Sunday, 22 June 2008

Ujung Kulon National Park

In the remote south west of Java, the national park of Ujung Kulon is the site of one of Indonesia’s most pristine and untouched natural attractions. It is no coincidence that Ujung Kulon is classified as one of Indonesia’s World Heritage Sites and has been a natural reserve since 1937. Most well known for being the home of the last one horned white Javan rhinoceros of which a population of about 60 remains, Ujung Kulon receives about 6,500 visitors a year from all over the world.

With over 120,000 hectares, Ujung Kulon comprises the extreme southwestern tip of the island of Java, Indonesia, the two islands of Pulau Handeuleum and Pulau Peucang just offshore, and the island of Pulau Panaitan separated from the mainland by the Panaitan Straits.

The Ujung Kulon area offers various different landscapes, from the Gunung Payung massif in the southwest and the low rolling hills of the Telanca Plateau in the northeast, to the swamp area characteristic for the lower lying isthmus. Inventories of the Ujung Kulon wild life are the subject of numerous books. The fauna on the peninsula and the islands is almost too extensive to describe in short.

The Javan rhino, a highly endangered species, together with leopards, Javan gibbons, banteng, eagles, pythons, crocodiles and turtles represents just afraction of the wide range of carnivores, deer, primates, birds, reptiles and amphibians present.

The terrestrial scenery proofs to be an ideal attraction to hikers, eco-tourists and researchers, and is well matched in popularity by the Ujung Kulon coast and its water sport possibilities. Scuba diving and game fishing enthusiasts rate the marine location among the richest in the archipelago with an abundance and variety of fish and superb coral reefs.

Numerous reef species, such as butterfly fish, batfish, triggerfish and moorish idol, dominate the shallower waters, while deep water species include sharks, tuna, barracuda and marlin. It is because of this last species, the black marlin, that the Sunda Strait has the reputation of being an excellent and challenging game fishing ground.

Apart from the outstanding natural beauty of Ujung Kulon, the cultural heritage is another inspiration for many researchers and historians. The Tanjung Layar lighthouse on the extreme western point of the peninsula guided Dutch, English and Portuguese sailing ships safely through the Panaitan straits during colonial times. The eruption of the nearby Krakatau Volcano in 1883 required the lighthouse to be rebuilt after being leveled by the 40-meter tsunami.

Panaitan Island is believed to have been an important staging post for sailing ships. Captain James Cook is known to have anchored his HMS Endeavour there in the 18th century. The island bears a Ganesha statue on the top of Mt. Raksa, a Hindu archaeological relic from the first century AD.

Visitors are advised to access the park by boat, as overland accessibility is poor. Boat excursions with professional guides are organized from the nearby peninsula of Tanjung Lesung.


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