The Art of Infiltrating Cultures

The creepy, the stunning and the ordinary – a taste of Balinese wildlife

Bali Dogs

Balinese dogs are this cute strange breed of husky-like mongrels with short legs – kinda like an Akita/Chow Chow/Dingo/Husky, if that makes sense. They are quite sturdy and their fur can be of many different colours. The Kintamani Dog is in transition to becoming a recognised breed, which absolutely makes no difference to this cute face here below.

Bali dog
Photo credited to

They are domestic yet feral, and mainly hang out around the roads. At night sometimes they can be scary: they often walk in packs and they bark at anyone. But they are generally cool. I’ve heard from locals who have been bitten by dogs several times that it didn’t use to be an issue before the 2008 rabies outbreak. Because of this, many dogs have been put down in the past years. There is also population control through associations, who try to raise awareness about vaccinations and adoption.

One thing I had heard some time ago – and broke my heart – is that according to Balinese Hinduism dogs are thought to be the reincarnation of thieves and criminals. But this is not always the case, as dogs appear in some Hindu stories as the reincarnation of gods. An additional strange tradition is the sacrifice of puppies in ceremonies (!!), as it is believed that they will come reincarnated as a beautiful man or woman… I rather say no more on this…

All these stories, and the distant relationship locals have with dogs in Bali, didn’t prevent me from constantly greeting and petting dogs, which I admit to be a very foreign (and not infiltrated at all) way of behaving to the locals. One of my favourite encounters here in Bali was the “nightmare dog” that I used to see every day for a couple of weeks, each time in a different spot around a 50m radius, always sleeping on his side; during his sleep he would often howl or bark, which always caused a laugh to everyone out of cuteness overload.


One of the most spectaculars and popular things to do in Bali – and neighbouring Indonesian islands of course – is to go scuba diving.




Wildlife in Bali, as in many other areas populated by humans, has suffered a steep decline in numbers and diversity due to hunting and brutally killing out of fear. One case is the snake, which cannot be easily seen in Bali.

I did see one – and I did not dare to take my phone out to snap a photo of it! It was on a long walk back home in the night, climbing up a big hill from the centre in Padangbai, where I was staying. A young man on a motorbike, stopped in the road, called me over to tell me there was a huge snake, and to be careful. He had seen the snake, huge indeed, crossing the road and as I approached him with my phone as a torch I saw it’s beautiful sleek body crawling into the bushes. The man on the scooter, who had so kindly stopped to make sure everyone – including the snake – was safe, told me to walk right passed it.

This was the only time I saw a snake in Bali, and it was corroborated by locals that it is not an usual scene. It is a pity that many snakes have been killed over the years because of fear and tragic road accidents.

I didn’t take a photo of it, given the circumstances, but it looked something like this:



I cherish every encounter I have with wildlife, and I follow the “observe but don’t touch” premise. I think it is the most important rule in environmental conservation. After all if someone random touched me while I’m minding my own business, I would feel REALLY distressed, if not pissed off. However, monkeys are a different story…


They look like little sociable guys, but in the areas where they are used to humans they get… a little too comfortable. In Ubud it is well known that the Monkey Forest is a place to go if you want to see lots of monkeys and see them close. You should not have food on you and you should not try to touch or stare at the monkeys. But even if you don’t do any of those things, the monkeys will get to you. And will get you good…

Monkey harassment

Being harassed by monkeys is hilarious and stressful at the same time. I was appreciating the view of a temple when all of a sudden I felt this heavy weight on my backpack. A monkey was opening the zip – kid you not – and emptying its contents into the hands of his accomplices. They stole my sunblock, my mosquito repellent and a pack of chewing gums. Thankfully that was the extent of it. I did have my sunglasses and my wallet a few inches from their skilful fingers. While I was trying to retrieve my possessions, one of the monkeys, up a tree, kept biting the chewing gums and throwing them at me… So I accepted my defeat and kept walking.

That’s when I met Norman, who works at the forest. He had a young monkey by his side, and he named him Norman after himself. We hung out for a few hours just chatting, and the monkeys got used to me. The little monkey got a bit jealous of us chatting and bit my finger. The scary part was when he pressed my arm so hard that he left me finger marks on my skin. But nothing happened. Some of the older monkeys got so comfortable that they started to hang next to me. They held my hand even.

The main rule was to let them decide the level of interaction – and never underestimate their thieving skills… Because once they take something it’s almost impossible to get it back. That said, I have heard about the monkeys down at Uluwatu exchanging stolen sunglasses for food. And not just any food but whatever their fuzzy tongues feel like eating that day.


The banteng is the name for this sort of wild cattle. Or at least the (formerly) wild cattle found in Indonesia and South East Asia. It’s a beautiful animal with a lot of elegance. The banteng seems to be always calm and difficult to scare. Not even a youngster like the one below.



In Gili islands, in Lombok (so technically not in Bali to be honest), there are no cars. Locals go around in electrical motorbikes, and bicycles, but they generally transport goods – and tourists – in horse carriages.

horse carriage

One evening I saw some local guys taking the horses for a swim in the sea. The horses wore no saddles, fully enjoying themselves. It was beautiful and they seem to be happy and well taken care of.


What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: