The Ultimate Guide For Bali Tsunami Danger Zones

destruction left by tsunami
Photo by NOAA via Unsplash
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Bali is more than just a place; it’s a mood, a state of mind, and an aspiration. Even the mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a tropical paradise with clear blue seas, lush green trees, and the most golden sandy beaches you’ve ever laid your eyes on. It’s an island of the Gods with a rich and diverse culture. It’s this culture and way of life that make Bali a popular destination for many travelers. 

While Bali is a tropical paradise of many travelers’ dreams, some areas around Bali have had their fair share of earthquakes, natural disasters, and tsunamis. Many of these natural disasters have caused considerable damage to various regions of Indonesia and are still a prominent threat even today. 

So, before your trip to Bali, it’s worth knowing the danger zones. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide for Bali tsunami danger zones so you know what to do in case of a tsunami and where the safest places are, and which areas are most at risk of a tsunami.

Bali Tsunmai Danger Zones

rough waves bashing the coastline
Photo by Ilona Froehlich via Unsplash

Bali is located within ‘The Ring of Fire’ making the island particularly vulnerable to tsunamis. This area is a path along the Pacific Ocean that experiences frequent earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis. There are three main areas in the South of Bali that is considered to be the major Bali Tsunami Danger Zones. 

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These areas are:

  • Kuta – a major tourist resort in Southern Bali. It’s known internationally for its long sandy beach, varied accommodation, a wide choice of bars and restaurants, and many renowned surfers who visit from Australia.
  • Tanjung Benoa – a hub for all things watersports. Most hotels here line the beach or are located close by and offer some culture without being spoilt with tourism. It’s a watersports enthusiasts paradise.
  • Sanur – a coastal stretch of beach east of Denpasar. It’s a popular location for families due to its limpid waves and offers a range of places to stay. It’s perfectly located for day trips.

All three of these areas are low-lying, tourist-saturated areas facing the Indian Ocean and the volatile Sunda Megathrust beneath it. Despite them all being in the red zone and considered to be fairly dangerous, tourists still flock to these locations year on year. It’s worth noting that if you do decide to vacation at one of these destinations it would be worth knowing the risks of a tsunami and what to do if one strikes while you’re there.

Could Bali Have a Tsunami?

Rip curl wave
Photo by Matt Paul Catalano via Unsplash

Bali is located close to the collision zone between the Indian-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. This collision zone represents the main source area for tsunamis that may affect the southern part of the island. As earthquakes are a known natural disaster in Bali, it’s often followed by a tsunami, although this isn’t always the case. Because of Balis location tsunamis are likely, however, they aren’t a frequent occurrence and there are plenty of prevention and safety measures in place if one strikes.

When Was The Last Time Bali Had A Tsunami?

Flood of waves
Photo by Ray Harrington via Unsplash

The last recorded tsunami in Bali was on the 26th of December 2004. An undersea earthquake, with a magnitude of 9.1, struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra causing mass destruction in several coastal areas as far away as East Africa. Many locations claimed that the waves reached a height of 30 feet or more when they hit the shoreline. Sadly, Indonesian officials estimated the death toll of this particular tsunami had reached a staggering 200,000 with the majority being in the Northern Sumatra’s Aceh province. 

Since then you’ll be happy to know there hasn’t been a single tsunami but locals and officials are still on high alert. The local authorities have been working hard over the years to make Bali safer for tourists and locals which is why the tsunami warning siren was put into place along with a system to classify the Bali tsunami danger zones. The island has been divided into two zones; the red zone and the yellow zone. Towns and villages in the red zone are at the highest risk of being swamped by a tsunami and those in the yellow zone are generally considered safer areas to be in when a tsunami hits.

What to Do In Case Of A Tsunami? 

tsunami evacuation route sign with blurred plane in background.
Photo by Twenty20Photos via Envato Elements

Being prepared in case of a tsunami could literally save your life. But how would you know if a tsunami was coming? In Bali, they have a tsunami warning system in place that will sound six sirens continuously for 3 minutes. These sirens are located on the shorelines of Southern Bali. They will also broadcast the warnings as breaking news on both national television channels and radio stations. According to the evacuation procedure, people have approximately fifteen to twenty minutes after the siren sounds to evacuate the red zone areas. 

Trained officials will direct all evacuees to the evacuation centers in the yellow zones, however, sometimes it can be too late to leave the red zone, in which case you will be led to an evacuation building within the red zone. These buildings normally have higher floors that provide some safety from the tsunami. While all this might sound scary, with a little bit of preparation ahead of time, you’ll be able to stay safe even if a tsunami hits while you’re living your best life in Bali.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe:

  • Firstly do not panic.
  • Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and yellow zones. This will help you find your way in the event of a tsunami. Make sure you know exactly what zone you are in before you book your vacation.
  • Once you have booked your accommodation, it would be worth checking when they have their tsunami safety drills and try to participate in at least one. 
  • Although it can be easy to get carried away when you are enjoying yourself, always keep an ear out for the siren. If you are in Bali around the 26th of the month you’ll hear the siren being tested so you’ll know what it sounds like.
  • Although this isn’t always the case, many experts have found that tsunamis often follow earthquakes. If there is an earthquake while you are in Bali, to stay safe it would be worth moving to the yellow zone even if you haven’t heard the siren.
  • While this may be obvious, you’d be surprised at the number of people who go down to the beach to take a closer look. Do not do this. If you’re close enough to see the waves, you’re too close to survive it.

How often do Indonesian tsunamis occur?

tall rip curl wave
Photo by Todd Turner via Unsplash

As mentioned earlier in the article, Bali’s last recorded Tsunami was in 2004, however that does not mean there won’t ever be another one.

On several occasions in the last 20 years, Indonesia has made headlines due to devastating natural disasters including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

While tsunamis are rare, it is estimated that once every five years a large tsunami happens in Indonesia usually affecting the islands of Sumatra and Java. Many locals staying in villages within the red zone will often flee to higher ground when an earthquake hits to avoid becoming victims of a tsunami, which often proves to be a false alarm and not needed. 

Although there are warning systems installed on many coastal areas, there have been reports that not all of these systems function properly. So be mindful when you vacation in any of the red zone areas.

Is Ubud Bali Safe From Tsunami?

If you’re traveling to Ubud you are well within your rights to wonder whether it’s safe during a tsunami. You’ll be pleased to know that it is. Due to its elevation of around 600 meters (almost 3000 feet above sea level) a tsunami would need to be incredibly large to even reach it. So you can rest assured that you won’t get caught in a tsunami when staying in Ubud.

What Elevation Is Safe For a Tsunami?

Preparation is key when it comes to a tsunami, and while they are rare they could still happen even on your vacation to the tropical paradise of Bali. In the past tsunami waves have been known to reach heights of 100 feet although the average is only around 30 to 40 feet. In order to stay safe from a tsunami you want to get to high ground, many people try to reach a height of around 100 above sea level or roughly 2 miles away from the ocean.

Where Are Tsunami Risk Zones?

Indonesia is not the only place affected by tsunamis. There are other risk zones that are worth knowing about. All US ocean coasts can be affected by tsunamis. These other tsunami risk zones include Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, California, Washington, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. When visiting any of these destinations you’ll want to familiarize yourself with their evacuation procedures and evacuation zones so that you are prepared if a tsunami does hit.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.