Oct 24, 2012

Baluran National Park, Africa in Java...

I was on the bus to Surabaya from Bali when I decided to stop in the middle of the road  in the woods of East Java. There's a gate and a sign that said "Selamat Datang di Taman Nasional Baluran". 

I was in Baluran, a National Park that is situated at the north-eastern extremity of Java, close to the islands of Bali and Madura. Some call it Africa van Java because of the big animals and big savanna. The park is bordered by the Madura Strait to the north, the Bali Strait to the east, the river Bajulmati (Wonorejo village) to the west and the river Klokoran (Sumberanyar village) to the south. The park is a rough circle, with the extinct Volcano, Baluran, at its centre. Its total area is 25,000 hectares.
I quickly went to the Rangers office to ask about the park facilities and transportation.
The ranger told me that to reach the park highlights in Bekol savanna and Bama beach we have to walk 12 kilometers(9 to Bekol savanna + 3 km to Bama beach ) crossing through dense forests or take a motorbike taxi for a sum of 50k Rupiah.
After quick lunch and buying supply in local warung I'm heading to the park entrance with my backpack getting heavier and the sun shining brighter, ready to walk that 9 kilometer tarmac. but just after few steps the ranger is rushing towards me to inform that the chief ranger is taking out his patrol car and ready to inspect the Bekol Savanna and is taking me along.... yippiiieeeee....
Along our journey the woods become thicker and denser, thousands of  butterfly and birds chipping become our friends on the way. After 30 minutes our sight changes into a green and vast savanna, we arrive in Bekol Savanna in clear skies and mount Baluran standing tall in front of us.
Bekol Savanna & Baluran Mountain on a sunny day.

Baluran already known as a place to do safari since the early dutch era in Indonesia. Back then the Dutch royal and rich come to this place to hunt the big animals such as Timor Deer and Wild Bull. Lots of animal are being killed before the establishment of Baluran as Natural Conservation Area in 1937 by the Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, and finally as a National Park in 1980 by the Ministre of Agriculture of The Republic of Indonesia.
The Bekol savanna have a couple of rooms and houses available for rent, starting from 30k rupiah per person up to 250k in air conditioned rooms, in my case I choose the 30k.
The View of Bekol Savanna from the watch tower
After checking in, i started to walk and see the surrounding area of bekol. there's a watch tower just behind the ranger station and also a pair of peacock walking around.
The ranger told me that the big animals usually don't come out until there is absolutely no water in the forests, so the best time to visit this National Park would be around September and October, when you can see the big animals such as Wild dogs, Deer, Bull and peacock roaming the Bekol plain.
I also met two girls from Austria that is travelling Indonesia and spending that day to see Baluran. 
At 15.00 I decided to walk 3km to Bama Beach and taking pictures of the scenery as i walk. I saw different kind of palm trees and lots of banyan tree along the way, and lots of, I mean really a lot of those Timor deer grazing along the meadow, but as I try to get closer, they can feel my presence and ran away.
My camera lenses are not fast enough to take their pictures.

When i finally arrive in Bama beach, apparently there is an event held by a high school from Banyuwangi, so the idea of nice and relaxing atmosphere at the beach is vanish.
The crowd of 200 school age boy and girl really can make a very large noise not including the PA calling names and telling what to do all the times.*sigh
There is also a couple of guesthouse in the area, with a small cafeteria and warung ran by the locals.
The local told me that it is best to see Bama in morning as the sun rises, so i promise myself to get up early and walk to Bama in morning.
Takes about 20 - 40 minutes to walk from Bekol to Bama depending of your speed, so do set your alarm depending on your walking speed, the sunlight usually appears at 5 in the morning.
I slept early to gain back my energy so i can catch the sunrise, and i gotta tell you that the sunrise is remarkably beautiful. With Agung mountain of Bali as a background and the sea as the foreground, even words cant describe the beauty.
Sunrise in Bama beach
Unfortunately just when the atmosphere getting better, PA of the high school students i mentioned before turn on, its telling everybody to wake up and gathered ....
Once again its a real bummer to that good atmosphere, and in no time area is once again filled with shit load of teenager.
I ordered breakfast in the cafeteria and rush back to bekol savanna to close back my eyes.


Some tips if you want to visit Baluran is make sure that its dry season. The big animals usually stays hidden in wet season and comes to bekol when the dry season at its peak. the only place to get fresh water in the area. The tarmac is quite beaten from the park gate to bekol savanna and there is only dirt track to bama beach from bekol savanna, so it can get real muddy in the wet season.
Cant use tent in Bekol or Bama beach, monkeys roam the area and lots of animals likes raccoon and squirrel. 
No cafeteria in Bekol only in Bama, so come prepared.
The guests house is quite clean and you can choose type of the villa, the cheapest is shared room with a twin single beds, but if you travelling alone you'll probably ended up sleeping alone in the room. 


From Bali : Take a bus from Ubung Terminal in Denpasar heading Surabaya or head to Gilimanuk, take the ferry crossing to Banyuwangi and then take a small bus heading Probolinggo, only 30 minutes from Banyuwangi Terminal. Tell the conductor to drop you at Baluran Gate.

From Jakarta : Fly to Surabaya
From Bromo : Take a minibus to Probolinggo and from there you can continue using big bus heading Banyuwangi.

From Surabaya : Take a bus from Bungur Asih heading Banyuwangi, tell the Conductor to stop at Baluran gate, its 8 or 9 hours ride so be sure to go early.


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