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Traveller's Tales


Ujung Kulon National Park

Ujung Kulon National Park is located in the tip of south west of west jawa province. The area covering some 1.350 square kilometers of land including Handeuleum, Peucang and Panaitan islands. Protected since the Dutch era in the year 1921 and officially declared as National Park in 1980. Besides the Banteng (Bos Javanicus) and many other reptilia and birds, the primadona of Ujung Kulon is of course the few remaining Badak (Javan Rhinoceros) estimated of only 65 in the wild.
Ujung Kulon, literally means West Cape, can be reached from Jakarta, by driving west along Jakarta – Merak toll road, make exit Anyer/Carita and continue driving south to Labuhan and keep driving south to Sumur. The total distance is around 240 kilometers or around 4 hours of reasonable driving speed. The road condition is reasonably good all the way.
The hard part starts from Sumur to Taman Jaya, a small fishing village, for only 20 kilometers and it takes 2 hours driving, which is a self explanatory, however, there is only one word to illustrate the road condition: indescribable!
While struggling with the indescribable road condition, suddenly, in the middle of nowhere in a small village of Cisaat (S.6.46.003-E105.30.362) stand a reasonably good condition Madrasah Ibtidaiyah, a Primary Moslem school, with a sign written: This building is a grant from The Netherlands government. I am told that, the Netherlands government occasionally, send teachers to teach English to the school children. Why not teaching Dutch language Meneer…..?
While Ujung Jaya village is supposed to be the last frontier to enter Ujung Kulon National Park, however, Taman Jaya, a small fishing village, has a lot more to offer, especially in terms of habitable accommodations and reasonable food supplies. Besides the local fishermen of Sudanese and Badui origin, there is a community of Bugis people who come to this part of the world, many years ago. Because of the limited land they have in their homeland in the southern part of Sulawesi, it is the tradition of the Bugis people to sail around, to find any lagoon, they could find in the archipelago, set up their community, continue with their Spartan tradition and do what they could do best: taking anything that the sea could offer to them. There is a saying amongst the Bugis people: the best place to stay is anywhere where one could still hear the sound of the waves, the best food one could eat is fish and the best mean of transportations is a boat. This Bugis people has a more entrepreneurships than the locals and they own many fishing boats and become “juragan ikan” or fish traders. Their well-being can be seen from the overall environments where they live.
Arrived at Taman Jaya after a grueling the last 20 kilometers, I was relieved to see the accommodation I am going to stay, a nice guest house, spotlessly clean, with air-conditioned room and a private bath-room, equipped with hot water. While the electricity is not always on, sometime off for as long as half an hour, however, I enjoyed thoroughly staying there.
The guest house has 4 rooms, two with private bath-room and the other two a shared bath-room. It has a spacious living room and a big kitchen. While it is a one rather big house type, it stands in a land of approximately 10.000 square meters and it is owned by “orang Jakarta” or Jakarta people, whoever he is.
It has a panoramic view to the lagoon with an endless stretch of brown sand beach.
I was greeted by Pak Komar the son of rather famous Pak Sakmin who dedicated his life, as a ranger to protect nearly extinct the world famous Badak (Javan Rhinoceros) of Ujung Kulon. Nobody knows Ujung Kulon better than him, understandably, his face appeared in many films foot ache of Ujung Kulon, including from The National Geography Society. He greeted many dignitaries such as, Prince Bernhard of Holland and Prince Charles of England when they visited Ujung Kulon. However, his highest achievement was when he received Kalpataru, the highest medal of personal achievements, in 1981 during Suharto era. His son Komar was once a ranger himself, but decided to quit, to pursue his entrepreneur ambition. He has Sunda Jaya Home Stay, owned boats and also act as the guide to the visitors to enter the wilderness of Ujung Kulon. Komar will be, my both, the guide and indeed the guardian, during my 3 days visit to Ujung Kulon and I do not have any complaints whatsoever.
From Taman Jaya, I sailed to Ujung Kulon with Komar’s 15 meters wooden boat, called “Perjuangan”, powered by a modified Mitsubishi diesel truck engine, under the command of Nahkoda (Boat Kapten) Dudi of Bugis origin. Sarmin and Bai are the boat boys, besides Komar and his two helpers, Nono and Barwani who happened to be the Ustadz (the local teacher) and Benny, my assistant come along on board.
We starts at 7.30 am, sailing across the Teluk Selamat Datang (the Welcome Bay) where it is characterized with hundreds of so called “bagan” (fisherman’s net) and each owner knows exactly the location of his bagan. There are two type of bagan, one is the floating bagan where it can be moved around and the other is a fixed one, normally operate in not too deep water. The bagan construction is more or less the same, made of bamboo, besides it is light, it is also float in water. They cultivated the fish at night by lowing the net and place cerosine lamps to attract the fish.
Our first stop is in Handeuleum island (S6.45.211-E105.25.577), a ranger post in an appalling conditions, with only one ranger guarding the island, by the name Hendra.
Handeuleum is a small island right in front of Ujung Kulon cape, where Ujung Kulon National Park lays.


We borrow a canoe from this ranger post, because we want to canoeing along Cigenter river into the deeper jungle, in order to take photo of pythons, normally clinging in the branches of mangrove trees.
Komar said that we should not take photo right under the sleeping python, because when the snake feels being disturbed, instinctively the snake would drop itself into the water, not to the boat. I have a rather tight room to take a good picture of a little sleeping python, so I decided to try my luck to go nearer, right under the snake, it is a small python anyway. The warning turned to be a reality. Perhaps felt being disturbed, the little python woke up and in a split second drop itself into the boat, right in Benny’s arm and all hells broke lose….
Benny who never touch any snake all his life, understandably felt shocked and instinctively trying to stand, forgetting that he was in a small canoe. The canoe shake wildly, while Komar kept on shouting not too worry, that the snake is harmless. Komar and the boat guy managed to stabilize the canoe and Benny lays in the canoe as white as a corpse and I nearly lost a rather expensive photographic equipments… what an experience! The boat guy smile to Benny all the way…….
After the accident, I decided to quit the Cigenter river and heading for Pucang island. Peucang (S6.44.738-E105.15.768) is an island of around 500 hectares built supposedly as Ranger Post as well as a resort for tourists who want to explore Ujung Kulon wilderness. After the visit of the former President Suharto to the island many years ago, he instructed to build a proper guest houses with a proper facilities, such as air-conditioned rooms and restaurant etc. It is a classic story, whereby we could build things, but not to maintain what we have built for. Restaurant was closed many years ago and the electricity only available if there is solar/diesel oil supply, mostly only over the week-end, but not always and I came on week-days……..
I was offered to stay in the old guest house once used by the former President Suharto. The room is decorated with several photos of Suharto, the late Ibu Tien, Prince Bernhard of Holland and many others. Feel exhausted and tired because of the steamy temperature, I preferred not to further question the claims.
We were told to close all doors and windows of the guest house, because monkey like to sneak in and steal just about anything they could lay their hand on. In the evening, the rat ransacked our supply of snacks in the living room…..
In the afternoon, we continued our journey down south to Sanghiang Sirah, in the very southern end tip of Ujung Kulon cape, to visit an old petilasan, where legend says that it was used by Prabu Kian Santang of Siliwangi Kingdom, whenever he like to clean his mind by meditation. Many locals young and old are still visiting this ancient ruins, especially during the month of Maulud.
However, the wind become stronger and stronger and the waves become higher and higher and Benny’s face becomes paler and paler……. Bowed to the mother nature, I decided to quit visiting Sanghiang Sirah.
We continued our journey into the calmer water to visit Cidaun (S6.45.587-E105.15.846), a savannah where in the afternoon the heard of Banteng (Bos Javanicus) normally gather. However, in order to go there, we have to cross a waist deep water from our boat to the main land.
We were lucky to find a heard of Banteng grazing peacefully in the open….
We continued our journey to Panaitan an island of around 17,000 hectares at Legon Butun ranger post (S6.38.815-E105.12.391) and as always, nobody there.
We decided to circle the island passing a rather picturesque Karang Jajar:
We stopped at a quiet and beautiful lagoon, Legon Kadam for lunch of fish caught a few minutes ago. I have no idea of how the boat guy prepared the deep fried fish with chilly ketchup, but I m ust say that it was one of my unforgetable lunch. We ate our lunch drink coconut water and looking at deer playing on the beach and doze of........
The weather started to change with wind and waves, so we decided to sailed back to our post at Taman Jaya. On our way back, we saw a crab taking the advantage of a floating life vest by clinging to it…..
To see the Badak (Javan Rhinoceros) is not easy, they mostly found around Cikesik, Cigenter and Cibunar. The best way to see Badak is to walk across the nearly impenetrable jungle, from Cigenter to Cidaun. I have a high respect of my age, therefore I decided not to challenge it…….
Jakarta, 9 June 2006.

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