Monday, August 13, 2007

10 reasons to come to Bali right now

By: Nick, Baliblog

Bali, the ‘Island of the Gods’, is quiet right now. February is traditionally a quiet time, but recent visitors I’ve met including Toby, Ollie from Oregon, Barbara & Nancy and Devin have had a great time. Here’s 10 reasons you should come to Bali right now.

1. The reasons Bali became famous in the first place still exist. Great landscape, interesting culture, tropical, different.
2. We’re in the wet season, so the whole island is green and lush.
3. The highland lakes supply the island’s rivers. This is a great time to go rafting in Bali.
4. Hotel rooms are available. With the high season over and tourism slow, you’ll have plenty of choice.
5. Your bargaining power will be stronger than ever, due to the lack of opposition.
6. You’ll never have to line up for a seat at a restaurant.
7. This wet season has had unseasonably fine weather, which continues. Plenty of sun here in Bali.
8. Surfers tell me the winds change on a daily basis, making the western Bukit surfable. A friend was out at Middles the other day, double-overhead all by himself.
9. Internet cafe speed will be higher, with less customers. Every time someone logs on at an internet cafe, they take part of the overall bandwidth. Empty cafes mean its all yours!
10. Less tourists mean you’ll be able to get the seat on the plane you want, instead of being wedged in between 2 rugby players.

Anyone think of some good reasons I forgot to mention?

Bali's Best Restaurants for 2006

BaliEats.com Names Bali's Best Restaurants for 2006
Bali's Leading Restaurant Site Lists its Favorite Eateries.
12/23/2006) The authoritative www.balieats.com has once again named its list of Bali's Best Restaurants for 2006.
In a year that saw, according to balieats.com, at least 65 new restaurants open in Bali, here's their list of the "best of the best" by category:

Best Fine Dining – The Italian Restaurant-Nusa Dua

"Elegant room fronted by a magic poolside terrace offering the very best of Italian cuisine."

Best Restaurant – Breeze at The Semaya – Kerobokan

"New beachside restaurant with some of the best food in Bali. A chef with imagination!"

Best Value – Clay Oven – Sanur "

"Sensational food from the Tandoors of a master chef. Wonderful value!"

Best North Bali – Kwizien – Lovina

"Modern European bistro, professional service, nice bar, a full wine list and a comfortable ambience."

Best CafĂ© – Beach Cafe – Sanur

"On the beach at Shindu (sic), great breakfast, sandwiches, snacks and meals."

Best Cheapie - La Pau – Sanur

"Now in a home of its own. Padang food at all hours of the night. At weekends also jazz in the garden. Cheap!"

For more information on these and the hundreds of restaurants reviewed by balieats.com, visit their website via the link provided.
More information: www.balieats.com Website

© Bali Discovery Tours. Articles may be quoted and reproduced if attributed to http://www.balidiscovery.com. All images and graphics are copyright protected.

ANGKLUNG: A Bamboo Beat

Traditionally, Sundanese dance and music have grown alongside the strata of a strictly hierarchical society. Dances such as the ketak tilu and provocative jaipongan were for the entertainment of the masses, whereas the more refined song poetry (tembang Sunda) and certain forms of gamelan were the preserve of the aristocracy.
These days the differences are fading as art forms follow social trends and feudal systems gradually disappear. Far from being diminished, however, Sundanese performing arts are flourishing, enhanced by an ever widening circle of influences.

Whilst the differing forms of gamelan music may sound rather similar to the inexperienced ear, Sundanese music is usually distinguishable from its Javanese and Balinese cousins by the presence of a clear melody in the foreground. Gamelan degung, traditionally played for the aristocracy, is led by the haunting tones of the suling, a bamboo flute. The more upbeat gamelan salendro - traditional "pop" gamelan - is led by a small, two-stringed fiddle, known as the rebab. Both are carried on the bubbling stream of the gamelan orchestra, a set of bronze percussion instruments producing sounds ranging from the pretty and xylophonic to deep, solemn gongs.

The most distinctive Sundanese sounds, however, come from the angklung - a wooden percussion instrument made from bamboo pipes of differing length and pitch. These are fixed loosely to a small wooden frame and shaken to produce a tremolo. Since each instrument only produces one or two different notes, an angklung group can consist of between 60 - 160 people. These are often children, for whom the angklung group is considered a means of self expression and education. Accompanied by the dog-dog (small drum), the bedug (large drum) and various bamboo glockenspiel-like instruments know as gambang, the combined effect of well-coordinated, interdependent individuals is a unique and magical sound.

The angklung originates from the Badui people of West Java, where it was first used to rouse soldiers' spirits as they went into battle. However, angklung instruments are used for many purposes, accompanying a variety of traditional and Islamic ceremonies ranging from weddings and circumcisions to planting ceremonies, where it is believed the music stimulates growth of newly sown seeds. They provide the entertainment at parties, school graduation ceremonies and anniversary celebrations, or any other modern social function at which a traditional Sundanese flavour is desired.

Deep in the kampungs off Jl. Padasuka in east Bandung lies Indonesia's most renowned centre of Sundanese music and dance. The Saung Angklung Pak Udjo (Pak Udjo's Angklung House) is a partially open air bamboo and thatch auditorium nestled within groves of tall, yellow and green bamboo plants. The front outer wall of the theatre is adorned with Arabic characters reflecting the devotions of a Sundanese community committed to gotong royong working together in harmony.

"You hear - you forget; you see - you remember; you do - you understand." Such is the philosophy underpinning Pak Udjo's educational art. "Through music, we educate people in the art of humanism." Audiences are invited to participate in his angklung performances, whether the music be traditional Sundanese or an angklung rendition of Strauss' The Blue Danube. "By playing the instruments," asserts Pak Udjo, "audiences gain a deeper insight into the nature of the music."
While audience participation and modern adaptations of the traditional musical ensemble reflect the Bandung of today, it is not a gimmick for the tourists. "I began my Saung Angklung to develop and preserve Sundanese art, music and dance," affirms Pak Udjo, a dignified patriarch in the midst of an elegant array of bronze and bamboo instruments. "Then comes Indonesian music; finally, Western music. My children do not perform just for the audiences - they play for themselves. I will make everybody happy for the future of our beautiful country."

Ambitious as this claim may seem, experiencing the musical ensemble in all its rich colour is one of Bandung's finest treats. Performances take place daily from 3.30 pm to approximately 5.30 pm, and the theatre has seating for over two hundred guests. As a prelude, there is a brief "Wayang Golek" puppet performance of key scenes from the Ramayana which will give you a taste of the full, nine-hour performances. The entrance fee is Rp 10,000 for weekdays, Rp 12,500 at weekends. The instruments are also made in the village, under the guidance of Pak Udjo, and individual pieces or whole sets can be bought at a range of prices.

"Many people come for the first time few come for the last," claims Pak Udjo with a knowing smile beneath his long white beard. Indeed, he has seen the trancelike effect of his work on tens of thousands of people in his Saung Angklung; he has been invited to perform for the King of Thailand, delighted audiences at the Edinburgh Festival, received an award from President Soeharto and gained adulation from Indonesia's film and rock idols. He has no doubts of the musical charms of the angklung.

Angklung and gamelan music can also be heard in many of Bandung's leading hotels. To experience the now popular jaipongan dance, which evolved from the more traditional ketuk tilu Sundanese performances, you can visit the Museum of West Java at 638 Jl. Otista. Performances are held regularly, in addition to cultural performances which are held every Sunday. If your feet won't keep still and you want to join in, visit Pak Baun Jaipong on the same road. Likewise you can join in the ketuk tilu dance (performed to gamelan music) at the Sanggar Langan Selna at 541 A Jl. Otista. Alternatively, the Institute of Fine Arts, ASTI, often stages performances of various Sundanese music and dances, or you can visit at any time to watch the students practice. Performance schedules are available at theTourist Information Office.

Largest python captured

Indonesian villagers claim to have captured a python that is almost 49 feet long and weighs nearly 990 pounds, a local official said.

If confirmed, it would be the largest snake ever kept in captivity.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest ever captured snake to be 32 feet. The heaviest — a Burmese Python kept in Gurnee, Ill. — weighs 402 pounds, the book said on its Web site.

Hundreds of people have flocked to see the snake at a primitive zoo in Curugsewu village on the country’s main island of Java.

The Indonesian newspaper Republika said the snake, which was caught last year but only recently put on public display, eats three or four dogs a month.

Reticulated pythons are the world’s longest snakes. They are capable of eating animals as large as sheep, and have been known to attack and consume humans.

The species is native to the swamps and jungles of Southeast Asia.

Bamboo: a plant of mystery

You don't have to be in Bangkok, Kyoto or Bali to enjoy one of the most mysterious plants in the horticultural world: bamboo. The term bamboo refers to plants of the large subfamily of Bambusoideae. It encompasses a considerable diversity of grasses that range from a few inches high to the giants of the tropics towering more than 100 feet in the air.

In this discussion we will be involved with indoor varieties growing only 2 to 4 feet in height. Their care and culture are not going to be that much different from the "usual" houseplants we have in our homes.

Bamboo is one of the most mysterious plants of our world, not because it is difficult to grow, but because we seem to be overwhelmed with a desire for plants with lots of color. Cultures around the world look upon bamboo as a symbol of longevity, wisdom, strength and flexibility.

Epicenter of ocean diversity found

Scientists said on Monday they found two types of shark, exotic "flasher" fish and corals among 52 new species in seas off Indonesia, confirming the western Pacific as the richest marine habitat on earth.

They urged more protection for seas around the Bird's Head peninsula at the western end of New Guinea island from threats including mining and dynamite fishing that can smash coral reefs.

"We feel very confident that this is the epicenter of marine biodiversity" in the world, said Mark Erdmann, a U.S. scientist at Conservation International who led two surveys this year. (See the brilliant colors of the new fish)

Erdmann said the area surveyed was the center of a "Coral Triangle" -- between Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Around the Bird's Head peninsula there were 1,223 species of fish and 600 types of corals.

The Great Barrier Reef, covering an area 10 times bigger, has slightly more types of fish -- 1,464 species -- but just 405 species of coral. And the bigger Caribbean Sea has fewer than 1,000 species of fish and just 58 types of coral.

Shark Walks on Fins in Ocean ' Eden'

Researchers Find Underwater Lost World
New Walking Shark and Other Species Highlight Gaps in Ocean Knowledge.

Two recent expeditions off the coast of Indonesia have revealed a remarkable "lost world" of marine species that researchers believe are new to science, including a shark that "walks" on its fins.

"It was extraordinary," said Roger McManus of Conservation International, which conducted the expeditions along with the Indonesian government. "These expeditions uncovered what we believe are almost 60 new species to science."

Related:Discovery , 'Walking Shark' Among 50 New Marine Species Found Off Indonesia's Papua Province

One of the most unusual finds are two new small epaulette sharks that swim among coral reefs and have an odd way of moving around.

"They sort of walk on their pectoral fins," McManus said. "They spend a lot of time on the bottom and they're hunting for mussels and crabs and the things that live in the sand or on the sand. They're extraordinary animals."

The team also discovered a variety of other species, including 20 new corals, eight shrimp species, and 24 new fish including a colorful "flasher" wrasse. Decked out in bright pink, yellow, blue and green hues, the male rapidly "flashes" different colors as part of a mating ritual.

The animals were discovered in an area called the Bird's Head Seascape in the northwestern part of Indonesia's Papua province, one of the richest underwater habitats on Earth. It's in an area known as the "Coral Triangle" that includes Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands.

"It's one of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes and seascapes on the planet," said Mark Erdmann, a senior adviser of Conservation International who led two surveys to the area earlier this year.

"Above and below water, it's simply mind blowing," he said.

Erdmann and his team claim to have discovered 52 new species, including 24 new species of fish, 20 new species of coral and eight new species of shrimp. Among the highlights were an epaulette shark that walks on its fins, a praying mantis-like shrimp and scores of reef-building corals, he said.

Conservation International said papers on two of the new fish species, called flasher wrasse because of the bright colors the male exhibits during mating, have been accepted for publication to the Aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology.

Erdmann said the discoveries add to an already legendary reputation for the area, which stretches for 70,000 square miles on the northwestern end of Indonesia's Papua province.

Dubbed Asia's "Coral Triangle," it is home to more than 1,200 species of fish and almost 600 species of reef-building coral, or 75 percent of the world's known total.

Photo Gallery: 20 New Sharks, Rays Discovered in Indonesia

At least 20 new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in the waters off Indonesia, scientists announced this week.

Photos from National Geographic.

Related:

1. New shark, ray species found
(Flora & Fauna/Flora & Fauna)
Twenty new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in Indonesia during a five-year survey of catches at local fish markets, Australian researchers said on Wednesday. "Indonesia has the mo
Wednesday, 28 February 2007

2. Epicenter of ocean diversity found
(Flora & Fauna/Flora & Fauna)
Scientists said on Monday they found two types of shark, exotic "flasher" fish and corals among 52 new species in seas off Indonesia, confirming the western Pacific as the richest marine hab
Thursday, 21 September 2006

3. Shark Walks on Fins in Ocean ' Eden'
(Flora & Fauna/Flora & Fauna)
Researchers Find Underwater Lost World New Walking Shark and Other Species Highlight Gaps in Ocean Knowledge.Two recent expeditions off the coast of Indonesia have revealed a remarkable "lost wo
Monday, 18 September 2006

New shark, ray species found

Twenty new species of sharks and rays have been discovered in Indonesia during a five-year survey of catches at local fish markets, Australian researchers said on Wednesday.

"Indonesia has the most diverse shark and ray fauna and the largest shark and ray fishery in the world, with reported landings of more than 100 000 tons a year," said William White, a co-author of the study. "Before this survey, however, there were vast gaps in our knowledge of sharks and rays in this region."

Researchers said six of their discoveries have been described in peer review journals, including the Bali Catshark and Jimbaran Shovelnose Ray, found only in Bali, and the Hortle's Whipray, found only in West Papua.

Lost World’ of wildlife found in Indonesia

Describing it as the discovery of a “Lost World,” conservation groups and Indonesia on Tuesday said an expedition to one of Asia’s most isolated jungles had found several dozen new species of frogs, butterflies, flowers and birds.

“It’s as close to the Garden of Eden as you’re going to find on Earth,” Bruce Beehler, a Conservation International scientist who led the expedition, said in a statement.

The team of U.S., Indonesian and Australian scientists ventured into the Foja Mountains of Papua province last December. The remote area covers more than two million acres of old growth tropical forest.

“There was not a single trail, no sign of civilization, no sign of even local communities ever having been there,” said Beehler, adding that two headmen from the Kwerba and Papasena tribes, the customary landowners of the Foja Mountains, accompanied the expedition.

New bird, flower
Among the discoveries was a new species of the honeyeater bird. The first new bird discovered on New Guinea since 1939, it has a bright orange facepatch.

Rare Borneo leopard identified as new species

A rare and reclusive leopard that hunts among the dense island forests of Borneo and Sumatra in south-east Asia has been identified as an entirely new species of great cat.

Genetic tests and pelt examinations have revealed that the animal, now called the Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), is as distinct from other clouded leopards that roam mainland Asia as lions are from panthers.

Picture of clouded leopard new species

by deense

On the islands the clouded leopard is the top predator, preying on monkeys, deer, wild pigs and lizards, and has a crucial influence on the regional ecosystems. At their largest they reach just over 1m long, and for their size sport the largest canine teeth of the cat family. Their name comes from the mottled white patches that cover their skin.

Related:New species of big cat discovered

Orang Utan on its brink of extinction

The species of orang utan Indonesia (Pongo Pygmaeus/Abelii ) might disappear in the next one or two decades if the Indonesian government failed to give serious attention toward the threat against its habitat, a non-governmental organization executive said on Thursday.

"Besides forest fire and illegal logging, the land clearance at the orangutan`s habitat for palm oil plantation is also a serious threat for the habitat`s existence," executive director of the foundation saving for the Borneo`s Orangutan, Aldrianto Priadjati said.

He added the opening of the new palm oil plantation so far has to be done by clear cutting toward the trees in the land to be the site for the plantation.

"Strong effort from all parties, mainly the legal apparatus and the provincial administration is needed to save the species from the extinction because they have the authority to ban the land clearance for palm oil that threats the habitat of the orangutan," he added.

He said Asia would be in a great loss if orangutans no longer exists in Indonesia as the species is the only great apes in the continent and there are still many that might be learned from it.

The other big apes, such as gorilla, simpanse (pan troglodytes ) and bonobo (pan paniscus ) are only found in the African Continent, he said.

Some 58,000 out of the 65,000 orangutan left in Indonesia are the Kalimantan`s orangutan (pongo pygmaeus ) while the other 7,000 are Sumatra`s orangutan (pongo abelii )

Scientists looking for Sumatran tigers spot endangered cuckoo instead

Scientists trying to photograph wild tigers deep in the Indonesian jungle captured a glimpse of another endangered species instead - the Sumatran ground cuckoo.

An Indonesian-British surveying team released rare images of the short, brown fowl, with black and green plumes, taken with a sensor-triggered, camera.

The bird, apparently startled by the flash, is seen gazing into the lens with spread wings.

"Finding the Sumatran ground cuckoo gives me hope, because it was photographed in disturbed forest that has been left to recover near the national park," said Dr. Matthew Linkie of the University of Kent in England.

The July spotting, near Kerinci Seblat National Park in central-west Sumarta, was the third known recording of the bird since 1916, a statement said. The bird's scientific name is Carpococcyx viridis.

Borneo`s pygmy elephants under threat

Satellite data suggest endangered pygmy elephants that live only on the island of Borneo are under threat from forest fragmentation and habitat loss.

A World Wildlife Fund study notes the pygmy elephants, which depend on forests situated on flat, low lands and in river valleys, are losing their forest cover to commercial plantations. During the past four decades, 40 percent of the forest cover of the Malaysian State of Sabah, in northeastern Borneo where most pygmy elephants live, has been lost to logging, conversion to plantations and human settlement.

'The areas that these elephants need to survive are the same forests where the most intensive logging in Sabah has taken place, because flat lands and valleys incur the lowest costs when extracting timber,' said Raymond Alfred, head of the New York-based fund`s Borneo Species Program. 'However, the Malaysian government`s commitment to retain extensive forest habitat throughout central Sabah ... should ensure the majority of the herds have a home in the long term.'

The study, the largest using satellite tracking of Asian elephants, is available at http://www.worldwildlife.org/pygmyelephants/.

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