Sun, 07 Mar 1999

Elephants part of tourist trail in Bali

Bali, Indonesia's top tourist destination, has another tourist attraction to offer in addition to its famed beaches and cultural riches. It is the Elephant Safari Park located in Taro village, Gianyar regency, about 50 kilometers north of Denpasar. The Jakarta Post photographer P.J. Leo compiled the following report from a recent visit to the park.

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): Few local or foreign vacationers know the "Island of the Gods" has opened an elephant safari park offering the thrill of a ride on the big, lumbering animals.

The pachyderms carry tourists through a quiet, cool forest, 733 meters above sea level, accompanied by a mahout, the man who harnesses the elephant with a sharp iron hook.

The park has 17 elephants and 19 mahouts brought in from the Way Kambas elephant training center in Lampung, southern Sumatra.

The park is one of the seven tourist attractions managed by Bali Adventure Tours in cooperation with the Elephant Conservation Institute in Way Kambas, the Bali provincial government, forestry ministry and Taro village.

Sitaresmi Sylvi Aryjati, spokesperson for the park, said the two-hectare facility opened in August 1997 but has yet to be formally inaugurated because it was still incomplete.

"We are building facilities for the elephants," Sylvi said.

Tours available cover 1.5 kilometers (US$29) or 2.5 kilometers for ($39) through scenery dominated by forests and terraced rice fields.

An elephant carries a maximum of two passengers per trip, with only one rider allowed if he or she is big. The park limits the daily number of visitors to 180.

"The policy aims at keeping the elephants fit," Sylvi said.

To promote the park, the company is promoting the slogan: "Don't leave Bali without a Visit to The Elephant Safari Park."

A German tourist said she enjoyed the ride. She learned of it from the owner of the bungalow in Ubud where she stayed with her husband.

Tourists are particularly amused by the trained elephants' showing off at the end of the ride when the passenger dismounts.

Not all visitors to the park take a ride on the big beasts. Some look around and others feed the beasts. Most visits are arranged by the tour company.

"Some tourists taking part in mountain bike riding or rafting on Ayung River will usually visit the safari park because they have paid for additional tickets," Sylvi said.

The park has also benefited Taro villagers, who provide part of the elephants feed like stems of coconut leaves and grass.

The 17 elephants need 1,160 kilograms of grass and 440 stems of coconut leaves daily. Each of them also needs 15 vitamin B tablets a day, according to Kade Adnyana, operation supervisor of the park.

"The elephants are also fed with corncobs, bamboo shoots and tubers. In the dry season, they also eat banana stems which contain water."

Taro villagers have also opened souvenir shops. The park is building a restaurant and a lodge within the complex.

"We think the lodge is needed because tourists like staying and playing with the elephants in the park," Sylvi said.