The attendant showed us the calculator screen,"800,000 rupiah..."
The cost for two tickets to Bali Bird Park.
We hadn't done our homework. We made the 30 minute drive south from Ubud and arrived to find out the entrance price, the equivalent of $27 USD/each, was far more than our cheap selves wanted to pay for a nonchalant day trip.
We looked at each other, contemplation heavy on our faces. Do we or don't we? We don't even pay that for one or two nights' accommodation in a guesthouse. We don't spend that much on a trip to the grocery store. Living in the so-called "developing world" for 3 years has ruined me and skewed my perception of what something should cost.
We love birds; it's a fact we've discussed frequently. So we fork over the cash.
Lucky for us, we wouldn't be sorry. For the next five hours we run around like excited children on a school field-trip.
Jim is so excited upon seeing his first parrot that he runs over to greet it, quickly thrusting his arm forward to beckon the bird aboard. The creature, undoubtably frightened by the sudden movement, chomps down hard on a thick chunk of Jim's forearm. Jim cries out in panic, nearby tourists and park rangers perk up and look our way; the bird lets go.
Having decided early on to make the most of our day, and hence get our moneys worth, we successfully attempt to squeeze in every activity and show listed on the program. We watch all the bird feedings including the pelicans, for whom we are given slimy little fish to toss into their eager mouths. Their bizarre yellow eyes stare intently at us and their strange, giant mouths grab at the food like giant chopsticks.
The park offers plenty of photo opportunities, which allow us to hold various exotic birds and other creatures; hornbills, parrots, iguanas, turtles, while an attendant snaps a shot of us on their camera (along with ours). We don't miss out on any of these. However, we do opt out of spending $30 at the gift shop for a cheesy set of printouts complete with colorful cartoon bird border.
We spent a great deal of time just wandering around, looking at the colorful birds. With 1000 resident birds, there are many breeds flying about which I have never seen. Many look straight out of a Disney movie; so vibrantly colorful, they could be cartoons. Although, my favorite creature is not a bird at all, but the giant fruit bats common in Bali. With a body of up to three pounds and a wingspan of up to five feet, they look less like bats and more like giant winged rodents. I could spend all day staring at this strange animal.
We watch a rather impressive show featuring birds of prey. Epic music plays as a pretty Balinese woman in a short skirt and head seat narrates in both English and Bahasa; "Carefully watch the grass here. The Sea Eagle swoops down to catch it's prey! Basic instinct!" At one point the rangers set free a small flock of Amazon Parrots. They soar together through the air, gliding together in a colorful formation. This is my favorite part.
The grand finale involves a demonstration with volunteers. A brave little girl comes to the front, the pretty announcer puts tray above her head. She places raw meat on the tray. A small bird of prey swoops down and snatches the meat from the tray. The audience claps in awe. After, an older volunteer comes to the front. This time there will be no tray. The swift bird swoops down, grabs the treat from her bare head. The audience goes wild.
The price includes entrance to the reptile park, which has a collection of various snakes, frogs, lizards and gators on beautifully landscaped tropical grounds. The humongous salt water crocodiles were my favorite part of this section. These are massive, the largest species of all living reptiles, with big teeth, and evil eyes. They sit so still you wonder if they are real. One had blood and feathers poking out of his crooked teeth from a recent meal.
Sure $27 was a lot for us to pay on an activity, but we both agreed the Bali Bird Park was worth it. It's usually true; you get what you pay for.
Bali Bird Park Information: The Bali Bird Park is located just off J Raya Singapadu, ie. the road from Ubud to Denpasar, see here. It's open 7 days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM. We arrived by motorbike from Ubud, however it's a popular destination, and you can easily arrange private transport. Tickets are $27 for adults and about half that for kids–who, by the way, will love this place. There is a reasonably priced restaurant in the park. For more information about the park see here.