West Bali National Park
The West Bali National Park, established in 1941, covers 77,000 hectares of wooded slopes, savannah, rainforest, monsoon forest, mangrove swamp and coastal flats, and is the only remaining natural habitat of the endangered jalak putih, the Bali Starling (Leucopsar rothschildi). It is also home to 200 species of plant, rusa deer, kancil, barking deer, long-tailed macaques, civets, monkeys, wild boars, and the last of the island’s wild banteng from which the deer-like Balinese cattle are descended. It was here that the last known Bali tiger shot and killed in 1937.
Within the boundaries of the reserve are 7,000 hectares of coral reefs and coastal waters, mainly around Cape Prapat Agung between Teluk Terima and Gilimanuk, together with several sanctuary islands for sea birds in the bay near Gilimanuk. Probably best known and most visited are the excellent coral reefs surrounding Pulau Menjangan, this area teems with a spectacular marine life including brightly coloured parrot fish, yellow back fusiliers, powder-blue surgeon fish, damsel fish, puffer fish, unicorn fish, barracuda and silvery jacks. Extensive reefs also surround the mainland, and both sea and shore birds are abundant, the most conspicuous being brown boobies and lesser frigate birds. Two species of tern nest in large numbers on the sandbanks at the entrance of Teluk Lumpur (Mud Bay) while the boobies and frigates roost on Pulau Burung further to the east. Hawksbill turtles and 10-meter-long toothless whale sharks have also been sighted along the reserve’s north coast, and whales and dolphins migrate via Selat Bali between Java and Bali.
The Park’s profuse and beautiful bird life boasts over 250 different species and is the only place where the Bali Starling (also known as Rothschild’s Mynah) can be found in the wild. Extremely rare, this is the only surviving bird endemic to Bali, and is one of the world’s most endangered species. It is a striking snow-white in colour and averages 23 centimetres in length, featuring black wingtips and tail, silky feathers, and brilliant blue rings around its eyes; not to be confused with the black-winged starling which has black wings and tail. If all was well, it would be living in groups of two or three in the acacia scrub and dry monsoon forests on the north coast of Cape Prapat Agung; however, few visitors to Bali will ever see this beautiful bird in its natural environment. The starling breeds readily in captivity, and is greatly valued as a caged bird, with an estimated 3000 in zoos and private collections overseas, but in Bali it is bordering on extinction with less than a dozen remaining in the wild.
The internationally supported Bali Starling Project is attempting to rebuild the population by re-introducing captive birds to the wild. At the Bali Starling Pre-Release Centre, formerly caged birds are acquainted with the food sources of the natural environment and encouraged to nest in native trees before being released around the National Park. But sadly this is proving difficult and many attempts have been unsuccessful. The starlings are constantly disadvantaged by a reduced habitat caused by development and are often killed by predatory falcons; although the main problem is that poachers are re-capturing them as fast as they can be released and selling them for profit. This is an economic issue and, with precious few resources, the government has not been able to enforce the laws to protect the bird. The park is also faced with other difficulties; much of the vegetation has been cut and some of the coral reef has also been destroyed.
Despite the problems, however, the reserve is still a wonderful place to visit and offers exceptional walking and magnificent panoramas. The region is watered by clear streams and traversed by trails, it is more like a forest than a jungle, and a typical walk takes about five hours. The routes are often steep but relatively easy, although some areas are cross-country with no footpaths and, at times, it is necessary to crawl through undergrowth and use paths frequented by wild ox and deer. The birdlife is spectacular and the sound of their song is magical. The best time to see the wildlife is early or late in the day. Because this area is protected, no tree-felling, firewood collecting, fishing, or coral collecting is allowed. Whilst it is possible to visit the Bali Starling Pre-Release Centre for much of the year, the areas of the park where the birds are most likely to be seen are not open to the public.
Visitors to the West Bali National Park must have a permit, and must be accompanied by a guide. Arrangements for one-day permits and guides can be made at the park headquarters in Cekik and the ranger station at Labuhan Lalang, as well as the Department of Forestry (PHPA) office in Denpasar.
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