I am not usually one for a long morning drive. To be honest, I’m not usually up for morning… anything, really. But, this particular journey is very exciting because we were heading out to West Bali to visit a beekeeping farm! I’ve never been to a beekeeping farm before and my knowledge about beekeeping goes about as far as a passing mention in a play I’d read once, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.
The founders of Plan Bee Indonesia, Amanda Garland-Hunt and Ratih Nurruhliati, met us at our villa bright and early in the morning. Over breakfast, they briefly talked us through how vital bees are –not only as pollinators to our source of food, but also to our entire ecosystem. They also showed us pictures of some of their beekeeping projects as teasers to what we would see a little bit later, and I couldn’t wait!
Being from Jakarta, I’ve always considered trips to Bali to be a change of scenery in and of itself. However, looking out the window as we drove away from the touristy area of Kuta and further into the country brought the phrase to a whole new level. We left the narrow streets filled with boutiques and coffee shops, and turned to winding roads that go up and down the hills. There were stunning beaches, untouched by much else besides a few visitors and the rolling waves. On each side of the road, there were plains of rice fields that just went on and on and on… It felt like a series of beautiful, little snapshots of what the beauty of Balinese nature was like.
About a four-hour drive later, we arrived in Jembrana, where we would visit one of Plan Bee Indonesia’s farmers, Pak Matal. The area is shaded with tall trees and was every inch the quaint, idyllic village away from the hustle and bustle of the Bali many of us might know. We were warmly greeted by Pak Matal and his family into their home and farm to see him in the beekeeping action. Soon enough, we were at his backyard, teetering between the goat pen and the trees, peering at a safe distance while he showed us how he cut the honeycombs. Here’s where it gets a little scary; at one point, Pak Matal accidentally dropped the honeycomb and as a result, had a swarm of bees coming right at his face. But, he took it like a champ! He simply shooed them away and came back with chunks of honeycomb, unfazed. I was very much amazed by how he handled it so calmly, even with bee stings all over his face.
As if that weren’t enough to astound me, I found myself more astonished by the sight of real honeycombs before my eyes. I had never seen it up close and it’s quite bizarre to see such meticulous hexagons made by these little creatures. It turns out that, like humans, bees would wake up in the morning and go to work all day, at each of their assigned posts –some are on pollinating duties, some build the honeycomb, some guard the eggs, and so on. How amazing is that?
While we chipped away the yummy honeycombs, Pak Matal showed us some of the bee products that he made out of these harvests. Aside from pure, raw honey that is good for our health, he also manufactures beeswax and royal jelly. This is something that he only started doing after working with Plan Bee Indonesia, where he learned that there is so much more he can produce beyond honey itself. In hindsight, this is one of the most direct benefits of better beekeeping; when the practitioners have greater knowledge, they have a greater chance to better their lives as well.
Just next to his house, Pak Matal took us to his fruit and vegetable garden, which is one of the spots where the bees go to work and pollinate. Coming from the city where these produces are always somehow there in the supermarket, it’s a truly refreshing reminder that these things come from somewhere. There is a long process with a lot of parties involved and aspects that come into play. Yes, we as humans have our fair share of responsibilities, but we also need to have Mother Nature’s back. We reap the countless benefits that the environment has provided; it is only right for us to express our gratitude by returning the favor to keep it sustainable.
All in all, this trip has been immensely eye-opening because I learned not only about how awesome bees are, but also about how this is so much more than just beekeeping. It is fascinating to see how such small things can create such a great impact to the world. We might not be able to look after the bees ourselves, but there are many ways that we can help, from adopting a beehive to supporting the cause and educating the public on the matter. And as we left the farm and passed the mountains, beaches, and rice fields once more, I found myself seeing them in a different light; a new sense of mindfulness to my attitude and others’ towards the environment to keep this beauty and its goodness around a little while longer.
Go Global Indonesia provides volunteering opportunities for people all over the world to contribute in the honey bee conservation with Plan Bee Indonesia. In this program, you will get a firsthand experience in beekeeping, product packaging and advertising, engaging the public on the cause, as well as assisting Plan Bee Indonesia on their administrative duties. For information about the Volunteer Opportunities in Indonesia with GGI, contact [email protected].