By Aris Harianto & Yulia Soebeno
Cegi classrooms lit up with the glow on children’s faces when David asked them “Who wants to go on Safari and see dozens of wild animals, tropical fish, snakes and elephants?” The glow rapidly turned to confused frowns of disbelief with expressions that read “What, wild animals here, in Bali?? How are we going to get to a real jungle from our isolated hamlets?” After clarifications that this amazing information was true, and that all of EBPP schools would go, with the older children as chaperones to their younger classmates, they were all eyes.
Flash back to 1999, when 85% of the 17,000 population of Ban village had never left the village in history, never heard of a toilet or midwife; when everyone believed the world consisted of 2 places – Desa Ban and Java; and nobody had ever seen the Indonesian flag nor knew their ages! And now, all 340 EBPP schoolchildren, tutors and staff will visit Bali Safari and Marine Park, thanks to the kind sponsorship of EBPP’s latest donors, from Australia, Mr Thurston Saulman and Ms Sande McKinlay. The nervous excitement was electric as they counted the days to when they’d go on a bus trip – as they had never been on a bus before – to see dozens of wild animals, Komodo Dragons, camels, elephants, massive snakes, eagles and tropical fish?
On October 20th, the 64 students from Bunga and Cegi started their experience, joined by their local tutors and some EBPP staff led, by Komang Kurniawan, EBPP Chairman and Team Leader since 1998. This study tour aims to broaden students’ knowledge about the natural world and increase their awareness of the importance of looking after them and the importance of conservation of the living environment. EBPP’s remaining 280 children from our other 4 schools, along with their local tutors will visit the Safari Park school-by-school in the next four weeks.
After a healthy yellow rice and veggie breakfast, the students got into the 3 small buses in Daya hamlet at 06.30am, heading south via Bukit Jambul & Klungkung to the Tohpati-Kusamba by-pass. Looking in amazement to their right and left on these wide and busy highways, that bore no resemblance to their mountain hamlet dirt tracks, the buzz of conversation was often broken by the sound of the plastic bag as some children’s breakfast left their stomachs…
Approaching the Safari Park, their eyes were wide open, apprehensive about what they would see or experience in Bali Safari & Marine Park. After a pep talk on arrival by David Booth on the importance of asking questions, taking notes and enjoying themselves, their tickets were wrapped around their wrists and the Safari Park guides ushered them into the park compound. When the Bali Safari tram arrived to start the tour of the park, they were in awe, and an expression of wonder seeing so many new animals on their right and left sides. When we got out of the tram and arrived at Lobby barong, the children were very excited to see all the different kind of fishes, from a small Gold fish to black sharks. With a tour guide from BSMP explaining everything about the animals, along the way, the children seem very enthusiastic. They did not stop asking questions about what they saw along the journey.
As the tram moved into the enclosure’s area, where all the dangerous animals being kept, such as Lions, Tigers, bears, etc; and seeing them so close and in the nature enclosure, some girls were amazed to see these animals actually so real and close. They had never seen an elephant directly before. They also have not seen how the tigers live in the wild, the amazement continued whilst seeing the ostriches, zebras and the other animals surround them. It was the most surreal experience of a life time.
Next stop is the White Tigers’ enclosure. The Tigers are put in a very big place separated by a thick glass window from the audience, where the children rushed to see the white tiger cub that was outside the enclosure for everyone to photograph or give him a cuddle. That day was a lucky day for two students, where they have the opportunity to have their photo taken with a baby tiger. What an amazing experience for those who had only to see the tiger cubs from the book at the EBPP library in the village and now actually seeing one in front of them.
The sun was very hot that day but the students didn’t lose their enthusiasms to wait several minutes before the animals’ show at Hanuman Stage. There they witnessed the animals following instructions from the keeper. The show included animals such as, rangkok, hawks, owls, orang-utans and white mice. Yeni Maria, EBPP’s senior teacher, volunteered for the eagle stunt, where she bravely held a piece of meat and the eagle swooped down and snatched the meat from Yeni’s hand. The audience applauded loudly. But the most entertaining of the attractions was from the two orang-utans which were very funny and also intelligent.
Afterwards the children were ushered towards Kampung Gajah to see the elephant show. On the way there Thurston and Sande saw that the children were hot and fading from the heat and offered to buy them some ice cream. Of course, the students were very excited, especially when it was the first ice cream that most EBPP children had ever seen. “What’s an ice cream?” asked one 6 year old boy. Then, having to choose from strawberry, vanilla or chocolate was probably the biggest decision of the day for most!! After ice cream and soft drinks, the children went to the Elephants’ stage area, sitting in a crescent shaped theatre, to watch the elephants perform a drama, the players being four elephants and several Bali Safari Park trainers.
This drama tells about the conflict between humans and elephants in the wild, where the human beings had cleared the elephants’ habitats. This performance gave a clear picture to the students on the importance of maintaining environmental balance and to share with the other living beings on earth. The students really enjoyed and were amazed by the compliance of the elephants, always obeying their keepers’ directions. The children even got a chance to feed the elephants after the show; each student being given a bunch of carrots and guided to the stage to feed the elephants. One elephant even presented a garland and kissed Putu, one of the EBPP’s high school teachers. It was an experience that will never be forgotten.
The excitement had not ended yet. Two animal keepers from Bali Safari and Marine Park brought a Python and asked the students to touch and wrap the snake around their neck. After some hesitation, three of the students moved forward to have the snakes around their necks like cosy scarves.
Unfortunately, this journey has to end. Nevertheless, the students have acquired broad knowledge about animal lives and seen them in real life. After having lunch together, each child was given a souvenir bag from Bali Safari and Marine Park. Then it was time to say thank you and good-bye to Thurston and Sande for their generosity, mount their buses for the late afternoon ride back to reality. The students would take home memories about their wonderful journey to the Bali Safari and Marine Park, an experience of their life that they will never forget.
To ensure their optimum benefit, all children over 9 years old a writing an essay of their experience, detailing the trip, their feelings and telling EBPP education team what they would like to learn more about.