The Ijen plateau is relatively unknown and is certainly not on the well travelled birding routes of West Java and Bali. Good habitat and hence good birding are available from just over 1000m asl to around 2300m. The attraction for me was another shot at some of the birds missed at Gunung Gede and Carita plus the endemic White- faced Partridge. This was an easy and relaxed trip. Whilst I didn’t cover all altitudes this report should give a flavour of where to see the important species.
Flights, Ground Transport and Accommodation
I arrived in Denpasar, Bali from Jakarta late on the evening of the 8th December with little pre-planning. I spent the night of the night at Raja Gardens guesthouse in the beach resort of Seminyak. Rather pricey at Rps 450,000 per night. Pre-breakfast on the 10th I did some birding around the mature rice fields close to the Canggu Sports Club getting cracking views of Java Sparrow and Javan Kingfisher. To do this I chartered a taxi for a couple of hours exploration for RPs 150,000.
After breakfast I took a taxi (Rps 80,000) to the Ubung Bus Terminal and mistakenly got on the local bus to the port of Gilimanuk on West Bali (5 hours). The inter-island buses are much quicker and normally do the trip in just over 3 hours. The trip to Gilimanuk cost Rps 40,000 and the ferry over to Ketapang on Java was a snip at Rps 6,000. Once I had disembarked I took a motorcycle to the Ketapang Indah hotel – quite swish! Unfortunately they were full and I ended up in the Hotel Berlinia in Ketapang – good value at Rps 226,000.
I met a local ground agent at the hotel who helped me to book a trip to Baluran for the 10th and got me a good deal at the Ketapang Indah for the following night (Rps 250,000):
Sekarayu Tours firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ketapang Indah uses the same ground agent but best to cut them out if you can.
The hotel will provide breakfast at any time of the day or night including packed meals.
I used Sekarayu Tours for my trip to Ijen. You definitely need a 4 wheel drive to get you up from Banyuwangi (the town adjacent to Ketapang) to the plateau. I arranged a deal for 4WD and driver for RPs 400,000 per day – watch out for the ‘petrolnotincludedinthepricesir’ scam!
The other route on to the plateau with a more steady ascent is from Bondowosa and would probably be the most optimal option from those birders coming in from W Java/ Surubaya.
During my time at Ijen Plateau I saw a little rain and some early morning fog. Otherwise the weather was clear and great for birding despite a great deal of monsoonal activity below 1000m.
The climb up to the volcano – Kawah Ijen – starts at the pass over the plateau from the PHPA checkpoint at Pos Paltuding (1900m). The forested habitat is from here down to around 1000m on the Banyuwangi side. On the other (west) side you will only see degraded grassland habitat (good for Javan Bush-warbler) very quickly dropping into coffee plantations.
I only stayed one night on the plateau and whilst you can stay at Pos Paltuding I opted for more luxury and stayed at the Arabika Homestay on the Bondowosa side for Rps150,000.
Should you wish to contact me:
Phone: +44 7768 235999
Day by day….
Driver supposed to be at the hotel for an early start (3.30am). Actually arrived at 4 and proceeded to eat breakfast. Had to instil a sense of urgency…..
I had intended to be in the lower parts of the forest to have a stab at pre-dawn night birding. Unfortunately the unexpected breakfast delay put paid to this. Headed straight up to Pos Paltuding seeing many Dark-backed Imperial Pigoens on the climb. The climb is very steep and the road very degraded in places. Not sure you would get up in anything but a 4WD. Heard the partridge and spent some time levering out Javan Bush – warbler (common but a skulker) before heading back down to 1300m. Here there is a small trail heading downhill on the LHS of the road as you descend. This is a good altitude for White-bellied fantail which I saw on and around the trail here.
After lunch we headed to the Arabika Homestay but did stop for a Javan Hawk-eagle on the way. We headed out again at 3pm. The lower altitude forests were pretty quiet. An overgrown track at 1400m (RHS going downhill) is supposed to be good for the partridge but this area was pretty birdless late afternoon. The track is supposed to head up an adjacent pek to around 1750m.
I spent the half hour before dusk on the first km of the trail from Pos Paltuding to the volcano. Steady rain set in so I quickly retraced my steps only to see a Horsefield’s Thrush feeding in full view on the trail completely oblivious to my presence. After 5 minutes it flew into the undergrowth so I pressed on only to bump into another bird just around the corner and then to find two feeding around the vehicle! I’ve really struggled with this species at Gunung Gede - this looks like a nailed on site for this potential split from Scaly Thrush.
Up and out at 3.30 and over a foggy pass at around 4. Tried for night birds sporadically as we descended but no joy until it was nearly light when a Javan Owlet responded briefly and a Javan Frogmouth stayed stubbornly in the undergrowth. As it grew light Black – banded Barbets began to ramp up all around us (1100m).
As soon as it was light we headed back up to the trail at 1400m (flushing another Horsefield’s Thrush on the way) and played the partridge tape. Immediately a bird responded and it wasn’t long before 4 White-faced partridges were scurrying around the forest floor I front of me….
Surprisingly I had now seen most of my target species so after an hour at the volcano crater we headed back to the homestay, packed and were at the ferry in Ketapang by 1pm. This time I managed to get an inter-island bus back to Denpasar (Rps70,000 including ferry). The ferry crossing produced a Lesser frigatebird, a couple of Pomarine Skuas, a Brown Booby and a selection of terns.
Arrived back in Denpasar late afternoon in time for a 7pm flight back to Jakarta.
Selection of Species Recorded at Ijen.
1. Javan Hawk-eagle Spizaetus bartelsi
1 bird soaring just past Pos Paltuding on the Bondowosa side.
2. White-faced Partridge Arborophilia orientalis
heard calling around Pos Paltuding and 4 seen well on the overgrown trail at 1400m.
3. Green Junglefowl Gallus varius
Seen and heard up to 2000m.
4. Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon Ducula lacernulata
Upto 50 birds seen flying and perched up on our ascent to Pos Paltuding on the 11th.
5. Yellow-throated Hanging – Parrot Loriculus pusillus
6. Javan Owlet Glaucidium castanopterum
1 heard briefly at dawn at 1100m.
7. Javan Frogmouth Batrachostomus javanica
2 heard at 1100m.
8. Wreathed Hornbill Aceros undulates
Commonly heard and seen.
9. Black-banded Barbet Megalaima javensis
Several calling birds on the lower slopes – mainly around 1100m.
10. Banded Pitta Pitta guajana
A couple of birds heard calling at 1100m.
11. Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis nigricollis
A couple at mid-elevations.
12. Orange – spotted Bulbul Pycnonotus bimaculatus
A single bird at middle altitudes
13. Sunda Bulbul Iole viriscens
14. Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophrys
Very commonly heard at all altitudes up to 2100m but only a single seen.
15. Crescent-chested Babbler Stachyris melanothorax
16. Horsefield’s Thrush Zootera daum horsfeildi
Amazing views of 4 birds at Pos Paltuding plus another at the start of the trail at 1300m.
17. Sunda Bush-warbler Cettia vulcania
Commonly seen and heard on the upper levels of the road.
18. Javan Bush-warbler Bradypterus montis.
Very commonly heard around Pos Paltuding but needed a bit of digging out.
19. White-bellied Fantail Rhipduria euryura
A few birds seen when birding between 1200 and 1400m
20. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
One at 1600m on the Bondowosa side of the pass.
21. Mountain White-eye Zosterops chloris
Commonly seen around Pos Paltuding and up to the crater.
22. Javan Grey-throated White-eye Lophozostrops javanicus
A few birds at middle altitudes.