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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for something affordable in Kuta, I would recommend Green Garden Hotel.
And, even though it’s got a central location, Amnaya Resort offers peaceful affordable luxury.
When it comes to Seminyak, I would suggest CR Tris Rooms for an affordable hotel.
And for modern luxury, Kanvaz Village Resort is wonderful.
For Canggu, a lovely hotel at a reasonable price is Perissos Echo Beach.
For some stunning accommodation, the Haven Suites in Canggu is fantastic.
And in Ubud, I would recommend Ubud Tropical Garden 2 for an affordable hotel.
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.
18 thoughts on “Bali’s Kecak Fire Dance”
Got to love the dragon adorned centerpiece – and the female costumes – fantastic!
Yeah, it’s a real spectacle. There’s a lot of detail in the design of the stage and the costumes.
Sure sounds enchanting, and dramatic. You mentioned the photos giving you a sense of the performance, the second photo down, what can you say, it just oozes drama.
It’s almost as good as being there, isn’t it? 🙂
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.
Yeah, I saw two different versions of it when I was in Indonesia. It seems to have really taken off there. As you say, more so than in India probably!
It sure looks like an enchanting festival! The more I see from Bali, the more I want to go!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope it lives on as well. It’s a wonderful story and the performers tell it so beautifully.
Honestly Michael, I don’t know how you manage such great shots.
I am forever envious.
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 🙂
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..
Enjoyed this. I like the way you tell the story.
Thank you for such beautiful Kecak dance photo presentation and all story 🙂 I add this post link to my article 🙂
really awesome work brother. aapne bhut hi badiya tarika se detail ke sath batya hai
very nice and effort
achi jankari hai