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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : September 2000 : Ujung Kulon offers jungle trekking and rare rhino census
 

Ujung Kulon offers jungle trekking and rare rhino census

 
THE JAKARTA POST
September 11, 2000

UJUNG KULON, West Java (JP) - : "Tomorrow," Tri Wibowo smilingly told his guests, "you will make history. You will cross Java on foot in only 45 minutes, from the Java Sea down to the Indian Ocean."

The Ujung Kulon National Park manager cleared his throat, moved aside to a map on the wall and pointed at the bottleneck at Welcome Bay he was talking about.

Then he told the amused writers and travel operators a story about people who jump in delight at finding a heap of rhino dung in the jungle after an exhausting few days of walking.

"We have a team in charge of tracing rhino trails to estimate the animals' population," he said. "This team is called tim tahi (the dung team)," he quipped.

Tri was trying to promote Ujung Kulon, a world heritage site, as a new eco-tourist destination, which offers a range of activities from jungle trekking and diving to joining forest rangers on "rhino census" expeditions deep in the wilderness.

The eco-tourism project is spearheaded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, the Institute for Indonesian Tourism Studies (LSPI) and Rhino TrustU -- a nonprofit organization for rhino conservation.

The project, still in its infancy, was initiated out of the belief that the park could generate a lot more money to finance conservation efforts.

Official statistics show that between 4,000 and 5,000 people visit the park annually, some 30-40 percent of those being foreigners. That sounds fairly impressive. But don't let the figures dazzle you -- the entrance fee is only Rp 2,000 per person and the money is divided among the park management, the provincial government and the central government.

Don't ask how much the park's share is; the officials won't tell you on the grounds that they don't have the notes with them.

H. Kodhyat of LSPI says that the 120,551 hectare national park (76,214 ha land and 44,337 ha seas) at West Java's western-most tip, under Pandeglang, boasts a range of highly endangered species, many of those endemic to Ujung Kulon. The most noted is the single-horned Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sundaicus).

The rhinos' number is estimated at between 50 and 60, a population size that has been more or less consistent for many years. The big beast is found only in Ujung Kulon, where they have to compete with an estimated 800 banteng (wild cattle or Bos javanicus) for habitat.

Kodhyat believes that the ecotourism project is promising because, quoting World Trade Organization data, 10 percent of the world's 50 million to 60 million annual tourists are ecotourists.

Nazir Foead, project executive of WWF Indonesia, said the project meant to adopt national park management principles used in Nepal.

In Nepal, he said, the money that the park generates was audited by an independent auditor. Fifty percent of the money is used to conserve the park and the rest goes to the local people in the form of credit to start businesses related to ecotourism.

"The local residents should have a cooperative that serves as a local tour operation," he said.

Attractions

The national park consists of three parts, Gunung Honje Range, Ujung Kulon Peninsula and Panaitan Island, each offering their own peculiarities.

Gunung Honje, for example, is home to the endangered Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch) and a large variety of birds. Many of the 19 hamlets found in the mountain range, home to 1,100 Sundanese families, provide visitors with a valuable insight into indigenous Sundanese culture.

The range is a haven for trekkers. The most common entry point is Tamanjaya in the west. From the ridge of the mountain range, you can admire a breathtaking view of Ujung Kulon's lush green forest and the sight of Welcome Bay spreading out beneath you.

The Ujung Kulon peninsula is the habitat of the rhinos and wild cattle, which are also legally protected. The area is touted as the main attraction for ecotourists, where they can participate in "rhino census" expeditions under the supervision of trained forest rangers for six days. Do not rest your hopes too much on bumping into a rhino. They are very shy and will avoid people.

The Ranger Tour package for three tourists is offered at US$ 900 and for two at US$ 775. The cost covers transport from Labuhan to Ujung Kulon, insurance, meals, accommodations, guiding fee and other essential needs. The number of participants is either two or three per team of Rhino Monitoring and Protection Unit (RMPU).

Other places of interest are the banteng grazing grounds in Cidaon, the Ciujungkulon river, Cibunar, Tanjung Layar and Ciramea -- all are great for walks.

The peninsula also boasts some historical sites, such as the remains of a lighthouse that the Dutch colonial administration built in 1805 and rebuilt after it was badly damaged in an 1880 earthquake.

Panaitan Island is well-known for jungle trekking. There is no accommodation and visitors have to carry food, drink and equipment there.

The Panaitan waters is a popular spot for surfers. Some describe the place as one of the best in the world.

The park also includes a host of uninhabited islets where you can enjoy activities such as river trips.

Inadequate facilities

Despite the many natural charms and adventurous activities awaiting nature-loving holidaymakers, the area is still "isolated" because of the inadequate roads and modes of transport.

Ujung Kulon National Park has three entrance points: Tamanjaya, Peucang Island and Handeleum.

Labuhan, about three hours drive from Jakarta, is the main transit. From here you can go either by boat or by car.

Going by boat is recommended. The trip by car is good only until Sumur, some two hours drive from Labuhan. From Sumur, you'd be better off chartering a motorboat to Tamanjaya for about Rp 300,000. Speedboat is hired for Rp 2.5 million for a one-day round trip from Carita to Tamanjaya.

Or, you can continue by car and risk having your buttocks flattened when your van starts to jump up and down along the rough road which is full of potholes. The road is especially torturous on rainy days.

If you want to get to Tamanjaya faster, you can hire an ojek (motorcycle taxi) at about Rp 25,000.

The transportation problem is a concern to the travel agents the national park management is trying to cooperate with.

"The inadequate infrastructure makes it expensive and time consuming to go to Ujung Kulon. I don't think that many people are interested in going there at the moment," a representative of a travel agent who declined to be identified said.

Bad roads and the absence of regular buses or ferries to Ujung Kulon park are not the only problems. The lack of adequate accommodation is another.

Only in Peucang Island can visitors find a fairly good hotel. The accommodation and its surrounding area is itself an attraction and you can play around with monkeys and deer there. Other exotic animals like iguana, snakes and birds can be easily found. You can play volleyball in the spacious complex if you can stand the deer feces that covers every inch of the yard.

Tamanjaya offers homestays. Dozens of humble houses are available for rent at about Rp 75,000 per night. The traditional Lesung dance can also be watched.

Travel agents said that the scheme is good only for those few people who are rich, have plenty of time and love nature. Are you one of those? If you are curious about the ecotourism scheme and tour package, you may contact WWF Indonesia at 021-5671070; Yayasan Badak Ujung Kulon 0253-803537 and Danu of Marina Water Sport Department at 0818170305.

Text by Pandaya




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