- Clifford White, 62, travelled to the virtually unknown island of Bali, Indonesia, in 1975 and 1977
- He was greeted by pristine landscape and Balinese locals who had never even met Westerners before
- His photo album includes images of a quiet Kuta beach, which is now littered with rubbish and tourists
Today Bali is a magnet for backpackers and party-goers alike, with congestion and dumped rubbish a mounting problem.
But rewind 40 years and the picture was much different, with the Indonesian island encompassing a quiet calm.
A fascinating photo album reveals what the untouched spot looked like, with pristine beaches, quiet dirt track roads and no Westerners in sight.
Before the tourists arrived: Australian surfer and photographer Clifford White, 62, travelled to the virtually unknown island when he was 20 in 1975 with several friends (above, Sanur beach, which is now a popular resort town)
Making a splash: During his stay, White shot images of the rural landscape and a number of Balinese locals who had never even met Westerners before
Jungle trek: White said some people paid a small fee to have their surf boards carried out to the ocean. He added that the man in the foreground of the above shot, barefoot under the straw hat, is former Australian politician Ian Cohen
Flashback: White said he found Jalan Tegal Wangi (above) such a ‘nice sleepy small street’ when he visited Bali in March 1975 but today it is one of the busiest parts of Kuta beach, with modern buildings and a tarmac road
Australian surfer and photographer Clifford White, 62, travelled to the virtually unknown island when he was 20 in 1975 with several friends.
He returned again in 1977 to document more footage of the untouched surf paradise.
During both stays, he shot images of the rural landscape and a number of Balinese locals who had never even met Westerners before.
Just a few years later tourism took off, with the scenery changing forever.
Thanks to cheaper flight deals and media exposure, the destination exploded in popularity with hundreds of hotels, bars and shops being built.
The island – which is now drowned in a tide of more than four million foreign tourists a year – is unrecognisable from White’s early shots.
Authentic: Kuta beach is now a bustling tourist spot flooded with sightseers. When White visited in the late 70s, he said he encountered small markets, ‘selling only local products, long before the days of fake products’
Still undiscovered: White notes that a large resort now sits off the road where he took this shot (left), meanwhile on the beach he was happy to pay locals a small fee to carry his surf board through the wild terrain (right)
Relaxed pace of life: A quiet road leading down to the now wildly-popular Kuta beach (left) and local girls carrying food supplies down to the beach ahead of a day of surfing (right)
Dying businesses: White returned to this store in 2011 but he found it had disappeared, with lots of tourist stores in its place and a Hard Rock Cafe within walking distance
They show empty golden beaches, deserted roads and children innocently playing in streams.
Two particularly poignant shots show a farmer walking his ducks and women carrying baskets of food on their heads through fields.
Reminiscing about his early travels, White, from Sydney, said: ‘Back then we were some of the first Australians to visit Bali.
‘It was totally unspoiled. The island has developed a lot since then and Kuta beach now has hotels and resorts the length of it.
‘It was every surfer’s dream and and the locals were the friendliest people you could ever meet.’
BALI: A TROPICAL PARADISE GONE TO RUIN?
With the rise of cheaper international air travel, tourism took off in Bali during the 80s and 90s.
The destination was marketed as a ‘tropical paradise’ in glossy tourist brochures and travel websites. It soon became known as the ‘Mexico of Australia’, with flights from Sydney taking around six hours.
In 2000, the island’s main airport carried 4.4 million passengers and by 2011, this number had exploded to 11.1 million.
Today Bali’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism.
Many travellers to the region are young backpackers, flocking to the multiple bars and clubs to drink and party in the lively tourist towns of Kuta and Seminyak.
The volcanic outcrop also became a must-visit destination for soul-searchers, after it was featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat Pray Love, which was made into the 2010 movie starring Julia Roberts.
The island bounced back after the deadly terrorist bombings of 2002 and 2005 and it managed to weather a public relations storm in 2015 when two Australians were executed for drug trafficking.
Indonesian tourism expert Nyoman Sukma Arida, of Udayana University, has been warning for more than a decade that Bali’s situation is approaching saturation, pointing to signs of environmental stress all over the island.
In a bid to curb tourism and for religious reasons, there is a proposed alcohol ban that could impose sentences of up to 10 years in prison for producing, selling or consuming alcohol. As of yet, no measures have been passed.
The island is predominantly Hindu, while the rest of the country is Muslim with one of the world’s largest populations of Islam followers.
Self-portrait: White sits to have his photo taken while a small monkey perches on his shoulders
Catching some waves: White says he remembers catching some ‘nice, clean’ barrels during his trip to Bali in April 1977 (above, pictured in the waters off Uluwatu)
At your service: Some of White’s fondest memories involved surf trips in the Nusa Dua area of southern Bali. He said they would ‘park in a field with no buildings except the small shack that served drinks and snacks. The drivers would wait for hours while we surfed, and they were very honest – I would leave my camera with them’
No cares in the world: White said he was struck by the ‘happy and smiling faces of the beautiful children’ (left), he was also enthralled by a coastal cave he discovered during a return trip to the Indonesian island in April 1977 (right)
Chilled vibe: White said he would see this ‘very laid back’ fortune teller just about every day on Jalan Pantai Kuta – a road close to Kuta beach
White recently shared the pictures of his early Balinese trips on social media and one of the boys in the shots recognised himself and got in touch.
Touching on the unexpected reunion, White added: ‘One of the children in the pictures is now in his 40s.
‘He recognised the shots from when he was younger and got in touch. That was pretty incredible.’
Bali, in South East Asia, is one of the world’s most popular tropical holiday spots.
In 2000, the island’s main airport carried 4.4 million passengers and by 2011, this number had skyrocketed to 11.1 million.
The region is popular with backpackers, couples and surfers drawn by the large, powerful and clean waves.
All green and then it was gone: White captured this view as he came in to land at Denpasar International Airport in March 1975. It was his first trip to the ‘beautiful unspoilt island’. Today, monster resorts are peppered along the coast line
Country walks: White came across a farmer casually walking ducks, somewhere close to the town of Ubud, in the uplands of Bali
Footsteps in the foam: A group of local surfers head out to the water to catch some waves on Kuta beach, widely considered one of the best ocean fronts in Bali
Group outing: White met a local man called Wayan Dartayasa and his family at their home in Kuta beach. It appears that they are sourcing fresh water from a well
Hustle and bustle: White took a photo capturing the first time he arrived in the Indonesian capital of Denpasar via a local bemo bus. He said he found it ‘scary’ how busy the place was even then
Rise in popularity: Bali was marketed as a ‘tropical paradise’ in glossy tourist brochures and travel websites during the 80s and 90s. It soon became the ‘Mexico of Australia’, with flights from Sydney taking around six hours
Smiles all round: White appears to be surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women as he heads to the water to surf
Moment of reflection: White takes a break from surfing on the cliffs of Uluwatu and snaps a quick photo of a local
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online