Friday, April 10, 2009

A Morning In The Taman Nasional Barat

We rolled out of bed before the roosters had a chance to wake us up – it was still dark outside, as we got ready for our morning tour to Bali's only National Park.
We were supposed to meet with our park ranger and driver at Jubawa at 6:30 am, so when the clock moved towards 6:45 am, we were beginning to doubt if they would actually show up – so far al our drivers had been more that on time, so just as we started to think this was not going to happen, he pulled up and we could start the short drive through a couple of villages to the entrance of the park. We had tried to communicate to the very kind ranger that we were interested in seeing bird and wildlife, and after a short drive on the narrow unpaved road in the park we stopped at a big meadow where Bali cows were peacefully grazing. We got out and wandered towards some distant trees looking for any birdlife we might spot. Birds were there, we could hear them sing in the morning air, but they were hiding in the lush foliage of the trees it seemed. As we were getting ready to head back to the waiting car I suddenly spotted a couple of kingfishers – that was the sighting at that spot, so not too impressive, but we were still hopeful and the day was still young!
We bumped along the narrow trail again, and finally stopped by the beach, where we got out and walked down towards the water's edge. A group of shorebirds were feeding in the shallow water, and as I looked through my binoculars I spotted what looked like a wood stork – that was as exciting as it was going to get at that particular spot. However, the view over towards the island of Java was beautiful, and we could see the two big volcanoes surrounded by clouds in the distance.
We walked along the trail for a while with the car following at a distance, and we saw a long tailed Shrike, and heard lots of birds hiding in the thick woods. Our guide explained that the best time to bird watch was during the dry season in July and August when the trees were bare and birds and wildlife easier to spot.
We did see a couple of monkeys and 2 of the small mouse deer, and a Java deer as we drove through the park, as well as several Jungle Fowl – looks like pretty roosters and chicken – and a couple more of the beautiful belted kingfisher, but overall it really wasn't the greatest wildlife or park experience. I am thinking we did not communicate well enough with our park ranger as to what we wanted to do, and his English was quite limited, so he didn't really tell us much about anything, and most of the time I actually spotted the few birds we saw before him, and often knew what they were more so than he did – but again, that might have been a language problem.
Really the best part of the morning was when he drove us to the new lodge they have built in the National Park – I wish I had known about that, it would have been a perfect place to stay for a night or two – it's absolutely beautiful and you could get rooms from around $55 per night – very, very reasonable for such a beautiful place, and the rooms were gorgeous – we got to see one of them. We had a great cup of Bali coffee up on the 5th floor of the Bali Tower with great treetop views of the park and the Bali Strait and Java in the background. I think renting a mountain bike and riding the trails yourself, and then enjoying sunrise and sunset up in the tower would make for a much more rewarding wildlife and bird watching experience. I will keep that in mind for a possible "next time".

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