Baluran National Park, Hidden Africa in East Java

Baluran National Park is forest preservation area that extends about 25.000 ha on the north coast of East Java. Located in Sumberwaru village, Banyuwangi district, Situbondo (on the east border of Java Island) It has a dry climate and consists of lowland forests, savannah, mangrove forests and hills with a unique rich wildlife that no other national park that are so easy to visit and so easy to see wild animals.

Stepping out from our car, this is a road that lead us from Baluran National Park Gate to Bekol Savannah, (Photo by Anton)

On our way to Bekol Savannah, we stop by to an old well and find this big trees that looks like just fell down by nature. You can imagine that this big timber log is only a part of its branches (Photo by Leoni)

Jane took pictures of her tree. We call it Jane’s tree, since she’s the one who really eager to visit Baluran after seeing a beautiful shoot of a tree in the middle of Baluran’s savannah. (Photo by Andy Rizwandy)

There is something very African about the savannah grasslands of Baluran, which make it called “Africa van Java”. The park offers some great scenery where you can enjoy the panorama of savannah and mount Baluran (inactive volcano) in the center of area that becomes habitat of many exotic animals such as wild pigs, deer, peacocks, wild chicken, some species of monkeys and also bulls as the protected animals. You can enjoy the amazing scenery of the forest and do the safari activities in the wild life and feel the magic of the forest. Those areas almost accessible by car, you don’t even have to walk, unless you want to.

View of savannah with mount Baluran as its background (Photo by Andy Rizwandy)

The park is relatively small, but has ten types of ecosystems and hosts a wide variety and big numbers of animals and plants. The main attractions are the endangered Javanese wild ox (Banteng), Rusa deer, Barking deer, Feral water buffalo, Asiatic wild dog, and other species that become other common sightings such as; Leaf Monkeys, Monitor Lizards, Squirrels, Fruit Bats, Javan Warty Pig, Common Palm Vivet.

The park also once inhabited by the Javan tiger and even the very rare Javan panther. There are at the last count 140 bird species were spotted where species of birds such as hornbills, peacocks and bulbuls live in open area, designate this national park as heaven for bird watchers. It is also home for many species of trees, plants and flowers such as pecan nut trees, Maja, Gadung, Java tamarind trees and mount Widara.

You can do several activities in this park such as: safari forest, forest adventure, diving and snorkeling, mountain hiking and mount climbing, hill walking, beach adventure to watch the fishermen’s daily activities and seed seekers, canoeing, rowing or boating around coast line.

Entering Baluran National Park gate, you can see a historical place called “Gua Jepang” (Japan Cave). Gua Jepang is one of historical witness that in this place was happened battle between Indonesia army against Japanese army. Because unequal power, there are a lot of Indonesia army who died in that battle, so this place also called Batangan. Gua Jepang has wide about 12 km that contains in 2 chambers. The north chamber was used to save the weapon, while the south chamber was used as a fissure to see an enemy.

45 minutes or around 12 km from the national park entrance is Bekol Savannah, where you can find an observation tower on a hill and some waterholes where animals easily can be seen from a distance. This observation tower usually used by rangers to watch or to observe the animals’ behaviors around the surrounding region. You can bring a pair of binoculars or telescope to have a better look at the beautiful panorama and animals, at Bekol Savannah watch point. These rest area are rarely full but you might want to make advance reservations via the park office in Banyuwangi. Other camping facilities are also available in the park at Bekol Savannah.

Jane took pictures with her film camera from the top of watch point (Photo by Andy Rizwandy)

Or else you can go directly to Bama Beach, 15 km from the main entrance. It is located in the east of Baluran National Park where you can have a short mangroves forest trekking and enjoying habitat of coral reef, fish and mangrove. It is a beautiful white sand beach with fringing mangroves and a healthy offshore coral reef. One of special moment here is that you can see troops of ebony leaf monkeys with the long tail (Macaca fascicularis) fishing crabs with their long tail during the low tide.

Bama beach, where we spent time swimming and sunbathing, this picture than inspire us to name this journey as “Happiness Project” (Photo by Andy Rizwandy)

Baluran National Park coastline’s is formed by irregular peninsula and bay. It consists of mangrove forest, beaches and some coral reefs. The reefs are on a depth of 0,5m to 40m and nice for snorkeling and diving. Near the coast are living coral areas, sandbanks, and mudflats. The peninsulas are covered with mangroves, while other parts of the coastline are covered with swamp forest.

Five of us prepare entering mangrove forest trekking, which is not more than one kilometers way, ended by small pier (Photo by Tripod)

There are two guesthouses with some basic accommodation by the beach, but you should have prior reservation here. Villas and lodges, you can rent them with your group members about 20 persons capacity and the also provide a praying room and a canteen.

Getting there:

It will be better visit Baluran by your car or rent a car from Denpasar or Surabaya. It takes 5 hours from Surabaya and 4 hours from Denpasar, Bali by car. If you stay in Pasir Putih, you can also rent a car from Pasir Putih tourist resort which will takes around 1.5 hours and only 1 hour from Situbondo to the National Park’s entrance gate. There is also motorbike public transportation called “ojek” in the main entrance that will take you to Bekol Savannah or Bama Beach (with Negotiated cost). The nearest proper town to the park is Wonorejo on the north coast road between Banyuwangi and Probolinggo. The park entrance is no more than 30 minutes from the Banyuwangi ferry terminal by car or bus. 20,000 IDR/person permits fees are required to enter the park, which payable at the park office on the main road near Wonorejo.

Best time of year to visit:

The best season is during the six months dry monsoon. This is from May to October. With March to April and November to December as transition periods. Only February is unsuitable for wildlife observation. The dry season is the best time for wildlife observation, but the rainy season can be just as good if you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of comfort. It is still possible to get good sightings of wildlife on the savanna in January and February (weather permitting). In March to June, the high grass and shrubs will in general obstruct good sightings of wildlife when staying on the road. But going off-road into the savanna will create better opportunities. June to October is the ideal months for wildlife observation, photography and shooting video. November and December, have normally some days with rain. This changes the barren landscape to a fresh and green panorama.

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