Bali Barat National Park and Marine Reserve: Bali
One of the most spectacular national parks to visit in the Archipelago is the Bali Barat National Park located on the western most tip of the island.
The original Bali Barat Reserve covering some 70,000 hectares in land area, was created in 1941 and its main aim was to protect the Bali Starling and the last of the wild banteng, from which most of the Balinese cattle descend.
Bali is a well-populated island, intensively cultivated and without much natural forest left. Such forests are to found along the watershed at the western end of the island on the slopes of Gunung Sangiang, Gunung Merbuk, Gunung Musi and Gunung Patas, all areas watered by clear streams and traversed by footpaths, often steep but relatively easy walking.
The last of the Starlings live in small groups of two or three in the Acacia shrubs on the north coast of Prapat Agung cape, Bali’s most north-western promontory. The cape is cut off from the rest of the reserve by the main Singaraja-Gilamanuk road as well as by the forestry plantations inland of Teluk Terima.
The Marine reserve includes the cape shores and several sanctuary islands, a haunt for seabirds, in the bay near Gilamanuk but centres mainly on Pulau Menjangan and the excellent coral reefs surrounding it. The good drop-offs on Menjangan’s south side are only surpassed by the particularly superb reefs on its northern shores. The island is a popular spot for locals and tourists wishing to dive for a variety of fish and coral reef exploration. Interestingly, there are no dangerous currents to contend with.
The wildlife consist mostly of sea and shore birds, the most conspicuous being the Brown Boobies and Lesser Frigate birds. There are two colonies of Terns that nest on a sandy cay at the entrance to Teluk Lumpur (also known as ‘Mud Bay’) whilst the Frigates and Boobies roost on Pulau Burung. The number of White Starlings left in the wild is unknown and, Hawkesbill Turtles are sighted frequently along the reserve’s north coast.
Despite the starling’s rarity, the Bali Barat is rich in over other species. Yellow-vented Bulbul’s are everywhere, as well as White-bellied Swiftlets, Sacred and Javan Kingfishers, and Drongos. On the north coast is a colony of Silvered Leaf Monkeys, Dolphin watching is also a highlight of Bali, as large, playful schools thrive off the north coast.
There are a number of good guided treks through Bali Barat’s jungles, though because of the starling’s fragile existence no trekking is permitted on the Prapat peninsula and Menjangan island.
Permits are needed to enter the park and are obtained from the National Park Headquarters located at Cecik. The fee is Rp2,500, but you must be accompanied by a guide and here is where the cost comes in. Some guides can charge as much as Rp250,000 for a two-day hike.