Bali Safari Park

The introductory show. The orang was only out there for a few minutes.

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.

Female hornbill. She didn’t want to sit on a visitor’s arm

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.

Elephant swims through the water

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.

An elephant’s eye

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.

A young zebra waves her tail

A lion doing what lions do

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.

A piranha. They get very bad press which isn’t actually true

Nice to see the dye on the horn – makes it useless to poachers

A hippo doing what hippos do

This lioness was sleeping but she got up for a wee and a quick drink 🙂

Not too sure what these beasties are – but that’s a mean set of horns

Macaws. I suspect the park also does care work. A couple of the birds had damaged wings

A komodo dragon trying to look cute

Reptiles can be pretty. Not sure what it is

A short stay on Bali

Bali is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations – especially if you live in Western Australia. Bali is part of Java’s ‘tail’ – that line of little islands sitting in a line behind Java’s western extreme – and the one closest to Java. Lying in the same time zone as Perth, it’s a three-hour flight from there. Just up the road, really, and closer (and cheaper) than flying to Australia’s Eastern States. For that reason it’s a popular destination for West Aussies but despite the six-and-a-half-hour flight from Brisbane, the holiday package was still very cheap, so Pete and I and our friends Col and Sandy took up the offer of a five-night stay in Seminyak. I’d been to Bali about thirty years ago which left me with mixed feelings, but Pete, Sandy, and Col had never been. It was going to be interesting.

The first challenge is always getting there. Pete and I drove to Brisbane and stayed in a hotel overnight before the seven-thirty ay em flight to Bali. Only a couple of airlines fly direct to Bali these days. With some misgivings we opted for Jetstar, a budget airline which had started life as one of those cheap and nasty cattle transports but had upgraded itself and now offered business class. Sort of.

Jetstar is very much a pay-as-you-go airline. Buy a ticket and you get a seat on the plane, which you reach via the roped-off conga lines to the check-in counter. Everything else you pay for – food, baggage, entertainment ($10 to watch movies, TV etc), drinks. They also offer premium economy and two tiers of business class. This was the business class you have when you’re not quite having business class. You needed to pay an extra $200 for ‘business max’ to get lounge access, which is hardly worth it for a cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast, even if we had read the fine print and found out about it. So breakfast was a very expensive flat white and a toastie at a kiosk in the airport. Mind you, it cost a lot less than $200, and it filled a hole since the plane left an hour late. It seems the pilot was held up by an accident on the M1 between the Gold Coast and the airport.

For me, one of the biggest advantages of business class is avoiding the check-in queue. Apart from that we got larger seats with more leg room, in a 2-3-2 configuration, as opposed to the rest of the cabin, which was 3-3-3. I suspect there are restrictions on which seats tier-two business class travellers can select, although that’s not clear online. We didn’t get the seats we thought we’d selected, so I didn’t get a window seat and in fact we didn’t get to sit together. The woman that did get the window seat went to sleep as soon as she could, oblivious to the view as we banked over the Brisbane CBD with a wonderful view of the river meandering through the city. Yes, sour grapes. The camera would have been all ready to go. The seats didn’t descend into a bed so I wouldn’t want to fly on a real long haul. We were served breakfast, pretty decent scrambled eggs. We also got to use the usual entertainment of movies, TV shows and the like. I watched Black Panther to while away a few hours.

Jetstar will not be receiving our patronage again. For what it’s worth, Sandy and Col had a similar story to tell about their flight with Virgin. Air travel isn’t what it used to be.

Despite the new terminal building, immigration in Bali is third world. We waited for a good 45 minutes for our luggage to turn up – mine without its luggage strap. It could not have come undone by itself, so I’d say somebody souvenired it. Then it was off to the immigration queue with several hundred other people from several flights. No automation here. You shuffle along the roped-off maze (fending off attempts to pass) and eventually front up to the desk one at a time to get a stamp in your passport. We strolled through customs, I’m glad to say, and entered arrivals to a veritable sea of folks holding up placards with peoples’ names on them, as well as a few hopeful taxi drivers spruiking their services. We eventually saw our man holding his sign while checking his phone. When we finally got his attention, he led us to a waiting area and went off to collect the car. Organised chaos is the best way to describe it. After another fifteen or twenty minutes he reached us and we piled in for the hour-and-the-rest drive to the hotel

Traffic at one of the few traffic lights

The traffic is… very Asian. More motor bikes than cars, white lines that seem to be there for decoration and not much else, parking is wherever you can abandon your car or bike and road rules seem to consist of nothing more than more or less keep left. We saw very few pushbikes, so if I say ‘bike’ that’s a motor cycle or scooter. Helmets are mandatory, but many riders don’t seem to know or care. We saw several White idiots riding shirtless, helmetless and apparently senseless. Did I mention the traffic jams? Cars and bikes weave their way in and out. Bikes take to the footpaths or anywhere else they can get through. The basic approach to going around corners is ease your way into the traffic until the other cars have no choice but to let you in. But unlike Australia, where there would have been two-finger salutes and comments about ancestry, it’s all polite. Motorists use tiny honks on their horns to tell other drivers where they are, and that’s how the many taxis signal to the tourists that they’re free. Pavements are obstacle courses with unfinished work, exposed pipes and broken slabs, as well as the occasional motor cycle avoiding a snarl. Every hotel has a security guard who helps cars visiting a property back into the street by blowing his whistle and stopping the traffic. Somehow it all seems to work.

The Kayana hotel was pleasant, with lots of open space as you’d expect in this tropical climate. We had our own little walled in villa complete with plunge pool and outdoor pavilion. Floors are tiled, the room was large with walls separating the space. The only internal doors close off the shower and toilet area. A concrete path overhung by frangipanis meanders between the villa walls. Meals are in an open restaurant beside a swimming pool, but guests are encouraged to eat in an outside pavilion that’s part of their villas. That’s all very nice, but since all the courses are delivered at once, we only did that once.

The path between the villas

Inside the enclosure from the outdoor pavilion

Bedroom and plunge pool

Thatched roof, frangipani and sun lounges

After we’d unpacked we met our friends for dinner and worked out the plan for our stay.

Monday was an orientation day. Kayana, where we stayed, is close to the beach but has no beachfront access, so Pete and I took a walk down a nearby street to find the sea. On the way we came across a security checkpoint, where we were asked where we were going, and waved on through. This was the first time we noticed how much attention is given to security. All bikes and cars were stopped and checked. The guards looked into carry space on bikes and checked inside cars, as well as under cars using a mirror on a pole. Indonesia is a Muslim country which is becoming increasingly conservative. Bali is an enclave, hanging onto its Hindu past. But after the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Kuta which killed 202 people and two further attacks in 2005,  the threat of Islamic terrorism on this holiday island is always there.

As we walked along the road towards the beach, Pete and I saw a strange building in the distance. It seemed to be a curved, multi-coloured wall. Closer by we realised it had been built from discarded shutters and louvred windows, a piece of recycled art. Then we noticed the colourful mural, a confection of purples, blues, yellows, cascading down a slope. It was made up of rubber thongs – a testament to our penchant for throwing away man-made materials. I expect these items were salvaged from the beach.

Recycled art

A typical Balinese temple stood at the entrance to the beach itself. Temples are everywhere, and I’ll tell you a bit more about that in a later post. Suffice to say Balinese are very spiritual and pray three times a day. You’ll see offerings – flowers and small items of food in small baskets – everywhere in the streets, shops, beach – even in taxis. It’s a part of who they are.

A beach temple

A glimpse inside. It would have been wrong to enter.

It’s a surf beach with dark sand typical of more volcanic places. Offerings lay on the sand amongst the more common litter.

Shadows on the sand

Later that day we visited the Seminyak markets, which are much like markets everywhere – lots of cheap clothes and local, mass-produced souvenirs. At the city market bartering was allowed at stalls, but not in the air-coditioned shops. We went on to the traditional market, conducted in tents lining alleys. Sandy bought a couple of pretty expensive T shirts for the grandkids but for the rest, we’ve got enough dust-gatherers. My souvenirs are my photos and these little blogs.

A place like home

picture of map of BataviaAlthough the vast majority of the action in To Die a Dry Death happens on the Abrolhos Islands, some of it takes place in the city of Batavia itself. Pelsaert had a meeting with Governor Jan Pieterszoon Coen to inform him the ship Batavia had been wrecked, Pelsaert had a second meeting with the new governor, Jaques Specx, when he returned with the survivors, and there were some brief scenes involving Captain Adriaen Jacobsz and the people in the longboat, both within the city and in the fort. To write those scenes with any conviction, I needed to be able to visualise the rooms, the harbour, the town square, and the dungeons in the fort.

While I’d been able to find plenty of information about the ship, the longboat and the Islands, the 1629 city of Batavia was another matter. I gleaned what I could from reading, and visited the website of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to find maps and paintings of the period. Then I used Google Earth to find the remains of Old Batavia in the city of Djakarta, looking up landmarks in plans I found to get a realistic idea of how the city was laid out. The formidable fort in which Jacobsz and the surviving members of Cornelisz’s gang were incarcerated had been torn down in Indonesia’s wrestle for independence after WW2. There’s no trace of it, now. The site is a railway yard. But the sea is close by, now, as it was then.

So what did Batavia look like? Go to any city in the ‘new world’ that was colonised by Europeans and you’ll see the new settlers tried to transplant what they knew into their new surroundings. You’ll find terrace houses lining streets in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Fremantle, to name just a few. There are no doubt examples all over America, too. The Dutch were no different. They built the city in the Dutch style, although of course, they had to cater for the heat and humidity, so their houses were more open. They also dug canals, just like in Amsterdam. This turned out to not be the best move. Relatively still water in the tropics leads to mosquitoes and mosquitoes lead to malaria and other diseases, which led to the deaths of many, many people.sketch of a market scene in Batavia

As for clothing, the Indonesians themselves wore loose, light garments but the Dutch tried to hold onto the dark, stiff clothing they would have worn in Europe. This sketch I found in the Rijksmuseum’s catalogues illustrates the difference between the locals and the newcomers. The Dutch held onto the distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Dutch men who decided to marry a local at any of their trading ports could not bring the wife or any resulting children, back to Holland. Such a man was Governor Specx, who married a Japanese woman. His daughter, Saartje, was left in Batavia when he returned to Holland for a visit, where she became involved in a scandal with a young man.

So I had to show a city set firmly in Indonesia which was at the same time as close to ‘home’ as the Dutch could make it. I also had to take into account that the city of Batavia was besieged in 1629, while Pelsaert was off on his rescue mission to the shipwreck victims. Coen had the countryside past his city walls burnt. Unable to supply their troops, the besiegers withdrew – but this action had an impact on the food supply to the city. It’s a small detail, but small details matter. Don’t you think?