Ujung Kulon National Park encompasses the entire Ujung Kulon Peninsular on south-western tip of Java and several offshore islands including Panaitan Island, Peucang Island, the Handeleum island group and what remains of the Krakatau island group. It bears the honour of being Indonesia’s first national park and was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite the devastation caused by the 1883 Krakatau eruption, the park has one of most pristine and natural ecosystems in the world, boasting the largest lowland rainforest in Java, grasslands, mangrove forests, pristine beaches, coral reefs and very diverse flora and fauna. It’s a testament to Mother Nature’s ability to recover after such a dramatic event.
Whilst the parks natural beauty is undeniable, it’s probably best known as the last sanctuary of the endangered Javan rhinoceros and the only place in the world where they can breed naturally. Other notable species include the leopard, wild dog (dhole), leopard cat, banteng, deer, Javan mongoose and several species of civets. Three endemic primate species including the Javan gibbon, Javan leaf monkey and silvered leaf monkey are found there, over 270 species of birds, snakes and in the waterways smooth-coated otters and crocodiles, although sightings of these are rare.
To get the most out of Ujung Kulon’s abundant attractions you should allow 3-4 days minimum but it’s the sort of place you could easily lose yourself torn between doing “something” or doing nothing but laze on the beach and having trouble dragging yourself away from, especially if you’re ready for a retreat from the rest of Java’s busyness.
With no road access in the park, getting around is limited to boat travel or the wide network of walking trails. Most of the peninsular is encircled by trails with detours to various points of interest and with rangers posts and campsites spaced every 10km’s or so, the park offers some of the most diverse and pristine trekking in Java.
The main entry point to Ujung Kulon National Park and the access point for the Handeuleum Islands is Tamanjaya Village located on west coast of Welcome Bay between the mainland and Ujung Kulon Peninsula. But before you head deeper into the park, drop by the Cibiuk Hot Springs, only a short walk, pleasant from the village through the rice fields. Cikarang Waterfall is also an easy walk from the village or trek south through the jungle to Kelejetan Beach, skirting a lagoon where there’s a good chance of spotting some of the parks wildlife, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. For adventurous souls, pitch a tent and stay the night; the camp ground on the south coast offers splendid views across the Indian Ocean.
Continuing clockwise around the peninsular from Kelejetan, you can trek around the southern coastline to Cibunar, From here you can continue westwards to the prominent cape of Tanjung Layar, Java’s most westerly tip. Here you’ll find the ruins of a Dutch naval port including two abandoned lighthouses and an old prison. An operating lighthouse stands nearby and it’s possible to climb up the tower of the lighthouse to take in incredible views of the islands but be sure to first get permission from the lighthouse staff.
Alternatively, from Cibunar head north across the peninsular to Cidaon on the west coast opposite Peucang Island. The route heads though the rainforest in an area where rhinos have been spotted along with monkeys, pigs and other wildlife. Nearer Cidoan the trail passes the so-called Cidoan grazing fields frequented by banten, deer and peacocks.
Located off the north western coastline of Ujung Kulon Peninsula, Penucang Island is well known for its pristine beaches, crystal clear water and abundance of wildlife. There’s excellent snorkeling straight off the beaches and coral reefs in the channel between the island and the mainland. For divers, there are some deep water drop-offs off the islands western shoreline.
For land based activities try the Karang Copong trek on the north side of the island. The route follows an easy, pleasant trail through thick rainforest and leads to a lookout overlooking the Sunda Strait. Towards the point there’s a natural hollowed rock feature which photographers are bound to enjoy.
Comprising of four small islands lying deep inside Welcome Bay, the Handeuleum Islands have an abundance of beautiful beaches perfect for swimming, snorkeling or relaxing. A popular activity is taking a canoe trip along the Cigenter River estuary for an opportunity to get up close to some of the parks fascinating wildlife. Delve into the forest beyond along a series of trails for a chance to see rhino and leopards. You’d need to be extremely lucky but at the very least you may see their footprints.
By far the biggest of Ujung’s offshore islands, Panaitan Island is a diving and surfing paradise, with a wide range of consistent breaks for all levels of surfers and several world class heavy tubes with names like Apocalypse and One Palm. For the best diving locations, head to the islands northern or eastern shores.
Starting from Citambuyung, a small cover on the eastern side of the island, you can follow a marked trail to the islands highest point, the rather ambitiously Mount Raska (329m). On the summit there’s an ancient statue of the Hindu god Ganesha. Dating back to 100AD it’s one of the oldest Hindu relics in Indonesia. There’s also a historic colonial survey maker nearby.
The easiest option for reaching the Tamanjaya Village park entry from Jakarta is by private vehicle. Or for budget conscious travellers, travel by public bus via Labuan (3-4 hours), then transfer to a bus to Sumur or Tamanjaya, a little further to the south. Whilst buses to Sumur run hourly, there’s only one bus a day from Labuan to Tamanjaya but if you miss it take the bus to Sumur then grab an ojek to take you the rest of the way to Tamanjaya.
Once you’ve arrived at Tamanjaya, head to the Ujung Kulan National Park office located near the dock. The officer here will collect your entrance fee and assist you with accommodation, boat charters and general information.
Alternatively, you can enter the park by sea by heading straight to Panaitan, Peucang or Handeleum Islands from Carita Beach (the access point to Krakatau). On arrival at Peucang or Handeleum islands, you won’t have any trouble find a national park representative (likely they’ll find you). Panaitan Island transfers are usually arranged in advance by whichever surf camp you’re planning on staying at so you’ll be met on arrival.
Within Ujung Kulon or close by there is a good range of accommodation catering to all tastes and budgets. Both Tamanjaya and Sumur villages have a few homestays offering basic accommodation. Meals are available at local style warungs. There’s also a basic lodge style accommodation at Sawarna Beach on Tanjung Layar.
On Handeleum Island, the national park staff operates an eight room lodge. It’s clean but basic but you’ll have to bring all your own food and water supplies and a good torch as power is only available for a short time each evening.
Peucang Island has the best range of accommodation within the park boundaries including the Peucang Island Eco and budget options such as Barrack with lodge style accommodation which is in hot demand on weekends so booking ahead is recommended. Panaitan Island has several surf camps offering bungalow style accommodation, boat transfers, surf and nature based packages.
For a small fee camping is allowed on all the islands and certain areas of the peninsular but of course, you’ll need to bring your own gear.