Day 28 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Bali.
The highlight of our visit to Bali was the tour of the Taro Elephant Safari Park, north of Ubud. Our bus trip took in the views of coffee, cacao, banana and spice plantations, little villages with alang-alang thatched roofs and the green terraced hillsides full of rice paddies.
Set in over four acres of exotic botanical gardens and surrounded by lush forest, the Elephant Safari Park is home to some 27 elephants that were rescued from deforestation in Central and Southern Sumatra. The Park is an official member of the World Zoo Association, and meets international standards for animal care as well as being a sanctuary for the endangered Sumatran elephants.
Our tour started at the Park’s Museum, which housed fossils that date back over five million years, mammoth tusks, a full-sized 15,000 year-old mastodon skeleton and a 300-year-old carved African elephant tusk.
We then watched the elephants play at their daily bathing ritual, and were able to help feed them and have our photo taken with them. This was followed by a short show in the central arena, where the elephants played football, basketball and even tried their “trunk” at a bit of abstract art. This part of the schedule was not to everyone’s taste (including mine) as it conjured up memories of how elephants were used to entertain people in travelling circuses. However, it was fairly brief and I never once saw an elephant being poked or prodded.
The highlight though, was a 30-minute elephant ride in a teak wooden chair atop these gentle giants – our elephant was a female called Deaha. We soon got used to the gentle, swaying gait of our elephant, from where we had panoramic views of the tropical rainforest, terraced rice paddies and dry riverbeds.
The visit was rounded off with an excellent buffet lunch on the terrace overlooking the elephant pool.
For anyone who questions the ethics of this “elephant exploitation, I will only add that the tourist dollar helps to keep these elephants in a safe environment, where each elephant has it’s own dedicated keeper, and enables the work of the sanctuary to continue.
After the Elephant Park we travelled to Sangeh village for a short visit to the Sangeh Monkey Forest. The six hectares of forestland have giant nutmeg trees that grow as high as 131ft, but the main attractions are the hordes of mischievous Balinese monkeys. Monkeys have always had a sacred place in the Hindu religion, and inhabit both trees and its 17th century temple, Pura Bukit Sari, found in the heart of the forest.
Finally, back to the ship for the usual ‘sail away’ party, and preparation for our next port of call – Lombok.