Bali adventures, part 2 – Bali Marine and Safari Park [Indonesia]

I’ve already posted about our stay at the Sofitel, Nusa Dua in Part 1, of our Bali adventures.  We didn’t jut spend all our time swimming, drinking cocktails and eating delicious food, during our 8 days and nights in Bali – we also have a few adventures to other areas of Bali.  One of those was a day trip to the Bali Marine and Safari Park.

For our day trips during our time in Bali, we booked Sanny from Sanny’s Bali tours, who came highly recommended by my friend Kate.  Sanny was fantastic and we highly recommend booking him should you travel to Bali.  He had car seats for the kids, an esky for cold drinks, a comfortable and air conditioned car and was very knowledgeable and great to talk to. He was also great at guiding us around the Safari park to make sure we were at the shows and animal feedings at the correct times and didn’t need to back-track.  While we normally are happy to go it alone, it made for an easy and no-stress day!

Sanny picked us up from our hotel, bright and early for the hour and a bit trip north to the Safari park.  We passed the time fairly easily chatting to Sanny and observing the crazy driving and large numbers of motorcycles carrying entire families, produce and babies.

Once at the park it was time to get tickets.  There is a number of different packages, with different inclusions. Some include meals, elephant rides and various other add-ons.  Having done elephant rides in the past and still being stuffed full of Sofitel food we opted for the base-level package which included all the shows, the safari and entrance to the water park.  The park is fairly strict on taking water and food into the park and bags were searched.  A small amount of water was fine but people were having entire picnic lunches confiscated.

Already another warm and sticky day pretty soon we were in the first safari vehicle up to the main entrance and into the ‘marine’ section of the park.

If you’ve visited many marine parks or aquariums, don’t have high expectations for this section of the Bali park as it’s quite small.  We were aware of this before we went so weren’t overly fussed. The kids certainly enjoyed seeing the piranhas!

The marine section looks like it is being renovated and expanded so will hopefully be more impressive in the years to come.

After a quick look at the fish and other marine creatures it was off to see some animals.  We did find an incredibly cute and lazy leopard up a tree!

We also saw some alligators and the macaws, which are a kid favourite.  You could have your photo taken with both an orangutan and the macaws but we aren’t huge fans of this ,so just said hello and headed to the first show, which was about to begin.

The first show had a focus on conservation, and contained a large variety of animals. It was amusing watching guinea pigs and cats running across the stage.  We learnt a bit about animals native to Indonesia, many of which live in Borneo.  The Indonesian orangutans took centre stage.  There was also a few horn-bills flying around which given the size of them was amusing.

The first show went for just under half an hour. Then it was off to see some of the nearby Indonesian elephants.  They are a lot smaller than African elephants!

Next it was time to find seats for the tiger show.  While it had been hot and humid all day this was probably the hottest part of the day, there wasn’t much breeze in the tiger show area, so we were all rather sweaty waiting for it to start.

The different packages for the safari park entitled you to different seating categories in the shows.  For the more expensive packages you get to sit in the reserved seating areas.  We did not have any reserved seating but Sanny got us to each show at the right time to get excellent seats in the non-reserved sections, and our views were sometimes better than those in the reserved seating.  In the tiger show we ended up with a few of the tigers right in front of us so I got some fabulous shots.

The show featured several Sumatran tigers, native to Indonesia, and again had a focus on conservation. There was also a reasonable amount of theatre involved with actors in brightly coloured costumes and plenty of music.

The highlight of the show was watching the tigers climb the tree to get some fresh meat. They scale that tree in a flash but apparently are very bad at coming down, it was rather amusing watching them inch back down. I did get a few great shots of the tigers in mid-air!

Again the tiger show was around half an hour and then it was off to the nearby petting zoo. The kids enjoyed being able to see some of the animals up close and give them a pat.  The tortoise was a favourite as were the bunnies.  I think being a bunny in Indonesia is hard work, they looked hot!

Next it was time for the elephant show.  Again we ended up with great seats and had one of the elephants swimming directly in front of us for a while during the show.  This show was again on the theatrical side, covering the struggle between villagers and the elephants for the same land.

After the elephant show, where we got a little damp by the elephant rolling around and spraying us, it was off to learn about making paper with elephant poo. Anto and I had seen plenty of elephant poo paper during our previous travels to Sri Lanka, but this was new to the kids. They loved having a go at making their own ‘poo paper’ and were rather sad that we weren’t going to be taking any home due to quarantine!

After our paper-making it was time for the white tigers to be fed.  The white tiger was a rather large male and he was being a bit lazy and refusing to climb the tree to retrieve his food.  Apparently during mating season they can be a bit reluctant to eat. We later found out ,during the safari ride, that they mate up to 30 times a day during mating season, so no wonder the poor guy didn’t want to climb that tree!  He did eventually succumb to the tasty meat, and again was up the tree in a flash but had to inch his way back down, a bit like domestic cat stuck up a tree in the backyard, just a lot bigger!

On the way to the safari we visited a few more animals, including some lazy porcupines, who are both quite large and rather bizarre looking creatures!

Next up was the safari.  You get a seat in a safari bus and take a trip around sections of the park that are not accessible by walking.  The sections are divided into different continental regions with their respective animals.

Sanny recommended we sit in the back row for the safari, which was a good tip as we got great views out of the back windows and the animals were often hanging around the back of the buses.   Despite the challenges of shooting with my 200mm lens out the back of an often moving vehicle, I did end up with some good shots and the kids loved seeing the animals up close.
The bus would drive through different sections and you’d learn a little about the animals, their habitat and behaviours.  Many of the animals were hanging out or eating. The baby orangutans playing were rather cute and we got very close up views of the Sumatran tigers having a rest!

There were several water crossings on the safari route, and driving directly past some hippopotamus was rather entertaining!  Some of the other packages included the safari in a jeep rather than the bus, but we had great views just from the bus.

A number of the animals would mill around on the roads and actually lay around sleeping in the middle of road. The seemed entirely non-plussed about the buses and jeeps constantly driving past.

We also happened to see two types of zebra, the regular black and white zebras (photos above) and tri-colour zebras (photos below), which indeed have 3 different coloured stripes (no they aren’t just dirty, they have  brown stripe too)!

The safari was really quite good and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.  Once we finished our safari trip we’d seen all the animals, but still had around an hour before the Agung show.  We decided to head to the water park next rather than leaving it until after the show.

The safari park included a large water park area, with slides, pools and a splash park.  There are also some rides in a section towards the back of the water park. Different packages include different numbers of free rides.  Given the kids were more than happy on the slides we didn’t even mention the rides and stuck to the splash park and water slides.

The water play area was fairly quiet as many people were still in the main sections of the park.  There are change rooms, shaded seating areas and food and drinks in the water play area, so you could easily spend several hours here.

Much to our children’s disgust we only had around 45 minutes before we made them get changed, but they got a few goes on each slide and enjoyed cooling down after being out in the heat for several hours.

Unlike the other 3 shows, the Bali Agung show is only on once a day.  We had debated skipping it and spending longer in the water park before heading back to resort, but Sanny had recommended going.  After dragging the kids (under protest) out, we headed towards the theatre but not before saying hello to another elephant.  There seemed to be elephants everywhere!

Unlike the other shows, the Bali Agung show was held in a theatre, which was blissfully air-conditioned!  There was also no photography allowed, this meant surrendering all phones and camera gear.  I actually don’t mind not being able to take photos in shows as it means I can just sit and watch the show, but it’s always disconcerting handing over my entire camera bag, camera and all my lenses, plus our phones! They took one look at my camera gear and insisted it all be inventoried rather than most people’s stuff that was shoved in a tray and you were handed a numbered bit of card.

At any rate the show, which ran for an hour was definitely worth seeing. It was a stage show, in a large and very nice (indoor) theatre, complete with a large number of actors and dancers and included live music, acrobatics and featured a lot of animals. It was rather curious seeing several elephants walk through the theatre and across the stage.  We were starting to wonder how many elephants this park had! At various stages there were also birds flying around and a few other animals made an appearance. It was reminiscent of the shows you see at Disneyland, except with live animals.

It was enjoyable, and it was nice to sit in air conditioning for a while. Soren managed to fall asleep due to it being pleasantly cool although was happy to wake up and see more elephants.

With the show over we collected all our possessions, again I was made to sign off on getting my stuff back, rather than having it handed to me and being waved off like pretty much everyone else.  We had a quick stop past the gift shop. The exchange rate worked in our favour and even with tourist prices things were cheap so the kids each got to pick a small stuffed toy. Soren ended up with a cute white tiger, who was named ‘Snowy the little white tiger who breathes fire’!  He is very specific about that name even weeks later! Astrid got a leopard named Lulu and Anto got his usual polo shirt.

On the way back down we did a quick farewell to some more animals and caught a safari bus back to the entrance.  While we could have gone back to the water park we all voted that we’d rather get back to the resort and have a swim before dinner.

Sanny got us back to the resort in a bit over an hour, even in late-afternoon traffic. The exhausted and hot kids thankfully slept most of the way back.

After a big day out we all enjoyed a relaxing swim in the pool………..

Followed by a beach BBQ at the resort watching the sun set!

We all enjoyed our trip to the Bali Marine and Safari Park. It unfortunately is on the expensive side as far as zoos go. We’ve been to a lot of zoos, all over the world, and this would probably have to be hands down the most expensive so far………. and that was with us buying the cheapest entry tickets available.

It does differ from other zoos in that there is the water park, rides and the safari.  The safari was probably the highlight of the day, definitely different to anything we’ve done before.  We suspect the cost is also inflated by the number of shows the park puts on. The Bali Agung show in particular would be very expensive to run, the cast was huge and the theatre was very expensive looking. We concluded the safari park is trying to be more Disneyland-esque and less zoo like.  While it was cheaper than Disneyland it didn’t have the same level of attractions so we’d still say the cost was on the high side, despite it being an enjoyable day out.

If you do visit the safari park, a driver is a great idea. Shuttle buses do run from many hotels but having a driver was way more convenient as we could arrive and leave when we wanted.  Do decide on what package features are important as there was a significant cost difference depending on inclusions. Do arrive early or you won’t get around everything or have a chance to see the shows.  Do take your swimmers to play in the water park after a hot day of walking. Definitely make sure you do the safari ride and try to see as many if not all the shows, as you would struggle to get value from a ticket without doing those activities.

Next up, the third and final installment of our Bali adventures – beaches, monkeys, a butterfly park, waterfalls, and a visit to Ubud.

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