The Menjangan Part 1: Sweet Air & Birdsong

55 comments
Asia, Indonesia
Lush Forests at the West Bali National Park

Lush Forests at the West Bali National Park

The intense sweet and faintly zesty redolence of lush forest instantly permeated the air as I opened the car window. The deep, earthy scent of the dirt road augmented the complex chemicals in the air, evoking my childhood memories of playing out in nature. I inhaled deeply, letting as much fresh air enter my lungs as possible, a much-needed change from the typical smells of a big city they are used to.

Our minivan shook and rattled, albeit mildly, as we went deeper into the forest to the entrance of The Menjangan eco-resort, a long but fairly smooth ride from Bali’s sole international airport in the south. Menjangan is the Indonesian word for deer, but two brightly colored blue kingfishers, flying graciously among the trees, were the first animals I spotted as our car got off the main road onto the gravel pathway.

The resort is located at the outer perimeter of the West Bali National Park – the island’s sole national park – in a zone called zona pemanfaatan, literally ‘utilization zone’. Its location within the protected wildlife sanctuary requires the resort to be run with sustainability in mind. As we arrived at the reception area, we were served a refreshing tropical fruit juice to welcome us. Right away we noticed the use of a reusable metal straw, instead of the more common plastic one, the first evidence of environment-friendly practices at the resort.

Gelgel, probably the resort’s most energetic staff member, told us to always close the door and windows of our room to prevent insects from getting in.

“We don’t use fogging because we’re at a national park,” he explained.

While James came to The Menjangan for work, for me the trip was purely an escape from the gridlock of Jakarta’s roads and the stress that entails. The manager of the resort, as James explained to me following his interview, is a Swiss man whose responsibility goes beyond ensuring good services for the guests. He is also a creative environmentalist who initiated the eco-banjar program, inspired by the Balinese community-based banjar system which brings all residents of a village to contribute and benefit from the banjar’s programs and activities.

Looking Out to Java

Looking Out to Java

Green at All Directions

Green at All Directions

A Pyramidal Alang-Alang Roof

A Pyramidal Alang-Alang Roof

Outdoor Dining Area

Outdoor Dining Area

Our first encounter with a member of the eco-banjar was on the water, when we went kayaking around the dense mangrove forest at Bajul Bay. Wayan, our guide who also works at the resort, was at first more interested in explaining the variety of mangrove species at the bay. Minutes after slowly paddling along the coast, at times through a jumbled mesh of mangrove roots, he came closer to a certain point.

“These trees have always looked this big since I was little,” he said. Interestingly he spoke to us mainly in Bahasa Indonesia, despite knowing that James comes from Hong Kong.

Saya ndak pede bicara Bahasa Inggris kalau ada orang Indonesia juga,” he explained to me in Indonesian with distinct Balinese accent, and grinned. I don’t feel confident speaking English when an Indonesian is around.

Our visit coincided with the annual ‘trash season’ that brings garbage from both near and distant places, churned and carried by the strong currents of the seas. By now I noticed every time he saw floating plastic trash he would pick it up and place it on his kayak. I came closer to him and asked, while also mentioning about the eco-banjar I heard from James earlier.

“I’m also a member [of the eco-banjar],” he said. “We collect trash to be sold to recycling plants to earn more money.”

Such is the benefit of eco-banjar which not only keeps the environment clean, but also generates extra income for society.

Around 5 pm we decided to head back to the small pier where we started, in hope to catch the sunset despite the unpromising sky. Once on land, we took one of the Trenggilings – modified minivans mounted with metal hand railings and seats on top of the vehicles, and curiously named after an elusive and endangered nocturnal animal: the pangolin – provided by the resort to transport guests from their rooms to the beach and other places within The Menjangan.

Dinner was served at the beach – both at the wooden platform by the mangroves and shaded premises on the sand. But dining out in nature after nightfall could be quite a challenge. Bugs accompanied us both over and under the table, each attracted to different things: from the dim table lighting, to the food, also to our feet. However it was a small price we had to pay in return for unpolluted air, awe-inspiring views, and the well-being of the wild animals living in the national park.

The following day, as morning came, I was awakened by the noise from outside our room, breaking the relaxing tranquility that put me to sleep like a rock. But instead of car honks and motorbike roars, they were chirping birds, trying to outdo one another. Life is good, I thought to myself.

Bajul Bay where Mangroves Abound

Bajul Bay where Mangroves Abound

Getting Ready to Explore the Mangrove Forest

Getting Ready to Explore the Mangrove Forest

Dense Vegetation Comprising 14 Species of Mangrove

Dense Vegetation Comprising 14 Species of Mangrove

Wayan, Our Kayaking Guide

Wayan, Our Kayaking Guide

Pneumatophores Protruding from the Ground

Pneumatophores Protruding from the Ground

Brittle Star, Abundant at The Menjangan's Main Beach

Brittle Star, Abundant at The Menjangan’s Main Beach

Deer Roaming around the Mangroves

Deer Roaming around the Mangroves

Dining by the Beach

Dining by the Beach on A Cloudy Afternoon

Candlelight Dinner out in the Nature

Candlelight Dinner out in the Nature

Bali Tower, the Resort's Landmark

Bali Tower, the Resort’s Landmark

Posted by

Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

55 thoughts on “The Menjangan Part 1: Sweet Air & Birdsong”

  1. It was gorgeous, wasn’t it? Even with overcast skies and a bout of heavy rain, not to mention the mosquitoes at dinnertime, The Menjangan was one of the best resort experiences I’ve had. I do wish we stayed a bit longer to go on a birdwatching tour – seeing Bali starlings in the wild would be the icing on the cake!

    Truth be told, I was more than a little frustrated that Wayan was nervous about speaking in English (even though he knows the language). I wanted so badly to ask him questions about the Eco-Banjar, and understand everything he said. Oh well, I guess it’s partially my fault for not speaking enough Bahasa Indonesia. Lesson learned.

    Like

    • I enjoyed every single moment at The Menjangan, even with the mosquitoes and the heavy downpour on our second night. But if we did have more time, birdwatching would have been the first thing on my mind. It was nice to see Bali starlings at the aviary in Hong Kong, so to see them in the wild was (and still is) something I look forward to experiencing.

      I should have translated more of what Wayan told me, even though I could only understand about 70-80% of what he said. Sorry for that!

      Like

  2. Gara says:

    Wow. I haven’t ever gone to the island before :hehe, and I also don’t know that there is a resort. It’s very convenient :)).
    All I know about Menjangan Island is the temple with huuge Ganesha statue, temples about Kebo Iwa, Airlangga, and Gajah Mada (don’t forget Kwan Im), and also Manik Angkeran at the same time. There is also a legend about Mpu Kuturan, which caused the island to be named “Menjangan” and a village nearby named “Cekik” :)).

    Like

    • It was very convenient indeed, Gara. On my previous trips to Bali I was always curious about that far northwestern corner of the island, and when I got the chance to visit it, clearly it didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen images of that huge Ganesha statue, but I had no idea about the Kwan Im temple. What a bizarre setting for a Chinese temple! Gara, I should have asked you about the story of the island prior to my visit. 🙂

      Like

      • Gara says:

        As far as I know, we Balinese shared a long history with Chinese people. Many temples in Bali also hold a shrine for Chinese–for example the Pabean Temple (near Pulaki), Dalem Balingkang Temple (in Penulisan, Bangli, a memorial for the Chinese princess, Kang Cie Wie), and also a big Chinese shrine inside the Batur’s Ulun Danu Temple. Oh, and at Dalem Peed Temple in Nusa Penida (the most scariest temple in Bali!)
        Maybe it’s because the Balinese Hindu we know now is actually a fusion between Shivaite and “Buddha” (we have “Buddha” priest at Budakeling, too).
        In fact, I think every Segara Temple (a temple built near the beach) now has a Ratu Bagus Subandar monument in it, and those monuments usually built with a little taste of Chinese culture :)).
        The only question left in my self is, “Can we pray in it?”
        Honestly, that question is still left many Hindu people confused (including me) :haha.
        But actually I’ve prayed in one before :hehe :peace.

        Like

      • Wow Gara, your extensive knowledge on Balinese culture and history is quite stunning! Did you learn everything at school or did you find that information somewhere else? Now that I think of it, Chinese and Indians did leave their cultural traces deep inside Indonesian cultural scenes anywhere you go, except maybe in Papua. Thanks again for your invaluable information!

        Like

    • I really did have a great time at this remote part of Bali. With so many adventure choices, I believe you would also enjoy this place.

      Like

  3. What a beautiful place Bama, and lovely photographs. I’m pleased such a place exists that tries to take care of the environment.
    Alison

    Like

    • We’ve already had enough hotels and resorts which only focus on making profit. So to know that there are places like this resort, whose existence enables us to reconnect with nature in order to appreciate it more, is really heartening. Thanks Alison!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve visited Menjangan but didn’t spend the night there. Looks like I have to go back again someday to explore. Anyway I really like the way you write the story. It feels like reading an excerpt of a novel. Keep it up!

    Like

    • I stayed at the resort for two nights and now I hope to have stayed there for another night to do more adventure and exploration. Such a nice place it was. Mira, thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate it! Hopefully I’ll write my own book one day. 🙂

      Like

  5. Wow, this place looks and sounds fantastic! Metal straws?! Finally someone is doing this! What a great and important detail. Thanks for sharing this story. I’ll be in Bali in May for a wedding — probably too far away to stay here, but hopefully another time!

    Like

    • Kelly, I was too pleasantly surprised to see the metal straws. The resort’s commitment to preserving the environment is quite impressive, except the fact that the Trenggilings are powered by diesel engines. I have suggested the use of electric vehicles to transport guests from one place to another, but at least right now they are doing reasonably well. Where are you staying in Bali this May? Will you have enough time to explore the island? May is not peak season yet and rainy season should have ended by then.

      Like

      • We’re probably staying in Canggu or Seminyak. Will only be there three days because work schedules are too hectic for a full getaway. But three days in Bali is never a bad thing, right? 🙂

        Like

      • I’ve been to Seminyak several times and it’s a nice place to just chill and relax. And yes, three days in Bali is not bad at all. 🙂

        Like

    • Thank you, Sue. January was relatively low season, and I only saw probably less than a dozen of other guests. I’m not so sure if the place would be as nice and serene in July/August, although that is the perfect time for snorkeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Just beautiful Bama! The resort exudes serenity. I love the ambience evoked by your low light shots. And the lush green forest cover. Truly wonderful to know places like this exist.

    Like

    • Seeing the lush forest really brought me peace, and it made me think of how having more parks would help lift up the stress Jakartans have to deal with every day. Nature does heal us. Thank you, Madhu!

      Like

    • It’s unmistakably one of the best places in Bali to wind down and reconnect with nature. The brittle star was an unintended discovery as one morning I was walking down the beach and noticed black five-armed creatures all over the rocks. Upon closer inspection I recognized some similar features a sea star has.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautifully written and very nice pictures. Nature is beautiful, and can get you thinking quite a lot…
    A similar experience of mine -https://bloggertanvi.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/the-new-year-treat/

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Tanvi. Today living close to the nature has become city dwellers’ dream, while living in the city still is a dream for many who live in villages. If only they knew.

      Like

  8. Have always wanted to go to Bali. This post almost makes me feel as though I was there myself. Cannot wait to explore it one day though.

    Like

    • Hi Bellie and Bun. One advice I would give on visiting Bali: avoid the peak season! Other than that, it’s still the same charming island everyone falls in love with.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Resortnya kerennn banget, Bama! Bener-bener suasana liburan yang tenang dan kembali ke alam. Pihak resort nggak diizinkan fogging, tapi kalau pengunjung pakai lotion anti nyamuk boleh kan? 🙂

    Like

    • Yes, betul. Sisi ‘negatif’ kembali ke alam adalah banyaknya serangga yang berseliweran, karena di kota kita sudah sebegitu terbiasa dan nyaman dengan sedikit serangga. Tapi di resort ini pakai lotion antinyamuk diperbolehkan kok.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I really did have a wonderful time there, and if I got the chance to return I would go in a heartbeat.

      Like

    • Makasih udah komentar di blog saya. Biasanya yang gak suka Indonesia sih karena belum tau aja apa yang bisa dieksplor di sini. 🙂

      Like

  10. Hi Bama, how beautiful and lush this national park is. The thick canopies of trees is just amazing, I could sense the crispiness in the air. I like the eco-banjar spirit. That setting for dinner on the beach looks so lovely.

    Like

    • Hi Marisol. The lush forest was a much-needed therapy for me since I have to deal with daily traffic and pollution in Jakarta. I was really impressed with the eco-banjar because at the end of the day to make any initiative to save the environment work you have to involve the locals and show them the benefits of it.

      Like

  11. what I amaze the most with your posts is how you write and structure it. Not easy to do that. And no wonder you got the fresly pressed from WordPress. Congratulations! Hope we can meet in the future 🙂

    Like

  12. What an oasis, so much to see and do there…and the shot of the Pneumatophores Protruding from the Ground was intense. My days there would be simple, coffee to watch and experience the daybreak, adventures for the day and then spend the quiet evening overseeing Bajul Bay…

    Like

    • Truly an oasis it was. At first I thought those pneumatophores were dead mangrove roots, but upon further research I learned that they actually help the tree breathe in such environment. Ah Randall, you surely will have a nice and relaxing time there, doing exactly what you said.

      Like

  13. Rifqy Faiza Rahman says:

    Actually, there is no vanity when God created small animals such as mosquitoes. Hence the concept of returning to nature is making us see the other side of the metropolitan, life outside the comfort zone. Negating fogging is a form of respect from us, and to prevent than cure really obvious here 🙂

    Ah, apologize for my comment, if, my english is not so good 🙂

    Like

    • I believe all creatures serve their own unique function in the ecosystem. I was quite impressed with what the people at The Menjangan did to conserve the environment. If more resorts shift to ecology-oriented practices, we surely can expect to see improvements of the environment.

      No worries, I myself am still learning to write better in English.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. How wonderful! Isn’t nature quite beautiful? You’re leading quite a wonderful life. I have a plenty of great things about Indonesia and now after reading this post, it’s definitely going in list. Your blog is awesome as well. I have a blog too but it’s no where near as magnificent as yours hahahaha 😀 It is kinda new though.

    I’m fortunate because I’m living in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska right now!. I’m volunteering for some scientists and the trail crew here at it is therapeutic being in nature!

    Thank you for sharing your amazing experience with the world!

    Like

    • A few years ago I didn’t even think of exploring nature as I found comfort in the city where I lived. But once I knew Mother Nature better, I’ve been falling in love with her ever since.
      Ah, Glacier Bay National Park must be such a fascinating place to live — says someone who lives in a tropical country like Indonesia. 🙂
      Thank you for your kind words and keep blogging!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s