Baluran National Park: An Indonesian Savannah

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In stark contrast to the lush green scenery found elsewhere on the island of Java, the Baluran National Park, located on the east-most edge of Java, consists predominantly of open savannahs, where wildlife roam free. Here one can watch grazing, the large Javan water buffaloes called “banteng”, small Java mouse deer known as “kancil”, peacocks strutting about displaying their colorful plumage, eagles flying overhead and macaques fishing for crabs with their tails.

Coverning 250 sq km, the Park forms part of the district of Situbondo, in the province of East Java, comprising lowland forests, mangrove forests and 40% swathes of fertile savannahs, they provide abundant food for the animals.  Here also are many typical Java trees like the Java tamarind and the pecan nut trees.

Discovered by Dutchman A.H.Loredeboer, in 1937 it was designated Wildlife Refuge by the Dutch colonial authorities, and in 1980 Indonesia designated this as a National Park. At the center of this large Park stands the extinct Baluran volcano, watching over its pristine environment

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Dominated by the dry east wind, Baluran receives on average only 3 months of rain. The rainy season in East Java being between November through April, peaking in December and January, while the dry season lasts from April through October.

During the dry season, the land parches and water becomes scarce, while when it rains, water slides over the black alluvial land with little being absorbed, forming water pools especially along the Park’s southern part that connects Talpat with Bama Beach.

When you visit Baluran during the rainy season, you will see ample water holes, but during this time the Banteng and the wild bulls prefer to wander in the forests, although other animals like peacocks, mouse deer, and wild fowl do come out and can still be observed. Baluran National Park boasts 444 species of trees, more than  26 mammal species, 155 types of birds,

Visitor activities :

To get up close and observe the behaviour of wildlife here, you must wake up really early before dawn, at 4am or 5am when you can watch herds of large animals cross the grassland.

Watch out for the Baluran Banteng, recognizable by the white patch on their behind and the white “socks” on their legs. They have sturdy bodies and elegantly bent horns where the left almost touches the right horn.You will also notice eagles flying high in search of their prey or perching on the branch of a Pilang tree, the tree that bears a striking resemblance to the one depicted in the film “Avatar”. Peacocks with their long plumage are looking for food, while monkeys swing above from tree to tree, among the chirping trill of hundreds of small birds.

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Look out for the group of Ajags, animals similar to the fox with their brown bodies and black tails. You may even see one dragging a deer for breakfast. Female deer are usually attacked right on the neck and on the back.  However, never fear, since the ajag is afraid of humans. To date no ajag is known to have attacked a human being in this Park.

Continue your safari to the water hole where buffaloes wallow and drink. Bantengs and water buffaloes never fight over water nor food. They share the water hole. Normally the Banteng are seen here after the buffaloes have finished. Bantengs usually wait until the mud has settled to the bottom before drinking the water.

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Bantengs are shy animals and rarely travel in more than three in a group. A 2007 survey found that there were only 30 of these beautiful Bantengs left in the Baluran National Park, most of whom have been killed by poachers searching for their elegant horns. Another reason is the increase of accacia trees that kill the grass around the trees and are now found in 10 % of the land in the entire National Park. Dryness and depletion of available water may also be other causes for the disappearance of the Banteng. To increasse the supply of water for the Banteng and other animals, park rangers collect water during the rainy season, ready to fill the waterholes for the Banteng, buffaloes and deer in the dry season for the animals to wallow and drink.

Bekol

At Bekol is a watchtower at a height of 64 meters above sea level. From here you can observe the different animals like the banteng, deer, water buffaloes, wild boars and other animals in the morning and in the evenings and enjoy the stunning view over the Baluran Park. Here are also 3 cottages that accommodate 28 persons, a shelter, a small mosque, a rangers lodge, a canteen and a parking lot.

Bama Beach

At Bama, the scene at sunrise is awesome.  Wild boars often come here in the morning when you have your breakfast, or around noon and in the evening hours. There are also lizards in the morning basking in the sun. Donot be surpirsed when these lizards return in the afternoon or evening to look for food behind the kitchen. The boars and monkeys also come scavenging for food among the garbage cans.

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Bama is a white-sand beach with plenty of corals and tropical fish making this their home.  Bama Beach is protected among mangrove forests and accacia trees for 3 km long. The beach is relatively small but very inviting and pristine looking. Here you can take a dip, go snorkeling, take a boat along the beach or go diving.  At Bama, Balanan, and Bilik, besides swimming, fishing or diving, during July through August you can also observe wild water buffaloes drinking at water holes, deer and rusa, wild boars, and lizards, or chance upon two deer fighting. You may also enjoy the different types of mangrove forests found here. Here is the largest mangrove tree in the world that has a diameter of 450 cm.  At Bama Beach you will also see the largest tree in Asia whose trunk has a diameter the size of 6 persons holding hands encircling it.

 The wild fowl may also emerge from the forests to look for food around the lodge. In the afternoon at low tide herons and egrets (Egretta sacra) and other sea birds will look for food along the beach.

While at Popongan, Sejile, Sirontoh, and Kalitopo, you can enjoy boating along the coast and admire the many colorful tropical fish in the sea, and watch flocks of birds migrating across the sky. At Curah Tangis you can go rock-climbing to a height of   10meters to 30 meters with an incline of 85%. At Batangan are a Japanese cave, and the grave of the son of Maulana Malik Ibrahim. At Manting and Air Kacip are springs that donot run dry the whole year around. This is also habitat of the leopards, while for cultural heritage you will find here the Candi Bang, Labuan Merak, and Kramat.

Best seasons to visit : June to November every year

How to get there :

To reach the Baluran National Park from Surabaya, capital of East Java, travelling overland takes around 6 hours. Baluran is located partly in the district of Situbondo and partly in the district of Banyuwangi. The Park covers a total area of 22,500 hectares comprising coastal forests and grassland, and is protected by three mountains, namely Mt. Baluran, Mr. Merapi (not to be confused with Mt. Merapi near Yogyakarta) and the Ijen volcano.

From Surabaya driving via the northern coastal road east you will pass the towns of Pasuruan, Probolinggo, and Situbondo. After Banyuputih, the road turns south. Donot take the road further east to the village of Bilik. Before you reach the village of Wongsorejo turn left and you will see the sign: Visitor Center. This is the entrance gate to the Baluran Park.

Alternatively, you can also drive from Sitobondo to Bangandengan. Some 60 km distance.

The Baluran National Park is in fact on the highway connecting Surabaya with the city of Banyuwangi from where ferries take cars and passengers to Bali’s west coast.  So that Baluran is also easily accessible from Bali.

Sebuah pesawat pesawat ATR 72-600 Garuda Indonesia saat  'Ferry Flight Garuda Indonesia Explore' di Bandara Blimbingsari, Rogojampi, Banyuwangi, Jawa Timur, Kamis (2/1).

Now that Garuda and Wings Air also fly daily to Banyuwangi from Surabaya and Denpasar, Bali, you can take the short route from Banyuwangi to Batangan some 35 km away, and then on to Bekol which is 12 km from here and takes around  45 minutes.

Within Baluran National Park you can drive through the Park to Bekol, The road takes two cars in opposite directions. Although the road is asphalted it is best to use SUV cars. From the entrance to the Bekol-Bama savannah is about 15 km. Around Bekol and Bama are trails for tourists and students

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