Located on the northwest tip of Bali, Taman Nasional Bali Barat incorporates the whole of Prapat Agung Peninsular and adjoins a huge swathe of protected reserves around the towns of Gilimanuk, Cekik and Banyuwedang and the eastern highlands. All together the protected area is equivalent to roughly ten percent of Bali’s landmass.
This part of Bali is noticeably dryer and warmer than the rest of the island, resulting in a mixed habitat of open savannah woodlands, acacia scrub and rainforest. In the higher regions, around the extinct volcanoes of Mount Patas and Mount Merbuk there are pockets of montane forest. Down on the coast, mangrove systems are interspersed with rocky headlands and sandy beaches.
The varied habitats host an array of wildlife including Banteng, Java Rusa and Indian Muntiac deer, boar, long-tailed macaque monkeys and the rarely seen leopard cat. Sadly, the last known Bali Tiger was shot here in 1937 and is now considered extinct although rumours of sightings persist.
With 160 species of bird calling the park home, including the highly endangered Bali Starling or Rothschild’s Mynah, the park is a bird lover’s paradise. Two colonies of Terns nest in the sandy entrance to Teluk Lempur (Muddy Bay) whilst sea birds like the Lesser Frigate and Brown Boobie prefer the tiny mangrove Burung Island in the middle of the bay.
Offshore coral reefs, sea grass beds and marine life thrive in around the warm, clear waters. Menjangan, a small island less than a kilometre off the eastern side of the peninsular is regarded as one of Bali’s best dive sites. The drop-offs on the southern side of the island have particularly good coral gardens and with no dangerous currents to contend with, snorkelling in this area is excellent. Keep an eye out for the Hawkesbill turtles which frequent the area.
A series of raised boardwalks and well-worn trails provide good access right around the peninsular and small boats can be chartered from Labuuan Lalang on the east side for the 30-40min trip across to Menjangan Island.
Park headquarters and the main gateway to the park are located at Cekik, about 3km south of Gilimanuk, the ferry port for boats coming to and from Java. A second entry point lies 12km’s to the east at Labuhan Lalang. You can obtain a park permit and an official, and compulsory, guide at either place. Coach style buses run between Bali’s south and Gilimanuk several times daily with regular mini bus connections to Cekik, Labuhan Lalang and right across the north coast. Otherwise, organise transfers by private car.
NusaBay Menjangan resort offers mid-range, beachside accommodation within the park boundaries. Otherwise there’s basic inn style accommodation at nearby Gilimanuk or a good range of mid-range and luxury resorts to choose from along the coast to the east of the park.