Poignant warning as Aussies set to return to Bali: 'Don't end up dead'

·Associate News Editor
·4-min read

While thousands of Australians are rejoicing at the news one of the country's favourite holiday destinations will finally reopen its borders in a matter of days, Colin Ahearn is filled with apprehension.

The WA resident is a regular traveller to Bali, and while he can list endless positives about the holiday island, he's also witnessed its dark side.

Mr Ahearn has become one of the leading voices in raising awareness of methanol poisoning in Bali, with unsuspecting holidaymakers regularly falling severely ill as a result, or in extreme cases, losing their lives.

"I hope I'm wrong, but I reckon it's going to get real with poisonings once quarantine ends," he told Yahoo News Australia.

Bali has finally dropped quarantine requirements for Australians – with tourism to the island likely to ramp right back up. Source: Getty
Bali has finally dropped quarantine requirements for Australians – with tourism to the island likely to ramp right back up. Source: Getty

Methanol poisoning often occurs when tourist bars look to cut costs and opt for bootleg liquors, which regularly pose as the real thing behind the bar.

Methanol is a byproduct of distillation which is often left behind when drinks are not made professionally, and its odourless presence makes it near impossible to detect.

He fears with the crippling force of the Covid-19 pandemic on Bali's tourism industry, poisonings will increase with a higher percentage of the hospitality industry now unable to afford genuine spirits.

"My fear is people are going to go back there like it's their first time in Bali," he said in a new message to holidaymakers.

"Cocktails are going to be cheap and they're going to get on the piss like it's their first time they've ever drunk and they're going to end up dead."

Colin Ahearn has been one of the leading voices when it comes to raising awareness of methanol poisoning in Australia. Source: Supplied
Colin Ahearn has been one of the leading voices when it comes to raising awareness of methanol poisoning in Australia. Source: Supplied

It's a terrifying scenario the parents of Liam Davies faced in 2013 when their son died from methanol poisoning on the nearby Gili Islands. Mr Ahearn works closely with his parents to raise awareness of the potentially-fatal problem.

His message is simple – Just don't drink spirits in Bali. And fittingly, it's the name of his popular Facebook page where he shares tips, advice and vital information on methanol poisoning.

He repeatedly fields scores of messages from tourists from all parts of the globe about poisoning, often from terrified friends of someone who has become unresponsive.

Symptoms include drowsiness and victims may become unsteady and disinhibited, with loss of sight and death extreme consequences.

He says the issue, while rare, is not reserved solely for cheaper bars and can happen at any establishment.

If tourists insist on drinking spirits, Mr Ahearn's best advice is to buy duty-free spirits at the airport for consumption and if out, drink pre-mixed sealed drinks such as Smirnoff Ice or Jack Daniels and coke in a can.

If suffering from methanol poisoning, it can be counteracted with ethanol, an ingredient in alcoholic drinks, which essentially flushes out the methanol.

Aussies should be careful with free pour spirits in Bali, Mr Ahearn warns. Source: Getty, file.
Aussies should be careful with free pour spirits in Bali, Mr Ahearn warns. Source: Getty, file.

'Bali needs us, but be careful'

While Mr Ahearn wants to get his message far and wide, he acknowledges the risk is low and ultimately does not want to dictate the behaviour of holidaymakers.

“If people choose to drink that is their choice, it's a free world for sure,” he previously told Yahoo.

“I do get very defensive however, when opinionated people with poor information advise others that it’s all a myth and it's fine to drink anything you want there.”

He said he wishes Australians head to Bali in their droves to help its badly-depleted economy but urged them not to "leave their brain on the plane".

"Just remember, for Bali to rebuild, we need to return. Go back, spend whatever you can in as many different places as you can. Let's all get behind helping to rebuild the lives of these beautiful people. Just remember to be smart about it and don't risk your life for a few cheap cocktails."

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