Few visitors to Bali are aware that just beyond the hustle and bustle of the main tourist attractions there is a natural paradise of astounding beauty protected by the Bali Barat National Park and Marine Reserve (Bali Barat).
The national park is a sanctuary for Bali’s diverse native flora and fauna, designated to protect Bali’s unique biodiversity from the impacts of development. Bali Barat was first established as a game reserve in 1947, extended in 1978 and given national park status in 1982. This signalled the Indonesian government’s decision to protect this part of the island for nature preservation, with watershed conservation for irrigation and nurseries for commercial fisheries as added benefits. Twenty-five years on, Bali Barat is recognised for its social and economic value, with the park’s future plans directed toward environmental education, research and tourism.
Bali Barat managers recognise that there are no simple solutions to the environmental dilemmas and the impacts of tourism upon the park and its local community. Their experience demonstrates that innovative community-based management is essential to overcome obstacles to long term conservation. It is crucial to offset the potential loss of local income from the park’s conservation status and to foster a sense of pride and ownership of the park within neighbouring communities. But limited funds restrict what park staff alone can achieve.
Partnerships with international conservation groups and local communities help. In 2003, Bali Barat managers joined with WWF to establish the Friends of the Reef Project. The project encouraged local people to become involved in coral monitoring and boat patrols for illegal fishing activity within the marine reserve. Through this project, community involvement has fostered a sense of ownership, pride and personal protection over the national park. It has also seen reduced illegal fishing within the marine reserve.