Ujung Kulon is best known for its population of endangered Javan rhinos, but you will also find deer, monkeys, wild pigs and cattle, and giant monitor lizards, many of which will wander freely around your tourist lodge. Leopards and crocodiles can be spotted occasionally too. Some encouraging news about the extremely rare Javan rhinoceros emerged in early 2011, when two females were filmed with their calves. Divers and snorkelers will appreciate the many species of fish, green turtles and other marine animals that live among the coral reefs and in the ocean depths.
Ujung Kulon National Park is perhaps more suited to the adventurous traveler than to someone who demands constant five-star pampering, although there are luxurious lodgings nearby at Tanjung Lesung. For anyone who wants to spend a few days away from the crush of humanity found in the rest of Java, the park is a rare treat, however. Surprisingly few people visit Ujung Kulon – partly because it is not widely promoted – but this has helped keep the natural environment pristine and the wildlife thriving. Trek across the plains and into the jungle on foot, or paddle a canoe deep into the forest and you will gain an up-close view of this unique national park.
By a quirk of nature, it was a catastrophic event that produced the unspoilt environment that allows us to enjoy Ujung Kulon National Park today. The mainland portion of Ujung Kulon was inhabited and farmed until 1883, when the dramatic eruption of Krakatau and the resulting tsunami devastated the entire region. Those humans who did not perish fled, and the land reverted to forest. Animal and plant life flourished, and the area was declared a hunting reserve in 1910.
Panaitan and Peucang Islands were turned into a nature reserve in 1937, with the Ujung Kulon peninsula following in 1958 and Gunung Honje in 1967. The complex became a national park in 1980, and Krakatau, which had been a nature reserve since 1921, was included in 1983. UNESCO declared Ujung Kulon National Park, Java’s largest remaining lowland forest area, a World Heritage Site in 1991. In 2005, it was also named an ASEAN Heritage Park.
Highlights and Features
• Ujung Kulon is one of only two places in the world where the Javan rhinoceros is found in the wild. However, with only 50 to 60 of the surprisingly shy rhinos left in the park, they are rarely seen.
• Fortunately there are many other animals, including wild pigs, cattle and dogs, sambar deer, otters, leaf monkeys, gibbons, crab-eating macaques, green turtles and monitor lizards, along with 270 species of bird. Small numbers of leopards also live in the forests, and some crocodiles in the river estuaries.
• The area’s rich volcanic sediments support a wide variety of fish, coral and other marine life, making the waters great for snorkeling and diving. Swimmers and sunbathers will also enjoy the many white, sandy beaches, notably on Peucang and Panaitan Islands.
• You can take a canoe or small boat up one of Ujung Kulon’s many rivers to experience the dense, untouched rainforest and its wealth of flora and fauna.
• There are also some interesting Hindu temples, ruins and pilgrimage sites dotted around the park.
• For a fascinating day trip, hire a boat to the Krakatau islands to see the frequent minor eruptions, as well as the new island of Anak Krakatau that is still growing by around seven metres a year. You can also experience the new ecosystem that developed on the islands following the devastating eruption of 1883.
Good to Know and What not to Miss
• The dry season (April to October), when trekking is easier and the sea is calm, is the best time to visit Ujung Kulon.
• To avoid getting malaria, get a doctor’s prescription for malaria tablets and take them as directed.
• You should also bring plenty of mosquito repellent and a small first aid kit.
• The only restaurant in the park is on Peucang Island, so stock up on food and drinking water in Tamanjaya, or in Sumur or Labuan where there is a greater choice. If you join a tour, food is likely to be provided (check beforehand); the park wardens can also arrange meals on request.
• Accommodation options are limited to a guesthouse on Peucang Island, a few homestays in Tamanjaya and Sumur, and a couple of hotels a bit further afield. It is therefore essential to arrange lodging ahead of time.
• Do not cut plants, or capture, hurt or kill animals or marine life within Ujung Kulon National Park. Dispose of waste in a responsible manner, and make sure any fires you light are completely extinguished before you move on.
• Wear a long-sleeved shirt or T-shirt and long trousers, as well as knee-length boots that will protect you from rattan thorns. Leeches are common in wet areas, so wear thick socks and tuck your trouser legs into your boots to keep them out!
• The park office sometimes has copies of the excellent Visitor’s Guidebook to the Trails of Ujung Kulon National Park. Buy one if you see it!
- Opening Hours: The park does not have set opening hours, although the park offices in Tamanjaya on the mainland and on Peucang Island are only open during daylight hours
- How to get there: As the roads in and around the park are rather poor, the easiest way to get to Ujung Kulon is by chartered boat from Anyer or Carita, a journey of two to four hours. You can catch a public bus from Kalideres bus station in West Jakarta to either town. If you do not mind braving the roads, which are in particularly bad shape after Labuan (60 kilometres from Sumur) there are also buses via Labuan from Kalideres to Sumur and Tamanjaya (4 hours), which border the park on the mainland. For greater comfort and flexibility you might prefer to hire a car and driver in Jakarta for the whole trip. However, during the rainy season there are times when a motorcycle taxi (ojek) is your only local land transport option after Labuan.