The Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali Barat National Park) is teeming with wildlife unseen in east Bali. This is your chance to see a Varanus salvator devouring violet crabs or a long-tailed macaque making off with your hat and sunglasses. The only indigenous animal you won't see is the Balinese tiger -- hunted to extinction in the 1930s. Its smaller cousin, the clouded leopard, still roams these forests.
West Bali National Park consists of 770 sq. km (300 sq. miles) of forest, 1,000m (3,280 ft.) of pristine beach, and outlying islands with some of the best diving and snorkeling in Indonesia. The park is surrounded by privately owned plantations and forests, which provide a buffer zone for the park's 200-plus animal species to wander and forage freely. Within the park's boundaries is savanna, monsoon forest, arid volcanic slopes, coral islands, and mangrove swamps. The volcanic peak Gunung Patas dominates the park at an elevation of 1,412m (4,632 ft.).
The park is well known as the last refuge of one of the rarest birds on earth, the Bali starling. Unfortunately, the only way to see this endangered bird is in captivity where they are being bred and released. If you are a birder, take the 2-hour walk along the beautiful Tegal Bunder trail to see a variety of local species such as kingfishers, sunbirds, hornbills, orioles, and the ever-present yellow vented bul-bul. Birding is best done in the early morning between 6 and 8am. Bring binoculars. You will see a variety of monkeys, including the ubiquitous long-tailed macaque and the beautiful ebony langur. Several deer species, such as barking deer and large red stags, inhabit the park and the surrounding area. Visit the Bali Starling Pre-Release Centre (Rp50,000; daily 8am-3pm). Here the Bali myna or jalak putih birds are being raised and saved from extinction, though there are many in captivity around the world. Ask for directions at the park office in Labuan Lalang.
Menjangan Island has what are possibly Bali's best dive sites. The waters are calm and clear except in January and February when the sea is rough and windblown. The coral reef walls off Menjangan teem with angelfish, anthias, butterfly fish, and gobies. Swimming with green turtles is a highlight -- your guide will know where to find them. Qualified dive shops attached to the resorts in Pemuteran can outfit and transport you to your chosen dive destination. Snorkeling is particularly rewarding in and around Menjangan as the waters are clear and the currents gentle.
An extremely untidy harbor is the starting point for boats to Menjangan. If you are not going through a local dive operator or hotel, expect to pay around Rp330,000 for the boat plus an extra Rp150,000 per person to cover park and guide fees for the island, insurance, and snorkel gear. Pleasant and knowledgeable English-speaking guides will be happy to take you on a day snorkeling trip to the island or to see other less frequented parts of the park. If you are not interested in water activities other than to cool off, just pack a picnic, towels, lots of sun cream, hats, and take the boat to Menjangan anyway. Explore the island, swim, and visit Pura Gili Kancana, one of Bali's oldest and most revered temples.
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