I have wanted to write about Zanzan and Omunity for a long time now, firstly because Omunity is a very special and inspiring example of sustainable eco-tourism, secondly because what Zanzan does for the local community in the secluded village of Sudaji and the mountainous northern Sawan district in the Buleleng region of Bali is an important story of commitment, deeply felt love of nature and a holistic approach to sustainability, and thirdly because Zanzan and his amazing wife Putu are very dear friends of mine and a big part of why my family and I decided to move to Bali.
This descriptive interview is partly based on conversations with Zanzan and a research paper on sustainable tourism village-development in Bali (with Omunity as case-study) by Interior Design Lecturer of Sekolah Tinggi Desain Bali, Putu Surya Triana Dewi (2019).
Please enjoy Zanzan’s visionary thoughts on sustainability, spirituality, eco-awareness and the Balinese Tri Hita Karana philosophy of life – as well as some incredible images of the stunning, dramatic nature that surrounds Omunity.
What does sustainability mean to you?
To me sustainability is interlinked with nature and community.
I was born as a farmer; my dad was the chief of the farmers in our village, and he understood that we human beings are interconnected with nature; that it doesn’t really make sense to talk about humans as separated from our natural environment.
The way my dad lived and worked should be an example for other farmers to follow. In his era we did not see anything like today, where everything is wrapped in plastic, and chemical fertilizers and tractors are used. Organic fertilizers and natural remedies were used, and diversity was embraced and respected.
When I was young I spent a lot of time in nature, because my dad wanted me to learn everything about farming and about taking care of animals and preserving nature on a first hand basis. Actually, I sometimes hated him when I was a child and he would ask me to move all the cows to the shelter in the evening, because he did not give me a chance to play with other kids in the village; he always told me that I could freely play with them once I was done with my job. Now, I am grateful for his lessons on consistency, work ethics, and on handling animals and taking care of nature.
How would you describe Omunity?
Omunity’s vision is a sustainable future: I envision a world without plastic, dangerous chemicals, and toxic fertilizers in which humans and nature thrive in symbiosis the way nature intended.
With Omunity we are going back to the basics; to what our ancestors understood and practiced, and an environment that allows for tourists to be curious about culture and cultural roots. Through food, culture, and the traditional Balinese way of living, Omunity’s visitors can get to know new ways of living without destroying Bali’s greatest asset: Mother Nature.
We seek to educate and facilitate a cultural exchange between locals and visitors and to bridge the gap between environmental concerns and human interests through practical education and the involvement of the village of Sudaji’s community. The concept for Omunity is the experience of a local community with traditional customs and importantly; being in the middle of wild nature.
Omunity’s vision is based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. Tri Hita Karana is the traditional philosophy of life in Bali – and it translates to the “three causes of well-being” or “three causes of prosperity”. The three causes referred to are:
- Harmony with God
- Harmony among people
- Harmony with nature or environment
The Tri Hita Karana philosophy promotes communal cooperation and compassion, harmony with God, manifested in numerous rituals and offerings to appease deities, and harmony with the environment; meaning the conservation of nature and the promotion of sustainability and the balance of the environment.
The principle of Tri Hita Karana guides many aspects of communal activities in Bali, and is furthermore reflected in the Balinese architecture. Additionally, it is reflected in the natural irrigation system in Bali, or the subak, which consists of a system of intertwined weirs and canals that draw from a single water source. Sharing and preserving is at the core of Tri Hita Karana
The concept of Tri Hita Karana contains the advice of human adaptation to the environment. Every human being in the world must always interact with his/her natural environment in order to maintain and sustain his/her life.
Tri Hita Kariana is a great guidance for me – well, for all of us Balinese people. It is all about living in harmony and respecting each other and nature. It teaches us to appreciate the environment and to value all human beings and all animals.
When you implement the concept of Tri Hita Karana you follow the path of spirituality because you are led by the three “H’s”: Head, Heart and Hand. And when you do things based on spirituality, then you are essentially living sustainably. The real spiritual people are not greedy; they think about how to sustain life in all its forms.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on creating a glamping site in the mountains about 20 minutes drive from Omunity (glamping is a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping”, and describes a style of camping with amenities).
OM-Glamping is going to be a space for those who really want to be right in the middle of nature; the concept is all about simple living and about appreciating the amazing views in the high mountains, where you can see rice terraces, clove fields, waterfalls and the ocean, and where you can furthermore experience picking your own coffee beans, cacao, mangosteen, guava, avocado, salak/snakeskin fruit, durian, coconuts etc.
My vision is also to create a natural swimming pool with natural spring water, and of course to do trekking, natural water sliding, water jumping from cliffs and to investigate the seven secret waterfalls with the visitors.
At night the sky is full of the light from the stars and the moon. When you experience such immense natural beauty there is no way you will not feel united with your natural environment and that you will not want to take care of nature.
Om Shanti Om.
Reference: Putu Surya Triana Dewi (2019),“Model of Sustainable Tourism Village Development in Bali (Case Study: OMunity Bali in Sudaji Village, Sawan Sub-district, Buleleng District)” in Equity, Equality, And Justice In Urban Housing Development, KnE Social Sciences, pages 642-657