A trip report covering the logistics & results of a visit to the islands of Bali, Sumatra & Java in the Indonesian archipelago. Sites visited included Bali Barat National Park on Bali, Baluran, Gunung Gede & Carita National Parks on Java & Way Kambas National Park on Sumatra.
Medical info & hassles:
All 3 of us who went on the trip were fully immunised before leaving the country - seek advice from your GP regarding which injections you will need. We were also advised to take daily Paludrine & weekly Chloroquine pills as a precaution against Malaria. Mosquitoes were a problem, particularly at Carita, & it would advisable to take a mosquito net & some repellent with you. I took Jungle Formula repellent spray which contains 50h% DEET, which also deters leeches when sprayed onto your feet. Leeches were not a problem on this trip, we only noticed a few at Way Kambas.
Generally, the Indonesian people tended to be curious, friendly & helpful. Not very many people speak English outside the main cities, so learning a few phrases and words would be useful, especially as Indonesian is not too difficult a language to learn.
There does sadly appear to be a general lack of respect for the environment, we found, Gunung Gede can be covered in litter, and encountered many people carrying axes & chainsaws into the forest at Carita. We also had a bit of hassle from a few people who were camping at the waterfalls at Gunung Gede, they were loud and annoying and kept offering to kill the Sunda Whistling Thrushes & Lesser Forktails that were in the area at the time because they could see our interest in them!!
Haggling seems to be a way of life, and can also be great fun. It is essential to haggle with taxi / bemo drivers as they usually start quoting a price that you can easily reduce by at least 30%!! Alternatively, take a taxi with a meter.
The currency in Indonesia is Rhupias. At the time of our visit the exchange rate was approximately Rh 13000 to the Pound. We took all our money as US Dollars & changed some to Rhupias on arrival at the airport. There were plenty of places offering to change money in Jakarta, but try to shop around as there was quite a lot of variability of offers. The Ibis Tamarin hotel was also offering rates on traveller's cheques too, but we didn' notice whether it was possible to change cheques outside of the major cities or airports. ATM's were very easy to find in Jakarta.
01/09/01: Flew from Manchester Airport on Emirates to Jakarta via Dubai, The Maldives and Singapore. Cost of flight was £530 each, booked through Trailfinders in Manchester.
02/09/01: Arrived in Jakarta 18.40 local time and took taxi from airport to Ibis Tamarin Hotel where we stayed overnight ( 3 star hotel & Rh 350000 per night ).
03/09/01: Arranged mid afternoon flight to Bali with Garuda at the travel agents in the hotel, costing £140 each return. This gave us time to go shopping for supplies in the morning for our later visit to Way Kambas. The hotel had no problem allowing us to store items there until our return. Arrived on Bali early evening and chartered a taxi for Rh 350000 to take us to Bali Barat. We tried to find the Losmen in Labuan Lalang only to find out it no longer exists. The driver took us back to the main road and turned towards Gilimanuk where we booked ourselves into the Losmen Lestari and wondered what we were going to do about getting to Bali Barat. By an amazing stroke of luck, the owner of the Losmen is a good friend of a guide who will take you round Bali Barat. One quick phone call later, the guide appeared at the Losmen and we had the following day sorted within five minutes!!
The Lestari is also an excellent place to stay/eat. We had two rooms between the three of us, a single with hot water and air conditioning for Rh 150000 and a twin with air conditioning, but no hot water for Rh 125000 per night.
04/09/01: Up at 6am as PA hadn't quite worked out how to use his alarm clock properly!! We caught a bemo and squeezed ourselves in amongst the freshly caught Barracuda on board and were dropped off at the start of the road to the HQ of the Bali Starling breeding programme. We birded the road and the area around the HQ until 10am when we walked back out to the road and hitched a lift a kilometre or two further to have a couple of hours birding a dry river bed that runs into the forest. After a leisurely stop for lunch in Labuan Lalang we hired a boat and were taken out to Menjangan island and then back to Bali Barat to look for the Starlings ( the most recent estimates put the population at 3 - 6 individuals ). We managed to see 2 birds singing from the tops of the high trees. It would be very useful to have a scope here, as our views were somewhat distant. We finished birding at dusk and hitched a lift back to the Lestari at the end of an unforgettable day!! Total costs were Rh 200000 for the boat trip, plus an additional 20000 for one extra hour and Rh 300000 each for Iwan. It is well worth noting that 70% of Iwan's costs are donated to the Bali Starling programme. Iwan is also worth every penny paid to him, he has a detailed knowledge of the local birds and knows where to find most of them
At this time we decided to temporarily split up, JG returned to Denpasser to catch an early flight back to Jakarta, while PA and myself decided to stay overnight in the Lestari and have a quick trip over to Eastern Java to try and see Green Peafowl at Baluran.
05/09/01: JG took the 9.30 am flight to Jakarta and chartered a taxi to Cibodas for Rh 350000. He booked into Freddy's Homestay and spent the afternoon birding the main trail at Gunung Gede as far as the Blue Lake.
Myself and PA meanwhile, rose at 4.30am ( PA now having worked out the alarm clock ) and caught a bus outside the Lestari to the bus terminal at Gilimanuk and walked from here to the ferry terminal. We bought tickets for the ferry to Java and were directed to a ferry that unfortunately didn't leave until about 6am. We finally got over to Java at about 7am and from the ferry terminal here we chartered a bemo to take us to Baluran for Rh 200000, including a one hour wait at Baluran. We had the good fortune to see 4 male Peafowl from the bemo before we even got to the park proper, and so decided to spend an hour birding around the HQ before leaving having seen a further 2 male and 6 female Peafowl. They were almost embarrassingly easy here!! We arrived back at the ferry terminal, waved goodbye to our intrepid bemo driver and bought tickets for the return trip to Bali. At the ferry terminal we took a bus back to the Lestari and rushed in to settle our bill so we could try to catch the first bus back to Denpasser. Buses to Denpasser pass right outside the Lestari at least every half an hour, and the hotel staff will even pop to the terminal and reserve seats for you. We were on our way at midday to arrive in the terminal at Denpasser mid afternoon. From here we took another bemo to the airport where we found the Garuda office, booked ourselves onto the 6pm flight to Jakarta and celebrated with a McDonalds having only eaten one peanut each all day. Upon arrival in Jakarta we haggled with the taxi firms and eventually got a mini bus to take us to Cibodas for Rh 300000. We finally arrived at Freddy's Homestay that night after a whirlwind day to be met by an amazed JG!! Freddy's is by far & away the best place to stay in Cibodas, cheap, clean and excellent food!! It is located on the right hand side of the road, about three quarters of the way up to the market, next door to the local mosque. At least 1 of Freddy's sons, Indrah, is a keen naturalist, & there is also a logbook containing recent sightings.
06/09/01: Got up early to try and ensure we were on the first couple of kilometres of the main trail at dawn in a vain attempt to see Sunda Thrush. We wound our way slowly up birding along the way and eventually stopped off at the hot springs for lunch. After an hour of sitting down, myself and JG decided it would be far better to start heading back down again, rather than to carry on to the summit. PA bravely announced that he was "going for it!!" so we temporarily went our separate ways. Heading back down again proved to be a fantastic decision as after about a kilometre and a half a long high-pitched whistle was heard high up in the canopy. We knew instantly that the calls were those of Javan Cochoa, but whistling back only seemed to discourage it from further calling. After standing and listening to silence for a few minutes, we assumed that the bird had moved off and started to continue down, only to hear the same call, seemingly coming from a much closer location. We spent several minutes whistling back and eventually a pair of Cochoas flew in and landed in the mid canopy. Unfortunately the male soon flew off again, but the female stayed virtually motionless for a good ten minutes before flying off herself. We left a note on the trail for PA who had abandoned his brave attempt on the summit after realising that sandals are not the best things to be wearing when you are trying to walk through a stream with a temperature of about 70 degrees Celcius! He found our note and after giving an open air tribute to most of the known English swear words, caught up with the same pair of Cochoas a couple of hundred metres further down the trail from where we had seen them.
We all met up again at the waterfalls. JG having already visited the site previously decided to head back down to Freddy's while there was still light, leaving PA and myself to wait until dusk to successfully attempt to spotlight Salvadori's Nightjar around the cliffs to the right of the farthest right waterfall.
07/09/01: Jet lag and the excursions of the previous day had by now caught up with us and we all opted for a far more leisurely day of birding! JG spent the morning on the first couple of kilometres of the main trail in another vain attempt to see Sunda Thrush. PA and myself birded the botanical gardens in an equally fruitless attempt to catch up with the Thrush in the areas of the gardens at the forest edge. The gardens are well worth a look as they are probably the easiest place to see Pygmy Tit. PA also found a good trail leading up from the top end of the gardens into the national park.
08/09/01: We had decided the previous evening that as today was a Saturday and the park was going to be extremely busy that this would be our last day in the Cibodas area. We arranged to visit the nearby Puncak Pass with, Indrah. A pair of Javan Hawk Eagles had nested in the area for at least the last two years but unfortunately for us, this year's young birds had left the nest about a week before we arrived. We spent four hours searching the skies without any luck, and decided to leave at midday to get back to Cibodas and catch a bus back to Jakarta. While we were waiting to flag down a bemo right by the main road, JG looked up towards the nearby, forested ridge and noticed a raptor circling almost above our heads, it was an immature Javan Hawk Eagle giving brilliant views!! We returned to Freddy's to settle our bills and then took a bemo back down to the main road to wait for a passing bus to Jakarta. After an hour and a half we gave up on the bus idea and chartered a bemo back instead costing Rh 150000. The driver, having indicated that he didn't wish to drive into central Jakarta, dropped us off at a taxi rank on the outskirts of the city and paid our fare to the Ibis Tamarin. We arrived back at the hotel hoping to hire a car and driver to take us to Way Kambas on Sumatra. Unfortunately the travel agents in the hotel was closed so we asked at the front desk and were told that the hotel bell boy could arrange something for us early the next morning. We were offered a jeep and driver costing Rh 450000 per day not including ferry fares or toll fees. If the travel agents had been open, it would have cost us Rh 375000 per day including ferry fares.
09/09/01: Up at 7am and out ready to meet our driver outside the hotel at 8am. We were soon on our way to catch a ferry over to Sumatra where we would stay at Way Kambas and then return to Java and part company with out driver at Carita. The ferry journey takes between an hour and a half and two hours so to pass the time we went up on deck to try and see some seabirds as according to the field guide there is a large passage of Swinhoe's Petrels through the Sunda Straits in September. This proved to be a good move as there was a significant passage of Bridled Terns and we also saw a couple of definite Swinhoe's and also a few Petrels which appeared larger and longer winged with slower wing beats, possibly Matsudaira's, but we couldn't be certain. On arrival in Sumatra, it is approximately a three hours drive to Way Kambas. We stopped en route to buy enough water to last three and a half days. There are no facilities at Way Kambas so you have to take in your own supplies. We arrived at the entrance and booked ourselves in and then drove to the accommodation at Way Kanan. By the time we arrived, it was too late to do anything other that have a quick look around the clearing before dark. All cooking here has to be done by yourself too, the rangers will charge you to use their gas, and you can draw water from a well to cook with, so it is obviously important to make sure this is thoroughly boiled. The rangers will also let you have a few of their wild Chillies or Garlic to spice up your noodles!!
Way Kambas is very good for large mammals, & still harbours populations of Asian Elephants & the critically endangered Sumatran Rhino & Tiger. It is also notorious for the neighbouring Elephant "training school". Unfortunately for the poor Elephants, this involves them being trained to do things like play football for the benefit of tourists!!! It has been reported in the past that problem animals are simply turned out into the forest bordering the national park. Obviously an encounter with one of these rogue Elephants would be extremely dangerous so it would be very wise to exercise great caution should you come across a lone individual. During our stay, we did not see any evidence of Elephant activity at all.
The national park also has a reputation for being excellent for night birds, although JG & PA reported that it was quiet despite conditions being perfect. Personally, I found the complete pitch blackness & thoughts of Tigers & rogue Elephants highly unnerving & decided that I wasn't prepared to risk sacrificing the joys of breathing after only getting about 100 metres down the road!!
10/09/01: PA & JG went back out in the very early hours intending to walk down the road until it got light, & then turn round and work their way slowly back. I started off down the road at dawn. JG & PA had the best of the morning, connecting with Malaysian Rail Babbler & Lesser Adjutant. Their idea would appear to be the best plan and was very successful when we tried it again a couple of days later.
We split up in the afternoon, with JG and PA birding on the trails which lead off from the clearing, & myself birding the road again, after aborting the mornings attempt due to a, thankfully, short lived stomach upset. A stunning male Banded Pitta, whistled into view, more than made up for my mornings disappointment!
JG & PA headed out down the road again after dark for another fruitless attempt to see night birds, but JG did manage to briefly spotlight a Reddish Scops Owl, which was calling in the clearing when they returned.
11/09/01: The previous night, myself & PA arranged what we thought was going to be a boat trip along the river to search for White-winged Duck with one of the park guards. To arrange this, ask the guards to take you to see the Mentok. It turned out that the water level was too low for the boat, so the guard walked us to a hide in the nearby Wako Swamp. Again, our hopes were dashed by the low water levels, meaning the pool overlooked by the hide was nothing more than a muddy puddle.
JG had again been birding along the road in the early morning, and spent the afternoon birding from one of the trails. I spent the afternoon birding along the road & then spent the last hour of light in the clearing & by the river in the vain hope that a Mentok might choose to fly past. PA spent late afternoon birding along the loop trail & was extremely lucky to see a Tiger briefly as it leapt off the trail.
12/09/01: Our last morning at Way Kambas, & what a morning it would prove to be!! The previous night, we had arranged with our driver for him to drop us off about 7 kilometres down the road at dawn, so we could walk back and check out the many roadside pools. The first notable occurrence, was watching a pair of beautiful Banded Pittas calling at each other, the male remained on full view, calling from a low vine for a full five minutes at a range of about 20 feet. Could it possibly get any better yes it could!! A few hundred metres on, we stood mesmerised for about twenty minutes watching a small party of Siamang Gibbons singing in the trees close to the road. Another couple of kilometres further along, we were stopped in our tracks by a long, high-pitched ethereal whistle we knew instantly belonged to Malaysian Rail Babbler. I was expecting to have to stand there whistling back at it for at least half an hour before getting a brief view of it dashing across a gap, so I could not believe my luck when it emerged out of the undergrowth about 15 feet away from us & walked slowly away. A truly amazing, unique bird that no painting can do justice to & an encounter I will never forget!!
Unbeknown to us, our good luck was not to end there. A further kilometre or so along the road, we were stopped in our tracks again, this time by the sound of a large bird taking flight from very close by. PA & JG stripped off their bags and announced they were "going in." Rather stupidly, I decided that staying on the road would be the best idea. All I could hear from the road was a scream of DUCK, then STORK, then YES !! & the sound of high fives. I thought this was just a wind up until I saw a Storm's Stork fly up and perch in a tree at the back of a pool that is not visible from the road, shortly followed by an ecstatic pair of birders emerging from the bushes. It transpired that as they emerged out of the bushes they flushed a White Winged Duck, which shot off into the far corner of the pool & flushed a Storm's Stork up into the trees at the back. As all this was going on, the culprit of the original wing beats, a Lesser Adjutant flew over the road. It was hard to be delighted that I had just seen Storm's Stork, when I had just missed White-winged Duck, & thought I had missed my chance. My only hope was that the Duck would return & we could check out the pool again as we were leaving.
By this time we thought we had just about had our fair share of luck & decided to head back, pack our bags, call it a day & have one last check of the pool on the way out. After loading up the jeep & settling up our bills with the guard, we set off along the road. We stopped off just past the pool & crept quietly through the bushes to view the pool. Unfortunately, there was no Duck, just a Mongoose patrolling the edges. We got back into the jeep & I resigned myself to the fact that I had missed out on possibly my only chance to see a Mentok. As we were driving along I was checking the small roadside pools with all hope fading fast, until passing what turned out to be the last one before the exit, I noticed two white shapes through the bushes & screamed at the driver to stop. We gathered our wits, crept slowly out of the jeep & quietly walked back to the pool to find a pair of White-winged Ducks sat on a log at the back. One of them launched itself into the water and paddled out of site, to leave the other bird sitting there looking at us, looking at it, for a full five minutes before it struggled into the air & flew over us & then back into the forest.
Our driver now took us back to the ferry terminal, where we boarded and cruised slowly back to Java. Again, there was a strong passage of Bridled Terns & we also saw a few Swinhoe's Petrels & a couple more that we strongly suspect were Matsudaira's, again, we just couldn't be 100% sure. A distant Frigatebird sp was the only other bird of note. Back on Java, we were driven to Carita, where we booked ourselves into the Sunset View Hotel & said our goodbyes to the driver, who headed off back to Jakarta.
13/09/01: Up early to climb up into the forested areas above Carita. To get into the best birding area, follow the road from the Sunset View towards Labuan. On your left you will notice two squared archways - take the second of these ( about 100 metres on from the hotel ) and follow the tarmac road for 500m, past the Deer Park on your left. You will then come to a junction in the road, the right fork leads off to some holiday apartments / houses, take the left fork which will lead you up into the forest. The road climbs steadily through secondary forest & then climbs further up the side of the mountain through degraded primary forest. The forest here is being destroyed rapidly, we saw several people carrying chainsaws up the trail. Even the trees on the highest slopes are being cut down.
Another area worth a look can be accessed by going through the first archway on the left, after the Sunset View, you can follow a rough track towards some rice paddies. This area looks good for Javan Kingfisher, but we didn't see any here.
14/09/01: Up early again, for final mornings birding in same areas as previous day before returning to hotel to get ready to leave. We took a bemo from outside the hotel to the bus terminal in Labuan. Here we caught a bus back to the bus terminal in Jakarta, from where we took a taxi back to the Ibis Tamarin.
15/09/01: We arranged through the hotel Bell Boy for a charter taxi to take us to Mauro Angke and wait there for us while we had a few hours birding. The best tactic here is to climb the observation tower and simply look out over the marsh & reeds. The area is particularly good for Herons, but the main bird to see here is Javan Coucal. We had two sightings of one bird in four hours by the time we left. Just past the boundary of the reserve on the right hand side of the road used to be a good area to look for Javan Plover. We didn't see any here, & are not sure if the area will hold birds again as at least half the area had been dug up in advance of a development project. It could simply have been that we were there at a bad time of year & as the area is only a few hundred metres from the observation tower, it is certainly still worth having a quick look.
16/09/01: Spent the last morning doing a bit of shopping in Jakarta before taking a taxi to the airport for our return flight home.
1. Swinhoe's Storm Petrel - 6 identified from ferry between Java & Sumatra, only 1 certainly recorded on the return journey.
Storm Petrel sp - 2 larger, longer winged, dark rumped Petrels with deeper wing beats recorded from ferry between Java & Sumatra. Appeared to be more on return journey with at least 2 birds 'shearing' sporadically. Possibly Matsudaira's?
2. Little Black Cormorant - 4+ at Mauro Angke ( MA ).
3. Oriental Darter - 30+ at MA.
4. Greater Frigatebird - 3 over Menjangan Island and Bali Barat ( BB ).
5. Lesser Frigatebird - 1 at BB.
Frigatebird sp. - 4 at BB, 1 or 2 from ferry between Sumatra & Java.
6. Great Billed Heron - 1 at BB.
7. Grey Heron - 3+ at MA.
8. Purple Heron - 5+ at MA.
9. Cattle Egret - Many by the roadside on Sumatra, Java & Bali.
10. Great White Egret - Many at MA.
11. Intermediate Egret - 3+ at MA.
12. Little Egret - Many by the roadside on Java & common at MA.
13. Striated Heron - 2 at BB.
14. Javan Pond Heron - Few seen by roadsides on Java & Bali. Common at MA.
15. Black Crowned Night Heron - 20+ at MA.
16. Cinnamon Bittern - 1 at MA.
17. Storm's Stork - 1 at Way Kambas ( WK ).
18. Lesser Adjutant - 4 at WK.
19. Wandering Whistling Duck - 12 at MA.
20. White Winged Duck - 3 at WK.
21. Oriental Honey Buzzard - 1 at WK.
22. Bat Hawk - 1 at WK.
23. Black Winged Kite - 1 roadside bird on Sumatra.
24. White Bellied Fish Eagle - 2 in Sunda Straits between Java & Sumatra.
25. Lesser Fish Eagle - 3 on the river at WK.
26. Japanese Sparrowhawk - 1 at WK.
27. Crested Serpent Eagle - Several at BB, Gunung Gede ( GG ), Puncak Pass & WK.
28. Black Eagle - 20+ at GG / Puncak Pass area.
29. Changeable Hawk Eagle - 1 at BB, 2 - 3 birds at Carita.
30. Javan Hawk Eagle - 1 seen over the main road at the Puncak Pass area.
31. Spotted Kestrel - 2 or 3 birds seen around the waterfalls at GG, & also at Puncak Pass.
32. Eurasian Hobby - 1 at Pucak Pass.
33. Peregrine - 1 at Puncak Pass.
34. Chestnut Bellied Partridge - 3 seen & many heard at GG.
35. Barred Buttonquail - 1 in the mangroves near the cafés at Labuan Lalang.
36. Green Peafowl - 6 males & 4 females at Baluran.
37. Crested Fireback - 6 at WK.
38. Red Junglefowl - 6 seen at WK & many heard.
39. Green Junglefowl - Very common at Baluran & seen easily at BB.
40. White Breasted Waterhen - 3 at MA & 1 at BB.
41. Purple Swamphen - 3 at MA.
42. Moorhen - 2 at MA.
43. Whimbrel - 1 on Menjangan.
44. Grey Tailed Tattler - 1 on Menjangan.
45. Common Sandpiper - 5 between Menjangan & BB.
46. Beach Thick Knee - 2 on Menjangan.
47. Black Naped Tern - 20+ off BB.
48. Bridled Tern - 100+ passing through Sunda Straits.
49. Great Crested Tern - 1 off Menjangan & 1 from ferry between Java & Bali.
Crested Tern sp. - Many distant birds not specifically identified off Menjangan.
50. Little Green Pigeon - 3 at WK.
51. Pink Necked Green Pigeon - 1+ at BB.
52. Black Naped Fruit Dove - 6+ at Carita.
53. Green Imperial Pigeon - Common at WK.
54. Dark Backed Imperial Pigeon - 1 at GG.
55. Feral Pigeon - Several.
56. Island Collared Dove - 2 at BB & a few seen at Baluran.
57. Peaceful Dove - Very common at BB & Baluran.
58. Spotted Dove - Common, seen at all sites.
59. Emerald Dove - A few seen at BB, WK & GG.
60. Red Breasted Parakeet - 10+ over at BB.
61. Blue Rumped Parrot - 20+ at WK.
62. Blue Crowned Hanging Parrot - A few seen at WK.
63. Yellow Throated Hanging Parrot - 5 in the ornamental gardens at Cibodas, also heard at Carita.
64. Large Hawk Cuckoo - Heard at GG.
65. Oriental Cuckoo - Heard at GG, 1 bird seen at Puncak Pass.
66. Banded Bay Cuckoo - Heard at all sites, 2 birds seen at MA.
67. Plaintive Cuckoo - Heard at WK, GG & 1 seen at Carita.
68. Rusty Breasted Cuckoo - Commonly heard & 1 seen at GG.
69. Violet Cuckoo - 1 female at WK.
70. Drongo Cuckoo - Heard at WK, heard & 1 seen at Carita.
71. Black Bellied Malkoha - 1 at WK.
72. Raffle's Malkoha - 2+ at WK.
73. Chestnut Breasted Malkoha - 1 at WK.
74. Greater Coucal - Recorded at all sites.
75. Javan Coucal - 1 at MA.
76. Buffy Fish Owl - 1 disturbed from daytime roost at BB.
77. Brown Hawk Owl - 1 seen & another heard at WK.
78. Barred Eagle Owl - 2 heard calling at WK.
79. Reddish Scops Owl - Several heard & 1 seen briefly at WK.
80. Large Frogmouth - 1 heard at WK.
81. Sunda Frogmouth - 1 heard at WK.
82. Malaysian Eared Nightjar - 2 seen, several heard at WK.
83. Savannah Nightjar - 2 seen at BB, a few heard calling & 2 seen in Jakarta.
84. Bonaparte's Nightjar - 2 seen & up to 5 heard at WK.
85. Salvadori's Nightjar - 3+ around waterfalls at GG at dusk.
86. Giant Swiftlet - 4 at the waterfalls at GG just prior to dusk.