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Please DO Touch the Animals
at the Bali Zoo Park!

On Christmas Day, we hired a guide to take us to see a full-moon ceremony at Batuan Temple. When he met us at the hotel, he suggested we visit the Bali Zoo Park, located on the way to the Batuan village. It wasn’t on our list of top things to do on Bali, but we figured anything involving animals couldn’t be too bad. For Miranda, Sami and Daniel, the zoo visit definitely brightened up the prospect of what they dreaded would be a boring “cultural” experience at the temple.

After many twists and turns through the mountains around the village of Ubud, we arrived at what looked like central casting’s version of a perfect jungle zoo. Hard to know if the Bali Zoo inspired Jurassic Park or vice versa, but it was all there: beautifully-groomed paths, perfectly-tended vegetation, and nicely-marked animal exhibits, all laid out along a one-way path that curved in a way that kept revealing new surprises ahead.

The first photos we took were NOT of animals, but the kids immediately got the point of these statues, particularly the one on the right.

The business end of this one moved up and down, filling up and, er, emitting water. Shrieks of laughter turned to mock horror at the idea that we would actually photograph it.

Another early twist in the trail brought us face to face with this strange-looking bird. It looked as if somebody had gone wild with a paint-by-number set.

The kids raced ahead on the path, and we could hear them yelling to each other, “Look at this one!” “Wait for me!” “Wow, did you see that?”

If necessary, we would remind them later, at the temple, of the good time they were having now. Parental payback.

Oddly, there was not a single other person in the park that day. Because it was expensive (about $10 per person)? Because it was Christmas? Who knew? But it made strolling along the path a very pleasant and relaxing experience.

Just as the caged animal exhibits started to get boring, we rounded a bend to find a group of animal trainers with their charges, who without further ado offered us the chance to get our hands on the animals ourselves!

This bird took to me right away. The trainer set it on my fist and it promptly side-stepped its way up my arm to stand on my shoulder. Sharon called out, “It likes you, Tom!” But I was quickly set straight about its true feelings when it started to use its powerful, hooked beak to chomp on my eyeglasses.

Fortunately, they’re made of metal – plastic would have snapped in two. I said goodbye to the bird and passed it along to Charlie.

The bird immediately tried the same trick, going up from wrist to shoulder in a flash and grabbing Charlie’s shirt button with his beak.

Crack! There goes the button. Sorry, Charlie!

After seeing what happened with Tom and Charlie, Sharon was a little nervous about this bird’s even bigger beak. With no glasses or buttons to offer up, it was not pleasant to imagine what this one might want to grab onto!

Jessica held out her hands for the big iguana, gamely holding the squirming monster as it tried to give her a kiss.

Wanting to assuage the lizard’s feelings about missing out on a little loving from Jessica, I made a move on him – but no dice.

Not interested. Obviously a male. Right?

Right about then, we realized that we hadn’t seen the kids since right after we had entered the park. Hmmm. No other people in the park, but….thoughts of the darker side of Jurassic Park leaped to mind. Where could they be? And more important, who or what were they with?

We hadn’t seen anything big enough to eat them, and we’d been told that the path was one-way with no forks. We hadn’t heard any shrieks (from children or animals). Still…

Just as I was starting to get a bit concerned, we heard them laughing up ahead. They had reached the end of the path, then doubled back to find us. We were excited to introduce them to our new animal friends.

The toucan was almost as big as Daniel!

What Daneil couldn’t see was that at the exact moment Sharon snapped this photo, the bird pooped right down the middle of his back! (Charlie rinsed out his t-shirt in the bathroom, and all was well).

Daniel had a less explosive encounter with the bird who had picked on Tom and Charlie. Maybe it was still digesting Charlie's button, but it refrained from snacking on any part of Daniel.

Sami was a bit taken aback by the bird-transfer process, but was thrilled to actually have it on her arm.

“I thought his feet would be really hard, but they’re actually soft!”

After handing back the animals to their keepers, we headed off again down the winding path. Now came the bigger animals: lions, tigers - and orangutans (no bears).

This guy was really big, and really bored. He stood about 6 feet tall. I was glad a deep moat and a high wall separated us. His attitude seemed to say, who YOU lookin’ at?

As it turned out, he was plenty friendly. After gumming a piece of rotting mango, he threw it directly at Jessica!

This was no casual toss, but a true, well-aimed over-hand pitch. We didn’t need Jane Goodall to identify textbook flirtatious behavior. As Charlie noted, this ape had great taste in women.

Daniel, an avid baseball player, wanted to pitch one back, but first of all he had to overcome an understandable reluctance to palm a half-chewed piece of fruit. He showed great form, and the orangutan seemed surprised (in a pleasant way), promptly tossing back another piece. We knew it was not at all politically correct to play catch with an orangutan, but since he didn’t seem to mind, we had some fun. Fortunately, we were able to catch one of his tosses on film!

After a few tosses, the ape got bored and ambled away.

We continued along the path, taking in the endless variety of plants and animals, and finally ended back where we had started.

Next: our first temple ceremony...


Bali chapter shortcuts: Intro Xmas Eve Zoo Temple Market Balinese Beauty Tsunami
Batik Monkeys Rafting New Year's Biking Elephants Sea Sports Cremation Dress Up Missing!

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