The Safari Awakens: A Deeper Dive into Bali's Wild Heart - Part 2

Our first two days at Bali had surely been serene with visits to the Ulluwatu Temple, The Taman Ayun Royal Temple and the absolutely stunning Tanah Lot Temple. To get a detailed feel of our experience, you may visit the first blog "Welcome to the Paradise Island: Bali"

On the third day, we vacated from Rama Beach Resort and we were going to proceed to our next resort, ‘Mara River Safari Lodge’. In fact, our decision to visit Bali was this resort as it was a place situated inside a Safari Park. So, after an early morning private pool session with Zavi, we bid adieu to Rama Beach Resort. But before checking into our next resort, we had other sightseeing plans.

The Bali Swing

One of the most instagrammable activities in Bali, is of course, the Bali Swing. Now there are multiple places offering these facilities. We had ours booked at Pioneer Swing, Bali by agent in India itself. All of us were pretty excited about the swing as we had seen lots of swing pictures. But we were a bit confused if our little Zavi would be allowed. Zavi on the other was fully ready to reach the place and try the swings. We reached the the parking space at Pioneer Swing and we were ushered into a waiting area. Here a representative from Pioneer met us and informed us about all the swings included in our package. They also handed us an informed consent form, which clearly stated that they were not responsible if anything went wrong. We were also informed that Zavi could join us in the swing. Zavi was on cloud nine. He was literally overjoyed. At the waiting area I noticed that, they were flowing dresses for women to choose from and they could rent it. And that is when I noticed that Laya was also wearing a pretty much float dress. Women could also rent floral head gears. We could also rent a photographer if we wanted to. This they informed us that, the photographers would anyways click pictures and at the exit if we liked the pictures, we can buy them. So without wasting any more time, we made our way down to to area where the swings were put up. As soon as we reached the landing, a very cheerful boy greeted us and he tied safety belts around our waists. These safety belts were in the colour of our dress so that it wouldn’t be seen in the photos. We saw that there were around 7-8 different photo spots and swings. And all these spots had a small queue lined up with people waiting for their turn. Our first spot was the Bali Nest. We first send in Zavi and Laya just tagged along to make sure he was comfortable. There was a person next to each spot who ensured that our safety belt was attached to the harness and made us sit comfortably. While pictures are taken, they would even suggest poses to get the best pictures. After the first nest, we hopped into the next nest and took more pictures. Then we joined the queue for a single swing. Laya went in first, a person would push the swing hard and she seemed to enjoy it. But I was a bit doubtful if this swing would hold my weight. Nevertheless I too tried it as there are safety nets too below, in case one falls. Once on the swing, we get the feeling like we are flying high up in the air as the swings are in fact located pretty high up the mountains overlooking a valley. Zavi was the last one to try the single swing. The person at the swing, just pushed him lightly, but that was enough for Zavi, he enjoyed his first swing experience. There were two single swings and apart from this, there was a bed swing where we both took turns with Zavi and also a couple swing. Only while waiting at the couple swing for our turn, did I realise that the place was swarming with honeymooners from all over the world. I think we were the only couple there with a kid. Apart from the swings, there were few photo spots like a helicopter and boat, all installed strategically to get the best picture. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience and headed towards the exit. But a small tragedy was awaiting us.

The Hospital

We got into our car and our next agenda was lunch followed by a visit to a waterfall and the rice terraces. But I started to feel itchy on my neck. Something had bit me and the my neck area started to get swollen. We stopped for lunch at Balinese restaurant by a paddy field. Here we ordered some Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) and Burgers. The lunch was good but my itching got worse and the now even my face and hands were affected. We decide not to take any risk. We told Mr. Ari to take us to the nearest hospital or clinic. In another 5 minutes we were at the nearest private hospital. We went into the casualty. I found it very odd that the hospital bore a very deserted look. A doctor checked up on me and I was informed that it may have been some insect or worm. They gave me an injection and put me on observation for about an hour. Before administering the injection a nurse, came in and told us the fee that would be charged. We were shell shocked hearing the outrageously exorbitant rate they were charging for an injection , but we did not have any other choice. So we went ahead. We left the hospital in another hour’s time. We decided to cancel the plan for the rest of the day as I felt I needed some rest and we headed to our Safari stay.

Representational only. 

Mara River Safari Lodge

Our day had not gone as planned, we were a bit disappointed, but the moment we were at the entrance of Bali Safari, I could feel my adrenaline pumping up again. At the entrance there was an installation with a jeep with animals and my first thought was that I want to go on that jeep. The first thing that caught my sight when I walked out of our car, were giraffes, just walking across the plains. My little Zavian’s excitement knew no bounds. He rushed to the viewing point to get a good glimpse of the giraffes. The first impression was awesome. Everything about the place gave a total Safari vibe. On either side of the entrance way, there were Koi fishes and turtles. Zavi was jumping up and down with excitement. Even the flooring had animals all over them. There were impressions of a lion, meerkat, zebra, rhinoceros and the like. We made our way to the reception, where we were welcomed by the receptionist with a huge welcoming smile. He informed us that, there would be a display of animals at the lobby at 7pm everyday, that there were an animal show, elephant show, tiger show and a fire dance show complementary with our stay. There were also loads of other activities that we could undertake on payment like a safari tour around the park either in a bus or a jeep, animal feeding, night safari and even a mini water park. We right away booked a private jeep safari for the next day, although it was a bit costly. We were escorted to our room which was just a few minutes away from the lobby. Our room was called ‘Twiga’. Each and every aspect of the room was meticulously planned with the jungle safari theme in mind. The cupboards had animal prints, the lamp shades had miniature animal drawings, the runners had animal prints and the whole rustic feel was amazing. The view from our balcony was a plain grassland but there were no animals as it had got dark. We freshened up and went down to the lobby at sharp 7 pm. There at the lobby was an owl and an iguana. One could hold the owl and touch the iguana under supervision. I did not want to touch them, but Zavi on the other hand was all too excited to pet the iguana. After spending a good 15 to 20 minutes by these animals we made a way to the Tsavo Restaurant for dinner. The restaurant was huge and at one side there was glass. We took a seat next to this glass screen and there by our side were lions, just strolling, drinking water and just chilling around. We could not take our eyes off the lions. I had never see a lion this close to me. I could literally see the fine lines on its face and I just marvelled at what a beautiful creation of God this was. Zavi ordered some noodles soup and we ordered a pizza. The food was exceptionally good. We just sat there, relaxed with the lions, had a beer and some great food.

The next day we were up very early and the sight that greeted me at the balcony was one I will never ever forget in my lifetime. Just imagine having your morning coffee, sitting in your balcony and looking across to zebras and wild beasts grazing. There was also a basket of carrots kept in the room that we can feed the animals. We can throw it from our balcony to the animals and we can get a closer look of the zebras and wild beasts. Zavi was wonder struck seeing this kind of a view as soon as he woke up. We had planned to spend the morning at Mara River Safari Lodge itself and to explore the place. So we had decided to have breakfast first and then head towards the Kiboko swimming pool. We quickly got ready with our swimming kits and went down to the restaurant for breakfast. I was amazed to see that even the breakfast buffet laid out had an animals theme. There were croissants in the shape of different animals and even bread with giraffe prints. As expected the breakfast buffet was simply amazing. As we walked out of the restaurant, after breakfast, that is when Zavi noticed the meerkats’ enclosure. It was really cute to watch them stand up and look out. We were informed at the reception that it was better to take a buggy to the pool as there was a bit of a distance to walk. So we hopped on to a buggy which dropped us off to the Kiboko pool. I did not plan to get into the pool, and only Zavi and Laya changed and jumped into the pool. Pool time was fun time and the best part was the view from the pool. While one swam in the pool we can see rhinoceros, zebras and wild beasts grazing.

After spending almost an hour in the pool, we rushed back to our room as it was almost time for our jeep safari ride. There are two options for the safari ride, one can either take the common bus safari or the private jeep safari. We took the jeep safari as I really wanted to ride in one of the legendary ‘Land Rover Defender’. Although the private jeep safari is a bit on the pricier side, the advantage is that we get to do animal feeding of all the herbivore animals. There were two baskets of carrots kept inside the vehicle. We first stopped by wild beasts. The vehicle is well caged / protected but still we were a bit scared to put the carrots out of the grill. The animals gently came up to the vehicle and waited expectantly for the carrots. Our driver showed us to take a carrot and to just show one by one. We then moved forward and stopped near some cows. Now as we were very sure that the cows won’t do anything to us, we gathered more courage and started feeding them. Even Zavi took turn feeding them carrots. As we progressed, we fed Zebras, different types of deers, camels and different kinds of wild beasts and even elephants . Whenever we reached spots of carnivore animals like hyenas, tigers and lions, we were instructed to keep our hands inside so that these animals don’t get tempted. There were even wild geese, which we could feed. And then we reached the ostriches. An ostrich just walked up to our vehicle, our driver broke the carrots into small pieces and the ostrich put his head inside through the driver’s open window and started pecking the carrots. Our driver was kind enough to even help Zavi feed the ostrich. Our vehicle then passed through a man made water body. It is only when we reached right in the middle, did we notice that there three to four hippos sleeping underwater. Our driver tried throwing some carrots in the water to wake them up, but we told him it’s ok because we did not want to confront any angry sleep deprived animal. We even saw gorillas and some different types of monkeys. Here there is giraffe named ‘Corona’, since it was born during the peak of the Covid pandemic. Zavi’s excitement knew no bounds. I had never seen a zebra this close in my life, I could see it’s beautiful black and white stripes up close. This ride was one of an experience for all of us.The ride was for an hour and hearts were contented.

We get to watch an animal show, tiger show and elephant show complimentary with our stay. Unfortunately we missed the animal show, since the time of it coincided with our safari ride. We were back from the safari ride right in time for the tiger show. We went in straight and took our seats for the show. It was an educational show where all the different characteristics of the tiger were explained with tiger running about. I never knew that tigers were really good swimmers and also that they could climb trees. The next show was an elephant show. Even the elephant show was on similar lines but a bit more dramatic with some people acting as villagers. They put up a show how of friendly elephants can be with human beings. This show was also good. Both the shows were around an hour each. After the show, we took a small walk around the place. We explored the Komodo dragon enclosure. They were actually successful in breeding Komodo dragons in captivity and this is the first place where it has been successful. There were a few more animals like porcupines and monkeys that we saw. We then went straight to Tsavo Restaurant for lunch. We were totally in love with having food with the lions.

A quick outing

We spend the whole morning at Mara River Safari Lodge itself and Mr Ari came to pick us up for a quick outing in the afternoon. We had decided to just go for a quick outing to nearby places. We first visited a handicrafts shop. There were many interesting wooden handicraft stuffs, but we did not get anything from here since we had the feeling that this place was a bit overpriced. Next we visited a store selling clothes with batik painting. ‘Batik painting’ is a traditional art work of the Balinese. It was amazing to see the skill with which the women painted. Our next stop, was a gold and silver store. The area had several gold and silver stores. We went into a pretty big one. Here we were first taken to their workshop. We could see the different stages of processing silver and finally even the craftsmanship and precision with which the workers produced really beautiful designs. We then entered the silver store. Even I was in awe of the designs. I really expected Laya to insist on buying something, but it was Zavi who said he wanted a chain. Unlike in India, where the rate of silver is as per the daily newspaper rate, here the rate was according to the design. So this made the stuff pretty expensive. We finally found a nice small chain for him. All through this store we were guided by a very pleasant lady who was very patient while we searched for a chain. There was also a small museum adjoining the store. The museum showcased different precious stones and metals.

After this, we set off for a visit to a coffee plantation. Balinese coffee is very famous and also the world’s most expensive Luwak coffee is also from Bali. We reached the Sataria coffee plantation. Here again we were greeted by a joyful young girl. She explained in detail about the coffee beans, cocoa beans, the flavours that are used like vanilla, ginger, mangosteen, and a lot of herbs that are used as flavours for coffee and tea. The highlight of the visit, is the making of the Luwak coffee. The coffee beans are first fed to Asian palm civet. Now, since the digestion of the civet is weak, the beans are excreted as a whole. It is washed thoroughly, roasted and then ground to fine powder. The process was on display there and the coffee smelled heavenly, but thinking of the process made it kind of gross. We were then guided to a lovely coffee tasting session. We were served with 12 different varieties of tea and coffee which included normal Bali coffee, normal black tea, vanilla flavoured coffee, rosela tea, ginger tea, tea from rice water, hot chocolate, mangosteen tea, ginseng tea and the like. The coffee plantation tour and the coffee tasting activity was free of cost. Only if we wanted to taste Luwak coffee we had to make a very nominal payment. What surprised me the most was the way Zavi was enjoying the whole experience. He was fully engaged in tasting and finally he decided that we shall buy the vanilla coffee. There is a coffee shop in the premises from where we bought coffee powder for our family and friends as well. We bid goodbye to the lovely staff members of the Sataria coffee plantation. We then got dinner from McD and went straight back to Mara River Safari Lodge. Once we got back to Mara, although I wanted to take rest, Zavi was adamant that he wanted to check out the animals in the lobby. They had kept a Macau and a pangolin on display. Zavi was very eager to touch it and take photos with it. After a short photo session, we went outside the lobby as there is a daily dance and fire show organised for the guests. The show had an overall tribal theme. They used different props and there was also fire dance. The show was really fun to watch. Once the show was done, we decided to retire for the night.

If you have not read our previous Bali blogs then do read it to catch up with our experience until now.

1. Welcome to the Paradise Island: Bali

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Rahul Devakumar
Creative Media Studio

We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.


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