By Electra Gillies, Contributor, Ubud | Mar 26, 2014
The forests covering Bali, though often referred to as ‘rainforests’, are actually lowland monsoonal forests.
However, in the central area of Bali lies the island's true rainforest, full of a multitude of species waiting to be explored.
In the middle lies the majestic Agung Batukaru volcano, known as Mount Batukaru. This is the second highest peak in Bali, yet is a little less popular with climbers than other mountains, as you have to pass through the dense and mysterious forest to get there.
Even if you are not planning on the climb, the area is still fantastic for spending a few days to explore the lush and verdant interior of Bali.
This forest is protected as it is home to a myriad of species. It is a primary forest that has evolved from the unique microclimate of fertile volcanic soil from the now-extinct Mt. Batukaru, along with a high level of rainfall and an elevated altitude that mean the forest has flourished.
It is the ideal home for a rich array of flora and fauna, including the Balinese luwak -- a member of the mongoose genus, which is more infamous in Sumatra for kopi luwak (civet coffee), also known as “cat poo” coffee, as the animal ingests the coffee beans before passing them out, after which they are roasted.
In spite of this, or precisely because of it, kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world.
The forest is also home to plenty of huge trees, including mahogany, cacao trees, vanilla, coffee and some primeval looking palm ferns. This type of forest is more synonymous with Java and the islands further west in Indonesia, like Kalimantan and Sumatra.
It is an ideal place to explore for those who would like a tropical rainforest experience but do not have time to travel beyond Bali.
Anyone with a moderate fitness level can discover the low-lying areas; a normal trek through the forest will take around three hours. At the other end of the scale, visitors can try a strenuous climb to the top of Mt. Batukaru and experience sweeping views across Bali. An early start before an entire day’s hiking is required to reach the summit and return.
Amid the forest also lies Pura Batukaru, a Hindu temple of some significance, being one of Bali’s directional temples. It has a seven-tiered meru, or thatched temple roof, signifying its importance, with twelve being the highest number of tiers possible. It is a sacred mountain sanctuary and royal temple of the Tabanan dynasty that was established in the 11th century by Empu Kuturan, a great Hindu Sage who established six main temples on the island of Bali.
The temple can be reached by road or, the more magical way, with a trek through the rice fields. Experienced guides from the area can be found or, if you would like to support an ecotourism initiative, you can use a guide from the Sarinbuana Trekking Guides Association (STGA).
Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, which set up the guides association, is a good option if you plan to stay the night. By taking a trek, you are supporting eco-income in the local community, which encourages ecotourism as a form of income rather than the exploitation of the ecosystem -- US$25 is donated from every trek you undertake.
The guides are knowledgeable about their local landscape and will show you cacao, coffee and vanilla growing wild as well as a plethora of bird, butterflies and other inhabitants of the forest.
It is a worthy project that not only supports local conservation but also community projects in the nearby villages. They can also guide you on cultural tours to the temple or up to the summit of the volcano.
If experiencing the rainforest with a little more luxury sounds more appealing, then the Waka Land Cruise experience will take you through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces to the heart of the Batukaru Forest for a trek, temple visit and a traditional lunch in their restaurant.
This tour is a comfortable and intimate way to experience not only the Batukaru area but also a drive through the rice terraces and scenery of rural Bali and experience the stunning countryside. Prices start from US$35 per person for the tours. If you are on honeymoon or feel like a little privacy, the tours can be tailor-made to suit you.
This is an area that is still very much overlooked on the main tours of the island and therefore it is an area you can explore with your guide without encountering other people.
Immersing yourself in the forest will awaken you to the number of species that actually inhabit and thrive in Bali. However, many species are slowly being driven into smaller enclaves due to the rapid development of the island, which is causing the loss of their habitats.
It is therefore important to protect these natural areas as well as to support them financially by visiting, so the benefits of nature tourism are fully realized.
Batukaru Forest is a deeply peaceful and mystical primary forest in Bali. Hidden away from other more populated areas, it is a wonderful place to spend a few hours or days immersed in nature.
Experience a rainforest trek, climb a volcano or stay a night and see the stars shine brighter than anywhere else in Bali. This is a haven for birdwatchers and anyone interested in the flora and fauna of the island. It is still a serene and largely undiscovered area, a combination of nature, culture and stunning scenery.