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During 1999 and 2000 I made numerous trips to this small and increasingly degraded and disturbed patch of remnant forest in West Java. This is by far the best place to catch up with some of Java's lowland forest endemics: White-breasted Babbler, Black-banded Barbet and Javan Sunbird etc. It is also home to a fair variety of other wonderful species such as Banded Broadbill, Banded Kingfisher, Banded Pitta, Crested Jay, Orange-headed Thrush and Javan Hawk Eagle to name but a few. Having said that it's not the easiest place to bird as it's popular with schoolchildren and visitors from Jakarta and can seem quite crowded. The area is being selectively logged and even the steepest hillsides are being cleared for cultivation. I saw a fair amount of trapping here with species involved including Black-headed Bulbul, Scaly-crowned Babbler and the West Javan endemic, White-breasted Babbler. A visit here can be combined with a trip to Way Kanan just across the Sunda Strait in South Sumatra, Muara Angke in Jakarta for Sunda Coucal and Javan Plover, or the often overlooked (and difficult to access at present) Ujung Kulon National Park. This latter must surely be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
To reach Carita take a bus from the Western bus station in Jakarta to either Labuan (overland route 3-4 hrs) or Merak (coastal route 2.5 hrs). These two towns are a short way south and north of Carita respectively. After arrival at the bus station simply charter an ojek (motorcycle-taxi 5000 Rp) or get in a bemo (mini-bus 1500 Rp).
Where to stay etc.
Good places to stay are the Sunset View, Black Rhino or Niguadarma hotels about 50 yards north of the park entrance on the main road. They're all incredibly cheap and pleasant and the Niguadarma has a nice pool too. There's an excellent restuarant next door with cold Bintang beer and football on the T.V. at the weekend for those Brits missing home. Several stalls sell Krating Daeng - an industrial strength version of the Red Bull drink and more akin to liquid speed - excellent for those early starts!
The site and the birds
As every visit produces a different birdlist I'll just give you the bare bones on the specialities. Birding begins as soon as you leave the main road; the short road to the guard's house skirts a few fields where you may see Javan Kingfisher, Swiftlets (very confusing as Mossy (dark rump), Edible (pale or quite dark rump) and two races of Black-nest - one with a dark rump (Lowe's Swift) and one with a paler rump, occur in West Java so you'll soon give up, and Nightjars (Savanna and Large-tailed) at dusk. An unmetalled track continues off to the left a short way after the guard house and passes through secondary forest on its way to the reserve entrance proper. This stretch is great for Banded Pitta - at times they call from all over the place but can be devilishly hard to see. The call is easily imitated and birds respond well. Grey-faced Tit-Babbler - a Javan endemic - can be encountered along here as can Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rufous Piculet and a few species of flowerpecker including Plain. If you're really lucky you may find an Orange-headed or Chestnut-capped Thrush. At several points along here you can look out across the Sunda Straits and you may get a good view of Krakatau. After about 1 km you reach the entrance post, usually manned but not always. The entrance fee is negligible and the guards here will often invite you to sit with them and share fruit or a coconut. This is a nice way to relax after a morning's hot tropical birding.
Around here you can bash through trailside vegetation and get a good view of the valley sides. This is a good way to get views of flocks moving through the forest and you may also see barbets and leafbirds perched up and Grey-rumped Treeswifts in the valley. Raptors from here could include Crested Serpent Eagle, Oriental/Crested Honey Buzzard or even Javan Hawk Eagle if it's your lucky day. It's also possible to clamber down to the river and wade up to the waterfall (see later) giving you a different perspective on the area.
After the entrance post the condition of the forest improves and so does the birding. Note though that this track is at times very muddy and may be impassable after heavy floods. Treefalls are not uncommon here (I experienced a couple, rather too close for comfort) as the forest is on a steep slope and there seems to be a fair bit of erosion, so watch out! Never saw a leech though so there are some bonuses. This is the best area to find White-breasted Babbler, Crested Jay, Blue-eared and Black-banded Barbets, Velvet Nuthatch, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, minivets, babblers, spiderhunters, bulbuls (including Grey-headed if you're lucky) and others. I also saw a Leopard Cat and cubs, Ebony leaf monkeys and several snakes here.
After an hours walk the trail comes to an end at a waterfall. This area was nearly always full of schoolchildren camping and accordingly, very noisy. You will soon become the centre of attention and be called upon to sit for several photos. You'll probably need a rest by this stage so why not? It's possible to continue walking up the usually fairly dry river-bed for a few hundred metres and the forest here is exceptionally beautiful. Now you can turn around and have a leisurely walk back to town with a second chance to catch anything missed on the way up. It's also possible to go night birding here and there's a decent list of species. Regulars include Javan Frogmouth and Collared Scops Owl.