An abandoned theme park may seem like an unlikely attraction and more the spine-chilling stuff of nightmares, but Taman Festival Bali, about four kilometres north of Sanur, is a popular local jaunt and a photographer’s dream.
The eight-hectare park opened in 1997 as a Disney-style extravaganza: The world’s first inverted roller coaster, Bali’s biggest swimming pool, 3-D theatres, volcanos, laser shows, crocodiles. All was going swimmingly (especially the crocs), until spooky Friday the 13th of March 1998 (cue dramatic music) when the five-million dollar laser equipment was struck by lightning.
Due to the Asian economic crisis, and dwindling tourist numbers in Bali, the insurance wasn’t forthcoming and generally the place was an economic loss. Taman Festival Bali closed its doors in 2000. The park has been left abandoned since, and there have been all sorts of disputes regarding land ownership, we really don’t know the current legal status, but it remains as neglected as it was in 2000.
And the crocs? Well they have become a thing of urban legend. We heard stories locals would feed them chickens and later that the crocs resorted to cannibalism. Cannibal crocodiles. But what happened to that last one? The one really big fat one that ate all the others? (cue dramatic music).
We entered from the side entrance via the beach and our first impressions were that it was just a derelict site of not much interest (we hadn’t heard the croc stories), but wandering the overgrown paths and deserted buildings of this palace of urban decay it didn’t take long before we were speaking in hushed tones and feeling a little spooked.
First we circumnavigated the crumbling volcano without a soul in sight, but as we meandered towards the front of the park, we were relieved to see some other explorers. Buildings are as densely covered in graffiti as vines, adding to the desolate ambience. A “gang” of local teenage girls were busy with spraycans and stencils and didn’t seem fazed by our presence.
Take care on some of the paths, there’s broken glass and twisted metal, and the old cinema is pitch black with large holes in the floor, a torch is handy. The park offers some excellent photo opportunities and the ethereal post-apocalyptical feel is somewhat alluring, possibly with more appeal than the planned theme park ever could have had.
You may not find crocodiles, but you’ll still be eaten alive—bring mozzie spray. We’d recommend wearing sensible shoes (Crocs?) [Ed: GROAN] and bring plenty of water too. A little further north along the beach, Pura Campuhan Windu Segara at the river mouth is worth a wander. The best way to reach here is by bicycle. Ride along Sanur’s beachfront boardwalk and just keep going. The ride should take about 20 minutes. Allow at least an hour to explore the site.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 9th February, 2017.
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