Bali’s Kecak Fire Dance

The Kecak Fire Dance is a sight to behold. As the sun sets over Uluwatu Temple, the men chant as if in a trance, while the performance takes place.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia

“Chark-a, chark-a, chark-a, chark-a”, and on… the chant goes.

Almost hypnotic, trance-like, the thirty or so barechested Indonesian men sway with the rhythm.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

They’re sitting on the ground in a circle – and in the middle the drama is unfolding.

Two young princes; a demon king; a damsel in distress; a mischievous monkey. They all play their parts in the ring of unceasing cantillation.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

The nightly performance is very popular here at Uluwatu. Buses bring you from your Bali hotel down to the southern tip of the island in time for sunset, when the show begins.

Through the paths of the temple and past the clifftops with their views across the ocean, everyone walks, until you finally get to the stage.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

The performance is called a ‘Kecak dance’, an onomatopoeic title for the sound of the chant. It’s based on a traditional Balinese ritual but was actually created by a German man in the 1930s and based on the famous epic Hindu story of the Ramayana.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia
Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

It’s complicated plot, with enough twists and turns to be worthy of a television series. But in essence it is the story of a woman who is stolen from her husband (a prince) by a demon.

The narrative follows the challenges and tasks the young prince and his brother must overcome to rescue her.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

As the sun sets during the performance, and the sky darkens, the story builds to a climax – a moment when a monkey king sets fire to a castle.

With the orange flames and embers in the middle of the stage, it’s a dramatic moment.

Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia
Uluwatu Kecak and Fire Dance, Bali, Indonesia

Getting to Uluwatu from Seminyak or Kuta or any of the other main hotel areas of Bali can be a little tricky. You may be better off booking with one of the tour agencies that will arrange your transfers and tickets for you.

There are some options here that are all worth using:

 

As you’ll notice, some of them include some exploration of other sights on this part of the island. Hopefully there’s something that suits your needs.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BALI

I’ve got some tips here, based on what area you want to stay.
To be in the heart of the action, you might like Kuta.
For the trendiest bars and cafes, you can stay in Seminyak.
For something a bit more chilled on the coast, try Canggu.
Or for the mountains, the obvious choice is Ubud.

KUTA: BUDGET

If you’re looking for something affordable in Kuta, I would recommend Green Garden Hotel.

KUTA: LUXURY

And, even though it’s got a central location, Amnaya Resort offers peaceful affordable luxury.

SEMINYAK: BUDGET

When it comes to Seminyak, I would suggest CR Tris Rooms for an affordable hotel.

SEMINYAK: LUXURY

And for modern luxury, Kanvaz Village Resort is wonderful.

CANGGU: BUDGET

For Canggu, a lovely hotel at a reasonable price is Perissos Echo Beach.

CANGGU: LUXURY

For some stunning accommodation, the Haven Suites in Canggu is fantastic.

UBUD: BUDGET

And in Ubud, I would recommend Ubud Tropical Garden 2 for an affordable hotel.

UBUD: LUXURY

Or, for a really special boutique place, have a look at Calma Ubud.

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

26 thoughts on “Bali’s Kecak Fire Dance”

  1. Ramayan and Mahabharat, the two epics are really big in Bali. In fact bigger than in India itself. The dance is amazing, would love to watch in action. Thanks for mentioning this amazing piece of Bali culture.

    Reply
    • You would love it there. If you manage to get these this year, I would recommend seeing more of the island than just the tourist areas… or try to do a bit more of Indonesia if you have time too.

      Reply
  2. Wow! That’s a huge crowd! We were there in 2003 and I think there were about 40 people at our fire dance. I love how they time it perfectly for sunset. By the time the star comes out and dances through the fire, it’s pitch dark and it looks insane! I remember him kicking up embers and fire was flying through the air. So powerful. Great photos Michael. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Deb.
      These days the performance is packed! Although it’s still authentic, it’s obviously done just for the tourists and they flock there now. The car park is full of buses around sunset of people who have come to Uluwatu for the views over the water and the Fire Dance.

      Reply
  3. This is Ramayana being performed through a mystical and spiritual dance, the way this great epic needs to be told. I just hope this dance lives and future generations of Bali and people who get a chance to visit the place are enriched by it.

    Reply
    • I don’t know either. My trick is to keep the camera on automatic, point it at something and press the button. Then, the most important step… cross your fingers and hope it worked out better than the last one 🙂

      Reply
  4. Dear Michael ,Thank you for your sharing….its so nice ..actually Ramayana Is not only a Myth ,or story.its a culture..which is still give us the direction which is good a d which is bad for our life …its like a fundamental frame work for a society ….Thank you so much..

    Reply

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