfing along beaches in Canggu have been circulating online this week, showing scenes reminiscent of the time before the coronavirus outbreak. 

 

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Tourist attractions in Badung, which include beaches, have been temporarily closed since late March to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Bali. The regency’s third phase of the temporary closure was announced on April 20, and was scheduled to last until May 29 or depending on the development of coronavirus cases in the province. Badung has yet to officially announce any new dates regarding the closures.

It should be noted that the temporary closure of tourist sites for all of Bali is laid out in a gubernatorial instruction issued in April. 

On Monday, however, Head of Badung’s Tourism Agency I Made Badra told local media outlets that access to Labuan Sait and Canggu beaches are open to foreign surfers.

Badra said foreigners cited mental health concerns after staying at home for the past few months. 

“They are stressed out from being at home the past three months. So we are loosening [the restrictions] a little, but they have to adhere to protocols by passing through the monitoring posts in those two locations,” he said.

The confirmation from an official is likely to have sparked the visits to the beach this week, despite Badra having noted that other activities –– such as sunbathing or going on a leisurely walk –– are still not permitted. 

In addition, the recent concession as announced by Badra – which is plainly discriminatory as it does not apply to local residents who may be looking to catch a wave as well – has sparked a controversy, with Bali Governor Wayan Koster explicitly expressing his disagreement and stressing that tourism is still closed. 

Despite the restrictions on surfing and leisurely visits to the beach, Satpol PP noted that local residents are allowed access to the beach for fishing and religious ceremonies.

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