Meet Gede Mangun, the creator of Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours. Born and raised in the mountains, Gede has always had a passion for the great outdoors and the desire to share amazing experiences and opportunities for both visitors and locals alike.
Hi Gede! Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from and what were you like as a child?
I was born in Songan village in Kintamani. My parents were farmers, so as a child I was out playing in the fields every day. At that time there were no roads and no cars, just fields full of corn, sweet potatoes and tapioca. I remember playing with the corn stalks and husks with my friends, and when it would rain we would jump in the puddles and have mud fights.
2. What made you want to start Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours?
From a young age I saw the potential in my village. Before there weren’t so many people trekking there because there was no road, but in 1980 they built the road and the asphalt went down in about ‘87 or ‘88. After that tourists starting coming and looking for locals to show them the way up the mountain. However, there were no real guides. Most people were farmers, and many people were scared of tourists.
At that time my parents had no money to send me to school outside of the village, so I started selling drinks to visitors to support my schooling. I tried speaking to them a bit with the little English I had, like “Hi” and “Yes” and “No”. Even though I was young, I saw that this was a great opportunity for me and the people in my village.
3. Do you remember your first time you trekked up Mount Batur? What was it like?
Well the people in my village climb the mountain all the time to collect grass and things, so I had been up Batur many times from a young age. But the first time I properly climbed all the way up was on a trek with my cousin. He was also selling drinks to trekkers and doing a bit of guiding, so I just followed him to listen and learn how he talked to tourists. It was challenging not because of the climb, but because I was very shy and a bit afraid to speak to the people on the trek. It took a few times before it got easier.
4. How and when did Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours get started?
It was a natural progression from selling drinks to tagging along on treks and then guiding people up the mountain myself. Then I started organizing all sorts of tours as a freelance guide. Eventually I realized that I needed more people on board, so in 2001 I started Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tours.
5. With so many people doing tours in Bali, what makes Bali Sunrise stand out from the rest?
Firstly, all of our guides are locals from the areas we cover, so they really know the geography, history and culture of the region. For example, anytime you head up Mount Batur on a Bali Sunrise Tour, your guide will be someone who grew up next to the mountain and knows all the ins and outs of the trails and where to get the best views. Likewise if you head to Lombok you’ll be travelling with a local guide.
Secondly, we try to support the local farms and markets as much as we can. If you visit our restaurant in the villas, you’ll find that all the dishes make use of local products like fish from the lake, vegetables and fruits from nearby gardens and farms, and spices and herbs sourced locally. We really try to give back in any way that we can. We also try to inspire young people here to be proud of their home and their traditions.
6. What are your absolute favorite tours?
In Bali my favourite area to go trekking is Sambangan because it’s quite unique. You have a great combination of rice fields, waterfalls and traditional villages. It’s really lush, green and mountainous, so very beautiful. Also, I’m getting older, so the treks there are not super challenging, but the views are still amazing.
Off Bali, I love Rinjani because it’s absolutely amazing with its lakes, craters and sweeping views. To really get the full experience, it’s best to do a 3-day trek and stay up on the mountain overnight. That way you can see it all without having to rush.
7. What is the most challenging trek you’ve ever done?
Definitely Agung. It’s far more challenging than Batur and even Rinjani. First you have to start really early to catch the sunrise. Secondly, the road is steep and goes through some very dense jungle. Finally, you have to keep up the pace to finish within a certain time because it’s just too dangerous to try and make it down in the dark.
8. Can you tell us a bit about Bali Sunrise Villas & Restaurant? What was your inspiration behind the villas?
I’ve always tried to do things in my village with my family and my people, so I decided to build the villas on my family land in Songan. I saw this as an opportunity to not only create a place where people could relax and recharge before or after a trek, but also a place where I could teach local people hospitality skills and offer them work opportunities. In this way they can grow and learn, and maybe one day operate their own business.
For the design I decided to go natural because these days I see that not so many people are using local materials. For me I still want to keep our traditions alive, so I used natural materials like authentic Indonesian joglos made from recycled wood, volcanic stone, antique furnishings and local artworks.
9. Besides trekking, what can people do for fun when they stay at Bali Sunrise Villas?
There are so many things to do here in Songan and Toya Bungkah other than just trek the mountain. You can visit the hot springs just down the road, go canoeing or fishing in the lake, and visit the unique Bali Aga village of Trunyan just across the lake. Our staff are also happy to arrange any other tours you have in mind including walking tours around the crater, cooking classes, and snorkelling and diving trips further abroad.
10. Do you have any new and exciting trips or tours planned for the future?
So many! At the moment we’re planning trips over to Java to visit Kawah Ijen. That’s the volcano with the huge crater lake where miners haul out giant baskets of sulfur on their shoulders. We’re also planning tours to Komodo to see the giant Komodo dragons and beautiful beaches in Flores. On Bali we’ll be adding some more cultural activities like temple tours and trips to traditional villages, and we’re also really trying to spread out further to other Indonesian islands because there is just so much to see and do out there.