Bali Safari and Marine Park

The Bali Safari and Marine Park is located at Gianyar, on the East Coast about 20 minutes from Sanur (depending on whatever roadworks are being carried out at the time).  Following is record of my last visit when I was accompanied by my daughter Katy, and I have also included for your edification my first video, which I half heartedly shot at the Park just to try out a new camera.  My YouTube video is quite amateurish (I’m still mucking around with new software and didn’t really have a great variety of shots from which to choose), but it does give you some idea about what to expect if you visit.

We arrived at the Bali Safari and Marine Park and were, deliberately, amongst the first to do so.  The reason being that I had read that if you got there early you had more chance of having your photo taken with the baby animals, before the main crowds descended on the place, and I knew that this would be a highlight for Katy.

The park is quite new and seems to have been built with the welfare of the animals in mind.  The modern entrance is some distance from the park itself, so to enter the park you enter a terminus from which a park bus picks you up and transports you through dense foliage to the Barong Lobby, an enormous thatched dome building which contains the marine exhibits.

Most people begin looking at the exhibits here, but we straightaway headed for the top of the park where the tiger pavilion is situated in order to get our photos taken with the tiger cub.  I think we did the right thing, because a professional guide who was escorting three Japanese girls, and all of whom had been on our bus to the park entrance, had led his girls straight there too.  They were having a ball patting the tiger, and once they had finished it was our turn.  Katy and I were now the only visitors there, so we spent some time interacting with the tiger and patting it.  The tiger was more juvenile than baby, and the park staff were marvellous, they just take your cameras and start clicking away, and manage to take good photos and films too.  I was amazed by how soft tiger fur is, it has a real silky feel to it.  Mind you, tigers sleep for up to 20 hours a day, so the cub took little interest in us whatsoever as it napped away.  It didn’t seem perturbed at all, and possibly enjoyed the constant massages.

The tiger pavilion is called Ranthambore and is a recreation of an ancient Indian fort that is located in the city of Rajasthan.  Giving the exhibit this theme does seem to enhance the experience.

There was a white tiger and a yellow tiger in a paddock, with the yellow tiger being marginally more awake than the white one.  Viewing, however, is very good, as it is all done from behind glass.  The lower part of the glass holds back water from the tiger’s pool so that when they are active, you can see them swimming from an underwater perspective.  There is also an underground tunnel, which leads to a viewing room in the centre of the tiger paddock, from which you can observe the tigers at grass level, which would be fantastic in late afternoon when the tigers do become more active.

After the tigers, we walked up to the Kampung Gajah, or Elephant Village.

We decided to take an elephant trek, which cost us Rp. 188,000 each.  Here, you sit astride these elephants, much like you do a horse, and it is not a comfortable way to ride an elephant.  Given the bumpiness of the ride and the propensity for the elephant to move in any direction without signalling its intent first, so that you feel each muscle, bone and bit of sinew located beneath your rump, it is not a ride I would recommend for people who suffer haemorrhoids.  Unfortunately, the ride is neither spectacular nor pretty as it follows a rather uninteresting concrete path, and there is now view of the park or of the other animals.  There are much better elephant rides available in Bali, so I would do them next time.

Next we entered the Komodo Dragon display to see the world’s largest lizards.  As with the tigers, this display is on two levels, so that you can view the komodos both from above and from their eye level.  Displayed adjacent to the komodos are porcupines, which Katy fell in love with due to their cute faces and little feet.  From the porcupines you enter a dark, nocturnal area where there is a long-necked turtle, monitor lizard and a couple of cuscus, which I remember from my days in Papua New Guinea.  The cuscus look even cuter than koalas, and are notoriously shy.  The komodo looks positively primordial, and is said to be a throwback to the days of the dinosaurs.  There will devour anything, including people, so it is comforting to see them safely ensconced behind glass.

Close to the komodos is the entrance to the safari ride which, we were told, lasts about 30 minutes.

We arrived there first, so were guaranteed seats.  For the ride, you enter a bus that contains bench seats.  Far from crowding us in, Katy and I were allowed a bench seat to ourselves, even though there was room for two others.  I would imagine that at really busy times there would have to pack visitors onto the buses as lines can get quite long during peak times.

The safari ride is the main attraction at the park.  This is not a zoo in the traditional sense, meaning that visitors walk around gawking at animals in cages.  At the Bali Safari and Marine Park it is the humans that are locked up inside a tourist bus and carted around to be gawked at by the animals, should they have the desire to take any interest.

There are many different animals displayed in a close facsimile to their natural surroundings and, whilst there are fences to keep the predators apart from their prey, it all looks natural and the beasts seem to be content.

Finished the safari drive.  I found it very interesting, but you are taking photos through glass, so they are often out of focus, but the overall experience was worthwhile, and I would certainly do it again, but next time would consider staying at the Mara River Safari Lodge, booking an upstairs room for the better views.

We headed back to the Barong Lobby to look at the small, but interesting, marine display.  I was most fascinated by the piranha fish.  They look fearsome and, apparently make for very good eating.  I also really like the other South American displays, the Amazonian fish all look very lethal.  We then caught the bus back to the main entrance, where Katy bought souvenirs.

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