The VICE Guide to Right Now

Indonesians Are Destroying the Environment for the Gram

In Indonesia, Instagram-worthy sites can gain overnight popularity and be completely destroyed by mobs of tourists within days.
translated by Jade Poa
04 March 2020, 3:01am
indonesia instagram ruining tourist sites
Collage by VICE. Photo of Ranu Manduro before it went viral [left] via @YUDISTIRAARGADA; screenshot of motorcycles on the mountainside via @WACHIDYULIANTOA

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

Some Instagrammers will do anything for the perfect photo, even if it means wreaking havoc on the environment.

When a video of motorcyclists visiting the scenic mountainside of Ranu Manduro gained attention online in late February, Indonesian netizens commented how beautiful it was and compared it to New Zealand's natural wonders. The site, located in Mojokerto, Indonesia, consequently attracted hordes of young tourists wanting to take the perfect selfie. Before long, videos depicting insanely long lines of motorcyclists queueing up to access the site landed on the internet.

Now, the vast green space has been closed since February 28. The owner of the land, a company called PT Wira Bumi, has put up a sign restricting access to the area.

“I am working alongside local residents to get permission to have the site reopened,” said Eka Firmansyah, head of the nearby Manduro village. Despite the destructive nature of the increased foot traffic, Firmansyah and other villagers would still like to take advantage of the location’s popularity as a source of extra income.

Amat Susilo, head of the local Tourism, Youth, and Sports Department, communicated Firmansyah’s intentions to PT Bumi Wira.

“The site is privately owned. If they want to turn it into a tourist attraction, additional permits are required,” he said. “As for the visitors, they must be cautious of unstable ground, as the location was previously a rock excavation site.”

The thousands of visitors that stormed the picturesque mountainside garnered criticism from netizens, many of whom questioned the tourists’ capacity to appreciate and maintain the location’s natural integrity. Will they leave their trash and cigarette butts? Will they turn the site into a muddy mess filled with tyre marks?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an Instagram-worthy spot in Indonesia suffered from instant popularity. In 2015, Indonesian Instagrammers destroyed a field of amaryllis flowers in Yogyakarta, stepping all over them just to get a good shot.

A site known as the “Village in the Clouds” in Lebak, Banten was also forced to shut down in September 2019 after mobs of tourists destroyed the pathway leading to the village.

“We must shut the area down to allow it to recover. The local government and police will notify the public when it reopens, which will surely be after the area’s infrastructure is improved,” said Lebak police spokesperson Fikry Ardiansyah.

To encourage tourists to be more mindful, the local government issued a regulation requiring climbers to put down a Rp500,000 ($35.15) deposit, which they would get back as long as they bring their trash down with them.

Indonesia is home to the fourth-highest population of Instagram users in the world. For Indonesians in rural areas, where many of these touristy spots are, seizing the opportunity to snap an Insta-worthy shot is crucial, especially if they can hint that they went to "New Zealand."