I am a seasoned solo traveller but some things really shouldn’t be undertaken by yourself. Especially if you are on unfamiliar terrain. Literally. West Bali National Park offers white sandy beaches, lush tropical jungle and beautiful wildlife. But it can be a huge challenge to explore. Here’s what I wish I had known.
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Table of Contents
What You Need to Know Before Visiting
I drove to Gilimanuk from Canggu and was super excited to explore a lesser known and more untouched area of Bali. Or so I thought. It turns out that the beaches of the national park – like the rest of Bali – suffer from serious pollution.
I didn’t see many but Prabat Agung Beach was terribly littered with instant noodle cups, discarded shoes and straws. Why on earth someone would bring instant noodles to a national park is beyond me but when you take it in, you take it out.
There are no bins around so pack a bag. Not only will you not leave inorganic material on the beaches for years to come, but you might teach wild animals to scavenge for food in trash and expect more from other visitors. Also, that stuff isn’t good for the animals.
Apart from the trash, the entire beach was covered in dead coral. Dead coral crumbling to sand. Big coral arms caught in algae and plastic bags in the waves underneath plastic coated mangrove trees.
Getting a Tour
I join tours every now and then but since I pretty much spontaneously decided to visit and figured I could do it myself as I needed another hiking challenge, I opted to do it alone. Major mistake. I should have listened to my airbnb host when she suggested a local guide.
The experience with a guide is entirely different from what I heard later. With a guide, you will easily find pristine spots, have safe animal encounters and learn more about the park. Plus, you’ll be supporting local tourism.
It was possible for me to enter without a guide and there aren’t many tracks to get lost on. The path is pretty much set but it is extremely tricky. To navigate on wheels (and even on foot).
At the entrance, the security guide made me aware that everything was “natural path”, which was a euphemism for piles of rocks placed on top of sandy tracks.
Don’t even try to drive this with a regular scooby! I tried it was terribly bumpy and easy to damage your bike and kilter. Cars are probably best as it felt like offroading to me.
You surely can do some West Bali National Park trekking along the coast of the national park peninsula but to even get to Prapat Agung Beach, it takes at least an hour and another 30 minutes to Pura Prapat Agung Temple. To Pura Segara Rupek it is another hour and you are not even close to seeing Menjangan Island from there.
As I had no guide around and had recently been robbed of my expensive prescription sunglasses at Uluwatu Temple, I was terribly sceptical of the monkeys at the park. The security guard had informed me that these here weren’t aggressive at all but they still shrieked at me trying to pass them. Not cool.
My Disaster Story
If you have read my travel books and some of my travels journals on this blog, you know that I somehow always end up getting into some kind of trouble. Well, it was long overdue and everything happened at once.
This story isn’t to scare you off from visiting West Bali. Take it as a cautionary tale that can happen anywhere and be smarter. If you want general information on a park visit, scroll down to the next section.
Anyway, here goes: I had made it to Gilimanuk by lunch time and was eager to hit up West Bali National Park in the afternoon.
So I dropped off my stuff at my airbnb and scooted over. The turn towards the national park wasn’t super clear but I nevertheless found it and cruised past cows and fields and then nearly had a heart attack. There were monkeys everywhere! (Remember, I was still scared from Uluwatu.)
Calming my nerves (and reminding myself that I had voluntarily entered a national park with wild animals), I made it to the entrance. Here, the guard was super nice, explaining the various animals and trails to me. We chatted so much that I nearly forgot to pay. Oops.
Moving on despite his concern regarding my choice of transportation, I quickly felt regret creeping up on me. But I barely heard my thoughts as I was cursing so loudly. Keeping my scooter steady on such uneven terrain was a major challenge and the makeshift sandy tracks besides the “road” weren’t helpful either.
After the probably longest and slowest 30 minutes of my life, I gave up, parked my bike and marched onward. The sun was burning relentlessly through the canopy and my water bottle was quickly getting empty. Well, great.
Luckily for me, a car came by and offered me a ride to the nearest temple. A local family wanted to celebrate and ask for blessings. Taking pity on me (and laughing aloud over my not so smart travel choices), they dropped me off at the beach after offering me to pick me up in an hour on their way back.
That’s at least what I understood. 90 minutes later I was still waiting and decided to walk towards the temple to check on them. What held me back, however, was an entire wild zoo of animals. Sitting on by rock by the crossing, I had been unaware o the sudden gathering.
A giant water monitor was quickly slithering into the bushes as I approached the forest. And I heard the wild shrieks of a dozen black monkeys hanging in the trees before I spotted them. That made the grazing deer disperse and a family of wild boars appeared. Of course, they charged at me so I ran away.
From the distance I was waiting for their mud bath to be over so I could run screeming past the monkey families. I was trying to pretend to be a big scary animal. They certainly saw through that bluff. But I did find the car and family, who happily let me into their car again… and then drove off into the wrong direction.
Naturally, I was curious about that decision and was informed that another temple was next on the agenda and praying there would “only take 3 hours. That was ok, yes?” A resounding no came from me and I jumped out of the car.
By now, it was 90 minutes until sunset. I still had to march back to my bike and somehow get it back out over the rocky path. I had no time to lose! A couple of monkey families tried to stall me in my mission, blocking the path and shrieking but by then I had already worked up a fierce determination.
I made it to the bike totally parched and just turned onto the highway when the clouds decided to rehydrate me. When it rains in Bali, it pours. Faster than I would have liked the road was a parcour of puddles and I needed to be extremely focused to not end up in an accident.
A minute until my airbnb I decided to pull into convenience store to celebrate me having survived this day unscathed when irony struck. A blocked entrance, a string of puddles and loss of balance resulted in my leg being covered in extensive and profusely bleeding cuts and me being covered in gravel and dirt.
Well, I was at the convenience store anyway, so I marched in, stocked up on cold drinks, plasters and antiseptic but the staff was too busy to stare at the sad mess I must have looked than scan my items. Come on, I needed to get back to prevent a swelling, clean and dress my wounds before the shock set in!
While I finally did just that, someone in the room (with very thin walls) next to mine was vomiting for an entire hour. I had to eat but no go-jek was available in the area so I dragged myself out to eat at a nearby warung. It just so happened to also have a pharmacy next door and the lovely local lady patched me up some more. Well at least one thing that worked out well.
(The cuts weren’t bad and just surface wounds. I was able to walk and drive home the next day and of course sought out a doctor just to be sure. So happy I had travel insurance to cover the – albeit relatively small – fees.
General West Bali National Park Information
Wondering how to get to West Bali National Park? The closest nearby town is Gilimanuk, from where you can also take a ferry to West Java. So you could visit from West Java as well.
From Bali, it takes about 90 minutes by scooter to get to West Bali National Park from Lovina. From Negara, it’s a little over an hour and from Canggu it’s over 3 hours. Add an extra hour from Kuta or Denpasar.
From Gilimanuk, leave town through the big entrance gate and turn left. Drive for about 15 minuts and turn left at the small sign announcing the park.
You will find yourself driving past a stretch of farm houses and grazing cows. Continue all the way until you see the road block and guard house. Here, you will have to pay – in cash.
The West Bali National Park entrance fee during off season is 200K IDR and in high season it is 300K IDR, I’ve been told.
To get a guide to show you around the national park in West Bali, expect at least 200K IDR for a two hour hike. You can book additional activities, such as bird watching, as well.
The West Bali National Park weather is typically Bali weather. The island experiences two seasons: dry season from May to September and rainy season from October to April. When it rains it Bali, it really pours and streets can get flooded easily. It doesn’t rain the entire day, however.
Therefore a visit to the national park is best done during dry season or very early rainy season. There are no waterfalls inside, so the rainfall doesn’t matter as much for photos.
Temperatures in the park are typically like the rest of Bali with around 30-35°C (85-95°F). That being said, it might feel hotter and drier. Expect a warm, humid tropical climate.
Read this too: The Top 25 Bali Waterfalls and How to Find Them
Bali Barat National Park Office HQ, Jl Raya Cekik-Gilimanuk-Jembrana-Bali 82253, +62 365 61060, [email protected], 7:30AM-5PM
Bali Barat National Park Visitor’s Centre, Labuan Lalang, [email protected], 7:30AM-5PM.
The security guard at the entrance was very eager to explain the existing wildlife of the park. There is quite a variety of species. In total, there are 160 birds, even the near extinct Bali Starling. Fun fact: the park was created to protect its endemic bird.
Monkeys can be spotted already before the national park entrance. There are two kinds: grey monkeys and rarer black monkeys (with orange babies). Black monkeys are endemic to West Java, so it’s special that you can encounter them here in West Bali. Unlike at Uluwatu Temple, the monkeys aren’t aggressive, the park staff informed me.
Other mammals are wild boar (I saw a family!), banteng cows, leopard cats as well as deer. The latter two are seldom seen and I had set out to spot the Javan Rusa and Indian Muntjac deer and got lucky. Fun fact: Menjangan Island is named after them as they are called “Menjangan” in Balinese.
Sad fact: There used to be Bali tigers living here but the last one was shot in 1937. Some people say they have seen one after that but that has never been confirmed. They are now sad to be extinct.
Please keep in mind that you mustn’t feed wild animals. Don’t lure them to you, don’t throw fruit to them, don’t touch them. This is a national park, they are supposed to be (and stay) wild.
The park was first declared a nature park in 1917 and since 1941, it has officially been labelled a national park. Hence, it’s not freely accessible and only certain parts may be visited to protect nature.
Never stray from the paths. Those will lead you west after the main entrance and towards the beaches of Prapat Agung peninsula. From there, you can follow the rocky road all along the coastline and get back to the main road near the ferry point to Menjangan Island.
The park doesn’t just stretch on Prabat Agung peninsula, it goes on to the southeast as well. In total it makes up around 10% of the area of Bali. It also contains extinct volcanoes, such as Mount Patas and Merbuk.
One thing first: Don’t expect the typical tropical vegetation that is found all over Bali. The forests here are deciduous with acacia shrubs and lowland forests. Along the coastline and near the temples you can find small mangroves.More park information can be found here.
What to Pack
If you are headed out to West Bali National Park packing is of the utmost importance. There aren’t any shops around, no way to stock up on water. And you will definitely need a lot of water because it can get quite hot and you will be walking quite a bit.
Pack at least 2L water, slap on sunscreen, bring sunglasses and insect repellent. If you decide to bring snacks, make sure they are wrapped up tight so the animals can’t smell it and take the wrappers back with you. There are no bins around, so bring your own bag.
You absolutely have to wear hiking shoes. The terrain is so uneven and rocky, you don’t want to slip and hurt yourself. Plus, distances are far so there is plenty of walking involved.
I also recommend wearing long, breathable but lose clothes so you can protect yourself from the sun rays and vegetation.
Fuel up before coming to the national park and always wear a helmet if you decide to scoot.
I found having a local sim card with wifi extremely helpful. It helped me track my route, find hiking trails and made me feel safe in case I needed to make an emergency call. I topped it up at a local cell store in Gilimanuk.
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