Salt farming in Bali dates back a thousand years, and although the industry is declining, salt pans can still be found on the shores of eastern Bali, where farmers use ancient techniques to craft 100% natural salt by sun and wind evaporation.
The Lombok Straight brings clean cold fast moving water from the north which mixes with the warm Bali tropical water to create a unique, mildly flavoured artisan salt which is stocked in gourmet delicatessens around the world. The taste is distinctive – mild and slightly sweet – and you can buy it direct from the farmers here on the island, which makes it a unique and tasty souvenir, as well as providing much needed support for a traditional way of life.
Many salt farms are concentrated around the traditional village of Kusamba on the south east coast, where farmers live in simple shacks nestled between the palm trees and the shiny black, mineral rich sand. The village springs to life in the early morning, just as the sun creeps over the horizon. First the sand is raked, then sea water, carried in buckets on bamboo poles across the shoulders, is poured over the sand. The hot sun bakes the sand into brittle flakes which are collected and washed with fresh water in a large wooden sieve. Seawater is added over several days to separate the salt from the sand. The resulting brine is then placed in long troughs made from split bamboo, and the sun and wind evaporate the water, leaving pure organic crystals of sea salt in its wake. Time consuming and labour intensive, farmers yield just a few kilos per day and as the process is sun dependent, salt can really only be produced during the drier months.
Another region, famed for its salt production can be found in the far north eastern corner of the island where rugged mountains tumble to a cerulean sea. Here, a collection of peaceful fishing villages, collectively known as Amed, cling to the coast where black sand is lined with colourful jukungs (fishing boats) and salt pans lie in the shadow of Mount Agung. Kids wander up and down the beach selling salt in decorative boxes, you can also buy it by the kilo from the roadside stalls or direct from the salt pans. Those in search of a unique back to nature experience, can stay at Uyah Amed & Spa resport (Salt Lodge,) a rustic, eco friendly resort that is partly solar powered. The sprawling beachfront property is built around working salt pans, and aims to preserve salt production in the region. www.hoteluyah.com
While once a main stay of the Indonesian economy, the artisanal industry has sadly fallen victim to consumer demand for cheaper processed salt and the number of salt farms is rapidly dwindling, as is this unique style of island life.