It’s not something of a surprise that the media often portray Bali as beaches-coconut trees-parties destination. It is as if they forgot that Bali is not only about stunning shorelines! Bali is also blessed with numerous hills and mounts, giving the surrounding areas a cool almost European spring climate. And at the elevation of 1,500 meter on Bedugul highlands sits the beautiful Kebun Raya Bali (Bali Botanic Garden) or, more affectionately, Kebun Raya Eka Karya (Eka Karya Botanic Garden).
It is worthy to note that most botanical gardens in Indonesia were established in the colonial era. Bali’s Eka Karya, on the other hand, is Indonesia’s first botanical garden to be established after the independence, officiated in 1959 by the first president, Sukarno. In Balinese, eka means ‘one’ or ‘first’ and karya means ‘work’ or ‘creation’. The first creation. The name explains it all. Eka Karya boasts a collection of more than 20,000 specimens from over 2,000 species.
Speaking of new botanic gardens, two years ago, Indonesian Institute of Science or LIPI, which operates the botanical gardens in Indonesia, announced the plan to open a new botanic garden in Jembrana, Bali. Up until it is open to the public, Eka Karya will remain Bali’s only botanical garden. It is also the largest botanical garden in Indonesia, spanning over 158 hectares, or approximately twice the size of Singapore Botanic Gardens. How cool is that!
Been there like many times. The first time was two decades ago lol. I love taking a walk to discover its interesting collections in the themed gardens as the weather up there is pleasant and cool. I love the cacti and succulents greenhouse. I also love orchidarium although I hardly found them in bloom. I wondered, what is the use of their greenhouse then if not to force bloom the orchids? Lol.
One of its notable gardens is Taman Usada (meaning remedial or healing garden), named after an ancient Balinese manuscript which contains the story about a healer with his ability to talk with plants. Interesting, no? That said, this botanical garden is not only about plant collection. I get to see that plants have cultural significance in the local cultures. Another example: in Cyathea Forest, I bumped into a worker and he explained, “In Bali, people consume the fiddleheads of certain tree-ferns as vegetables. You should try.” I can find the menu easily at warungs outside the garden: urab paku (spicy blanched ferns) and tumis paku (sauteed ferns). Exotic and delicious menu!
Also not to be missed are the equally impressive Begonia Garden (the largest of its kind in the world, reportedly) and the Bamboo Forest. This lush botanic gardens also has a few cherry trees from Japan aka the sakura tree which bloom once a year. When contacted via FB messenger, it took days for LIPI to reply my inquiry about when they bloom! I’ve missed the sakura blooming two years in a row!
I learned that it is possible to spend a night or more inside the garden compound: in the Balinese-style guesthouse or in the campground nearby, overlooking the panoramic view of Lake Bratan. For sure, next time, I will bring meals, mini stove (to make coffee), and books there!