Solar eclipse travelogue: On the road to Bali temples

Astronomy Senior Editor Richard Talcott shares his journey across Indonesia with Astronomy magazine readers ahead of the March 9 total solar eclipse.
By | Published: March 4, 2016 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The towers at the Hindu temple Taman Ayun represent the mountains of Bali.
Evelyn Talcott
With winter in Wisconsin slowly winding down, people eagerly eye their gardens looking for the first crocuses and daffodils to poke through the Sun-warmed soil. But some of us can’t wait. In search of tropical weather and — more importantly — the opportunity to witness a total eclipse of the Sun, I’ve journeyed nearly halfway around the globe to Indonesia. I’m here with Astronomy magazine’s travel partners, TravelQuest, to see the last total solar eclipse before the Great American Eclipse of August 2017.

Our first day in paradise got off to a slow start because a significant contingent of our group didn’t arrive in Bali until yesterday (March 2). While one night’s rest won’t cure jet lag, no one complained that today’s excursion didn’t start until after noon. The island of Bali is largely Hindu, and today we visited two of that faith’s important temples. Our first stop was Taman Ayun, a large complex surrounded on three sides by a moat that symbolizes the Hindu world floating in the cosmic sea. A few spritzes of rain fell on us as we walked the grounds, not surprising since this is the tail end of the rainy season. The precipitation helped intensify the sweltering heat and humidity, which both seemed to exceed 85 during much of the day.

The temple of Tanah Lot lies a few hundred feet off the Bali coastline.
Evelyn Talcott
Our second stop was at the temple of Tanah Lot, which sits in the Indian Ocean just off the southwestern coast of Bali. Although people can make the trek to the temple at low tide, the pounding surf at high tide makes this impossible. While the temple itself is beautiful, the view as the Sun goes down in the ocean behind it is equally impressive. We were able to watch sunset from the elegant grounds of the Pan Pacific Hotel, and it made a great way to wrap up our first day on Bali.