The tropical island of Bali is visited every year by millions of sun-seekers.
The Hindu culture, green paddy fields, warm temperatures, and exotic animals attract many tourists. The advertising brochures that offer you elephant rides, dolphin shows, and selfies with orangutans fly around like leaves in autumn as soon as you reach “paradise.” The animal welfare organisation, World Animal Protection, has published a report about the living conditions in parks where people can interact with wild animals – not just in Bali.
These parks reportedly abuse their animals, mentally and physically. Anyone coming close to these unfriendly animal parks contributes to heartbreaking animal suffering. Fortunately, there are also ways to see some of Bali’s wildlife in an ethical and animal-friendly way.
Wild Dolphins in Lovina
Swimming with dolphins sounds like a dream to many people. Therefore, dolphin parks are unavoidable because it’s a popular activity in Bali. The dolphin parks are often based near the coast, and the dolphins live in a piece of delimited sea so as to not escape. Some parks, questionably, claim that they saved the dolphins from circuses or fishing nets, therefore preparing them to return to the wild. In reality, the dolphins have been cruelly stolen from the wild, torn away from their families, and even starved and isolated from other dolphins in the name of “training.” Tourists sometimes believe that dolphins like to do tricks because their curled mouth-corners make it seem like they are smiling. Are they, though?
Don’t worry, there are ways to see these elegant animals living freely in the wild. The sea of Lovina in North Bali is the habitat for large groups of wild dolphins. If you look at the ocean at sunrise, you can sometimes see them happily swimming free. The exciting thing about this activity is that it is never definite when the dolphins will show themselves. But when you see one, it’s a magical moment.
Sometimes tourists choose to sail with a local boat and admire the dolphins up close. Some boats, however, come too close to the animals and rush after the dolphins as soon as they appear. That is not an ethical way to see dolphins. Always assure that you keep your distance and absolutely do not feed the dolphins. You will see that these social animals will swim curiously around the boat and show their fins above water. Occasionally, they cheerfully jump up and do a spin in mid-air.
Another way to see dolphins is to snorkel. Besides dolphins, you also have the opportunity to admire sea turtles and beautiful, colourful fishes. Make sure you go with an organisation that respects animals and nature. You can often read in TripAdvisor’s reviews whether an organisation is properly handling this.
Wild Monkeys in Uluwatu
Ubud Monkey Forest is full of wild, playful monkeys. They are free to go wherever they want, and you cannot touch them. This monkey forest is much more animal-friendly than the monkey shows where monkeys are chained and are just allowed out of their cage when they have to entertain a group of uninformed tourists. But we still have our doubts about the Ubud Monkey Forest. Tourists have to pay to enter, and they get peanuts and bananas to feed the monkeys. Hordes of tourists come here every day to feed them, so at a minimum, these macaques suffer from obesity. Due to all the food these monkeys have access to, they will stay in this forest, yet a diet of only peanuts and bananas is not healthy for anyone, not even for monkeys. It is much healthier for them to stick to a natural diet of berries and leaves. Either way, do not feed the monkeys and stay at a suitable distance if you decide to visit.
There is another way to see these playful beasts in complete freedom. Many monkeys live in the wild in the southern surfing place of Uluwatu. There is a good chance that you will see some of them swinging in the trees or roaming around on the roads. You have a greater chance at the Uluwatu Temple. Hundreds of monkeys hang out on the trees here, but they do not come as near to you as in the Ubud Monkey Forest. Also, there is no entrance fee to see the monkeys, so it really isn’t a tourist attraction. Be careful with eating close to monkeys because they are and will be cheeky bastards that can just grab some food out of your hand. We also strongly advise to not feed them; the monkeys are wild, and it should stay that way.
The Bird Village of Petulu
In the Bird Village of Petulu, a village near Ubud, hundreds of white herons gather every evening around dusk to rest. They also lay their eggs and feed chickens here. It is a spectacle to see the birds go down dozens at a time with the low sun in the background, and to see them coming “home.” There is no clear reason why the birds come here every evening, but the locals believe that they are reincarnations of the victims who fell during the anti-communist Indonesia-China war. Hence, these birds are protected and left alone by the locals.
The exotic birds live in freedom and follow their instincts. This is much more beautiful to see than watching birds whose feathers have been cut and who live in captivity so that tourists can take a selfie with them. Those birds have been robbed from the wild and serve as an attraction to raise money.
Not only being animal-friendly with respect to seeing animals in their true natural habitats, these spots in Bali are beautiful to explore and considered to be budget-friendly. Just one thing though, definite guarantees to see these animals in these recommended ways are rather patchy. In the meantime, bask in the warmth of the sun as it hits the island, and of the famous local