Photo: Meet the Bali starling.

Friends of National Park Foundation

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Friends of National Park Foundation (FNPF), manages conservation and community development projects on Nusa Penida ranging from a protection and breeding programme for the critically endangered Bali starling—one of the most threatened bird species in the world, to reforestation and education projects.

Up a steep hill above the village of Ped, the foundation (locally known as “Yayasan Burung” (Bird Foundation)) offers short– and long–term paid volunteer programmes. Volunteers can choose from a range of basic accommodation options from an seven-bed mixed dorm to bamboo twin bed huts with share bathrooms (one between two) or private ensuite family rooms that sleep four, set in a beautiful secluded bushland setting. Rooms are all fan-cooled and bathrooms offer cold-water only. Rates at the time of our visit in May 2018 were Dorm: 182,000 rupiah; Single person in Twin room: 325,000 rupiah; Two people in Twin room: 468,000 rupiah.

Knock knock anyone home? Photo taken in or around Friends of National Park Foundation, Nusa Penida, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Knock knock anyone home? Photo: Sally Arnold

For what it is, the accommodation is pricey although the per night prices reduce the longer you stay, but it is important to point out that by staying here you’re supporting the organisation. Breakfast is included and simple inexpensive meals can be purchased in the small on-sight restaurant or cooking facilities are available, alternatively volunteers can wander down the hill to a range of nearby restaurants and warungs.

Volunteers are expected to work around four hours per day with the rest of the time free to explore the island. Activities include monitoring Bali starling numbers, teaching English, planting trees and working in the plant nursery among other projects. As a bonus volunteers are offered discounted tickets on the fast boats to and from Nusa Penida. We stayed a night and joined the Bali starling monitoring programme.

About more than just the birds. Photo taken in or around Friends of National Park Foundation, Nusa Penida, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

About more than just the birds. Photo: Sally Arnold

The Bali starling (Leucopsar rothschildi, also known as Rothschild’s mynah, Bali mynah and Jalak Bali) is endemic to Bali, a pretty bird around 25 centimetres in length with pure white plumage, black-tipped tail and wing feathers, a distinctive bright blue mask around both eyes and a yellow bill. Males of the species sport a fluffy white crest.

Due to their rarity and popularity with poachers (sale on the blackmarket can fetch around 20 million rupiah, around $2,000, for one bird) by 2005 numbers had plummeted and fewer than 10 birds were believed to be in the wild. A year later, FNPF, working closely with the dozens of villages on the island, effectively established Nusa Penida as a sanctuary for the birds and the programme successfully increased the population to over 150 birds, however when we visited in May 2018 the latest census was yet to be undertaken.

Early bird gets the worm. Photo taken in or around Friends of National Park Foundation, Nusa Penida, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Early bird gets the worm. Photo: Sally Arnold

Our bird monitoring began at 07:00, visiting three locations, observing nest boxes and the surrounding trees for 20 minutes at a time and recording our findings. We were expecting to be wandering around the bush, but to our surprise all the sights we visited were in villages with kids playing, chickens squawking and pigs oinking, which goes to show the birds don’t need great swathes of forest to survive—they simply need protection from poachers.

We were lucky to sight Bali starlings at every spot, although the smallish birds are difficult to photograph amongst the foliage, As well as the starlings, we saw and heard a number of other rare bird species—a most rewarding morning.

The volunteer dorm. Photo taken in or around Friends of National Park Foundation, Nusa Penida, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

The volunteer dorm. Photo: Sally Arnold

If you are interested in joining the birdwatching without staying in the foundation’s accommodation, a “donation” of around 250,000 rupiah is requested. During our stay other volunteers joined in counting an endemic species of cave-dwelling crab that lives in the Pura Gua Giri Putri, so you never know what you may end up doing.

FNPF offers an excellent opportunity to work with a great grassroots organisation that is getting results—volunteering with them means your time is well spent, and you’ll also experience a unique side of Nusa Penida few tourists get to see. If you don’t have time to volunteer, you may consider adding something from their wish list to your packing to donate to the foundation.

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Friends of National Park Foundation
Ped, Nusa Penida
T: (0361) 4792 286, (0811) 398 052, (0813) 5322 9944

Location map for Friends of National Park Foundation

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