I was very much torn about whether to visit Bali’s safari park or not. On the one hand it’s a large safari park which takes visitors in a closed vehicle into closed habitat where animals do what wild animals do. On the other hand the park offers several animal shows. I don’t much like animal shows where the creatures are used to entertain humans. And I detest circus acts with lions and tigers forced to sit on boxes and jump through hoops, and elephants do head stands. But these animal shows weren’t acts in that sense. Bali Safari offers shows very much like Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast, and other parks around the world. They’re meant to educate while they entertain. Years ago I’d been to an orang utan ‘show’ at Singapore zoo which was excellent. The keepers said that for the orangs it was something to alleviate boredom, a very real thing in zoos. The animals weren’t forced to do anything. One big male didn’t feel like opening a coconut, so after he refused, the job was given to another orang. I hoped this park would be similar.
So we went.
Our hotel’s shuttle bus took us over to a larger hotel where we transferred to a Safari Park bus for the trip to the park, meandering through heavy traffic out to the other side of town. I think you need a LOT of patience to live on Bali – something I’m not good at. The Safari park’s entrance is modern but the organisation is decidedly olde worlde. The best thing to do is book and pay at the hotel or via the park if you can. We were held up in a queue for
a very bloody long some time. Even after we managed to pay it was unclear what we were supposed to do next, but we eventually found someone to ask.
A bus takes visitors from the entrance area to the start of the show. Our tickets entitled us to several animal shows, a ride through the large safari habitats, a boat ride, the aquarium, and of course we could wander around to look at the exhibits. The first performance was an introductory show. Guinea pigs, cats, dogs and some birds ran onto the stage, encouraged by treats. None of them were asked to perform. A female hornbill flew in and a member of the audience volunteered to allow the bird to land on her arm. But the bird declined so the show moved on.
No animal was on stage for more than a few minutes. One of the resident orang utans appeared and swung across the stage on a rope. The orang was given a coconut to tear apart to show the audience how powerful he was. This is where the education part becomes important. The commentator explained that orangs were on the verge of extinction because they were losing their habitat – the rainforests of Borneo. Most of the several hundred people watching were Asians – Chinese, Indian, Indonesian – and many of them were children. If animals are to survive in the wild, increasingly it will be because we humans ensure that it happens. These kids need to know what it is that will disappear if we don’t change our ways.
We moved on to the elephant show.
I had misgivings about this one and I still do. The park offers visitors the option of being taken around the park on elephants, something I think is wrong. Guests can feed an elephant (nuts or something sold to visitors) and have their picture taken with an elephant. I’m not sure about that, either. Here’s one eye-opening review of the elephant riding – please read the park’s response, too, to be fair. Oh – and patting lions? Don’t do that, either.
In less enlightened times Perth zoo had a solitary elephant who used to take patrons on rides around the zoo. I partook more than once. In retrospect I feel awful for that poor ellie. No family, none at all of its kind. At least here there is a herd of elephants and the park has a breeding program.
The elephant show was in no way a circus act. But it was a performance, mainly by human actors who showed how humans had impacted on the lives of the elephants by building houses, cutting down forests and the like. The commentator explained the differences between African elephants and Asian elephants (hint: it’s not just the ears). These were Sumatran elephants, smallest of the family, and hanging on to life in pockets of Sumatra. They might survive if enough people care about their fate, if the animals are worth more to societies alive, than dead. Education, you see. The oldest elephant in the show grew up in harsher times when people didn’t really understand elephants. Although there was no obvious sign of mistreatment in the show, I had to wonder. It seemed to me she was doing her damndest not to put a foot wrong (so to speak). In contrast the younger elephants were relaxed, mainly swimming around the pool in front of the arena.
Yes, we saw a tiger show. I’ll talk about tigers in another blog.
Then we went off on our tour of the safari habitats. Herbivores were kept in very large enclosures (at least a hectare (2.5 acres) each), one for each of Africa, Asia, and South America. The carnivores have their own space where they did a lot of sleeping. From the bus we saw wildebeests, antelopes, giraffe, lions, tigers, sun bears, elands, zebras etc. They all look in great condition and are clearly well looked after.
It was a long day. We boarded the bus to take us back to the pick-up hotel, where the promised shuttle back to our hotel was missing. They’d made a mistake with the pick-up time, coming for us at 4:30, which was when we boarded the bus at the Safari Park. We were asked to take a taxi, with the charge being paid by the hotel. A taxi duly arrived and we explained where we wanted to go. He didn’t know where our hotel (The Kayana) was but he knew the five-star resort, the W, which was right next door. I suppose the driver thought he’d picked up a bunch of gullible old farts. The trip in the morning had taken about ten minutes. By the time we’d driven for ten minutes, we all knew this was wrong, and said so. He mumbled something about one-way streets and heavy traffic, which we didn’t believe for a moment. Colin found the hotel on a map on his phone and showed the route to the driver, who assured us he knew where to go. In the end that ten-minute trip took thirty minutes and we made sure we told the clerk at our hotel how the driver had tried to rip us off.
Still, looking on the bright side, we got to see a woman walking her dog while riding her motorbike.
And here are some more photos. It was fun, but technically the pictures aren’t brilliant.