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Nature lovers will love Bali. The island may not be that large but it boasts an amazing range of flora and fauna. Stunning rice fields around Ubud, mangrove forests near Sanur, expansive jungle in the west of Bali, and mountains in the north – this varied landscape attracts a diverse collection of animals and especially birds. Look out for white Bali starlings, Amadina parrots, Java sparrows, Purple swamphens, jacanas, weavers and the almost extinct jalak putih.
The majority of west Bali is covered by the Bali Barat National Park, where the rare white Bali starling has recently started nesting. The 190-km² park consists of rainforests, dry savannah, woods, sandy beaches, coral reefs and four extinct volcanoes. Several trails allow hikes from 2 hours to a whole day, giving you the opportunity to discover the fascinating wildlife of the island. Keep your eyes peeled for leopards, snakes, lizards, iguanas, turtles and monkeys, or spot one of the 160 different bird species.
If you’d like to enjoy a bit of action and see the forest waking up, go rafting early morning down the Ayung River in a rubber dinghy. At 75 kilometres, Ayung is the longest river in Bali. Although the going can get quite rough on the river at times, you’ll still enjoy the beautiful birds and butterflies that flutter among the tall bamboo plants. Once the boat ride is over, jump into the river and be carried by the current. Just lie on your back in the fresh water and bask in the spectacles passing by: the jungle, the bright blue sky, towering bamboo forests, and – with a bit of luck – monkeys swinging through the trees. Several tour operators are active in this area. You can choose your own price range: the difference will be reflected in the comfort of the boat and quality of the lunch along the river afterwards.
Bali Bird Park, north of Denpasar, houses one of the world's largest and finest collections of Indonesian birds. The park includes two hectares of botanical landscape with fabulous plants and flowers where numerous species of butterflies are flying around. Nearly 1,000 birds of 250 different species nest here, including pelicans, birds of paradise, parrots and cockatoos.
Not far from Tabanan lies Bali Butterfly Park. The main attraction is the brightly coloured birdwings, whose 28-centimetre wingspan places them among the largest butterflies in the world. Sometimes they come to rest on your head – definitely a great picture to show off back home.
Jalan Batukaru, Sandan Wanasari
Every evening at around 6:00 pm thousands of great herons and egrets fly to the village of Petulu, some 2.5 kilometres north of Ubud where they nest in trees. The herons are a powerful symbol for the village inhabitants. In 1965, many people were killed during a purge of Bali communists – including the inhabitants of Petulu. After these dramatic events, the villagers aimed to definitively rid themselves of the negative energy with a healing ceremony in October the same year. One month later, herons suddenly appeared in large numbers. Since then, the people of Petulu believe that these birds bring good luck, despite the smell and mess they cause. And maybe they're right – the influx of tourists who come to witness this special bird spectacle in the rice fields is certainly good for the community.