A Magical, Mid-Journey Attraction
There is a giant, ancient banyan tree situated in the Jembrana regency in West Bali, called Bunut Bolong. It’s captivating to look at with its snake-like, aerial prop roots and thick, woody stems. If you’re heading to Gilimanuk ferry port from Canggu by car, you can easily make a detour to the village of Manggissari to catch sight of this natural landmark. If you have a bit of time on hands, get out of the car and walk around the area, speak to some locals, you may even hear a few hair-raising folktales and urban legends.
Banyan trees are considered to be sacred by the Balinese, and this particular tree is believed to be protected by spirits – a belief that stems from pre-Hindu animism. Like all ‘holy’ trees, locals are forbidden from cutting Bunut Bolong down. The story goes that anyone who attempts to do so will meet an untimely demise.
The mysterious tree clings to the brow of a hill, with a clove plantation on one side and a tropical rain forest on the other. There’s a small Hindu shrine on the side of the road for prayers and offerings, which are given daily to appease the Gods. During my visit, smoky clouds start creeping in over the ridge of the hill, creating a dreamy atmosphere.
Bunut Bolong has a huge hole at the bottom which can be traversed by large vehicles, connecting the village of Pekutatan to the north coast. The word ‘bunut’ refers to trees that originate from the fig species while ‘bolong’ translates to the word ‘hole’ in Balinese.
You will find toilets nearby (sans toilet paper and soap) and roadside stalls selling snacks and refreshments. There are no visiting fees to the site, but I was asked to make a small donation by a local man who appeared to be monitoring the area. I was told that the money will go towards renovations and maintenance in the surrounding area. I can’t attest to how legitimate this process was, but we made a donation and signed the guest book in good will.
From Canggu, Bunut Bolong is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive northwest. I’ve always had a penchant for ancient trees, so the trip was totally worth it for me (particularly since we were going to be passing the village to get to Gilimanuk either way). However, if you’re not a big tree lover and have no reason to head West, I can’t guarantee that the several hour drive would necessarily feel justified. But if you’re up for an off-the-beaten-path adventure, then head to Pekutatan to check out a unique banyan tree, catch a glimpse of its natural surroundings, enjoy the magical ambiance of Manggissari village, and maybe even hear a few creepy stories from locals.