Ujung Kulon National Park is in the far southwest of the island of Java, in Banten province in Indonesia.
This national park in the extreme south-western tip of Java on the Sunda shelf includes the Ujung Kulon peninsula and several offshore islands and encompasses the natural reserve of Krakatoa and Panaitan Island. It is Indonesia's first national park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 for containing the largest remaining lowland rain forest in Java. It is the most protected national park in Indonesia. In addition to its natural beauty and geological interest – particularly for the study of inland volcanoes – it contains the largest remaining area of lowland rain forests in the Java plain. As a tropical jungle, it is not a forest similar to the pine forests in Northern Europe or North America, and it is a refuge for rhinos, which usually remain hidden from human beings. You can explore the national park with your tour operator, but unless you are a registered researcher, you are forbidden from making new trails.
The mainland part of Ujung Kulon was farmland until it was devastated and depopulated by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa after which it returned to its original forested state.
Flora and fauna
The most precious of all the animals in the parks is the Javan rhinoceros, the rarest large mammal on earth. It is the only remaining home of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros. A population of 58-68 live in Ujung Kulon (as of 2020). A smaller population lived in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam, but the last remaining member of this population, and its entire subspecies, was killed in 2010 by poachers.
Once found across much of Southeast Asia, the first account of the Javan rhino dates back to China’s T’ang dynasty (AD 618-906) when Java was noted as a source for rhino horns. In Java during the 1700s rhinos were so numerous and they damage agricultural plantations that the government paid a bounty for every rhino killed, bagging 500 within two years.
Ujung Kulon’s rhino population is now surveyed by camera trap, and in 2018 there are 68 individuals; they were believed to be the last remaining Javan rhinos in the world, until a small population was discovered in Vietnam. However, the Vietnamese subspecies, Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus, is now known to be extinct, so Ujung Kulon remains the last home of this magnificent Perissodactyl. In appearance the Javan rhino is closest to the Indian rhino, both having a single-horn and skin folds or plates but there are distinct differences between their neck plates and skin textures.
The Javan rhino also has a long prehensile upper lip which extends below the lower allowing it to grasp foliage. The body shape of the Javan rhino is designed to push aside the undergrowth and only the male Javan rhino has a prominent horn while the female has a lump similar to a halved coconut. Earlier this century Javan rhinos were measured as being over 170 cm at the shoulder, more than 3 m in length and 2,200 kg in body weight but a photographic survey indicates that the largest rhino in Ujung Kulon may be around 150 cm in height. Rhinos range over a maximum distance of 15 to 20 km a day in the densely forested lowlands of the Ujung Kulon Peninsula and to the east of its isthmus.
They are most active at night, wallowing in puddles and sometimes venture onto beaches and grazing grounds. Although actual sightings of rhinos are rare, their prints and droppings are often found on trails, sometimes unnervingly fresh. Javan rhinos are believed to be capable of running as fast as a person and to advice visitors, should they happen to come across one, is to climb the nearest tree and take a photo - in that order.
Lowland tropical rainforest.
The easiest way to get in is by purchase a tour from a resort in Anyer. The price will be around Rp 1.5 million-3 million depending on the length of stay. The price goes down if the number of the people joining the tour increases. It takes around 3-4 hours from Anyer to Peucang Island where the accommodation and national park office are situated.
The cheapest way to get here is by public transport. The journey can start from Kalideres bus station in the West Jakarta. The bus is green heading in the direction of Labuan. The cost is around Rp 25,000 one way. It takes 3 hours to arrive in Labuan from Kalideres bus station.
It may seem that an easy way from Jakarta to Labuan is to take the commuter line to Rangkas Bitung and bus from there but no there are no buses to Labuan from the Rangkas Bitung town centre so this route is impracticable.
From Labuan, the journey will continue to Sumur or directly to Taman Jaya the last point before Ujung Kulon National Park. In Labuan, a lot of touts telling you there is no bus to Sumur or Taman Jaya. They offer ojek (motorcyle transport) for the transport and of course more expensive than the bus not to mention a dangerous and uncomfortable trip. There are frequent buses to Sumur but getting to Taman Jaya is more difficult as the road onward from Samur is a gravel road in very poor condition. Travel time from Samur to Taman Jaya is over an hour even though the distance is short. 4 or 5 minibuses leave Taman Jaya for Labaun very early each morning most before sunrise and return later in the morning. The last minibus returns to Taman Jaya around midday and parks just outside the bus station, it has Taman Jaya clearly written on the windscreen. One should catch the 7.00 or 8.00 bus from Kalideres to be in time to catch it. There are many fewer visitors to the Park since COVID so the minibus operators have compensated by increasing the fare for international tourists from Labuan to Taman Jaya to Rp 150,000. There is very little to be done about it but an obstinate traveller could get a bus to Samur and negotiate transport/walk from there.
There are also open trip from Plaza Semanggi, Jakarta every Friday night and back to Jakarta in Sunday night to Peucang Island and Cidaun with fee less than Rp 1,000,000 per person. Certainly available upgrade to air conditioned room is available and the cost of upgrading maybe higher than open trip fee itself, depends on air conditioned room condition.
Fees and permits
It's about Rp 25,000 per person to enter the park. There are also extra fees if you are planning to roam the Lowland forest and areas which include insurance.
Getting around in the park is mostly done with the help of a ranger or tour guide. The local ranger and tour guide know where to camp and where to find water. You can walk along the coastline with a breathtaking view and attractions, starting from 1 Taman Jaya village to 2 Tanjung Layar (also called "Java Head") in 2 or 3 days. A guide or ranger is a must.
To save time, walking along the coastline from Taman Jaya to 3 Cidaun (or Cidaon) is discouraged for ordinary tourists, except for flora enthusiasts. The coast has no sandy beach and only a thin layer of mangroves, but in the night, there are many fluorescent mushrooms with very dim light. However, as general practice walking in the forest at night is not wise; it should be done only at daytime, except for those who know the trails well and usually do night trekking. Most visitors will prefer to head directly to 4 Pulau Peucang Island by boat. Peucang Island is good for sunbathing.
10 to 20 years ago, most of the tourists were serious tourists who loved fauna and flora, but today with many tour operators, most tourists are not big flora and fauna aficionados, so they usually they spend their time at Peucang Island, see banteng at Cidaon and go back to Peucang Island. Some tourists who have enough stamina go to 5 Cigenter to see the high, powerful waves of the Indian Ocean and go back on the same day to see banteng at Cidaun. Cidaun to Cigenter and back requires 4 to 6 hours, depending on foot speed.
From Cidaun to the light house at the tip of Ujung Kulon (at Tanjung Layar) is relatively easy trail with mostly without shade and need about one and half hour. The best moment at the light house is when the lamp of the light house is on. Although see the lamp from a distance not more than a meter, it is not starring the eyes, because the lenses in front of the thousands watts lamp make the light disperse. Go back to Cidaun at night is also relatively safe beyond starry sky, if there are no clouds.
The Cigenter to 6 Karang Ranjang trail along the Indian Ocean is not for ordinary tourists, although it is a great trek for nature lovers and maybe the best part of Ujung Kulon. Start early in the morning from Cigenter to Karang Ranjang and then to Taman Jaya for a total of 20 km: this trek requires 8 to 12 hours, and there is almost no shade at all. Some forest rangers claim that the trail can be finished in 5 to 6 hours, but don't try to rush, because the trail has different gradations of sand from loose to grainy. Loose sand can bury half of your boots, making it difficult to keep moving, so you should frequently open your boots and remove the sand, as volcanic sand can be sharp. The easiest part of the trail is flat bedrock.
There are no roads in Ujung Kulon. You can either walk or get on a boat.
You can see bantengs and peacocks at Cidaon Meadow. Monkeys, Timor deer and wild boar on Peucang Island. It is easier to see bantengs in the afternoon rather in the morning, because they stay longer in the meadow. Bantengs can be seen from the viewing tower or from the rim of the meadows below the viewing tower but it is very difficult to spot them closely because they have very sensitive noses and always hide in the bushes and they can smell people at a distance of 30 m. Peacocks are hard to see in the middle of the meadow, but they frequently fly or walk in the rim of the meadow near the forest far from viewing tower. A camera with superzoom is necessary to have a better chance at good photos. There are also leopards.
The Javan rhino is a rare sight but most of the footprints and feces of the animal are on the south beach.
Tanjung Layar is a historical site with 2 ruined lighthouses that were built by the Dutch and the Portuguese and a new one (see below). An abandoned Dutch prison is also located here; the prison walls are still standing but the roof and doors are missing. A great view of Tanjung Layar can be seen from the new lighthouse. Ask permission from the lighthouse guard before you try to enter and ascend to the top.
- Canoeing. Canoeing at Cigenter River where the Javan rhino is usually seen is an interesting experience, but the rhino is hard to see. The rhino is easier to see during the dry season from April to October. You can see also some snakes hanging on trees and swamp crocodiles. You will be guided by the ranger on your canoeing journey. It takes around 45 min to 1 hour exploring the river by canoe.
- Snorkeling and Diving. There are some spots for the snorkelling and diving but don't expect much because most of the reef is damaged.
- Jungle Trekking. If you want to jungle trek, it is better to arrange it from Taman Jaya. The national park ranger can help to arrange it for you depending on how long you explore the jungle. Jungle trekking starts from Taman Jaya and ends at Peucang Island (crossing by boat from mainland to Peucang Island). The price includes the guide and food.
There is not much choice here. There is one restaurant belonging to the park at Peucang Island. The group tours usually bring their own cook.
Most people who travel to the Park independently stay at Taman Jaya which is on the mainland just outside the Park. There are a number of good lodgings there.
- Sunda Jaya Homestay, Taman Jaya, ☏ . Basic clean and tidy rooms. If you don't wish to book you can just show up, there are large grounds and tents so the Homestay should be able to put you up even if the rooms are full. Cold shared showers but two cottages with private bathrooms for a little extra. Great breakfasts and dinners included in price. The manager is Romy. Romy can organise tours in the park with English speaking guide and all food and gear provided for as short or long time as you want making this place deservedly popular with English speaking visitors. A tour for two with 3 days walking and 4 nights -2 camping in the park and 2 at the Homestay will be in the region of 5,000,000Rp.
Best way of contacting is to WhatsApp the mobile number above. 200,000 Rp per double for one night at the Homestay.
Camping can be done anywhere in the park. In Citandahan River and Cikeusik Luhur River there are some crocodiles.
Ujung Kulon is still considered as an endemic malarial area. Consuming malaria pills before and while exploring the park is advisable; consult your doctor at least a couple of weeks before your trip for more specific advice.
Leeches are very rare, but mosquitoes are abundant. Mosquito repellent is a must to avoid mosquitoes and also to avoid biting Banteng flies, which suck blood painfully.
It has been reported that there have been some muggings in remote areas of the park. Make sure that you are accompanied by a jagawana (forest guard) before exploring deep into the jungle. Use only a boat with at least three engines to sail in open ocean because of the high waves and hard current, and do not visit the park in the very windy west monsoon season (December to February), because some trails are under water and impassible.
- Panimbang - about 30 km north of Ujung Kulon, a district with several luxurious beach resorts.