Monday, May 7, 2012

The Other UK*

When my journo friend Windy mentioned last year that she wanted to go to Ujung Kulon National Park, I immediately jumped into her band wagon. "I want to go there too!" I said. Fast forward months later, she informed me about the trip plan, itinerary and budget estimation. 

I thought it's going to be an all-journos trip, but she said that everyone was welcome. So I told my university friend Aneen about the trip. She was panic at first ("I never make a trip into the national park before! Isn't that supposed to be forest? Will there be leeches?"), but she finally decided to join on the last minutes!

So here are stories from the trip.

Map of Ujung Kulon. Taken from here.

April 26
Our meeting point was in Plaza Slipi Jaya. Of eight persons who signed up to Windy, only six came to the shopping center. We hopped on a Serang-bound economic bus at 10 p.m., arrived in Serang at midnight, (some) had dinner and departed with a chartered Mitsubishi Elf at around 12.30 a.m. We had a rough ride for about 5 hours...

My travel buddies (from left to right): Vini, Windy, Aneen, Anita and Sora

April 27
...and arrived in Taman Jaya at 6 a.m. We took a rest, had breakfast and met two people Desy and Daeng who wanted to share the boat ride with us. We departed to Peucang island at 9 p.m. and arrived at noon. Three hours boat ride! Thank God the sea was flat.

A not-so-wild boar stood by the beach, staring at us who tried to tiptoe around the animal. It had short horns and seemed dangerous on first impression. It approached us with curious eyes. Daeng gave a bite of Beng-beng chocolate bar and it ate it right from his hands! Wow, so cute!

A walk further into the island we saw a small green pasture surrounded by small houses (which turned out to be our lodgings), and in the middle of the pasture we saw a few deers. We were so excited to see the creatures and snapped pictures of them, but a forest ranger said calmly, "There will be more deers after 3 p.m."

This is the view after 3 p.m. :)

A piece of paper was glued into the front door, saying "The door must be closed at all times. Beware of monkeys." The warning was so true to its form because a few hours later a long-tailed grey monkey (Macaca fascicularis) stole a packet of Indomie.

After we checked into our rooms, we waited for our lunch (the cook comes in one package with the rented boat) and headed to the beach. It's snorkeling time:). Unfortunately, the sea was a bit muddy due to the rain the night before. We tried to find corals, only to stumble upon dead corals. Oh well, at least it is a white sand beach and we played around until 3.30 p.m.

We ran back to our rooms to put our snorkle gears and change into our trekking outfit. Yep, we're going to catch sunset in Karang Copong, which is about 45 minutes walk from the lodgings. Good hiking shoes and flashlights were essential for we were going into the forest.

Walking into the forest is like entering a living, breathing organism. Sounds of insects, birds and other animals come into your hearing range, while your eyes catch movements of spiders swinging on its nest and stags running away from the tracks. While I did feel so excited I could jump around, I tired to stay silent and take it all in.

My colleague Rzk used to say that it was during trekking that a man's real character came out. And during the trekking, I found that all of us were in the huge galau (hullabaloo) mood. Hahaha. Below are excerpts of conversations that proved my conclusion.

-- "Oh my God, trekking is like fighting for your love isn't is? It is not easy. Sometimes you have to climb up, sometimes you have to lay low," one of us, who requested anonymity, said upon seeing the rough tracks.

-- "For trekking, you need to have good balance and good backpack to carry your stuff. Oh, you need to have good company too," another person chimed in.

After all the trekking through the forest, we reached Karang Copong just in time for the sunset. The problem was the sky was so cloudy we couldn't get a perfect sunset. I could predict that. With 70 percent of Indonesia's area consists of the ocean, getting a clear sky for sunset is barely impossible. I think we are the world's largest cloud producer :P.

Cloudy sunset

Creepy sea star-look-alike animal

Silhouettes of my travel buddies playing in Karang Copong's rocky beach

Yours truly :), photographed by Aneen

We walked back to the lodging, with our flashlights on. If walking in the forest in the daylight sounds exciting, imagine doing it after the sun sets *insert horror soundtrack here*. Well, it was not that scary because the forests in Java island are definitely thinner than the ones in Papua. But if I remembered that Ujung Kulon is also the home of Panthera pardus, then I quickened my pace.

We arrived at the lodging at around 7.30 p.m. But the dinner had yet to be served. We thought that oh well, let's just wait for it. Fast forward two hours later, our cook came and asked if we wanted to have the dinner (facepalm). So yeah, dinner was served at 9.30 p.m. And then we went to sleep.

April 28
I woke up with the growling sounds of two boars. They were either fighting for their territories or just giving each other morning greeting because they shuffled each other.

This morning, similar thing happened for the breakfast. The cook came with a stack of plates, put them on the table and said,"Bon appetite." But there were only plates on the table. One hour later, I saw that on the lowest stack the cook placed a bigger plate closed with another plate. From afar they looked like part of the high pile. When I had a look inside those plates, there lied our breakfast in all its glory. Hahaha.

Our shadows on the sea surface. Do you notice the fishes? Can you guess which shadow is mine? :)

We took the last picture on Peucang island because we would spend the night on Handeleum island

Well, another photo wouldn't hurt :P

Today, the trip schedule was trekking on Ujung Kulon's rhino horn area (Look at Ujung Kulon map above. Doesn't that look like a rhino's head?:D). The route was Cibom-Ciramea-Tanjung Layar, Tanjung Layar-Cidaon and Cidaon-Cibom.

We rode the boat to Cibom, had to continue with a smaller boat because there was no dock and started the trekking adventure. The track was more difficult than the track to Karang Copong, and most of us had to save our breath for trekking instead of talking. Sometimes we walked into the forest, and other times we made a turn to the beach.

We helped Anita crossing the creek, photographed by Aneen

Let the trekking begins!

Sometimes we needed to climb up (photographed by Aneen)...

...jump over fallen boughs...

...or crawl under them.

We had a moment of respite at Ciramea beach, photographed by Aneen

Sometimes we walked along the beach...

...and sometimes we trekked in the forest

We posed on this high rock overlooking the sea before having lunch near Tanjung Layar

We managed to reach Cidaon grazing pastures before 3 p.m., just the right time to see the bulls (Bos javanicus) hanging out there. They stared at us as we approached them carefully. Some ran back into the forest. Besides the bulls, we also saw peacocks there. According to the information board, Cidaon's busy hours are in the morning (from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.) and in the afternoon (from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

The bulls at Cidaon grazing pasture, photographed by Aneen

We went snorkeling afterwards, until 5 p.m. then we headed to Handeleum island, which is on the eastern part of the national park. It took us two hours to reach that island. With the full schedule today, we fell asleep quickly after dinner.

April 29
This was our last day in Ujung Kulon (boohoo!). The deers in Handeleum island are more curious than the ones in Peucang island. They stood by our doorsteps, refusing to budge until we gave them biscuits. One deer even enjoyed being petted by Sora.

We spent the morning canoeing along Cigenter river and practiced our Parseltongue ability with the baby pythons :P. I was in one boat with Windy, Sora and Aneen, while the other boat was filled by Anita, Vini, Desy and Daeng. The guide told us to stay silent because who knew, perhaps the rhino decided to make an appearance along the river.

Seeing that the people on the other boat were more talkative than the ones in my boat, I told my canoe fellows to row our boat in order to be ahead of that noisy boat. It was a tense competition, just like dragon boat race. But we won, hahaha.

Canoeing competition along Cigenter river, by Aneen

While we were trying to catch our breath after rowing too fast, our guide suddenly pointed to the tree branches that hung above our heads, "Look, a baby python is having a nap over there."  We tried to locate the reptile and saw something like a bundle of knotted big brown ropes. It's Python reticulatus, locally known as Sanca batik due to its batik-like skin pattern.

Well, hello there! (by Aneen)

We found around five baby pythons during our 30-minute canoe ride. We also saw one swimming from one side of the river to the other side. The pythons have a perfect mimicry ability but I managed to spot one. The guide was very impressed, and so was I.

"Don't use flash to take their pictures. When surprised, they tend to drop themselves from the tree," the guide said.

The reptile slept with its head wrapped by its own body. Seeing our curious face, the guide continued, "Would you like to see its head? We can nudge the branches a bit." Err, no thank you. Just when we shook our heads, the snake's yellow eyes stared at us. Kyaaa! We just had to continue rowing as fast as we could.

Flashes of electric blue flew just above the river surface. Wow, it's the Kingfisher bird! We also saw the red-colored ones. The area is really a place for the birds for we heard the most beautiful symphony there.We also saw a hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) flying over the tree tops. I've seen hornbills in the zoos and inside cages, but seeing it in its natural habitat is really something *Syahrini mode on*.

The guide showed us spots where rhinos usually had lunch, took their mud bath and crossed the river. He said that the tracks found in the national park showed around 50 rhinos, but from the photography files only 35 rhinos were spotted. He added that it was very difficult to spot a rhino because the animal was very very shy.

The winning team!

During the canoe ride back to the estuary, we spotted puffer fishes and several other fishes. Along the beach on the estuary I saw Atlantic mudskippers (Periophthalmus barbarus) jumping around. Aren't they cute?


From Cigenter river, we went back to Taman Jaya and waited for our chartered car. Since we still had three more hours, we decided to go to a local hot spring. When the local guide came to take us to the hot spring, we suspiciously stared at his rubber boots and asked,"How bad is the track that you need to wear those boots?" Hahaha.

Our hunches were right. We had to jump over the fences, crawl under fallen trees, and cross several creeks before finally reached the hot spring...which was not as we imagined it. We thought it was the size of a swimming pool so we can soak ourselves in, but it's only the size of a small bucket. We had to cram ourselves around the hot spring. Nevertheless, it was a perfect treat for our tired body after all those snorkeling, trekking and canoeing. On our way back, we saw the long-tailed black Lutung Jawa (Trachypithecus auratus) jumping from one tree to another.

We got on the chartered car at 6 p.m., reached Serang by midnight and bade farewell there because the Bekasi-bound bus (my bus) came.

And that is all. Happy Monday, folks!

*It's Ujung Kulon, baby!

P.S. Windy also blogs about our trip to Ujung Kulon. Click here if you like to read Bahasa Indonesia :)
P.P.S. The trip to Ujung Kulon marked the third Ujungs I visited after South Sulawesi's Ujung Pandang, now the city is called Makassar (Oh dear, I just realized I haven't blog about my visit to this city. I must find the photos first) and Ujung Genteng. Here's hoping that I can go to the real UK one day. Cheers! :)


  1. ih, gak kabar-kabari ih.... tapi 3 hari lama juga ya.....

  2. soalnya gak pake tur, jalan bebas gitu, gue kuatir nanti lu merasa gak nyaman. pokoknya kaki dan tangan pegel abis. kalo memang berminat, lain kali gue infoin ya :)