Taman Nasional Bali Barat in the far west of Bali was set up in 1941 to protect the nature areas and endangered species of the island. The park is accessible on foot and features mangrove forests, swamps, reefs and numerous plant and animal species, placing it firmly among the top five things to do here.
The 770-square-kilometre Taman Nasional Bali Barat is in the far northwest of Bali. It occupies around ten per cent of the total area of Bali. Bali Barat was already recognised in 1917 as an area of great importance and designated as a nature reserve. It became a fully-fledged National Park in 1941 and features diverse landscapes including rainforest, dry savannah, acacias and thick mangrove forests.
Bali Barat offers several unique dive sites, such as Pulau Menjangan, a small island that is a true diver’s paradise. A gentle stream runs along the Coral Gardens, a wall of coral that’s up to forty metres deep. In addition to beautiful coral, this area also offers you cuttlefish, seahorses and even rare, colourful mandarin fish. Local skippers know the area inside and out and can recommend the best dive sites. Fans of night dives are also at the right address here.
Despite the fact that only ten percent of the park is accessible to visitors, and on foot, it’s one of those things that simply must be experienced. There is a choice of different routes, and going with an experienced guide is highly recommended. Adventurous visitors can choose the Gunung Klatakan Trail, a route of some five hours through the impressive Balinese rainforest, which is the wildest area of the park. Other attractions include trips to the mangrove in Teluk Terima and the mountains in Makam Jayaprana. Lovers of peace and spirituality might opt for a walk across Menjangan Island, where only sixteen monks and a handful of deer live.
Bali Barat features some 175 species of plants, fourteen of which are endangered. A number of these plants have a religious and spiritual significance, such as the banyan, the wild fig tree. Most wild animals in Bali Barat live in the woods. This includes leopards, deer, wild buffalo, monkeys, geckos and banteng, a kind of wild ox from the forests of Southeast Asia. The park was established partly for the protection of this animal and the Bali tiger, a separate subspecies of tiger which has since gone extinct – the last recorded individual was seen in 1937.
The most famous aspect of Taman Nasional Bali Barat is the huge number of bird species. More than 160 different types of coastal and marine birds can be seen here, including the Brown Booby and the Lesser Frigatebird. Bali Barat is also one of the few places in Bali where the mascot of the island, the endangered Bali Starling (Balinese starling), can be observed. Only six are said to still live in the park, so it might be a good idea to bring binoculars. The best time to visit the park is at the beginning of the rainy season, from around August to December.