An Honest Report on Bali Safari and Marine Park
I visited Bali Safari & Marine Park http://www.balisafarimarinepark.com "40 hectares of splendid natural habitat" at the end of January 2009.
Forget about the Marine side of things because that is 'coming soon'. That said it was still a whopping great big $25 US to get in (there are more expensive packages). I wonder if they will be putting up the price when 'marine' arrives. If not then I want some of my money back. $25 is 285,000 Indonesian Rupiahs and is not cheap by any standards though I am pleased to learn that Indonesians get in at a lower price. Here again though we have this double standard. If we charged Indonesians more to enter attractions in the UK then the world would be at our throats for racism.
The park is about a three quarter hour drive from Kuta beach. Presently there are two free shuttle buses a day from and to the park.
On arrival you pay for your ticket before traveling further to the car park and another entrance. Here you get onto a shuttle bus and are given a short introductory speech whilst you are transported to the entrance proper. This is the 'Bali Terminal'.
This entrance area of the Bali Terminal, must be the second most elaborate I have seen after Chiang Mai Safari in Thailand. There is no denying it looks good.
Bali Safari is a beautiful place. The designers and architects really have an eye for making things look attractive in a traditional Balinese style (and an Indian one if we include the White Tiger exhibit). There are glitches however and exposed electric fencing is one. The biggest though was, to me, the Bali Theatre (again not yet open) which sits like a huge carbuncle on a beautiful face. It is so big that I don't reckon they will be able to hide it.
The signage here is excellent. The very attractive Bali Mynah enclosure had six eyecatching signs prominently but unobtrusively placed. Each had a 'mind bite' fact on it. This style was repeated around the collection. The only complaint I have is that none of the information signs was in Bahasa Indonesian. That is a serious omission particularily when two of the prime aims of a good zoo is education and conservation. It is very easy to believe that this beautifully located zoo is primarily interested in the tourist dollar.
Although I am sure the 'mistake' will be quickly put right the 'Education' tag on the website does nothing. This suggests to me that there is presently no education programme at all.
Maybe it just me but I thought the Bali Safari reeked of commercialism. I really believe I was 'ripped off' at the price I paid to get in. Then it was gift shop after souvenir shop and pay to ride or feed an elephant or ride a camel. Then there was the 'get your photo taken' with lion, tiger, orangutan bit....I don't like it, that at all. I know Joe Public does...but I don't. Where did the baby Orangutan come from? Why was it not with its mother? Why wasn't there a sign to explain that? There should have been. Such regular multi-human contact us to the detriment of introduction of its own kind later on and is best avoided.
There is a small but interesting Elephant Museum. There was no extra charge so I took a look. There was a mounted skeleton and odd pieces of equipment. What really made it though was the collection of photos relating to elephant care, capture and conflict over the years.
The so called "Elephant Conservation and Educational Show" was simply a run of circus tricks (elephant yoga) and I strained and failed to find a conservation angle to it except that they were using Sumatran Elephants. There was perhaps a minute of the difference between Asian and African Elephants but that was basic biology.
The Elephant Conservation and Educational Show
The 'Safari Exploration' tram ride was interesting and it made a change that it was not at night. It was a themed journey and was mostly well staged with adequate sized enclosures. I thought the Barbirusa was a bit small though. Again though you have to take the brochure with a pinch of salt "the close encounters with more than 60 animal species". Well there wasn't. I was counting. There was only 29! And probably less than 40 in the whole collection. The Safari tour was hosted by an attractive and enthusiastic young lady whose name I will not mention. I find myself feeling guilty in criticising someone who can speak her own language and English and Japanese. However it is not her I am being critical of but whoever taught her because there was a lot of incorrect information in her spiel. There was a lot of humour...which was excellent but even this does not help to make the tour correct.
I will be honest though. I have never been a big fan of the Safari Park concept in as much as space is usually an illusion whereas in a traditional zoo it is real.
The moment I see White Tigers I cringe before I start to question a collections commitment to conservation (They are pride of place on their publicity leaflet too). There is no denying they are beautiful. I find them attractive but they really have no serious place in the modern zoo. The facility they have for them here is very special and worth a visit in its own right. The signage is good and whereas it does give a conservation message it does not actually say they are conserving White Tigers. In fact they have a sign to say they are a mutation. Why then did they not use the space for a tiger that needed saving? That is conservation!
The zoo brochure says "Bali Safari is tremendously active in protecting endemic and endangered species as well as orchestrating educational campaign to save the animals." Lovely statement but I am unclear as to exactly what it means.
A partial list of species included a single White Rhino, Barbirusa, Sumatran Elephants, Orangutans, Hippos, Cheetah, Ankole, Lechwe, False Gharial, Javan Leopard, Grevy and Chapman Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx, Barbary Sheep, Anoa, Banteng, Sumatran Tiger, Bali Mynah, Estuarine Crocs.
I am always interested in how any collection is dressed up in its own flowery websites and brochures. I mean these are simply opinions, what they think (In the same way as this report is my opinion) and they are not likely to be derogatory about themselves. I was aware before I arrived of the collections membership of SEAZA, PKBSI and WAZA but following my visit felt that this was more 'window dressing' than actual genuine involvement in conservation and education. Without doubt it is beautiful and a fine recreational facility and no doubt will become more popular as time goes on.
Value for Money?
So was this a 'value for money' visit? No, I don't believe it was. Okay my ticket entitled me to 2 goes on the Safari Tram, free entry to the Water Park, unlimited time in the Funzone (bouncer, merry go round, etc) and I could have a photo of me with animal in the Animal Encounter (using own camera). No, sorry. Beautiful place but it really was not for me.
BSMP presently holds 31 elephants. Recently they were accused of elephant smuggling some animals in as the Bali Natural Resource Conservation Agency only had knowledge of 22 animals. An informal explanation was offered in which they stated that 'legally the park was not obliged to abide by the regional administration's instructions'. Since then there was a meeting in which it was concluded that the park could not hold any more elephants. The submission of the delayed paperwork is in hand and a stern reprimand for the park is expected.
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