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     Introduction


Indonesia mapDuring the birding trips we’ve had over the years, we realised that whenever we came across snakes, there was an extra excitement which was palpable. So when we were looking at a destination for this year, it seemed logical to extend this and make some sort of snake hunting activity part of the focus of the trip. When trawling through the information on this out there, little springs out as a worthwhile venture. However, Bali seems to have more than its fair share of snakes, and also a company which can organise snake hunts with a fair degree of success in finding different species. They also have the two particular ones we were after – King Cobra for Jim after decades of longing to see one, and one of the Green Pit Vipers for me after gazing longingly at the entrancing image on the cover of Mark O’Shea’s volume on venomous snakes. Granted many destinations offered a greater variety and/or number of species of birds, but the offerings on Bali, and the fact that we always favour quality of birds rather than quantity, helped break the deal. There is even a critically endangered island endemic to be had in the form of Bali Myna.

For some trips we take on the driving and locating of birds ourselves, but were glad when we chose the services of Hery instead (see below). Many of the birds would have been difficult to find and pick out when present, although again we often forgo a full list in favour of the fun if finding our own birds. Even more obvious was that not only were the locations difficult to find, but, to put it bluntly, Bali driving is maniacal. The main rule of the road seems to be that there are no rules, and the proliferation of swarms of scooters flying everywhere would make driving when not used to it here hazardous. That being said, the roads are generally in good condition, especially the coastal routes, with predictably unpredictable potholes etc thrown in elsewhere.

While Bali is usually seen as a sun, sea and sand destination, travelling around the island uncovered much more with regards to natural environment than I had expected. Granted the coastal routes tend to be very busy (an understatement) and subsequently lengthen journey times substantially. However, my view of the island before travelling round of being overpopulated and denuded outside of Bali Barat National Park were short of the mark, since there seemed to be quite a lot of forested areas remaining, particularly in the central mountains. We left Hery to decide where we should go during the short time with him. Bali Barat was an obvious one, since it is the key birding location. To vary the habitat and species, a visit to the mountains offers altitudinal variations, and birding around Denpasar on the last day not only offers yet more different birds, but is also conveniently near to the airport.

Bali Reptile Rescue (http://breptile-rescue.blogspot.co.uk)

Searching on the internet for locations worldwide where King Cobra can be seen in natural habitat threw up this organisation. It appears that Bali as a location is ideal due to a very high concentration of the species within a reasonably small (island) area. However, as with many other places globally, there is a general belief that the only good snake is a dead one, and that mammals are best kept in small cages and/or forced to entertain. Bali Reptile Rescue was set up to redress this, by alternately saving the animals from these fates and re-releasing elsewhere. This Bird and Animal sanctuary focuses primarily on larger snakes, since local land and house owners are wont to kill on sight. They have now learned that there is another option, and often opt to call the sanctuary instead. It is now headed by Shinta, who came over from Indonesian Borneo 10 years ago, where she had grown up with a knowledge and respect for wildlife. She has a team of 6, and they get some money from the government, while offering a free snake removal service to the local population. Two types of snake hunting trip can be paid for by visitors – an evening walk which starts at first dark and can go on until around midnight, and a daytime one which basically follows the team as they react to phone calls from the locals. Both are recommended, since a different selection of species seems to be found on each one. Rule of thumb from Shinta is that she should see at least 3 species of snake in the first hour of the evening walk, with a good possibility of larger snakes on the daytime trip (we saw 4 and 3 respectively). For even greater dedication, she can run 3 day trips where she might locate around 20 species. The email address to contact is balireptilerescue@yahoo.com.

Bali Reptile Rescue

Guided birding

Hery

As with many trips abroad, there is always the vexed question of whether to employ some sort of guide to both show the main bird sites and also organise internal arrangements, or do it yourself. We had read many good reports about Hery Kusumanegara, who appears to be first choice to lead for the larger tour companies who include Bali on their itinerary, as well as individuals who also want sound guiding on the island. His main day job is as head ranger for Bali Barat National Park, where he has worked for the last 15 years. This has given him vast experience in the birds and other nature of the island, which shows when you are birding with him. He has collected a group of 4 or so others with expertise in finding and identifying birds. Fellows such as Boning, who was with us during the week, were originally poachers, but now turned to the fairer side of conversation and guiding. Not only did they know their sites and birds, but they had a very keen eye in spotting. Hery also organised all internal arrangements, such as accommodation, pickup at the hotel we stayed at for the snake hunting (airport pickup and drop off also, of course), all food, and transport (including dedicated driver). All of the crew also enjoyed a good laugh, while being stimulated by deeper questioning and conversation about identification of questionable birds. If you have booked hoping to have Hery as the main guide, but he is required to be working in his day job, don’t be disappointed if you have someone like Boning instead. He led us one day when Hery was at a wedding, and was equally as good at finding and identifying the birds. To contact Hery, his email address is email: hery_kn@yahoo.co.id.


     Accommodation

     

    Bintang Balian

Based in thevillage of Balian, this was booked by Shinta from Bali Retile Rescue, and was used as a base for the nearby snake hunting. It is a homestay which seems to have 5 rooms joining on to an eating area, with basic yet comfortable beds and facilities. The room only had one power socket and poor lighting, yet decent WiFi was available in the eating area. It is set in a small village as part of a road lined with a few shops and housing, with the road terminating at a small touristy river outlet into the sea, with sludgy black “sand” and a couple of snack bars for the visitors. Food choice was limited on an evening but still tasty enough, and the banana pancakes for breakfast were worth trying. Main downside was the tied up Macaque which was tethered by a short rope on to a small sleeping cage.

Bintang Balian
Local Menangan

    Local Menangan, Bali Barat

NOT to beconfused with THE Menangan Hotel, which is one of the nicer ones in the area, our little home stay was far from this epitome of beach holiday bliss. Located along a short rough track, there are only two guest rooms and a small makeshift reception to the property. However, the room was clean and more than adequate for a couple of birders staying 3 nights. There were even 4 electricity sockets, air conditioning and decent WiFi provided for the room. The bathroom had a roof half open to the elements, and a bamboo shower head that delivered hot and cold water (I strongly recommend the cold only after a day’s birding – far from icy and very refreshing ). Food could be pleasantly eaten on the front patio, but was limited for choice and usually took a while to come. They also provided breakfast at a time to suit or as a breakfast box to go.

    Strawberry Hill Hotel, Benugul

This was ourone night base for a stay in the mountains. We didn’t really see a great deal of it since we arrived after dark. It was certainly the nicest of the hotels we had stayed in so far,  despite being in what sounded like a busier area than previously (so probably not too much doorstep birding). The rooms are all in individual units, and well-appointed and spacious inside. They even had hot running water in the shower – a first here! There was also a restaurant attached with what seemed a good choice (in relative terms!). As with the other places, WiFi seems to be becoming a standard offering, which as usual was useful for looking up questionable identification on the internet.

Strawberry Hill Hotel

    Harris Hotel,  Denpasar

This was a purely functional stay, since it is located only 10 minutes or so from the airport. This meant a convenient location to leave from after a last morning’s birding. Usual rate is IR600000 (around £40 at the time of writing), and is certainly a bigger concern than the other hotels used during our visit – which doesn’t necessarily mean preferable since all were more than adequate and appropriate for their locations. The amount of light in the rooms was a contrast also, but the inclusion of WiFi again not so. There is a small restaurant attached with a limited menu if decent food, and breakfast served from 6.30. Don’t expect to wander around outside and see birds, since the location is in a busy area. With many flights early evening, the offer of keeping your room until 6pm for half room rate (around £20) can prove useful.

 

     Tips
    • Electrical plugs are similar to the European 2 pin type
    • Biting insects were present, but in low numbers, and with negligible threat of malaria. Most protection was needed in the evening snake hunt, when many night flying insects were troublesome
    • First light is around 6.30, and last light around 7pm
    • Rain protection is useful – there is every likelihood it will pour down at some time
    • While the guides have their own torches, bringing a decent one, especially for the evening snake hunting, is useful
    • Bring your own soap and toilet tissue as backup – they are not always provided
    • Temperatures were as high as 30°C during the day (although it felt hotter at a couple of exposed sites) to what some may seem as cool morning and evening in the mountains

     References

There were two main field guides that were used. We had a 10 year old copy of Birds of Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and Bali by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps, which was adequate, although some of the names of the birds had changed (I use the IOC world list as the standard), and distribution is difficult to gauge without maps and is sometimes out of date. Hery used the recently published Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago by James Eaton. While this is an excellent and not too cheap tome, with good maps and adequate descriptions, the main word of caution is that the book is extremely liberal in his splitting of species, and many of the birds do not conform to IOC standards.

 

Phillips

     

Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7 Day 8

Species list

Text only