Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years work within zoos.
I visited Bali Safari & Marine Park http://www.balisafarimarinepark.com "40 hectares of splendid natural habitat" at the end of January 2009.
Forget about the Marine side of things because that is 'coming soon'. That said it was still a whopping great big $25 US to get in (there are more expensive packages). I wonder if they will be putting up the price when 'marine' arrives. If not then I want some of my money back. $25 is 285,000 Indonesian Rupiahs and is not cheap by any standards though I am pleased to learn that Indonesians get in at a lower price. Here again though we have this double standard. If we charged Indonesians more to enter attractions in the UK then the world would be at our throats for racism.
The park is about a three quarter hour drive from Kuta beach. Presently there are two free shuttle buses a day from and to the park.
On arrival you pay for your ticket before traveling further to the car park and another entrance. Here you get onto a shuttle bus and are given a short introductory speech whilst you are transported to the entrance proper. This is the 'Bali Terminal'.
This entrance area of the Bali Terminal, must be the second most elaborate I have seen after Chiang Mai Safari in Thailand. There is no denying it looks good.
Bali Safari is a beautiful place. The designers and architects really have an eye for making things look attractive in a traditional Balinese style (and an Indian one if we include the White Tiger exhibit). There are glitches however and exposed electric fencing is one. The biggest though was, to me, the Bali Theatre (again not yet open) which sits like a huge carbuncle on a beautiful face. It is so big that I don't reckon they will be able to hide it.
The signage here is excellent. The very attractive Bali Mynah enclosure had six eyecatching signs prominently but unobtrusively placed. Each had a 'mind bite' fact on it. This style was repeated around the collection. The only complaint I have is that none of the information signs was in Bahasa Indonesian. That is a serious omission particularily when two of the prime aims of a good zoo is education and conservation. It is very easy to believe that this beautifully located zoo is primarily interested in the tourist dollar.
Although I am sure the 'mistake' will be quickly put right the 'Education' tag on the website does nothing. This suggests to me that there is presently no education programme at all.
Maybe it just me but I thought the Bali Safari reeked of commercialism. I really believe I was 'ripped off' at the price I paid to get in. Then it was gift shop after souvenir shop and pay to ride or feed an elephant or ride a camel. Then there was the 'get your photo taken' with lion, tiger, orangutan bit....I don't like it, that at all. I know Joe Public does...but I don't. Where did the baby Orangutan come from? Why was it not with its mother? Why wasn't there a sign to explain that? There should have been. Such regular multi-human contact us to the detriment of introduction of its own kind later on and is best avoided.
There is a small but interesting Elephant Museum. There was no extra charge so I took a look. There was a mounted skeleton and odd pieces of equipment. What really made it though was the collection of photos relating to elephant care, capture and conflict over the years.
The so called "Elephant Conservation and Educational Show" was simply a run of circus tricks (elephant yoga) and I strained and failed to find a conservation angle to it except that they were using Sumatran Elephants. There was perhaps a minute of the difference between Asian and African Elephants but that was basic biology.
The Elephant Conservation and Educational Show
The 'Safari Exploration' tram ride was interesting and it made a change that it was not at night. It was a themed journey and was mostly well staged with adequate sized enclosures. I thought the Barbirusa was a bit small though. Again though you have to take the brochure with a pinch of salt "the close encounters with more than 60 animal species". Well there wasn't. I was counting. There was only 29! And probably less than 40 in the whole collection. The Safari tour was hosted by an attractive and enthusiastic young lady whose name I will not mention. I find myself feeling guilty in criticising someone who can speak her own language and English and Japanese. However it is not her I am being critical of but whoever taught her because there was a lot of incorrect information in her spiel. There was a lot of humour...which was excellent but even this does not help to make the tour correct.
I will be honest though. I have never been a big fan of the Safari Park concept in as much as space is usually an illusion whereas in a traditional zoo it is real.
The moment I see White Tigers I cringe before I start to question a collections commitment to conservation (They are pride of place on their publicity leaflet too). There is no denying they are beautiful. I find them attractive but they really have no serious place in the modern zoo. The facility they have for them here is very special and worth a visit in its own right. The signage is good and whereas it does give a conservation message it does not actually say they are conserving White Tigers. In fact they have a sign to say they are a mutation. Why then did they not use the space for a tiger that needed saving? That is conservation!
The zoo brochure says "Bali Safari is tremendously active in protecting endemic and endangered species as well as orchestrating educational campaign to save the animals." Lovely statement but I am unclear as to exactly what it means.
A partial list of species included a single White Rhino, Barbirusa, Sumatran Elephants, Orangutans, Hippos, Cheetah, Ankole, Lechwe, False Gharial, Javan Leopard, Grevy and Chapman Zebra, Scimitar Horned Oryx, Barbary Sheep, Anoa, Banteng, Sumatran Tiger, Bali Mynah, Estuarine Crocs.
I am always interested in how any collection is dressed up in its own flowery websites and brochures. I mean these are simply opinions, what they think (In the same way as this report is my opinion) and they are not likely to be derogatory about themselves. I was aware before I arrived of the collections membership of SEAZA, PKBSI and WAZA but following my visit felt that this was more 'window dressing' than actual genuine involvement in conservation and education. Without doubt it is beautiful and a fine recreational facility and no doubt will become more popular as time goes on.
Value for Money?
So was this a 'value for money' visit? No, I don't believe it was. Okay my ticket entitled me to 2 goes on the Safari Tram, free entry to the Water Park, unlimited time in the Funzone (bouncer, merry go round, etc) and I could have a photo of me with animal in the Animal Encounter (using own camera). No, sorry. Beautiful place but it really was not for me.
BSMP presently holds 31 elephants. Recently they were accused of elephant smuggling some animals in as the Bali Natural Resource Conservation Agency only had knowledge of 22 animals. An informal explanation was offered in which they stated that 'legally the park was not obliged to abide by the regional administration's instructions'. Since then there was a meeting in which it was concluded that the park could not hold any more elephants. The submission of the delayed paperwork is in hand and a stern reprimand for the park is expected.
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Virsuyama from Gianyar on July 09, 2013:
You better see Orang Utan were burnt by people in their own habitat than bein chained. Or Tigers were killed by human than being in cage. There is no save place for them now. Yes they are exploitated for money. But it also for their own safety. Better than they are in their wild habitat.
If don't like to see them chained around their neck, don't go to the zoo or Safari etc. Go to the real jungle.., where is the real jungle now??? all houses and concrete made by human. Buildings and roads for us. not for animal. How many wild animals will survive in the wild?? for how long??
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on March 28, 2011:
gr82bme - Neither did I. It really should be phased out.
gr82bme from USA on March 28, 2011:
I did not like seeing the tiger with a chain around its neck
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on March 19, 2010:
Thank you for your comments, they are appreciated.
I was aware of the history of the park and its connection with the others (and their history) and through traveling down through Indonesia the tentative connection to other collections. I was also aware of the groups international connections and more.
I do not actually judge zoos on a UK standard per se but on the five freedoms, actual conservation (rather than animal breeding), cage design and more. I do make allowances for wherever a zoo may be located but I don't excuse it because of it. There is a certain set of basic standards that all zoos should adhere to. If they don't then they should not exist. I am able to see through the dressing up of many collections and see things that an average zoo visitor can not.
I was actually quite complimentary about Bali Safari and Marine in general and only made mention of what I percieved to be wrong.
I never made a mention of drugged animals. I never asked questions of any keepers.
I note that the collection IS now actually doing something about education. This was previously absent on the website.
I am pleased to learn that the elephant 'show' has improved. I would like to think it no longer has the public lying down in the enclosure.
If I was to have gone round the collection wearing my zoo inspector glasses rather than as a more interested than average zoo visitor my report would have read quite differently. It would have been more critical. Perhaps I should have done.
I was aware that foreign staff had been taken on. I do hope that they are given the opportunity to rectify some of the mistakes.
You say I am skeptical...perhaps you are right. I don't like white tigers and the commercialism surrounding them. I don't like tigers, lions and others being chained up and used for photography sessions. I don't like Orangutans being used for photography sessions (or other primates for that matter). I believe it not only cruel but exploitative too. I am well aware that there are many who disagree with me but I have yet to be convinced to believe otherwise.
I hope that I will get a chance to visit again one day so that I can review again and perhaps re-write this report.
nanda on March 18, 2010:
I understand your disappointment with the park, but I think I must clarify a couple of things to you…
First of all… This is a park from a 3rd world country. You can’t just compare it to UK zoo or any other zoos because of course they have different standards and expectations. You have to understand the culture of the people here in Indonesia and in Bali and it’s very different than western cultures, so definitely you can’t by all means expect that everything will fulfill your standards. But heck it may not be as good as Singapore Zoo, but it’s actually pretty good comparing to other zoos in South East Asia or Indonesia.
FYI, Bali Safari and Marine Park is actually a part of Taman Safari Indonesia (http://www.tamansafari.com/).. There are 2 other parks of TSI, one in Bogor West Java and another one in East Java. Bali Safari and Marine Park is actually the 3rd park (TSI 3) from the TSI family. TSI is very involved in conservation and breeding programs for the Sumatran Tigers, the Sumatran Elephants, etc… Bali Safari and Marine Park itself actually has a breeding program for the Balinese Mynah under supervision of the Balinese government. So saying that it is involved in Protection and Conservation of Wildlife is not at all a false claim…
And it IS expensive… Especially comparing to TSI 1 and 2 which is less than half the price for the domestics and also visited by more locals…. But the other 2 parks are very involved in the breeding programs… have you ever considered how they manage to keep the program going with the very little revenue they had? Have you ever thought that the generous donations made by Bali Safari could actually help them with the breeding and conservation programs they had going on in TSI 1 and 2?
Oh and the photos with the animals… They are not drugged. If you were to consider how much money was put for anesthesia if it was actually drugged every day, it doesn’t run cheap. And it’s not totally safe to take pictures with them… There are always some risks… The keepers were unable to explain to you because basically he/she is quite lacking in English so he/she must have just said the easiest thing to say. You must also consider that the keepers here are mostly uneducated, but they do love and care about the animals none the less…
Bali Safari actually has educational programs such as ‘Safari Goes to School’ where they travel from school to school in the Safari Mobile, and there are educational packages in which children come to the safari and learn.. They even have a classroom and education centre there also… But of course the educational outreach is mostly to local schools and local villages (who mostly can’t even afford to come to the Safari or even get a decent school curriculum). You have to understand the social obligations they have here in Indonesia and in Bali. The Elephant show have changed a lot since the last time you saw it, so I can totally understand why they needed to change it.
Bali Safari and Marine Park have just been established for less than 3 years… There are still a LOT of room to improve and develop. Especially now they even have foreign zoo experts here, it does show that they DO want to change and they DO want to make things better. I think it’s better than nothing. In any park you can always point out things that aren’t right, and I do have to say that in every park I visited (including Bali Safari) there are always something fishy about it! But Peter, I gotta say… I do feel like you’re quite skeptical about things which make it unable for you to see the brighter and positive side of things. :)
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on February 25, 2010:
Rachel - I reckon you could easily spend a day there if you saw all the shows and visited the other amenities. The Safari Tour was maybe half an hour.
Rachel T. on February 24, 2010:
I found your comments very useful as I'm gonna visit in April. I'm still a kid so I don't care about rip offs and such (LOL). Well I do but it sounds fun anyway. I need to ask you none of sights seem to show it how long is the tour?I'm planning the trip you see......Please reply
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on February 19, 2010:
Thank you Alan. I would like to think that the place was rectifying some of the distasteful practises now that they have new senior team members.
Alan on February 18, 2010:
This is a really nice Hub, I actually live in Bali. Thanks, for the great info!
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on February 07, 2010:
Thanks for your comment Ben. I am glad that you were able to see through the 'mask'. Sadly so many visitors do not or do not care.
Ben on February 06, 2010:
I agree all u said. They really rip off tourists. I paid for us$75 (transport+lunch+ticket). It wasn't value that much. And other point is after my elephant ride, I really feel I shouldn't have a ride. I found this elephant was tiring walking in a little path way and he didn't want to walk. All he wanted a relaxing day. This elephant let me feel his anger. I won't go for ride again. Another little tiger was poor too. He was forced to take photos with many flash lights on. I suggested one zoo keeper the camera flashing light is not good for his eyes, but she said to me. That is ok. Don’t worry and she can't do anything better about my comment. However, they won't get my business again.
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on January 20, 2010:
I very much doubt the Orangutan originated in Singapore Zoo. I really don't think that this collection is really actively involved with any conservation project. It is purely commercial. Thanks for your comments.
Barbara on January 19, 2010:
Your report is spot-on. I visited the Safari Park in 2008 and was so distressed about the baby orangutan I wrote to the park management. The baby was very young at the time of my visit and when I asked the handler where the baby's mother was he told me it was in the Singapore Zoo. The response I got didn't satisfy me that this baby had not been taken from its mother. The exploitation of this poor little orangutan and the apparently drugged tiger for tourist photos detracts from any species/habitat conservation messages.
peel zoo on July 09, 2009:
I can only speak for accounts at zoos im associated with .I hear you loud and clear though.
I like your posts ,you tell it like it is with an educated vocab to go with it .
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on July 09, 2009:
Thank you for your comments Peel Zoo. I still believe the price to be over top though...but then we will never see the published accounts and so be none the wiser.
peel zoo on July 09, 2009:
Very good report .I agree with all you have to say .I have had a very good sniff around the park as well talked with those that work as well own the park ...I sit on a fence when i have things to report as most think i have a one eyed view due to my helping hand at Bali Zoo .
As far as Bali goes both parks have much to offer.The photo session with drugged animals is not my thing...(Not a stab in the dark comment re stupified animals ) An educated first hand observation as well conversation with staff and handlers...I don't write this to be a stickler in the pudding ,just concerned .
I do note your words re the price of entry ..Its very expensive to own and run a zoo .The entry price is a combination of commisions for the drivers to take one to the park ..If a zoo is to feed all its animals correctly,have vet checks and employ qualified staff it all costs money ..I feel the prices are fitting as i know from 30 years in the trade that every cent gets allocated to all departments ....I know it sounds expensive .Thanks for your report .
Scott Drieschman on June 22, 2009:
The komodos look impressive (For sure) as well as the white tiger (not)!!!!! hahaha
Nice report. See so much artificial furniture etc in the pics. It is a shame.
Hope your doing well. Maybe see you in HK in September at Ocean World.
Paul Scott on May 13, 2009:
Hi Peter, I am a long time devotee of the Zoo News Digest and love your warts and all reports. Keep it up!!! Paul
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on April 16, 2009:
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 16, 2009:
Enjoyed this report and the photos. It will be fun to armchair travel with you!
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on March 13, 2009:
Harry, my visit was on the 28th January 2009.
harry on March 12, 2009:
i was wondering if you could also tell me the date that you created this report as i have to reference it. thanks again
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on March 11, 2009:
Thanks Harry, I am pleased that you share my opinion. I try to be as open minded and as fair as possible in my 'zoo' reports.
harry on March 11, 2009:
i am a student in bali doing a report on the bali safari and marine park. i found your report very interesting and had the same views as you on the park. excellent report.