On the far-flung northwestern corner of Bali, the West Bali National Park remains veiled in forested obscurity. Within this fringe destination, seemingly an infinite distance away, Plataran Menjangan Resort has created a unique, nature-focused enclave that may just be escapism at its best.
Occupying a substantial 190-square kilometres of land and sea, the West Bali National Park should certainly get more attention than it does. Within this sprawling garden of wilderness live 175 species of plants and 167 species of animals, all finding a home in the patchwork of habitats, spanning mangrove, coral reef, savannah and monsoon forest.
The promise of a dense, forested wonderland on a far-reaching corner of Bali was precisely what I craved for — the ideal contrast from the urban, lifestyle atmosphere that has grown through most of south Bali.
• The Journey to Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa, Bali
• No Walls with Nature (About the Park and Resort)
• The Great Outdoors (Outdoor Experiences)
• Five Star Experiences (Lifestyle Experiences)
The Journey to Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa, Bali
So began the four and a half hour journey from Bali’s south coast, conveniently picked up by the Plataran team. The best route north cuts right through the centre of Bali, travelling through the highland peaks of Munduk – an almost exact midpoint – before sliding down to the northern half of the island towards the coast. From there, it’s all west to the edge of Bali.
On the north coast, the terrain changes noticeably. As we drove, dry bushland breathed dust onto the steaming roads. This transforms quickly when you’ve entered the national park area, as the coastline drops off and a tangling savannah-like forest occupy both sides of the road, a scene that seems to transport you out of the Bali you know and into a completely new environment.
No Walls with Nature
Plataran Menjangan Resort is one of only a few resorts given permission to operate within the national park, and thus operates as an ecotourism destination.
As we drove into the lobby, I was thrilled at the sight of deer grazing at the entrance, undisturbed. “There’s no walls around the resort, so the animals move freely in the grounds”, shares the driver, noticing my excitement.
Winning the location lottery, the resort sits on the corner of a bay facing out to sea. A mangrove forest lines its coast, softening the brilliant blues of the ocean lapping at its doorstep; in the distance, the revered Menjangan Island can be spotted; and towards the west, mighty Javan volcanoes lurk behind a haze of clouds.
Villas are peppered in different locations, some by the beach, others within the mangrove forest, or under the shade of the forest trees. With Plataran’s strong Indonesian identity, some of the villas – like the Forest Villa – take on a traditional joglo-style.
I was lucky enough to be staying in the Ocean Front Mangrove Villa; a gorgeous 150 square metre accommodation that opens up to a private mangrove bay, frequented by passing deer. Each of the two villas available has its own open deck, a spacious separate living room, cosy bedroom and an enormous bathroom – complete with a bathtub that looks out into the mangroves. Huge bay windows present the serene beachfront the two villas share. This quick review of the villa doesn’t do it justice. It is quite breathtaking and is likely the most up-market West Bali National Park accommodation.
The Great Outdoors
Being in a national park, many of the resort activities immerse you into this special environment, allowing you to explore parts of the forest, learn about some of the local conservation efforts, and be part of them too.
Plataran’s Ranger for a Day experience invites you to walk through the forest with one of the park rangers. I walked with the ranger as he shared his daily duties and pointed out the different flora and fauna we came across.
For me, the best part of this was simply walking through the wilderness, and a very different wilderness at that. The West Bali National Park is comprised of a monsoon-forest, meaning that the flora changes dramatically between the wet and dry season. Many of the trees are deciduous and in the dry season lose all of their leaves to conserve water. “The dry season is best to spot animals”, explained the ranger, “as you can see clear through the trees and see them from far away”.
The wet season was drawing to an end when I was there, but we managed to spot more deer, wild long-tail macaques (same monkeys as in Ubud, but very different characters as these are properly wild) and a black giant tree squirrel.
Although spotting more animals would have been exciting, it was hard not to revel in the enveloping, densely leafed forest. It is a different kind of peace, that invokes a deep sense of contentment, as if this blanket of nature acted as a buffer from the complications of life, found ‘out there’, in the normal world. They ceased to matter, or exist, beneath the forest canopy.
The resort’s early morning bird-watching experience makes for a more attentive stroll through the national park. Just before dawn you make your way through the grounds, listening as the birds rise with the sun, identifying them through their unique calls. Taken to a four-story bird watching tower, you can watch as these colourful birds dance above the tree-line. If you aren’t a bird lover, you’ll likely become one after the thrill of spotting the Javan Kingfisher with its dazzling sapphire coat, or the glowing radiance of the Green Pigeons and of course the critically endangered Bali myna (or Bali Starling, or Jalak Bali), endemic to the park. Though no-one can corroborate my story, I was absolutely sure I spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle take flight!
As part of Plataran Menjangan Resort’s conservation efforts, you can visit their Bali Starling Sanctuary, a centre that facilities the breeding and then release of this endangered, endemic species. A heartwarming fact about the beautiful Bali Starling is that they mate for life, one pair forever. Even if their partner passes away, the remaining bird won’t look for another. Now isn’t that the perfect romantic metaphor for honeymooners or those celebrating an anniversary? Another experience is the Endemic Tree Planting Program, where you can plant a local species of tree to help protect the native ecosystem.
Five Star Experiences
Now, I’ve painted the experience as if its some outback camping adventure, when in fact Plataran Menjangan Resort has all the luxuries you’d expect from a five-star destination. If indeed you’re just in need of a relaxing getaway, you won’t be disappointed.
The resort’s infinity pool at the central Octagon Restaurant is somewhere to take in the mangrove and ocean views; or perhaps delight in the restaurant’s international menu. With little dining options around in the park, Octagon serves a range of cuisine, going beyond Plataran’s known flair for Indonesian food. Padma Spa, tucked away in a huddle of mangroves, overlooks Menjangan Island in the distance, and offers a range of therapies to help you ease away any troubles.
More unique to the property are the extravagant dining experiences you can opt for. The first is a Picnic Breakfast, where a full spread is laid out on the beach in front of your villa, complete with chef and waiter! An early start is advised to avoid the heat later in the morning.
More extravagant still, and certainly a highlight experience for any travelling couples, is the sunset dinner cruise aboard one of Plataran’s phinisis, a beautifully crafted wooden yacht. A three-course dinner on the top deck of this immaculate boat as it breezes out to sea and into the nearby bay. A cool wind blows on your face as rindik musicians set the Bali scene, and – weather permitting – the glowing sunset transforms into a star-filled sky. Long, pensive moments were taken after dinner was over to just take in the evening scenes.
Between the activities and luxuries, simply walking and cycling through the grounds of Plataran Menjangan Resort was a treat in itself. Perhaps one of the best assets the resort has is their jetty that juts out into the crystal clear waters of the surrounding bay, teeming with fish and coral.
Every little moment and around every corner, there’s an opportunity to feel, experience and appreciate nature. And if that isn’t the ideal escape from everyday life, I don’t know what is.
Plataran Menjangan Resort & Spa
West Bali National Park, Jl. Raya Seririt – Gilimanuk, Singaraja
+62 361 411 388