In stark contrast to the lush green scenery found elsewhere on the island of Java, the Baluran National Park, located on the east-most edge of Java, consists predominantly of open savannahs, where wildlife roams free. Here one can watch grazing, the large Javan water buffaloes called “banteng”, small Java mouse-deer is known as “kancil”, peacocks strutting about displaying their colorful plumage, eagles flying overhead and macaques fishing for crabs with their tails.
Coverning 250 sq km, the Park forms part of the district of Situbondo, in the province of East Java, comprising lowland forests, mangrove forests and 40% swathes of fertile savannahs, they provide abundant food for the animals. Here also are many typical Java trees like the Java tamarind and the pecan nut trees.
Discovered by Dutchman A.H.Loredeboer, in 1937 it was designated Wildlife Refuge by the Dutch colonial authorities, and in 1980 Indonesia designated this as a National Park. At the center of this large Park stands the extinct Baluran volcano, watching over its pristine environment dominated by the dry east wind, Baluran receives on average only 3 months of rain. The rainy season in East Java being between Novembers through April, peaking in December and January, while the dry season lasts from April through October.
During the dry season, the land parches and water becomes scarce, while when it rains, water slides over the black alluvial land with little being absorbed, forming water pools especially along the Park’s southern part that connects Talpat with Bama Beach. When you visit Baluran during the rainy season, you will see ample water holes, but during this time the Banteng and the wild bulls prefer to wander in the forests, although other animals like peacocks, mouse deer, and wildfowl do come out and can still be observed.
Baluran National Park boasts 444 species of trees, some unique to the area like the widoro bukol (Ziziphus rotundifolia), mimba (Azadirachta indica), and pilang (Acacia leucophloea). These plants are able to adapt to dry conditions when others have long wilted. Other trees also remaining green are the candle trees or kemiri (Aleurites moluccana), gebang (Corypha utan), api-api (Avicennia sp.), the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica), gadung (Dioscorea hispida), kendal (Cordia obliqua), manting (Syzygium polyanthum), and kepuh (Sterculia foetida).
The Park is habitat to 26 mammal species among which are the banteng (Bos javanicus), wild water buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis), the ajag (Cuon alpinus javanicus), the muncak deer (Muntiacus muntjak), the rusa (Cervus timorensis), leopards (Panthera pardus), the mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus), and mangrove cats (Prionailurus viverrinus). The Banteng are specific to Baluran and are therefore the Park’s mascot.
Additionally, Baluran is habitat to 155 types of birds, among which are the rare fire kite (Hirundo rustica), the red forest fowl (Gallus gallus), kangkareng (Anthracoceros convecus), hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros), tuwuk or asian tuwur (Eudynamys scolopacea), peacocks (Pavo muticus), and herons (Leptoptilos javanicus).
A safari trip to Baluran is indeed a precious journey.
To reach the Baluran National Park from Surabaya, capital of East Java, traveling overland takes around 6 hours. Baluran is located partly in the district of Situbondo and partly in the district of Banyuwangi. The Park covers a total area of 22,500 hectares comprising coastal forests and grassland and is protected by three mountains, namely Mt. Baluran, Mt. Merapi (not to be confused with Mt. Merapi near Yogyakarta) and the Ijen volcano.
From Surabaya driving via the northern coastal road east you will pass the towns of Pasuruan, Probolinggo, and Situbondo. After Banyuputih, the road turns south. Do not take the road further east to the village of Bilik. Before you reach the village of Wongsorejo turn left and you will see the sign: Visitor Center. This is the entrance gate to Baluran Park.
Alternatively, you can also drive from Sitobondo to Bangandengan. Some 60 km distance. The Baluran National Park is in fact on the highway connecting Surabaya with the city of Banyuwangi from where ferries take cars and passengers to Bali’s west coast. So that Baluran is also easily accessible from Bali.
Now that Garuda and Wings Air also fly daily to Banyuwangi from Surabaya and Denpasar, Bali, you can take the short route from Banyuwangi to Batangan some 35 km away, and then on to Bekol which is 12 km from here and takes around 45 minutes.
Within Baluran National Park you can drive through the Park to Bekol, The road takes two cars in opposite directions. Although the road is asphalted it is best to use SUV cars. From the entrance to the Bekol-Bama savannah is about 15 km. Around Bekol and Bama are trails for tourists and students.