Bali Zoo, Bird & Reptile Parks

Lioness checking us out at Bali Zoo

Lioness checking us out at Bali Zoo

After a couple of days staying in Seminyak at Kanishka Villas, we were introduced by our neighbour to his driver, Kadek (from Kadek Mishel Transport). As this was our first visit to Bali, we were looking for a driver to take us to some of the ‘must see’ places, and we kept Kadek busy for 3 days straight!

He showed us some wonderful sites. Our first day, we didn’t venture too far afield, taking in Bali Zoo and the Bird and Reptile Parks. We were interested in seeing the elephants, so we thought that the Bali Zoo (as opposed to the further afield Elephant Safari Park) would be a good choice. I have to admit that I find many zoos to be depressing places, and I really hoped that Bali Zoo would not be one of them. While it did have many positive aspects to it, such as the tropical setting and the many seemingly content big cats, there were other facets that did make me sad. It is ultimately still a zoo, not a sanctuary, so the animals do not have the kind of freedom that you would expect at a rescue park. The elephants appeared well cared for, and I did not see any sticks in the hands of the mahouts, but I am still ethically torn about their use for our entertainment.

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One thing that did upset me was the mature male orangutan, called Jackie. He is one of the few singletons in the zoo – he was alone in his enclosure and clearly suffering from depression. On the day we visited, we did not see him leave his ‘cave’ (and we walked past a number of times). No animal deserves this solo sentence. I understand that the zoo is attempting to find him a companion, but have not had success to date.

From the zoo our driver, Kadek, took us to the Bali Bird Park and Reptile Park. The macaws greeted us upon entry and their bright plumage and inquisitive personality demanded attention. The large aviary was quite impressive, but for close up viewing of the wide variety of birds, the smaller cages were still the best way to inspect the feathered creatures.

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The Reptile Park (right next door to the Bird Park, and included in the entry ticket) was a surprising highlight. This was mainly due to the fact that when we entered the darkened tunnel housing a lot of the snakes and lizards, we started chatting to one of the keepers. He then spent a significant amount of time with us, pointing out where some of the shyer or more camouflaged reptiles were, and sharing with us his vast knowledge on each sub-species. I was a little daunted when he grabbed an iguana by the tail in preparation for handing him off for a personal “photo op”, but he was patient and gentle and clearly loved his job and his reptiles!

We also had the pleasure of passing through the artisan village of Celuk which provided shopping opportunity at a number of silversmiths. Kadek took us to Yan Yan Silver where we picked up some gorgeous silver and gold earrings at reasonable prices. We were also very happy with the art gallery we visited in Batuan Village. This gallery is huge and has a vast array of works from different artists in an eclectic range of styles – there really is something for everyone. As with all shopping at these places, don’t be afraid to haggle! This gallery even had a family temple on site where some gorgeous and elaborate ceremony was taking place – the music, chanting and colour providing a very pleasant atmosphere to aid our shopping for art!

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The final tourist stop before driving back to Seminyak was at a beautiful, large temple in Batuan – Pura Puseh Batuan. Before entering the ancient temple, visitors pass through a modern open sided building where the village community gathers regularly. This is where we made our donation to ‘rent’ a sarong and place an offering on the altar before heading across the road to the walled compound. On walking through the gates there was a vast courtyard with meticulously maintained buildings, manicured lawns and paths and intricately carved deities and doors. To one side of the complex we happened up a group of smiling women, adored with folds of colourful materials, lovingly preparing offerings for the temple. They welcomed visitors and through gesture asked if we wished to make an offering to the gods. We shook our heads and we were given a smile rather than a scowl in response, and continued on our way admiring the pura.

On the drive home, Kadek made a stop at a local convenience store – he is very used to chauffeuring his Australian clients, and thought we might need some sustenance at ‘beer o’clock’. Our Bintangs made the drive back to our lodgings even smoother, as it encouraged a drowsiness that enabled a bit of a snooze in the back seat! Some conversationalists we proved to be!

Dinner that night was at Warung Ocha, a small warung in our street that had a wide range of food on offer. That really should have been the give away. It is popular with tourists, but the food was very ordinary, the service slow, and the rat darting in the shadows through the outdoor dining area was a particular disappointment. The wild salad was mostly lettuce and spinach bulking up the plate, with a bit of shaved beetroot and walnuts on top. The gado gado was very ‘blah’ as well – too much tofu, and too much sauce out of a jar. While I fully intend to return to Bali, I will NOT be returning to this restaurant.

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We headed to Mannekepis Jazz Bar to see what was happening and try to salvage the evening. This was an excellent choice! We settled in nicely at a table at the front of the small, informal stage, ordered drinks and dessert, eagerly awaiting the possibility of some decent entertainment. The band on offer was Sound Rebel, and they gave us a great night with their perfectly played and beautifully sung covers – requests were not only welcome, but eagerly sought! It was the perfect way to finish the day.

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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