Ulun Danu Temple, Bali – Photo Courtesy: Robert Montgomery
Known for its lovely beaches, sophisticated nightlife and delicious cuisine, the island of Bali also offers visitors the chance to explore its pristine jungle landscapes that harbor exotic wildlife found nowhere else in the world.
West Bali National Park
Capping the northwestern end of the island of Bali, this protected area accounts for nearly 10 percent of Bali’s total land mass. Forward-thinking rulers set it aside as a nature park almost 100 years ago and formally made it a national park in 1941. Within its borders lies a myriad of landscapes, from mangrove forests to arid savannas and classic rain forests. Off its beaches, protected reefs harbor unique fish and aquatic mammal species.
The most meaningful way to experience the park is by hiking its established trails with a knowledgeable guide. Routes such as the Tegal Blunder Trail offer delightful opportunities for bird watching, including the elusive and endangered Bali Starling. The Gunung Klatakan Trail is longer and requires a bit more physical prowess, but rewards hikers with fine views of quintessential Balinese rain forest topography and wildlife.
Permits and hired guides for the park are available in Cekik or in Labuan Lalang, two villages located within its borders. For those wishing to explore marine life, boats to the nearby island of Menjengan can be chartered for a nominal fee. Here, visitors have the opportunity to scuba dive or snorkel in some of the clearest waters to be found in Bali.
Alas Purwo National Park, East Java
While not properly on the island of Bali, this park lies just across the waters known as the Bali Strait and visitors can easily travel the short distance by ferry to this nearby island in order to experience the lush expanses of its untouched rain forests and savannas. Many protected and endangered species live here, including banteng cattle, monkeys, turtles and birds. A Javanese legend tells that this was the exact spot where the Earth emerged from the sea on the day it was created and the mystique of this miraculous beginning can be found in its hauntingly beautiful expanses of forest.
Some of the finest surfing in Southeast Asia can be found within the park at Plengkung Beach. 15-foot waves demand expert surfing prowess, with the season ranging from April to September.
Baluran National Park, East Java
Just across the Bali Strait, this park features a spectacular extinct volcano in its very center. Coastal mangrove swamps, lush rain forest and sprawling savannah characterize the landscape. Baluran began as a Dutch plantation, but its conscientious owner saw its potential as a preserve for wildlife and in 1930 it was formally designated a Wildlife Preservation Area.
Over 155 species of birds can be found within its boundaries, offering visitors exciting potential for any bird watching forays into its expansive forests. Mount Baluran rises 1,200 meters above sea level and represents the most primordial area of the park due to its remote location. Elusive species such as the fishing cat, a Southeast Asian wildcat similar to the leopard, can be found avidly swimming and fishing in secluded rivers.
Well-preserved reefs lie just offshore of the park, offering visitors a glimpse of life beneath the waves with colorful species of fish, sea turtles and squid.
Meru Betiri National Park, East Java
Many species of endangered turtles call this park home, laying their eggs on its protected beaches. From there, many peaks rise up to form one of the more mountainous parks in the region. Elusive species thrive in its sheltered expanses, including wild boar, panthers, exotic birds and a species of Javanese flying squirrel.
With so many airline carriers offering cheap flights, Bali becomes a destination that offers more than the usual tourist fare; these serene and protected expanses of untrammeled jungle and ocean waters give special insight into Bali’s very heart and soul.
This was a Guest Post by Brenda Panin. She is a regular contributor to several blogs and an adventurer who likes to write about her travel experiences. Every time she travels to some far destination, her first choice is Virgin Australia.