With its stunning beaches and a regular turnover of sun-seeking and surf-chasing travellers, Bali is often best known as Indonesia’s go-to island for partying and relaxing on the beach. But aside from the annual migration of tourists, this beautiful island on the edge of the Indian Ocean is home to an impressive collection of native wildlife that will comfortably keep any wildlife lover happy. Here we round up the Bali’s best wildlife and where to find it:
Cheeky monkeys: Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest
The best known place to get up close and personal with Bali’s resident monkey population is Ubud Monkey Forest, which boasts three holy temples, a variety of stone statues and (more popularly) over 300 grey haired macaques. But its proximity to one of the island’s largest cities has long tempted visitors and the monkeys now share the forest with packs of tourists and vendors selling snacks with which to feed them, encouraging increasingly unnatural behaviour. Instead, escape the crowds and visit the Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest in the village of Kutuh, northeast of Denpasar, to watch wild families of long-tailed macaque that play in the green rainforest trees and scamper around the sacred Alas Kedaton Temple.
Save the sea turtles: Kuta Beach
If you’re staying in Seminyak or Kuta – a stretch of coastline along Bali’s southern tip renowned for being the place to catch a decent wave – try to make your way to a roped-off stretch of seafront in southern Kuta in the early evening. At night, turtles that come to lay their eggs in the soft sands are monitored by the Bali Sea Turtle Society, whose scientists and researchers remove the eggs and take them to a conservation incubator unit – avoiding trampling by visitors the next morning. After hatching, the baby sea turtles are released with the help of volunteers as the sun starts to set, giving you the chance to get hands-on with their conservation efforts.
Best for birds: West Bali (Bali Barat) National Park
With such a thriving tourist scene in the south and modern, bustling cities like Denpasar and Ubud a hive of activity, it’s almost hard to imagine that anywhere on this tiny island might remain unexplored. But if you’re willing to head off the beaten track, set your sights on West Bali National Park and you’ll be rewarded with miles of untouched volcanic beaches, fringed by leafy jungle and inhabited by a unique array of birdlife. Here you’ll have the chance to spot hornbill, coastal brown booby, assorted kingfisher and swallow species and, if you’re lucky, the startlingly white, rare Bali starling – Bali’s only endemic vertebrate species.
Marine life: East coast
Amed, Padangbai and the waters surrounding Nusa Penida are popular with divers for their slow currents and enviable visibility, as are the tiny Gili islands that lie off the northeastern coast towards Lombok; this is where cheap dive schools and a plethora of colourful fish tempt many a traveller. The coral reefs fringing the coast of Indonesia’s islands are some of the world’s most biodiverse, where bulbous brain coral stand alongside elegant twig-like fan coral, building a home for countless species of fish, crustaceans and suspect-looking squishy things. Manta rays can be spotted in April and May, clumsy looking mola mola (sunfish) drift past from August to October and white-tip and black-tip reef sharks are common.
Watch out for whales: south coast
For those who prefer life above the waves, boat trips from much of the south of the island set off to spot several cetacean species move through the warm waters, including spotted, spinner and bottlenose dolphin pods, and sperm, pilot, Eden’s and false killer whales. Also known to pass through the Indonesian archipelago, the huge spotted not-actually-a-whale, whale shark will steal the show if you’re lucky enough to spot one – though unlike the dolphin, the whereabouts of these gentle giants is harder to predict and sightings are much rarer.