How to enjoy an African safari in Bali

March 04, 2016 Explorer Gabor 0 Comments

Fancy breakfast in a lions den?

Want to hand feed carrots to zebra or chicken to a tiger?   Maybe pat a lion cub, macaw or orangutan?  You don't have to go all the way to Kruger or the Serengeti.

My kids are animal lovers and zoo tragics. Nearly every holiday includes a visit to a zoo, the more interactive the better.  As they loved the Kula EcoPark in Fiji, where they could get cosy with snakes, iguanas and birds, I sought out another close-up animal experience for our family vacation in Bali.

Who would have thought you could enjoy an African safari in tropical Bali and sleep in the middle of a safari park.  At the Mara River Safari Lodge you can do just that as the Lodge is nestled within the Bali Safari and Marine Park. From your room you can hear lions roar and a lot of other indistinguishable and sometimes unsettling noises that you would rather not think about.

Staying at the lodge is all about staying with the animals.  Our two bedroom Kifaru Family Room, whilst a long walk from the reception and restaurants, was near the pool overlooking a grassy area where the zebra and rhino roam.  A bowl of fresh carrots is left in your room each day so you can throw them to the animals, hopefully landing near them and not in the stream, which is where many of them seem to end up when thrown by the kids.

Fresh carrots for the Zebra & Rhino

You can also dine with lions at the Tsavo restaurant.  It's within the lion den, though the lions are often resting at breakfast time so we didn't see too much action.  I felt sorry for the lion enclosed in a separate space near the toilets as he roared a lot, clearly unhappy with not being able to roam as far and wide as his friends.

During the day, jump on a shuttle bus and tour the park or walk to the various animal enclosures, which are pretty generous and somewhat reminiscent of their native surroundings. Animal experiences are everywhere and a small orangutan sat on my lap, though he weighed more than my eldest son and had hands bigger than my hubby. The boys were able to touch a tiger cub, a lion cub and some elephants.

Zebra & Rhino hanging by the pool
A highlight of staying at the Safari Lodge is interacting with smaller animals in the lobby each night. The kids were happy to hold macaws and parrots, though weren't brave enough to be wrapped in a python.  We all passed on that one.  Being wrapped in a big, heavy python was not my idea of an after-dinner delight.

The night safari is pretty cool.  Standing in a cage in the back of a truck, you visit various animals in almost total darkness, feeding them from the cage.  We hand-fed carrots to zebras, long-horn cattle and elephants, which was met with squeals of delight from the kids and many of the adults.  The big one though is feeding tigers by poking raw chicken onto the top of the cage, with the tigers jumping on to eat the tasty treats.  One tiger was so close to my face I could feel his breath. Gorgeous animal, though I was glad there was a cage between us.

Hand feeding tigers during night safari

The Mara River Safari Lodge is about 30 mins from Sanur. Tour buses start landing at the Safari Park after breakfast as it's a popular day trip.  From about 5pm the park starts to empty and apart from the night safari around 7pm, the place is pretty quiet except for the noise of the animals.

The best bits:  seeing the animals up close.  The experience would be quite different if you visited for the day as you wouldn't be able to enjoy lions at breakfast, see animals passing through the resort during the day or the animal experiences in the lobby at night.  Much better to stay for a night or two.

The so so bits:  it's a bit expensive to stay at Mara River Lodge, though if you bundle the night safari, day safari, animal experiences and some meals, it's a little more economical.

If you are looking for an animal experience or a taste of Africa as part of your tropical holiday, consider the Mara River Safari's worth exploring further when you holiday in Bali.

Planning a holiday to Bali and looking for something different?   Read about my family's experience Getting Muddy in a Bali Buggy.

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