by Tim Allwood, Olive Lodge, 7 Stukeley Road, Huntingdon PE29 6HG. Tel: 01480 411718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Whilst resident in Jakarta I made many birding trips to this fantastic park. Almost all of Java's endemic birds can be found here although you'll have to be extremely lucky if you are to see a high percentage of them. Over the course of 18 months I managed to record almost all the "big" species with the exception of White-bellied Fantail which I missed by a couple of minutes. This species hasn't figured in the log more than a couple of times in the last four or five years and may be getting very rare. I'd be glad to receive details of any sightings. The park covers a wide altitude range and accordingly several different habitat zones from sub-montane forest to alpine meadow. The birding is fantastic, if a little slow at times, but you should be rewarded with some never to be forgotten experiences.
You need about a week to do the place justice and you'll have to spend one night at least on the mountain. The "huts" are hopeless so bring a little tent or bivvy bag and check the weather. We once stayed overnight in atrocious weather with trees coming down everywhere - it wasn't much fun. Keep your food as safe as possible since we lost all ours one night to some ratty thing and woke up with a large mammal, probably a Stink Badger, crawling all over us. The whole mountain can be seething with Javanese especially on Sundays so try and visit in the week.
The field guide is Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by MacKinnon and Phillipps but should be used with a little care as there are a few mistakes and the plates aren't fantastic. Craig Robsons new book is worth taking if you're visiting other sites in, say, Sumatra. There's a good tape available of calls (try Wildsounds, or myself if you have no luck there) etc but I found I could pull out most skulkers by imitating and pishing etc.
From Jakarta, take a Bandung bus from Kampung Rambutan Bus Station (Rp 12000). This station is in the south of the city and any taxi will take you there (eventually!). Ask the driver for "Terminal Bis Kampung Rambutan". At the station get on any bus to Bandung and ask the conductor to let you off at Cibodas. It takes about an hour and 20 mins. From the bottom of the turn off up to Cibodas you can either walk or take an Ojek (motorbike taxi - Rp 2000 to 5000) to the village. I'd recommend the Ojek - it's great flying up the road with the huge forest shrouded volcano looming up in front of you and you dont even have to wear a helmet.
Where to Stay
There's only one place it can be - Freddy's. Freddy is a great host and a very friendly man who can give you a lot of good info and liven up your stay. His place is on the right of the road just as you start to enter the town proper and just before the mosque. He does great, cheap food and his sons (Eddy, Adam and Indrah) are all interested in birding. Freddy can also arrange a trip to a nearby location to see Javan Hawk Eagle, on the nest maybe, if you don't have any joy in the park. PS. Please say 'Hi' to Freddy from Tim and Claire, cheers.
From Freddys walk up through the market to the top of the hill and take the driveway on your right alongside the golf course. The park entrance is on the left after about 150 yards. Walk up the steep path to the HQ and if anyone's there buy an entrance ticket and you're off!
Interesting Spots on the way up and their birds
Several species are common and likely to be encountered in a variety of places so I've only listed those that you're probably more interested in.
1. Cibodas Gardens
Okay so it's not in the park but it's still worth a visit and is the best place to catch up with Lesser Forktail; try the small stream on the far side of the football pitch - more often than not I scored there. The Gardens are also the best spot for Pygmy Tits and Yellow-throated Hanging Parrots and raptors are easier to see here. On one occassion I had an amazing Javan Hawk Eagle perched up here. Collared Scops Owl and Brown Wood Owl are possible at night.
2. Forest up to the Blue Lake
An excellent section of species can be seen on the first section of the wide path running up the mountain. This first 1.5 km is the best spot to find the two endemic babblers, the White-bibbed and the Crescent-chested. Also of note here are Banded and Checker-throated Woodpeckers, both Wren Babblers, Orange-fronted Barbets, Sunda Blue Robins, Horsefield's Babblers, Javan Dark-throated White-eyes and Lesser Shortwings among others. Javan Scops Owl might be found at the very start of the track - I never got a sniff.
About 15 mins up the track there's a good trail on the left (Jalan Buntu) that eventually leads into the Gardens. I encountered many good flocks on here.
3. Telaga Biru/The Blue Lake (1,575 m a.s.1.)
1.5 km/30 minute walk from Cibodas Gate. The name derives from the presence of blue-green algae which colour the water. The surrounding area is transitional from sub-montane to montane vegetation. I really enjoyed just sitting here and waiting for flocks to move through. This can be a long wait at times but you get very good views of some species. Birds of note in this spot can include Spotted Crocias, Sunda Bulbul and Sunda Minivet (the best place I found for all of these). You can also see Orange-spotted Bulbul, babblers, both endemic barbets, drongos and 'peckers here too and it's a fantastic place to get good views of Blue Nuthatch. It was the also the only place I found Sunda Cuckoo-shrike and Sunda Thrush. Listen here for Large Hawk Cuckoo "Pee Pee-ah" repeated incessantly and Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon "ooo-ooh" although the latter is rare.
4. Cibeureum Waterfall (1,625 m a.s.1.)
Abuot 2.8 km/1 hour walk from Cibodas Gate. Three waterfalls, formed from the Cikundul, Cidendeng, and Cibeureum rivers. A red moss (Sphagnum gedeanum), endemic to the mountains of West Java, can be seen growing on the rocky outcrops. Many of the bats seen flying around come the nearby bat cave of Gua Lalay.
The track off to the waterfall is perhaps the best spot to come across the fantastic Javan Tesia. These are a little tricky at first but respond well to pishing. White-browed Shortwing and White-flanked Sunbird are to be found here but the Shortwings are real skulky. At the falls you might find Spotted Kestrel, Black Eagle, Lesser Forktail (very rare) and at night Salvadori's Nightjar - try the rightmost fall. Unfortunately it's so difficult to see these that they're virtually unidentifiable. Just before the waterfall track is an open grassy area where on one occassion I saw a Giant Swiftlet - they're huge!
5. Hot Springs/Air Panas (2,150 m a.s.l.)
A tiring 5.3 km/2 hour walk from Cibodas Gate. The water temperature here can be as high as 75°C but drops during times of rain. If you take packets of noodles they can be cooked using this water. An algae, remarkably adapted both to hot water and high sulphur levels, grows in the stream bed. This place is like something prehistoric! Another good spot to just sit and watch - if it's not too steamy. The path between the falls and here is good for Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, Sunda Whistling Thrush, and a few of the commoner species. Around the falls is the spot for Javan Cochoa and Blue-rumped Trogon; I only managed one of each so don't be disappointed! The Trogon has a weird, harsh call and the Cochoa should be high up. The Cochoas are very slender birds and the one I saw was very horizontal on its branch, tearing away at something. White-crowned Forktail can be found on the path after rain and Indigo Flycatchers are usually fairly abundant
6. Kandang Batu/Rocky Area (2,220 m a.s.l.)
Around 5.6 km/3 hour walk from Cibodas Gate. As a result of the Gede eruptions rocks and boulders litter the area. Many fresh springs emerge here providing a good source of drinking water. Not too much of interest seen round here but I did see Chestnut-bellied Partridge here a few times. Also you may encounter thrushes, flycatchers (inc Snowy-browed) and it does look good for Javan Cochoa
7. Kandang Badak/Rhino Hut (2,400 m a.s.l.)
An exhausting 7.8 km/4 hour walk from Cibodas Gate. The area is relatively flat, consisting of a saddle connecting the peaks of Mount Gede and Mount Pangrango. The vegetation is transitional from montane to sub-alpine. You can sleep here but its very squalid and usually wet. The birds here are a little scarcer but anything you see will be interesting. Chestnut-bellied Partridge, Siberian and Whites Thrush are all possible if you're lucky, while White-browed Shortwing, Javan Tesia and Sunda Bush Warbler are a little easier. The only place I saw Sumatran Green Pigeon and Whites Thrush.
8. Path to Summit and Crater of Mount Gede (2,958 m a.s.l.)
An absolutely knackering 9.7 km/5 hour walk from Cibodas Gate. Three semi-active craters are grouped together: Lanang (male), Ratu (queen) and Wadon (female). Acid rocks, sulphur-rich gas emissions and an inhospitable climate all make for extreme conditions. In response, a fascinating plant community has developed including the fern Selliguea feei, the ericaceous Vaccinium varingiaefolium and two species of rhododendron Rhododendron retusum and R.javanicum. The forest on the path to the crater becomes more and more stunted as you progress on the trail. Island Thrushes should be seen here along with other thrush spp if you're lucky. At the summit if it's not too cloudy you'll find Volcano Swiftlets zipping around your head with Red Junglefowl calling in the background. A good spot too for Mountain Serin - listen for their "tinkling" through the mist. Also recorded on one occassion was a probable Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch but views were too quick.
Now it's all downhill and a second chance to catch up on anything you missed. Good Luck!
Several species of mammal occur in the park. These include the Stink BadgerMydaus javanensis, Flying Lemur Galeopterus variegatus, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Lesser Mouse-deerTragulus javanicus and two species of wild pig Sus scrofa and S. verrucosus. Four species of primate live here: Javan Gibbon Hylobates moloch, Javan Leaf MonkeyPresbytis comata, Ebony Leaf MonkeyTrachyppithecus auratus and Long-tailed MacaqueMacaca fascicularis.Other rare mammals include LeopardPanthera pardus, Leopard CatFelis bengalensis and Wild DogCuon alpinus javanicus