Scottish content creator Dale Philip posted a video on TikTok earlier this month detailing his visit to the popular Pengempu Waterfall near Ubud.
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However instead of showing the picture-perfect, cascading falls often posted on social media, Philip instead panned the camera across a forest floor covered in rubbish.
“I did not expect to see all this junk lying here. That is an absolute shame,” he said.
“I bet you don’t see that on anybody’s Instagram photos.
“And this … well that’s the bloody reality isn’t it?”
Philip said he had considered taking a swim in the falls but ultimately decided against the idea.
“It’s just, it’s not gonna be clean especially with all this junk and everything,” he said.
“It’s probably not safe at all to be swimming in that water. I’m pretty sure it would make me sick.”
The travel vlogger posited the source of the rubbish may not be people visiting the falls, but instead had potentially been washed down from further up the river.
According to Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University Doctor Susanne Becken, the cause of the rubbish is likely a combination of poor waste management systems and bad tourist behaviour.
“In countries where you can’t drink tap water, people buy bottled drinks (and) these typically come in plastic,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.
“Same with other items consumed by tourists — snacks, sunscreen, anything really. It all ends up in the waste stream, sometimes directly when tourists litter, sometimes more indirectly when the disposed waste still makes it into nature, and waterways, because local systems are just not up for it.”
While locals also produce their own amount of waste, tourists are likely to produce much more due to their “consumptive habits”, Becken said.
In the caption of the TikTok, Philip wrote that he had seen the waterfall “looking amazing in many flashy, glamorous Instagram photos”, however what he saw was the complete opposite.
Because tourism was a “business of dreams and stories”, Becken said more often than not, neither the visitor nor the destination in question were going to willingly share the less desirable reality of the tourist attraction.
“People don’t want to share the ‘ugly’ side,” she said.
“Nobody wants to destroy the image of paradise.”