A Trail Through Bali’s Woods and Forests

Going off the Beaten Path | Written By, Kartika D. Suardana |

Turn your holiday into an adventure and venture into the woodlands, discovering various species of plants and unique animals that thrive within protected forests. A feast for the senses as you embark on an experience between the trees, filled with information and life.

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Photo by Kartika Dewi Suardana

Bali Barat (West Bali) National Park, stretching from the west to the north west of the island, is thriving with biodiversity. The park holds a total area or 19,000ha, comprised of lowland rainforest, monsoon forest, savannah, mangrove forest, sea grass area, and even an underwater area. Menjangan Island, a small island off the northwest coast, surrounded by clear turquoise waters and abundant coral reefs, is also part of the national park. The lowland rainforest lies in the west part of the island and remains lush and green almost all year. While the monsoon forest on the northern part of the park is changes colour, its green fading into brown for half of the year. Rain is scarce at the monsoon forest, even though the ecosystem continues to survive. The park is divided into several types of zones for protective purposes, therefore only a small percentage of the area is open to visitors.

There are several ways to explore the national park: the land area can be explored on foot or cycling, and the underwater beauty is best to be embraced by scuba diving or snorkelling. A guided tour through the forests however, is an absolute must for those keen to explore! An official tourism office can be found at Labuan Lalang, the main harbour that takes you to Menjangan Island. The park’s entry fee for foreignesr is IDR 200.000 and price for a certified park guide is up to IDR 500.000, depending on the size of the group and the length of the trek. Trekking with a certified guide as well as having a trekking permit is mandatory.

Menjangan West Bali National Park 2

Photo by Edward Speirs

Along the trail, the guide will share his knowledge about the trees and the vegetation that is seen around you; some of the endemic species are neem trees, sandalwood trees, white-bark acacia trees amongst many others. Bali Barat National Park is a paradise for bird watchers too, with more than 160 species of bird living in the park. The Bali Starling, an elegant little white bird with royal blue feathers around its eyes, is the park’s icon as well as the endemic bird of the area. So listen carefully for their chirping that pierces through the sounds of the wind that rustles the many leaves in order to spot one! Stay quiet as you journey through, as wild life could be anywhere; wild boar, deer and jungle fowl are found within the park’s border. However, stay alert with your surrounding, as it is also home to some poisonous snakes and a large group of naughty long tail macaques – well, you did ask for an adventure in Bali didn’t you?

For those who prefer to combine adventure and luxury, an exquisite getaway in luxurious accommodation within the national park can be found. The Menjangan Resort is the pioneer of luxury retreats within the Bali Barat National Park, embracing semi-permanent structures that are designed to blend with its surrounding nature, careful not to change the character of the forest. The resort offers trekking through the trail in the national park around the resort, including to the savannah when one can easily spot deer (locally called menjangan), wild boar, long tail macaque, a variety of birds, including the famous Bali starling. Keep your eyes peeled for nests that hang from the bark of the acacia trees, as these beautiful starlings may be resting there. The trekking tour also offers a great chance to explore the mangrove forest. Cycling off the beaten path with the certified guide is also great fun. Horseback riding takes you to the monsoon forest and savannah areas of the park, as well as mangrove forest and white sandy beach.

Menjangan West Bali National Park 3

Photo by Edward Speirs

The newest kid on the block is Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa. The resort offers sophisticated modern comfort in lavish traditional wooden houses. Plataran offers several special packages that combine everything from remarkable staying experiences, afternoon high tea in nature featuring traditional local snacks, and exploration activities, such as trekking, cycling, and kayaking. Guests are also welcome to plan excursions that suit their need of adventure. The hotel will happily assist the guest to plan an exploration within the national park that includes visiting several temples inside the park boundary, sailing to Menjangan island and discovering the uniqueness of the island, both on land and water.

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Another unique forest that one can explore is the protected forest of Taro Village, managed by the local community. Taro village, 40km from Denpasar, north of Ubud, is home to several important Balinese temples and also the sacred Balinese white cow known as lembu. The forest surrounding Taro Village is known as the only place this sacred white cow can be found. The story goes back to ancient Bali when Rsi Markandya, the priest from Majapahit Kingdom in Java, came to Bali in search for a new land for his disciples. He saw a glowing light, which later on he found out that this shine came from a tree in the village. The tree is known as Taru tree, where the village gets its name.

Being nearby the artist town of Ubud, Taro village is still surrounded by forest. This is mainly because the indigenous community preserves the jungle due to the existence of the lembu and also the belief that the forest is sacred. In order to maintain the existence of the sacred white cow, the government granted the community control of the forest. One of the forests in the area is called Puakan Forest. Bali Adventure Tours offers a memorable trekking experience here.

Mason Elephant Park Taro Ubud BaliPhotos by Kartika Dewi Suardana

The guided trek starts from the Mason Elephant Park & Lodge. The knowledgeable guide will take participants deep into penetrate the thicket. Vegetation varies from endemic trees to agro-plantation, as the people of the village utilize the forest for valuable crops, such as cacao, vanilla, snake fruit, coffee, etc. The tropical rain forest boasts fresh clean air, where the leaves and soil remain damp and cool until noon. Shoes are of course necessary because some parts of the trail are muddy and slippery. Also it’s best to wear trousers as the nearby branches can scratch at you, and leeches are also present during rainy season.

Mason Elephant Park and Lodge

The guide shares a lot of information about the plants, birds, insects and reptiles you’ll meet along the way. You will be taken to visit a local’s house, so one can engage and interact with the villagers and enjoy their hospitality. The people of Taro are very open and welcome. Inside the village there are several temples built for different gods, and inside every temple you will find a cock-fighting arena – a popular past-time for local Balinese men.

After the forest, farm, and village, the walk continues through a rice field path that brings you back to the Mason Elephant Park & Lodge. A delectable Indonesian cuisine lunch buffet is served at The Park’s restaurant, where one can savour Indonesian flavours and embrace the scene of the elephants playing in their pools. After the lunch break, one can take a walk around the park, feed the elephants and take some pictures with these friendly giants.

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