Baluran is unique as the only place on
Java with an authentic savanna, which normally belongs in an
East Indonesian landscape. It is also the only place in
Indonesia where visitors can enjoy close encounters with
savanna dwelling animals in an African-like setting.
Park is globally known amongst scientists as the best place
in Indonesia for observing savanna wildlife, in particular
the endangered Banteng (Bos javanicus) and the Timor deer
also called Rusa deer (Cervus timorensis).
Barking deer (Muntiacus
muntjak), Wild boars, the endangered Asiatic wild dog (Cuon
alpinus), also called Dholes, Panther (Panthera pardus),
Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus), Green and Red Junglefowl
(Gallus varius and Gallus gallus) are also present. About
147 bird species nest in Baluran, however some are now very
The panorama in Baluran undergoes a dramatic change
from season to season. In the rainy season, fast-streaming
floods can sometimes block the entrance into the park. In
this season everything is green, except for the blue and
white ipomea flowers and other colorful forest blooms like
the wild lamtana and the red and yellow “sungsang” flower.
These are found along the 12-km access road from Batangan
(entrance) and the Bekol compound. The deer have a healthy
reddish yellow coat and are fat. Five or six months later
the entire scenery has changed into a yellowish or drab
color, except in the evergreen forest, coastal habitat and
mangrove forest. This drab and dry environment, however,
goes well with the African look for which Baluran is famous.
THE BATANGAN - BEKOL ACCESS ROAD
kilometers long and partly paved road connects the main
entrance gate at Batangan with the Bekol camp and the Bama
beach three kilometers beyond Bekol. This access road offers
the opportunity to observe two different types of forest.
Immediately after passing the ranger-post at Batangan, is a
monsoon forest. Monsoon forests on Java are now very rare,
as most have been converted into villages, orchards or other
uses. The monsoon forest consists of thorny brush and tall
An easily identifiable tree in a monsoon forest is
the Dadap-tree. It is a medium tall tree with thorns on its
yellowish trunk and branches like pustules on a human skin.
There is a patch of Dadap trees on the left side of the
road, a little distance after the evergreen forest around
Curah Oling (curah = ravine). In June and other times during
the year these trees are in fruit. Look out for both the red
and black Javan Lutung or Silver-leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus
auratus) and Hornbills eating the fruits in the very early
dawn and in the afternoon.
Another characteristic plant in
the monsoon forest is the liana. The branches contain water,
sometimes used by villagers when they are out of water in
the forest. The second ecosystem along the access-road is
the evergreen forest. There is a warning sign along the road
where this forest starts. The forest is characterized by a
semi-dark condition with the presence of palmettos. It is
easier to enter this forest as the tree-canopy high above
shadow the ground and restrict an abundant growth of grasses
and shrubs underneath. This condition makes it a popular
throughway for wildlife.
Near Curah Oling is one favorite
passage for Banteng, Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis),
Barking deer and Asiatic wild dog. If you walk quietly, you
might see wildlife along this stretch of the road,
especially during dawn and near dusk. In contrast with many
other access-roads in National Parks, the one in Baluran can
be quite entertaining, assuming you make use of that road
very early in the morning or during dusk conditions.
THE BEKOL SAVANNA
The Bekol Savanna covers about 300
ha and is the major tourist attraction. This savanna is the
only authentic and largest one on Java. Bekol is the name of
the main ranger post inside the Park. The compound is built
around a 84 meter high hill. Because of the savanna with the
Baluran Mountain in the background, the place is nicknamed
mini Africa. The herds of Timor deer and the entire ambience
of the area accentuate this impression. Wildlife here can
quite easily be observed from a safari car.
period for wildlife observation is the “dry” monsoon from
June to October with March, April, May and November,
December and January as the transition months where wildlife
viewing on the savanna is still feasible. Only the month of
February is unsuitable for wildlife viewing safaris.
WD safari cars are a guarantee against bogging down in the
clayey soil of the savanna. The Bekol savanna is still very
much alive with herds of savanna dwelling herbivores and
Lamuran grass (Dicanthurn caricosum). This grass is the
reason why the savanna is still able to support about 500
Timor deer and about 150 Banteng. Lamuran grass in the dry
season has enough moisture, carbohydrates and fibers to
sustain the big herbivores. Other palatable grasses just dry
The Acacia (Acacia nilotica) forest that has encroached upon
the savanna and destroyed a part of it, can now be
considered a separate ecosystem. Its leaves and pods form a
supplement diet for the herbivores, especially during the
There is an observation tower on top of the
Bekol hill with a great panorama. Strong binoculars are
however needed to observe wildlife from here. The tree
canopy on the hill obstructs a clear vision of wildlife
nearby the hill. It is more interesting and efficient to
observe wildlife from below on the ground. The best way to
get close to wildlife on the savanna is by a 4 WD safari car
with a platform on top. It is definitely the best method to
obtain photos and films. If you walk you chase away the
animals from you and other visitors who try to observe them.
The savanna is also the hunting habitat of the Asiatic wild
dog (Canis alpinus). It has a reddish coat and plumed tail.
These wild dogs live in family groups of ten to forty
animals. They hunt communally for Deer and Banteng. Their
peculiar shrill hunting barks can sometimes be heard on the
savanna. It is not easy to see them in numbers when you are
on foot, but on top of a safari car it will sometimes be
possible to see them chasing a Deer or Banteng. The savanna
does not only attract mammals, but also a big number of
A notable tree is the Gebang palm (Corypha utan)
standing in clumps or alone in the area near the beach.
These palms must reach the age of fifty plus before they
grow a flower spike. The spikes are festooned with creamy
colored flowers and grow up to 5 meters in height. It is
probably the tallest flower spike in the world. The fruits
are popular amongst Silver leaf monkeys and humans and the
fruits that fall to the ground are eaten by wild boars and
Barking deer. Thereby they assist in the dispersion and
survival of this unique palm tree.
THE BAMA BEACH
Bama Beach at the end of the dirt road is tucked away
between mangroves and coastal habitat. Although the beach
itself is narrow, it is worthwhile to watch the colorful
sunrise in front of it and to watch fishing boats sailing
beyond the fringing reef. When the splendid sunrise arrives
in mostly pink and yellow, the jungle around comes alive
with birdsong. Crackling of branches in the trees above is a
sign that Silver leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus auratus) are
awake. They are very shy and will hurry towards the safety
of the forest as soon as they become aware that humans are
The sounds of the Long tailed macaques (Macaca
fascicularis) can be heard before they arrive at the beach.
The macaques are the ones to watch out for as they come in
numbers from every direction. They will grab anything that
takes their fancy and is light enough to carry away. These
Long tailed macaques can also be seen foraging the coastline
for crabs, worms and mollusks, especially during receding
tides in which hundreds of meters on the foreshore are laid
Behind the Bama Beach is one of the few open
waterholes along the forty kilometers long coastline where
wildlife comes to drink at night. There is a small creek at
Manting, two kilometers south of Bama. According to local
belief, drinking the water of that creek will keep you young
and healthy. Hornbills and other birds come here during the
months when the ficus trees are in fruit. There are many
tracks of Wild boars (Sus scrofa) in the coastal forest at
Bama and Manting. Sometimes it is possible to see a group of
wild boars trotting along on their way to or from the
waterholes. The larger waterhole behind the Bama compound
has a watchtower.
The semi dark coastal habitat is the
place to see several species of birds, not so easily seen on
the savanna. It is also the only place where one sometimes
can get a glimpse of a mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus)
hiding away in the vegetation. Water monitor lizards (Varanus
salvator) often slither in the mud of the waterhole, walking
on the beach or swim in the sea. During very dry periods the
Timor deer sometimes venture some hundreds of meters out
from the shoreline during dusk to find salt. In Baluran, the
moist salty rocks that lay dry during low tide, replace the
saltlicks in other landlocked wildlife reserves.
weekends or holidays it is better to avoid Bama beach. The
beach will then be swamped with the weekend crowds. They are
rather noisy and produce a lot of garbage that is not always
cleaned up by the rangers. A much nicer and quieter
situation is found at the Kalitopo beach about thirty
minutes walk from Bama to the north. Swimming is not
recommended at Kalitopo, as there have been a couple of
fatal accidents here in the past. On weekends, the northern
end is the quietest part. From the Kalitopo beach is a
jungle track to the Bekol camp. Just follow the track which
is marked with white painted stones.
THE BILIK LAGOON
Bilik (or Tanjung Lumut) is a nice and
quiet beach area with a lagoon. The beach is located on the
northern side of the Baluran Park. The lagoon is perfect for
swimming, however sometimes there can be jellyfish present.
The deepest water is found in the middle of the lagoon.
There are a couple of other beaches around the corner of the
mangrove to the west. About 150 m offshore is a fringing
coral reef where snorkeling is good, however the waters on
the other side of the reef is deep. Family type of
snorkeling in the light blue waters along the coastline is
recommended in both the rainy and dry season. The natural
beauty with the Baluran mountain as a background and with no
other people around is unforgettable.
During the low tides
it is possible to walk almost to the reef offshore. Watch
out for the prickly sea urchins or use flippers. There is
another very nice snorkeling reef west of Bilik and closer
to the shore. At this reef the underwater scenery is
stunning. It is a favorite spot for the international guests
at Rosa's Ecolodge. This reef is rather unknown and no
people come here. Our guests like snorkeling with us because
of the following reasons:
- The trip to the beach is only 5 minutes by car
through open terrain with orchards.
- The sea voyage to the coral reefs by traditional
fishing proa is around 10 minutes with an astounding
sea-view and the Baluran mountain as a background.
- The coral reef is offshore where the water is very
clear because it is outside the pollution-zone of the
coastline. Even in the rainy season it is still possible
to enjoy snorkeling and swimming.
- The corals are spectacular including the rare blue
coral and many colourful fishes, among others the clown
fish, but also the blue sea star. Unlike in some places
in Bali, Baluran beaches offer a totally natural
panorama with the Baluran mountain and savanna at the
- And last but not least, you can enjoy the setting
sun on the return trip.
- People who have been there, say the Baluran corals
are better than those in the Maldives and Venezuela.
- Like many of our guests have said “It is like
swimming in an aquarium”.
- Other comments were: “This is paradise and in the
world nowadays is very rare and should therefore be
protected”. And that is exactly what we are doing now!
THE BALURAN CALDERA
Until year 2004 no
tourists has ever entered the caldera of Mt Baluran.
Only rangers, gatherers of nuts from Kemiri trees (Aleuritas
mollucana), and bird poachers have done so. The main
reason is that the place has never been mentioned in any
travel guide. However, the 600 meters long caldera is
There is a creek in the gorge, the
Kacip creek that disappears into the ground near the
entrance. When you have walked beyond this spot you will
feel like you have entered a cathedral. On both sides
the crater walls reach high up into the sky. The
temperature is cool and conditions are semi dark. The
gorge is interesting all the way in along the creek.
There is no sound other than the birds, gurgling water
around your feet and maybe from some Silver leaf monkeys
high up in the trees. The forest in the crater bottom is
particularly interesting because of its many tall and
buttressed evergreen trees. If you camp in the caldera,
you have a chance to hear panthers growl when they come
to drink in the creek.
With some luck it is sometimes
possible to see them. The restricted entrance to the
crater seems to discourage the Banteng and Timor deer
from entering. However, Asiatic wild dog, Wild boars and
Barking deer are occasionally seen. Peafowl, Junglefowl
and Silver-leaf monkeys are numerous and more easily
seen in this habitat.
An approximately twenty centimeter long crayfish live in
the creek. The creek lies 150 meter above sea level and
the water comes straight from the innards of the
mountain. Considering that the creek disappears into the
ground to reappear in the mangroves near the coast, one
can wonder how this crayfish came here.
not allowed to catch these crayfish. They are an
important asset of the ecosystem and protected by law.
BIRDING IN BALURAN
Baluran's varied ecosystems
offer more than satisfying bird watching for both
amateurs and serious enthusiasts. Ben King, the renowned
ornithologist and writer of the book "Birds of South
East Asia” has visited Baluran several times and has
also stayed at Rosa's Ecolodge.
The savanna alone has
about 50 species of birds that make this particular
ecosystem their habitat. The Savanna nightjar (Caprimulgus
affinis) is easily seen during night safari and
sometimes Barn owls (Tyto alba) also show up. Drongos (Dicrurus)
, Swallows, Long-tailed shrikes (Lanius schach), Scarlet
minarets (Pericrocotus), Small blue kingfisher (Alcedo
coerulescens) and Spotted doves (Streptopelia chinensis)
are also common on the savanna, Green Peafowl (Pavo
muticus) and Junglefowl are best seen during the dry
Other birds on the savanna include Crows,
Starlings, Coucals (Centropus) and Tailor birds (Orthotomus).
Even a Lesser adjutand (Centropus bengalensis),
habitually a coastal bird, has been seen walking
majestically amongst deer in the shrub.
area from Bama to Manting is a very good place to see
Kingfishers, Oriental pied hornbill (Anthracoceros
albirostris), White-bellied woodpecker (dryocopus
javensis) and other woodpeckers, Great-billed herons (Ardea
sumatrana), Egrets, Banded Pitta (Pitta guajana),
Grey-cheeked tit babbler (Macronous flavicollis),
Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus), Leaf birds, Slender billed
crow (Corvus enca), Sooty-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus
aurigaster) and Yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus
goiavier), Crested serpent eagles, White-bellied
fish-eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Spotted wood owl (Strix
seloputo), Fruit pigeons, Pink breasted pigeon and
There is good birding at Curah Oling and its
vicinity in the evergreen forest along the access road
from the main gate. The Red Junglefowl and its green
cousin are frequently seen here, also Green imperial
Pigeon (Ducula aenea), Emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica),
Black-naped monarch (Hypothymis azurea) and Racket
tailed treeple (Crypsirina temia).
As is the case with
most activities in Baluran, the best period to do bird
watching is the dry monsoon, May till October. This does
not mean that there are no birds in the rainy season and
the transition months. The dry conditions of the east
monsoon are more comfortable. The soil is then hard and
easier to walk on. There are also fewer mosquitoes
around. Most importantly however, is that the trees have
shed part of their leaves, which makes it easier to spot
and identify birds.
Guests at Rosa’s Ecolodge, who
went on a bird watching safari, have all expressed their
satisfaction. Everyone could add several new bird
species to their personal lists. An added bonus is that
you can cover three ecosystems in one day. The use of
off-road safari cars also gives the visitor the chance
to see other wildlife, such as big mammals and primates.
DIVING AND SNORKELING IN BALURAN
famous because of its savanna and herds of Banteng and
Timor Deer. Very few people know that the sea
surrounding Baluran contains several nice locations for
diving and snorkeling, suitable for both families and
more advanced divers.
Guests at Rosa's Ecolodge often
snorkel at a coral reef only a ten minutes boat ride
away from the local boat landing. Tourists have been
impressed by the stunning underwater views. There is
also an old W.W. II wreck near the coastline at about
ninety minutes boat ride, where shallow diving is
possible and attractive.
The pride of Baluran's coral
reef ecosystem is however an offshore reef with a
navigational light on top of it. The water around this
reef is forty to fifty meters deep. At ten to twenty
meters depth the underwater world starts to become
beautiful. Big commercial fishes are frequent here. This
reef can be reached by a 2,5 hour boat trip.
Baluran combination of reefs is on a par with Menjangan
Island (a well-known diving location in Bali) but with
no other tourists around. Rosa's Ecolodge is so far the
only operator that has promoted diving and snorkeling
safaris around Baluran National Park. The underwater
world here is still mostly unknown to tourists.
Diving and snorkeling are both possible in the Rainy
Season, as are all other beach and sea bound activities.
In fact, the Rainy Season is the “Fishy” season of the
year, when scores of colourful fishing boats are active
almost all day and night.
SOME IMPORTANT COMMENDS
Baluran National Park is absolutely safe for
international tourists. The population in the
surrounding areas is very social and welcoming. Tourism
in Baluran is still underdeveloped, considering its
Baluran has only attracted
around 250 foreign tourists of the low budget type every
year. There are several reasons for this. There has
hardly been any good information available on the
tourism market about East Java and in particular about
Baluran. This is amazing considering that this part of
Java has so much more to offer than its central and
There has also appeared some misleading
and incorrect information about the Acacia tree in a few
guidebooks. An African tree called Acacia Nilotica, once
planted as fire barriers, is encroaching upon the
savanna. However, the Park authorities are clearing the
savanna from this unwanted tree, on Bekol savanna alone
about 300 ha has been cleared. The African look is
therefore still present. The vast savanna area in the
northern part of Baluran is still authentic. In the
years 2002 – 2004, many international tourist groups
went on short Safaris in Baluran with Rosa’s Ecolodge.
All of them expressed their satisfaction.
standard of accommodation inside the park and the
service of the park authorities have not promoted
tourism either. Some tour operators have not understood
the need to use local expertise and just brought their
guests in without giving them much chance to see what
Baluran really has to offer.
The professional way of
wildlife observation is from a blind or using a 4 WD
vehicle, equipped for the purpose. In this way the
negative impact on wildlife is minimal. Such a vehicle
can be hired from a professional tour operator near the
Park, i.e. Rosa's Ecolodge. Local expertise knows the
park intimately and its good spots for the time you stay
in the Lodge.
Avoid walking around on foot in the
savanna. Animals are more afraid of people than cars. By
foot you actually disrupt the daily and natural behavior
of the animals to a higher degree. You can in that way
also make it more difficult for other visitors to see
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.
Most visitors visit the southern part of the Park,
mainly because of the existence of the access road and
the camp in Bekol. The northern parts are in many ways
also interesting. At present only Rosa's Ecolodge
arranges packaged tours for small groups into this area.
The northern parts offer unspoiled savanna, the mountain
with its caldera, deserted beaches, and coral reefs.
BALURAN SIDE TIPS
The vicinity of Baluran
National Park has several other interesting places to
visit. These include an alternative route over mountains
and through plantation forest to the Kayumas coffee
plantation and further up to the Mt Ijen crater.
is also the nearby Asembagus sugar factory with
surrounding cane fields, the Pasewaran rubber plantation
and the Wonorejo kapok (silk-cotton tree) plantation.
The silky fibers around its fruit are used for
mattresses and other products. In Banongan are the last
parts of the famous East Java marshes, next to a
traditional factory producing sugar from coconuts. For
more information contact Rosa's Ecolodge in Sumberwaru.