Sabtu, 14 November 2009

SMA N Banyumas

SMA N Banyumas is my favorite school,..
SMA N Banyumas is so bonafit school because the facility in this school is complete now, but I hope the facility is increases..

Selasa, 27 Oktober 2009

Chicago’s Top 5 Places to Live for Convenient Biking by: Spencer Mason

Lincoln Park

With one of the city’s longest stretches of traffic-free biking and designated bike lanes along many of the main streets, it’s no wonder Lincoln Park is a favorite Chicago neighborhood among avid cyclists and recreational bike riders alike. Paved paths crisscross the expansive namesake park, providing easy access to the site’s many attractions (such as the Lincoln Park Zoo, Conservatory and History Museum), and underground passes and a skywalk with ramps to North Avenue Beach make crossing busy Lake Shore Drive carefree. The bike trail along the edge of Lake Michigan has become a main artery for city cyclists heading south to downtown and beyond or north to Lakeview and other north side neighborhoods. Actually, the path is part of a continuous 18-mile-long lakefront bike trail that hugs the shoreline from the South Shore Cultural Center up to East Rogers Park.

The bike lanes in Lincoln Park are especially useful in areas like DePaul University where many students ride bikes around campus; Armitage Avenue, which is a popular boutique shopping district that is easier to walk or bike to than drive; and the Clybourn Corridor where a bunch of big box stores and chain retail options make for a parking shortage that bikers do not have to deal with. Lincoln Park residents who work in downtown have a quick commute to the business district in the Loop. Bikers can shoot down Wells Street and be in the midst of City Hall, Chicago Board of Trade, Sears Tower and other major office buildings in less than 10 minutes.

The Loop

Living in the Loop, you are already in the heart of Chicago and close to many of the city’s main attractions and its thriving business center. That’s exactly why a good number of Loop residents ride bikes around the neighborhood: everything is nearby and it sure beats sitting in traffic or waiting for the “L” train to come by. The inner blocks of the Loop are fairly congested with cars, taxis, buses and pedestrians, so cyclists should be cautious when riding through these hectic downtown streets (wearing a helmet and reflective gear is always recommended). Just west of the Chicago River, Canal and Clinton streets have bike lanes, which make for quick and safe north-south routes that pass by both Union Station and Ogilvie Center (Chicago’s main transportation hubs). Ride east pass Michigan Avenue and you’ll be in the sprawling park grounds of Millennium and Grant parks, which offer several outlets to the extensive lakefront bike trail—a wildly popular means for travel by city cyclists.

Once on the lakefront trail, bikers enjoy well-maintained, paved paths with mile markers and lane designations for orderly riding and directional assistance. From the Loop, bicyclists can head down the trail 5 minutes to the Museum Campus to spend a day at the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium or Adler Planetarium, or see the Chicago Bears play at Solider Field. And, instead of paying through the nose for parking, bikers can lock up their bikes outside for free!


Bike riding is such a common form of transportation in Lakeview that you’re bound to see bicyclists coasting down the streets even during winter! The strong cycling interest in this north side Chicago neighborhood has prompted the establishment of bike lanes and shared lanes on several of Lakeview’s major thoroughfares. Halsted Street, which divides East Lakeview and Lakeview proper, has handy bike lanes that provide a north-south travel route right by loads of dining options, trendy night clubs and comfy neighborhood watering holes. During the summer, Cubs games are always cause for bottlenecks around Wrigley Field, but bikers never get caught up in the traffic jams. Those swift two-wheelers can fly right by the line of cars backed up at lights and diverted by barriers set up for the crush of fans flooding the ballpark grounds.

Chicago’s well-traveled 18-mile lakefront bike trail makes a tour through Lakeview East with easy access from the neighborhood streets to the path via three Lake Shore Drive underpasses at Barry, Roscoe and Waveland. Bike riders can take the vehicle-free trail north a few minutes to the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course and Montrose Harbor and Beach, or south past the Belmont Harbor Dog Beach to Lincoln Park and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. And, Lakeview residents who work in downtown might just find this picturesque trail to be the fastest way down to the Loop (roughly a 20-minute ride). Try to beat that time in a car during rush hour!

South Loop

The South Loop is a budding Chicago neighborhood that has the right idea when it comes to “bikeability.” As one of the lucky communities with public parkland along Lake Michigan, the city’s extensive lakefront bike trail runs right through the South Loop, connecting it with 18 continuous miles of scenic shoreline cycling. On the north end of the neighborhood, bikers can hop on the path from Grant Park. Cruise by Buckingham Fountain and watch the impressive water jets shoot 50 feet in the air then take the paved trail south through the Museum Campus and right past Burnham Harbor. Further down, bikers can easily cross Lake Shore Drive at the overpass/ underpass at 18th Street and another elevated skyway at the massive McCormick Place convention center on Cermak Road.

Students at Roosevelt University and Columbia College (both located on Michigan Avenue in the South Loop) appreciate the convenient bike routes through the park and the designated bike lanes along the neighborhood’s high-traffic streets. Wabash is useful for north-south travel and Roosevelt provides bikers with a safe east-west avenue to cross the Chicago River. Just west of the waterway, Roosevelt meets up with Canal Street, which also has bike lanes and allows cyclists to head up to the business district in the Loop from a less-congested west side approach.


Unlike Chicago’s other top neighborhoods for biking, Bucktown is inland from the water and does not share in the popular lakefront bike trail that runs practically the entire length of the city shoreline. Nevertheless, this ultra-trendy community shows a fondness for cycling that has spurred neighborhood-wide measures to provide safe and convenient bike routes within the Bucktown borders. Streets with designated bike lanes are concentrated in the center of Bucktown, where most of the area’s business and entertainment are focused. Damen is a north-south running thoroughfare that bisects the neighborhood and intersects all the other main avenues in Bucktown with bike lanes or shared lanes. From Damen, riders can pick up Armitage to the west or Cortland to the east, which crosses the Chicago River and hooks back up with Armitage in Lincoln Park and takes bicyclists directly to the waterfront (about a 10-minute trip from the heart of Bucktown).

Slicing diagonally through Bucktown is Milwaukee Avenue, another heavily-traveled Chicago road that passes through numerous neighborhoods and is the site of countless shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses. Up in Bucktown, Milwaukee has shared lanes (marked by chevron and bike symbols on the pavement and yellow diamond warning signs). At Division, the shared lanes change to bike lanes (indicated by solid stripes on the pavement and signage alerting motorists to its existence), which continue to Grand Avenue where Milwaukee dead-ends in the River West neighborhood. Because Milwaukee angles straight towards the Loop, it provides a great way to transverse downtown from the near northwest side community of Bucktown.

Senin, 27 Juli 2009

Developing Indonesia’s Cruise Ship Tourism

developing-indonesias-cruise-ship-tourismCruise ship tourism has an important role to play in the overall development of Indonesia’s tourism potential. Geographically, Indonesia’s extensive seas and the riches they contain, as well as the land (islands) the water surrounds, provide a strong basis for the expansion of cruise ship tourism.

The Indonesian Department of Culture and Tourism is already trying to develop this potential, both through the promotional angle and through other efforts such as providing and upgrading the necessary infrastructure, in cooperation with expert consultants to provide a better focus on the development.

“We have been working on this continually for quite some time. We’ve been making efforts to develop this potential both continuously and consistently,” says Noviendi Makalam, acting Secretary General of the Department of Culture and Tourism.

From 17 to 22 November 2008, the Culture and Tourism Department held a Familiarization Trip by inviting a number of international cruise operators to observe the potential in several regions of Indonesia, specifically Central Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara. One featured event was a half-day workshop on the theme “Bali As a Turnaround Destination for Cruises”.

Bali is a strategic gateway to Indonesia, lying between Singapore and Sydney, making it an ideal location in the development of the cruise ship market (routes) to and from these two cities, and is also well prepared in terms of tourism facilities. The support provided in this regard has been the construction of the harbor at Benoa to meet international standards, which will clearly support development of travel to all the islands of Indonesia.

It was mentioned that, thanks in part to all the efforts by the central government, local governments, and all stakeholders concerned, the number of visits to Indonesia by international cruise ships has risen significantly over the past several years.

As the target for 2009, 15 international cruise ship companies (operators) have expressed interest in making Indonesia one of their destinations. They will transport passengers to visit 38 different destinations in the islands of Indonesia, from Jayapura in the far east to Belawan in the west.

Enchanting Candikuning

candi-kuningLocated in the northern tip of Baturiti District, Tabanan Regency in northern Bali is a place with several fascinating tourism attractions. It lies at 1301 meters above sea level, so the weather is cool most of the day, averaging 24oC in the daytime and falling as low as 18oC at night.

Here we find Lake Beratan, with the Ulun Danunya temple whose fame has spread far and wide. The temple’s meru section, on the shores of Danau Beratan, is one of Bali’s most often photographed icons.

Setting out from the city of Denpasar in the early morning, I first headed west toward Mengwi District in Badung, and then northward on the main Tabanan–Singaraja road. It’s around 62 kilometers from Denpasar Candikuning, on a steep and twisty road, especially as you approach Candikuning. It took me around an hour to get there.

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan
My main purpose in Candikuning was to see the sun rise from the shores of Danau Beratan near Ulun Danu temple. After paying for my entry ticket, I entered the temple area through the surrounding garden and headed toward Pura Ulun Danu Beratan on the lake shore. The silhouette of the temple’s meru lit up by lights, with the blue morning sky in the background, was a sight of incomparable beauty. A moment later, a thin mist crept into the sunlight, blanketing the area around the temple and enhancing the drama of the ambience. In the distance I could see several tourists taking boats out to the middle of the lake to enjoy the splendid view of the temple from up close. Wooden boats can be rented for around Rp?50.000 per hour.

candi-kuning-puraPura Ulun Danu Beratan was built in the 15th century as a place to worship the gods and supplicate them for fertility, prosperity, welfare for humans and preservation of the natural universe. Within the Pura Ulun Danu Beratan area lie four other temples, including a Buddhist stupa to the east. The remains of several megalithic sarcophagi and stone walls indicate that this place has been used for rituals since the megalithic era.

Kebun Raya Eka Karya
From Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, I went to the Eka Karya botanical garden, quite near by, only a ten-minute drive. I took my vehicle in so that I could get around the 154-hectare complex more easily. The roads within the botanical garden are excellent.

Expanses of greenery delighted the eye in every direction. Cool breezes reinforced the feeling of calm, inviting me to stay longer in this well-maintained place. Kebun Raya Eka Karya, established in 1958, has a collection of roughly 16,000 plants, comprising 1500 species. The garden is divided into several zones for different types of plants: an orchid garden, a rose garden, a cactus garden, a medicinal plant garden, and so on.

The botanical garden functions as a place for scientific research, conservation, education, and recreation. Various recreational facilities are provided, such as gazebos and benches, as well as toilets. There’s also a treetop adventure called “Bali Treetop”. The cool surroundings with rows of trees and vast open spaces make this a perfect place for a family outing.

Candikuning Market
I then headed for my third destination, Candikuning market, around 500 meters from the botanical garden entrance, just a five-minute drive. I wandered through the market. In the front section are ranks of vegetable and fruit vendors, offering cabbage, green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries and much more, all fresh and neatly displayed. There are also many types of souvenirs and traditional snacks available to take home to family and friends. To the rear of the market are rows of plant and flower vendors, and surrounding the market are several restaurants where you can eat and rest.

The cool climate is very favorable for various types of vegetable, fruits, flowers and other plants. The local people’s activities in the market bring together the tourist destination, visitors, and the local community. The benefits of tourism are enjoyed not only by those directly involved in the tourism industry; other local residents also indirectly benefit from the large numbers of tourists visiting their area.


Water sports at Bedugul
My trip now took me to my final destination, the water sports venue at Bedugul, around one kilometer west of Candikuning market. Bedugul is the name of a spot on the south shore of Lake Beratan. It is equipped with a small dock where you can rent wooden boats to navigate around Lake Beratan for Rp 50.000 an hour; it takes around Rp?100.000 to go all the way around the lake once.

A wide variety of other water sports and adventures are on offer here: jet skis, water skiing, banana boat, and much more. If you don’t want to travel around the lake, just sit by the shore and enjoy the spectacular view. Fishing equipment can also be rented from the local residents.

And because these tourist attractions are located so close together, you can visit all of them in the same day!

Voting for the Dragons


Komodo National Park Nominated for New 7 Wonders of Nature

Komodo Island is famous as home to the komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), a fierce creature with a prehistoric appearance, tough hide, and sharp claws. In 1980, the Indonesian government designated it as a national park in order to protect the komodo dragon and its habitat. In 1986, UNESCO designated it as a biosphere preserve. And in 1991, the national park was officially declared a world heritage site.

This year, Komodo National Park has been nominated as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, representing Indonesia in the national park category. This selection process is being conducted by the New 7 Wonders Foundation in an effort to mobilize participation by the world community to support documentation and conservation of the wonders created by nature and humankind on this planet.

Komodo National Park is a strong contender in this competition. It’s the ideal home for around 2,500 giant lizards, commonly called komodo dragons. It extends over 1,817 square kilometers of land and sea, comprising two large islands, Komodo and Rinca, the small islands of Padar, Gili Motang, and Kode, and many other smaller islands, such as those in the Sape strait beween the islands of Flores and Sumbawa. The terrain includes savanna, mangrove forest, grasslands and beaches, and the seas are an enchanting turqoise.

The komodo dragon is a unique creature, believed to be a direct descendant of an even larger lizard species (Megalania presca) that lived in Java or Australia 30,000 years ago. Komodo dragons can be more than three meters long and weigh 70 to 160 kilograms.
Their large size is apparently the result of island gigantism; the lack of carnivorous mammals on the islands has caused the lizards to become huge. They are the chief predator, dominating their ecosystem. Nevertheless, they are endangered.

Komodo National Park is also an excellent tourism destination for diving. Enthusiasts can access the diving spots by luxury yacht or on simple sailboats owned by local dive operators. The islands offer dramatic landscapes and a wealth of maritime assets such as coral reefs, mangroves, seaweed, sea grass, and over 1000 fish species, 385 species of reef coral, 70 species of sponge, 10 species of dolphins, large tortoises, sharks, and mantas.


Exploring the Wonders

Arriving at Labuan Bajo, the chief city of West Manggarai district, I had only four hours to visit Komodo National Park. Obviously, more time would be better to fully appreciate its beauty, but I still managed to get some satisfaction from my short visit.

From the dock at Labuan Bajo, a speedboat took us over to Komodo Island in around 30 minutes. Islands covered with dry savanna dominated this passage; I saw colors one doesn’t usually see on an ocean journey. The pink sand beaches never fail to impress visitors heading toward Komodo Island. I was told that the sand is pink because it is mixed with fine grains from damaged red coral reefs. Tourists usually use these beaches for diving or snorkeling to observe the beauties of the coral reefs and the many fishes that dwell therein.

The pink beaches are very close to Komodo Island. Our friends from PT Putri Naga Komodo (PNK) were ready and waiting to take me and the group from our international cruise operator to explore the surrounding area and, hopefully, catch a glimpse of the charismatic and fearsome dragons.

All visitors to Komodo Island and the other islands within Komodo National Park must be accompanied by a local forest ranger throughout their stay. This is essential for the visitors’ own safety. The rangers and guides also provide important information about the places being visited.

From among the various trekking options, I and a friend from Singapore chose a short hike of around 40 minutes, while the others chose a medium-length route. They would have preferred a longer, more challenging hike, but time constraints prevented this.

Setting out from the PNK home base, my friend and I were accompanied by four rangers, each carrying a long wooden pole with a Y-shaped end. “This shape resembles a komodo’s tongue, and is useful to ward off any komodos that might try to approach or attack us,” a ranger told us; they really care about visitors’ safety.

About 300 meters along, we found many birds perched in the trees, and as we headed into denser forest, we saw a group of deer enjoying the shade.

Throughout our hike, all of us were constantly scanning every corner and byway that we passed, hoping to see a komodo emerging from the forest, and not simply to assuage our curiosity. My friend and I were actually a bit scared by this prospect, since we’d heard tales of tourists being killed by attacking komodos.

komodo-island“That’s why you must never go hiking here without a local escort. Often tourists are so excited about the idea of seeing a komodo that they go off by themselves. It’s very dangerous to do so, especially if you meet a dragon that happens to be hungry,” said a ranger, repeating the message he always conveys to the visitors he escorts.

He reminded us that as well as being accompanied by a forest ranger, visitors must maintain a safe distance if they encounter a komodo and must never wave any objects such as knapsacks, as doing so could atract the dragon’s attention and motivate it to attack.

Komodos have extraordinary capabilities. They can see 300 meters and can smell a rotting animal corpse up to 10 kilometers away. They can also run up to 20 km per hour, swim, dive, and climb trees.

“We’re almost back to the base,” our PNK guide told us. My friend and I were resigned to not having seen a komodo. “I guess we’re just not lucky,” I remarked to the PNK personnel who were fixing lunch.

I and my friend from Singapore assumed that the other groups had encountered komodos, because they had taken longer hikes and therefore had a better chance. I climbed the stairs to the PNK restaurant to find a place to rest. All buildings on Komodo Island have this platform design, for safety’s sake.

Half an hour later, the other groups arrived; they, too, had seen no dragons, but had enjoyed seeing the other animal species on the island.

Eventually, we decided to have lunch. As we were enjoying our meal, we heard a scuffling noise coming from below where we were eating. It turned out there was a komodo right below us. We immediately grabbed our cameras and headed to where the noise was coming from. The rangers readied themselves to protect us, while trying to coax the komodo to come out.

As we gazed at the creature, which seemed calm but still showed fierceness in its eyes, someone shouted, “Look, there’s another komodo!” And indeed, another one was coming from another direction.


“Look over there – what kind of animal is that?” We thought it might be yet another komodo.

The creature loped slowly from the beach; as it came closer, the PNK people said, “It’s a boar.”

The rangers told us that the komodo that created such an impression during my visit was a medium-sized one and had eaten fairly recently; that’s why it seemed so calm. This komodo appeared quite unexpectedly; I was very lucky. I hope that one day I can visit the other islands in Komodo National Park and see more of these creatures, who truly deserve to be one of the wonders of the world.

Monuments of the Ocean Floor


The sky broke open before dawn.

The rain teeming down from the heavens was splattered horizontal by fierce winds. I could hear the surf pounding as if to destroy our inn’s beach walls – terrifying.

This is Belitung, where the rain never comes gently. “I’ve never seen it rain harder than it does in Belitung,” says Andrea Hirata in his novel Laskar Pelangi. The sailors in these parts refer to these powerful wind and rain storms as “squalls” – a natural phenomenon that they fear.

But in the morning, the sky was clear. My friends and I walked down to the harbor to head over to Lengkuas Island. We walked along the beach of Tanjung Kelayang toward a row of fishing boats. An island shaped like the head of a garuda stood boldly across the strait.

Suddenly the weather changed, and a chill wind blew; another squall was on the way. The fishing boats tied to the pier were tossed about by the waves and smashed into one another. One of the fishermen came over. “Are you sure you want to sail over to Pulau Lengkuas?” he asked our friend. We could see the doubt and reluctance reflected in his face. We had rented a boat to sail to Pulau Lengkuas this morning, and he was the skipper.

I remembered that the day before, in Tanjung Bira, another fisherman told us that fishermen in Belitung never set out to sea in December; it’s just too unsafe. If you want to go to Belitung, go between April and August; then the sea is as clear as glass, he said. My friend replied confidently, “We’ll give it a try.” After all, Lengkuas is not far from Belitung, just a few dozen minutes.

ocean-floorShortly after we set out, it started to rain and the sea became choppy. Belitung was far behind us, and small islands appeared on either side of the boat. The waves grew bigger, higher even than the roof of the boat. If the skipper made just one false move in navigating through these waves, we’d all be dumped out into the sea.

I regretted the phrase carpe diem (Latin for “seize the day!”) from the Dead Poets Society that had inspired me to agree to join this trip to Pulau Lengkuas.

It took far longer than expected to reach Pulau Lengkuas, because the boat had to follow the waves. I prayed as I watched each huge wave rolling toward us. But my prayers were answered; like the squall before dawn, this storm vanished as quickly as it had come.

The surface of the sea surrounding the island was like glass, and the water was so shallow the boat could not dock close to shore. There was no other choice but to plunge in and wade to shore through waist-high water. Pak Komarudin, the lighthouse keeper, welcomed us with a big smile. He and his family live here at the lighthouse. A government ship comes to bring their food and drink rations once every three months. Pak Komarudin relies on rain water for his fresh water needs. A great vat is set out to collect rain water, and it flows from there into a big square tank with “Conserve Water!” written on the upper wall. If the water supply runs out, Komarudin has to contact Jakarta to ask them to deliver some water from Belitung.

Belitung and the hundreds of islands surrounding it are actually seabed that has been lifted to the surface by powerful forces of nature. The granite rock of Belitung originated through solidification of acidic magma. Because the magma cooled slowly, deep below the earth’s surface, the atoms and elements had a chance to bond strongly. This produced phaneritic minerals with large, coarse grains containing silica (the material glass is made from). Because these structures work this way, they produced joints with large spaces, so when the granite was later exposed and degraded by weather and other natural forces over millions of years, the result was giant boulders with astonishing shapes.

In the distance, several other smaller islands lay scattered in the open sea. The grains of the rocks in all the islands of Belitung run parallel, as if a giant ruler connected them all to each other. Amazing! This seems to prove the process of geological lifting followed by erosion. The raising of the ocean floor to become the islands of Belitung has occurred quite quickly in geological terms – only a few hundred million years.

ocean-floorThe main function of Pulau Lengkuas in the maritime traffic of Belitung is its lighthouse. The Lengkuas lighthouse was built in 1882, and its strong light still serves as a navigational aid in the Gaspar Strait between the islands of Bangka and Belitung. The interior of the lighthouse is a prison-like space with a sad aura. The lighthouse walls are made of sturdy iron plates. The windows on each floor are in different locations, so you get a different view from each window. The top floor, the 14th, is where the light itself is located. The lantern is half the size of a grown human. The walls of this top story are made of thick rounds of glass; it seems as if nothing separates us from the clouds that seem so close.

When we returned to the boat, the pilot asked, “Wanna buy an island?” Huh? “Sure, when people come here from Jakarta it’s usually to buy an island. That one over there belongs to Mr. X (an important official in Jakarta). It’s for sale, if you’re interested. And that one belongs to Mr. Y (another Jakarta official), and it’s for sale too. Lots of people from Jakarta come here to buy islands”.

If these islands are sold, the owners will have the right to play God, level some of Belitung’s gigantic granite structures, and turn them into a bunch of boring resorts. The children of Belitung will no longer run free or visit these islands, once they’re fenced in. It’s probably better if Belitung and the neighboring islands remain a secret – a monument of beautiful jewels raised from the ocean floor.

The Rhythms of Morning at Pantai Kelan

pantai-kelanIf you’re a seafood lover and have been to Bali, you have certainly heard of Kedonganan and Jimbaran, Kuta.

These two beaches, world famous as culinary tourism destinations focused on first-rate seafood served at an exotic venue with white sand beaches, are packed every afternoon and long into the evening.

But a bit further to the north is another beach that is equally interesting, Pantai Kelan. It’s just south of Ngurah Rai International Airport and only around 15 minutes from Kuta, but not so well known by tourists’– yet.

fish-in-pantai-kelanI decided to visit Kelan beach because I had heard that it is different from Kedonganan or Jimbaran Kuta, in that it’s busiest in the morning, when the fishermen’s activities are at their peak.

At this hour, the beach is full of fishermen involved in their work, equipped with their fishing boats, nets, and the fishing mentality. The beach itself is lovely and serene, with white sand; the nearby fish market is a bit more rowdy.

Far off on the horizon are rows of fishing boats waiting their turn to come in and unload their catch, or preparing to set out again to sea. Several smaller boats can be seen returning after a night at sea to dock along the coast; when they stop, people come from the shore to bear off the catch and carry away the engines; others then drag the boats onto the shore. Next, the women remove the fish from the nets one by one and lay them on blocks of ice to keep fresh.

All along the beach, one sees women walking back and forth, selling freshly caught fish from buckets they carry on their heads, stopping now and then to make a sale.

The catches from the bigger boats, which are based in several islands in Indonesia, are taken directly to the market for sale. Many varieties are available – red snapper, tuna, grouper, lobster – you name it. Buyers include the public and the owners of those seafood restaurants down the coast in Kedonganan and Jimbaran Kuta.

the-catchesAs one of the many beaches in the Kuta area, Pantai Kelan is a perfect place to visit to see the genuine atmosphere of everyday morning life in Bali – and superbly fresh seafood!

Cooling Down Our Warming Planet

fishThe science of climate change is complex, but everyone should know the basics: the Earth is heating up because gases produced by vehicles, power plants, deforestation, and other sources are building up in the atmosphere, acting like a thick blanket over our planet, over-heating the planet and threatening our health, our economy and our environment.

Climate change is already beginning to transform life on Earth. Around the globe, seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. Research shows that the world has now become hotter than at any time during the past 1000 years.

Until recently global warming didn’t worry too many people. A few years back people thought it was a joke, a fantasy dreamed up by scientists. But things have changed. Many people now accept the reality of global warming. And this includes most of the world’s governments. We also realize that global warming is mostly bad news. Rising sea levels will threaten coastal communities, especially affecting countries like Indonesia which has very long coast lines. We will see more extreme droughts and other weather events.

About three billion people who live in poverty around the world will be hardest hit by climate change. The poor are more dependent on natural resources and have less of an ability to adapt to a changing climate. Diseases, declining crop yields and natural disasters are just a few of the impacts of climate change that could devastate the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Keeping the Rainforest Intact

Many agree that we need to reduce the release of greenhouse gasses, such as CO2, into the atmosphere. One way to do this is to avoid further deforestation. Between 2000 and 2005, loss of global forests was about 7.5 million hectares per year, or about twice the size of the Netherlands. The loss of tropical forests alone released some 5.5 billion ton of CO2 throughout the 1990s, accounting for almost 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, reducing forest loss can have a significant impact on reducing global warming.

But how do we reduce forest loss? First we need to know what is actually causing deforestation. Among the many factors, unsustainable logging (illegal and legal), fires, development of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper, unregulated mining, and also small-scale agricultural activities stand out as major factors. These activities can take place because national and local governments develop land use plans that aim at rapid economic development of forest areas. So the key to reducing loss of forest and species like orangutans is to convince governments to not allocate forest to non-forest use.

fish2Let’s look at an example. Of the 8 million hectare of land earmarked for oil palm development in Kalimantan, 1 million is in orangutan forest habitat. This means that some 10,000 orangutans or about 20% of Kalimantan’s remaining populations are threatened by oil palm. Some of this oil palm will be planted on peat lands, which basically consist of carbon. Development of these peats can release vast amounts of CO2. This is one of the reasons why the Indonesian government is looking into better protection of peat lands.

But these are not easy choices. Oil palm is highly profitable. One hectare of oil palm on peat can result in more than US$4,000 in annual revenues. On non-peat soils in Kalimantan this is reduced to some US$ 3,000, but this is still a lot of money.

One potential help in the protection of forests comes from payments for avoided deforestation. Increasingly, buyers in the United States, Australia, and Europe are willing to pay forests users in countries like Indonesia to protect forests. Payments for this can be substantial.

Erik Meijaard, TNC Indonesia’s senior science advisor, explains how payments for avoided deforestation could be at a level similar to revenues from oil palm.

“At a carbon price of US$ 3.50/ton, peat land conservation could be worth as much as the annual revenues from oil palm. If in addition, some timber is extracted at low volumes forests would be worth more than oil palm,” he says.

Local communities would then still enjoy forest benefits like bush meat, fish, fruit, honey and other products. Much depends on market price development of palm oil and carbon and the availability of carbon buyers, but as Erik says “payments for avoided deforestation on peat could save species like orangutans while allowing for economic growth in Indonesia.”

Not all forest is on peat, although the potential value of other forests through avoided deforestation is also high and could provide a badly needed stimulus to forest and wildlife conservation, it appears that revenues from oil palm, mining, and pulp and paper plantations is often higher. If we think in economic terms alone, there will likely be more forest loss in Indonesia.

Derawan Turtle Paradise

berau-regency1In Berau Regency, on the eastern side of the island of Kalimantan, is a unique cluster of islands, comprising Pulau Derawan, Pulau Kakaban, Pulau Maratua and Pulau Sangalaki. This island chain lies to the east of Tanjung Redeb, the chief city of Berau Regency, and can be reached by traveling around two hours down the Berau River.

Pulau Derawan first became known to the outside world in the early 1990s. It has a resort that accommodates divers who are eager for adventure. Great numbers of green turtles live around Derawan, both in the shallow coastal waters and in greater depths of up to 30 meters. In the evening, you can see over 30 turtles digging nests and laying eggs on the islands’ beaches.

But Derawan still faces a rough future in developing its maritime tourism. Market demand for turtle eggs remains high, and many local people have started gathering the eggs.

In fact, turtle egg hunting has expanded to nearly all the coastal waters of East Kalimantan.

Brown river water and dense mangrove forests along both sides escort us as we cruise down the Berau River. On the horizon, we see Pulau Derawan. As we approach the island, we see semi-permanent structures stretching out from the coastline – some of the bungalows that have sprouted up like mushrooms on Pulau Derawan in the past few years.

A walk along Derawan’s dock and beach can be a unique experience. Now and then you see a beak poking to the surface – these are the beaks of the turtles that swarm in the shallow waters off Pulau Derawan. It’s easier to see the turtles swimming underwater when you observe them from the pier.

The turtles are seeking food among the sea grass that grows near the pier.

Diving at Derawan is fairly easy, because the waters are reasonable calm, and the gently sloping seabed makes it easier for divers to descend. With correct buoyancy regulation, even a tyro diver can enjoy a relaxed dive. Many unusual fish species can be seen here, including the crocodile fish, which does indeed resemble a crocodile; fortunately, they don’t attack, and prefer to camouflage themselves among the reefs to avoid detection by predators. In the reefs you also find many types of nudibranch – snails without shells. These nudibranchs have soft bodies with beautiful colors. They move slowly and are generally less than 5 cm long.

Nudibranchs are the sea creatures most often sought by underwater photographers.

You can also see several rare species of “squat lobsters”, which are only 2 to 3 centimeters across and inedible, with hairy bodies; they, too, are very skilled at hiding in the reefs.

The next day we headed over to Pulau Kakaban, 45 minutes southeast of Derawan. Our diving site was Danau (Lake) Purba, in the middle of the island. We docked at the pier on the south end of Pulau Kakaban, the gateway to the lake.

berau-regency2On the edge of the lake is another pier – a place to relax and prepare oneself for diving or snorkeling. At first the lake looks just like any other lake; the water’s not particularly clear, and there are a few water plants and mangroves. In fact, this is a huge marsh lake, covering 390 hectares and up to 17 meters deep. Living in the lake are four species of non-stinging jellyfish, which have been trapped in Danau Kakaban for hundreds or possibly thousands of years. Since they have no predators, gradually these jellyfish lost their sting organs, so they’re completely harmless to humans.

Apart from the jellyfish, there are also many species of nudibranch, sea snakes, sea slugs, fish (including gobies and cardinals), and soft-shelled shellfish. Thus far, very little of the lake’s area has ever been dived or investigated.

From Pulau Kakaban, we went to another dive site at Pulau Sangalaki, just 20 minutes away.

Our speed boat headed for the eastern part of Sangalaki, where there are four dive sites regularly visited by groups of manta rays. These rays can have “wingspans” of up to five meters and weigh over a ton each. They have short tails, without the venomous spikes found on most rays; their wide mouths filter plankton from the water. These manta rays pose no danger to humans, and their beauty makes them a major attraction for underwater photographers.

Apart from the many turtles laying eggs on the beach, this island has gained an international reputation for the huge numbers of manta rays. Schools of mantas can easily be seen in the waters off Pulau Sangalaki almost all year round.

Another diving site that is not to be missed is “Sleeping Turtle” at Pulau Maratua, off the village of Payung-payung. Diving at this site is quite difficult, mostly because of the strong currents, but it’s the best place in the whole area to observe turtles. The sea bed slope is not gradual, but neither is it too steep. If you dive here when the current is running, it’s best not to try to oppose the current but rather to simply “go with the flow”. While maintaining your balance, you’ll feel as if you’re “flying” between the reefs.

berau-regency3This was the first time we’d seen so many turtles. Under nearly ever reef we found turtles, with carapaces ranging from half a meter to over a meter across. The turtles didn’t seem to be bothered at all by our presence; when the water is calm, it’s very easy to approach them for a closer look.

There are plenty of other diving sites in the Derawan area, including Barracuda Point, The Wall, and Blue Light Cave at Pulau Kakaban, Big Fish Country, Paradise Reef, and Light House at Pulau Maratua, and others at Sangalaki and Derawan islands. If you wanted to try all of them, you’d need at least two weeks!

Taman Sari - More than Just a Water Castle

yogjakartaYogyakarta! Nearly every corner of the city and its environs contains heritage sites with deep historic value. One of the best known is Taman Sari, in the western part of the Keraton of Yogyakarta. A trip to Yogyakarta is incomplete until you have visited this lovely castle.

Taman Sari was built by Sultan Hamengku Buwono I, also known as Pangeran Mangkubumi, starting in 1683 in the Javanese Saka calendar, or 1757 CE – the same year in which the Keraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat was established. The architecture and reliefs in the Taman Sari complex blend Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, European and Chinese elements.

During the reign of Panembahan Senapati, Taman Sari was known as Umbul Pacethokan, or Pacethokan Spring, and was famous for its strong flow of clear water. Taman Sari covered an area of over 10 hectares with around 58 clusters of structures, including buildings, bathing pools, hanging bridges, water canals, and even artificial lakes with artificial islands and underwater tunnels. Only around 22 of these structures are still recognizable. The garden, which was planted with fruit and vegetables, was in effective use between 1765 and 1812 and originally stretched from the Kedhaton complex on the northwest to the Magangan complex in the southeast; the only remnants of Taman Sari still visible are those in the Kedhaton complex.

To enter Taman Sari, one must now go through the rear entrance, because the road in front is closed off by local residents’ homes. At the entry gate are Gedhong Temanten and Gedhong Sekawan, where the royal family used to enjoy food and drink after “chatting” in the baths.

As well as these two buildings, we will also encounter Gedhong Gapura Panggung, a structure with four segments, two on the west and two more on the east. The building used to have four dragon statues; only two are left. Gedhong Gapura Panggung symbolizes the year in which Taman Sari was built, 1684 Saka (around 1758 CE). It also features decorative reliefs, as does Gedhong Gapura Hageng.

“Gedhong Gapura Hageng” was the main gate for the sultans. In those days, Taman Sari faced west and extended to the east. This gate is at the westernmost part of the remaining water palace site. The eastern part of this main gate can still be seen, while its western side is surrounded by dense housing. The gate, which comprises several rooms and two sectors is decorated with reliefs of birds and flowers indicating the year when the construction of Taman Sari was completed, 1691 Saka (around 1765 CE).

To the east of Taman Sari’s ancient main gate is an eight-sided courtyard. In the middle of this courtyard there used to stand a two-story tower named “Gedhong Lopak-lopak”; all that is left is a row of giant flower pots and the doors that connected this place with others. The door at the eastern end of this eight-sided courtyard is one of the gateways to Umbul Binangun.

yogjakarta-the-umbul-binangunThe Umbul Binangun bathing pool was the swimming pool for the Sultan, his wives and concubines, and his daughters. This complex is surrounded by a high wall. Two gates provide access to this place, one on the east and one on the west. In the Umbul Pasiraman complex are three pools, decorated with mushroom-shaped springs. Surrounding the pools are giant flower pots, which can still be seen.

The building on the northmost side was the rest area and changing room for the sultan’s daughters, wives and concubines. To the south is another pool named “Umbul Muncar”. A path resembling a dock separates this pool from another to its south called “Blumbang Kuras”.

To the south of Blumbang Kuras is a building with a tower in the middle. The west wing of this building is the changing room, while the east wing was where the sultan relaxed. It is said that the sultan used the tower in the middle to watch his wives and daughters while they were bathing. In that era, apart from the Sultan, only females were allowed to enter the complex.

From the southeast of the Magangan complex to the northeast of Siti Hinggil Kidul is an artificial lake, in the middle of which is an artificial island called “Pulo Kinupeng”. On the island is a tall structure called “Gedhong Gading” which is also referred to as the city tower.

To the northwest of the artificial lake and stretching off to its southeast runs a large canal. This canal has two narrow points, where it is believed there used to be hanging bridges. One of these bridges was over the path connecting the Magangan complex with Kamandhungan Kidul. Remnants of this bridge can still be seen, though the bridge itself is long gone. To the west of the hanging bridge was a pier, which it is said the sultans used as the starting point for their entrance to Taman Sari. It is also said that the Sultans entered Taman Sari by boat.

yogjakarta-to-the-southTo the south of the canal was a garden, lying to the west of the Kamandhungan Kidul complex and Siti Hinggil Kidul. This has now become a residential area, the garden is now the kampung (urban village) of Ngadisuryan, and the artificial lake has now become the kampung of Segaran.

In the middle of Segaran is an artificial island, “Pulo Kenongo”, planted with kenanga (ylang-ylang) trees. On this island stands a two-story structure called “Gedhong Kenongo”. The largest, first part of this structure is quite high. From the highest level, one can observe the Keraton Yogyakarta and its surroundings, even beyond the Baluwarti fortress. It is said that Gedhong Kenongo comprised several rooms with different functions. From afar, the building seems to be floating above the water. It is therefore not surprising that the entire Taman Sari complex is also often called the Water Castle (Istana Air), since in the past, two-thirds of the complex was surrounded by water which could be used by the royal for boating. This structure is now in ruins. To the south of Pulo Kenongo is a row of smaller structures called “Tajug”, which are ventilation towers for the underwater tunnel that led to Pulo Kenongo.

To the south of Pulo Kenongo is yet another artificial island, called “Pulo Cemethi”. This two-story structure is also called “Pulo Panembung”. Here the sultan came to meditate. Some also call it “Sumur Gumantung”, because at the south end is a well that protrudes above the ground surface. To reach it, one had to go through an underwater tunnel. This structure is also now in ruins.

To the west of Pulo Kenongo is a ring-shaped structure called “Sumur Gumuling”. This two-story building can only be reached through an underwater tunnel. Sumur Gumuling was traditionally used as a mosque. On the second floor is a nook that was used as the mihrab, from which the imam led the prayers. In the middle of this open structure are five stairs leading to the second floor, symbolizing the five pillars of Islam.

Nowadays, many parts of Taman Sari are densely inhabited kampung, where the families of the keraton’s abdi dalem, or loyal supporters live. Taman Sari became a residential area because during the colonial era, it was difficult for the abdi dalem to find any place to live. Their families sought the sultan’s protection and permission to live within the keraton fortress, which the Dutch were not allowed to enter.

Even now, in nearly every house in Taman Sari you will find batik tulis producers, who have been making batik for the royal family for generations. Souvenir shops selling batik paintings and cloth at affordable prices are easy to find in these residential parts of Taman Sari. The Taman Sari area is now a zone comprising an archeological site, a community of craftspersons producing batik, paintings, sungging (wayang paintings) and bamboo handicrafts, traditional markets, and people’s homes.

Taman Sari Yogyakarta is a relic of the largest and most beautiful royal pleasure park ever built in Indonesia. As well as the massive earthquake that struck Yogyakarta in 1867, the earthquake two years ago caused considerable damage in the area, particularly to Pulo Panembung (the meditation spot), Sumur Gumantung, and Pulo Cemethi. The site is also under threat of encroachment for expansion of housing, which will accelerate the damage to the site if nothing is done to prevent it.

As one of Yogyakarta’s cultural icons, Taman Sari was designated in 2004 by the New York-based World Monument Fund (WMF) as one of the 100 most threatened historic sites; it urgently needs to be preserved.


Bunaken Island has become an icon of the city of Manado, and indeed of North Sulawesi, since an underwater paradise was discovered by several North Sulawesi diving pioneers, among them Loky Herlambang and Ricky Lasut. The vertical coral reefs that seem to go down forever immediately made Bunaken one of the world’s favorite diving venues. The underwater walls of Pulau Bunaken are full of colorful corals and exotic fish.

Like mushrooms in the rainy season, in the mid 1990s diving resorts sprouted up along the beaches of Malalayang and Molas, not far from the Manado city center. Bunaken is now home to dozens of diving resorts; over 30 diving operators are eager to take you on a dive trip to Bunaken every day.

The run over to Bunaken takes only around 50 minutes on a motorboat specially designed to accommodate diving tourists. As long as the seas are fairly calm and the sun is gently shining, it’s an ideal time for those who want to sunbathe before the sun’s rays get too fierce.

There are more than 12 diving sites around Pulau Bunaken. Some of these dive sites are characterized by steep walls quite densely covered

with coral to a depth of 40 meters.

Others are more gently sloping but covered even more densely with coral. Typically one will see many types of reef fish – butterfly fish, wrasses, angelfish, snapper, surgeonfish, damselfish, anthias, parrotfish, groupers, and fusiliers, as well as pelagic species such as barracuda, mackerel and tuna. Shark species are also occasionally encountered, and gobies and rays hiding in the sand. There are also small caves that are great places for photography.

If you’re lucky, you may also see marine mammals such as whales and dolphins passing through. Bunaken Maritime National Park has over 2000 species of reef fish and 58 genera of coral.

The tides at Bunaken are not usually very strong, though occasionally one must be prepared to deal with rapidly changing tides. With information and direction from an experienced diving guide, diving at Bunaken is quite safe. The water temperature is comfortable the year round, averaging between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius.

bunaken21The diving spot we chose this morning is Lekuan I, just off Lekuan village on Bunaken Island. Lekuan I is a series of underwater walls that is part of the same diving route as two other dive sites, Lekuan II and Lekuan III.

From the surface, I could see far into the depths: steep, seemingly bottomless walls, with deep blue sea on the right and walls covered with corals on the left. Our dive started by exploring to a depth of around 20 meters, examining the coral-covered walls; it felt as if we were flying along the side of a colorful skyscraper. A great swarm of yellow-and-white pyramid butterfly fish suddenly appeared, in such numbers as to almost block our way. The visibility at this point was over 20 meters; from this depth, we could still see the surface clearly. The visibility at Bunaken is extraordinary; often up to 30 meters, a diver’s dream. But you mustn’t let this visibility lull you into a false sense of security, feeling that you’re at a shallow depth and therefore safe. In addition to the colorful reef fish, in this dive we also saw leaf fish and hawk fish, with their nearly perfect camouflage.

The local community and the tourism operators at Bunaken recognize that they have a valuable asset here, which can easily be damaged if diving boats drop their anchors carelessly.

For this reason, the boats operating in this area are not allowed to drop their anchors just anywhere; instead, mooring buoys are provided for the boats to stop at. One of these is at the Fukui diving site.

This diving site is quite different from Lekuan. Here we found an expanse of coral creating a rather gentle slope. The coral cover was fairly thick, though at certain spots we found places that showed signs of past damage. The main attraction at the Fukui dive site is the giant clams. After admiring these clams, we continued our dive, taking a route to the right.

Unexpectedly, we encountered a school of barracuda.

The aim of our next dive was to discover and document a species of pygmy sea horse, a tiny creature that lives in symbiosis with a species of gorgonian (sea fan) at relatively low depths.

We were specifically looking not for the common type of pygmy sea horse, but the Pontoh’s Pygmy Sea Horse. This tiny sea horse was discovered a few years ago by a diving guide from Manado named Hence Pontoh and has since then been known by the species name Pontohi.

bunaken31It is not well known and is believed to be a new species; it lives not on the gorgonian but rather in the cracks between the coral. We headed to a dive site on the west side of Pulau Bunaken, not far from the Mandolin dive site.

Diving to a depth of around 15 meters, we came to a cluster of coral.

After examining the reef centimeter by centimeter for around ten minutes, suddenly we saw a small creature wiggling its head to catch something in the water; it was a Pontohi, eating. We had finally discovered this rare creature. This tiny sea horse, no more than 1 cm in length, constantly moves its head to catch any food in the water.

I first went diving at Bunaken in 1992, but its attractions never cease to amaze me. Bunaken’s success in conserving and even enhancing the reefs’ esthetic value has made it a valuable asset for Indonesia and the world.

One of Indonesian’s last frontiers, Kalimantan’s Mahakam river is a gateway to adventure

East Kalimantan is easily as rich in wild, untamed nature and culture as it is in crude oil. Kalimantan is also one of Indonesian’s most isolated regions. This has helped preserve the traditions of its Dayak culture, and kept the forest at the upper Mahakam River in good condition for visitors.

On arrival in Balikpapan, just beyond the oil storage tanks, lies a forest reserve – visit it straight from the airport for your first high oxygen experience of Kalimantan. After a 40km drive over the inland belt of gentle hills, leave the paved road and get onto a thick and muddy one. You enter a tunnel of trees as your four wheel drive jeep careens sideways through heavy mud.

Bukit Bankirai Nature Reserve is a protected jungle area of 18,000 hectares, where Bankirai hardwood tree species over a hundred years old loom all around you. But the main attraction here is the tree-top canopy bridge hanging 30 meters above the forest floor in this dense, hilly forest. Your nerves will be tingling as you walk along the rope bridge, seemingly stepping out into nothingness. Yet for the brave, your feeling of freedom will rise between these mighty trees scattered throughout the canopy. Welcome to the jungle.

The drive to Samarinda is peaceful and, thankfully, mudfree. Your evening arrival to the city offers the first scenic view of the tremendous Mahakam River, the third longest between the coast and the deep interior. These liquid highways attract visitors seeking to head into the jungle regions to visit the traditional Dayak tribes. Once headhunters, they still live in communal hardwood longhouses.

The dense jungle and wide terrain of wetlands have traditionally kept the region isolated from all but the more adventurous travelers. The best way to visit indigenous Dayak settlements along the Mahakam River is by motor canoe or houseboat. The first village after Samarinda city is Tenggarong, which has a waterfront and Sultan Palace turned museum. It huses impressive heirlooms, ceramics, and Dayak art and culture.

Tenggarong has a mix of Kutai, Dayak and Bugis tribes, and is the perfect place for a stroll. Traditional Dayak longhouses filled with vibrant designs can be found at Kumala Island in the middle of the Mahakam River in front of Tenggarong. Its 40 family room longhouses are painted with the characteristically flowing geometrical designs used by the Dayak to portray scenes of jungle life. Each carries Chinese and Vietnamese Dong Son influences, telling the historical stories of Kalimantan’s tribes.

Move further up the Mahakam to reach Muara Muntai, the next stop for sightseeing at the hardwood floating village, before you cross over the Jempang Lake hopefully escorted by freshwater dolphins beside your canoe, going towards Ohong Creek.

Drive through a forest tunnel and listen to the calls of long nose monkeys, hornbill and sunbirds above you. Before long, these calls turn to human ones, as you’re welcomed by a traditional ceremony of the Dayak Benuaq tribe at Mancong village – the oldest longhouse in East Kalimantan. The Dayak religion is based upon Kaharingan, a form of animism. Traditional belief is that at death, the human spirit ascends to a mountain where the spirits of past ancestors of the tribe reside. Over the last two centuries, most Dayaks converted to Christianity. The most lasting feature of Dayak social organization is longhouse living, usually along a terraced riverbank. At one side is a long communal platform, from which individual households can be reached. Longhouses have a door and apartment for each family; a longhouse of 200 doors is a settlement of 200 families.

At sunrise, continue by motorized canoe upstream on the Mahakam River to Muara Pahau village at the delta of Bongan River. Make a short stop at RASI Dolphin Information Center. This journey takes you through tropical forests and dense undergrowth draped in giant orchids, mangrove flowers and lianes.

The wildlife is diverse, and includes monkeys, gibbons, wild ox, wild cats, freshwater dolphin, orangutans, sun bear, parrots, parakeets and crested fireback pheasants.

Dayak elders still practice traditional medicine and mark their status with intricate body tattoos and ear adornments. Everywhere along the river, you will be a welcomed guest as you enjoy the colorful longhouse art and learn about their mystic beliefs.

For those seeking even wilder adventures, try passing the rapids in the middle - to - upper part of the Mahakam. Here, great 50 to 200 meter rocky walls stretch into the sky, reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Ahead of these walls, virgin rainforests await you – brilliantly cut off from the glare of reality by this natural break in Kalimantan’s great highway of life.

Halimun Salak National Park: Final Gateway to Conservation

salak1Gunung Halimun? Gunung, I know, means “mountain” or “Mount” – but halimun? I open the dictionary: ah, halimun means “fog”. I visualize a mysterious atmosphere: fog descending and enveloping the mountain, the sky turning grey, cold and silent.

A three-hour drive south from Jakarta, a billboard by the side of the road greets us: “Welcome to the largest tropical rainforest mountain ecosystem in Java – Gunung Halimun Salak National Park”. The largest in Java? And so close to the bustling capital, Jakarta?
There’s no public transport going to Gunung Halimun Salak National Park (GHSNP); visitors have to go by car or charter a vehicle. As instructed in the website, we stop to report our presence at the Cikaniki Research Center.

The number of visitors to the park quadrupled during 2008. This surge in visits is a two-edged sword for GHSNP: more visitors means more people gaining the educational benefits of nature tourism, thereby spreading the message of conservation so that the forest will be better protected. On the other hand, with more visitors, the wildlife – gibbons, surili (leaf monkeys) and deer will be disturbed and forced to move further up the mountains. But the forest at 1000 to 1500 meters above sea level offers them little food.

Visitors who want to go hiking are urged to have no more than four people in each group, and not to speak loudly or carry radios or tape players. When trekking, visitors are also advised not to wear bright-colored clothing or perfume, which could annoy the wildcats (panthers, leopards, etc.).

The ranger on duty at the Cikaniki Research Center greets us warmly. “We’re really sorry, but we don’t have any rooms – we’re full up. You should book at least a week in advance.” Several researchers from Japan are staying at the Center and doing research in the forest.

The Cikaniki Research Center consists of two elevated houses built jointly by the governments of Indonesia and Japan, represented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Not far from the Research Center is a species of mushroom that glows in the dark.

So we head to the Citalahab homestay – accommodation operated by residents of Citalahab village. It looks just like a village in a painting: distant mountains in the background, framed by the tea plantation in the foreground; fog gradually descending on the far-off peaks. Déjà vu: halimun. No wonder it’s called Gunung Halimun Salak National Park.

salak2The three-room (twin sharing basis) platform house is in the middle of the village, facing the valley, river, and rice fields. It’s very basic, lit by only a few 5-watt bulbs with power from a turbine driven by the river water. Don’t expect to charge your hand phone; but you won’t need it anyway, since there’s almost no signal here. The wide floor is completely devoid of furniture.

It’s extremely cold at night. Even though we’re sleeping on a spring bed mattress with both sleeping bag and blankets, we still shiver from the cold.

The next morning, Pak Dedek offers to take us trekking into the forest to the canopy trail – a long bridge hanging 20 to 25 meters above the forest floor, built for research purposes. I’m constantly impressed by how well the Park personnel maintain the forest.

There’s no litter along the trail, and the signage is very clear, so you can’t get lost. Unfortunately, the canopy trail is closed; much of the iron the bridge is made of has been stolen. Apparently conservation is a difficult concept for hungry, uneducated residents.

Finally we arrive at the Cikaniki Research Center. The friendly ranger on duty gives us a map of Cikaniki, Citalahab and Cipta Rasa, a village of the Kasepuhan Abah Anom traditional community, who moved to Cipta Gelar in 2001. Cipta Rasa is located within the Park, while Cipta Gelar is famous for its Seren Taun annual village cleansing ceremony at rice harvest time, which is part of Indonesia’s tourism calendarCikaniki Research Center.

It turns out that there are many interesting places to go in GHSNP – several waterfalls, hot springs all along the Cipanas Sukarame river, an archeological site of still unknown origin, and much more. There’s also a lot to see in the Park: watch palm sugar being produced in Kampung Legok Jeruk, watch the rice harvest or tea picking in the Nirmala plantation, and of course observe the wildlife – owa jawa (gibbons), elang jawa (Javan eagles) and macan tutul (spotted leopards), while tasting wild plants as part of a jungle survival lesson.

salak3“Could I come along on the next leopard tracking expedition?” I asked the ranger.

He took a deep breath and gazed off into the distance. “Well, it’s like this – the last time we did research, in late 2007, we didn’t find any tracks at all,” he said.

Could it be that the leopard’s presence in the Park ended in 2007? If so, sad news, especially since the Park is working so hard to prevent illegal logging. Since 2003, the limited production forest areas and protected forest areas near the GHSNP have been united into the Gunung Halimun Salak National Park (GHSNP) Conservation Zone. This has made local people who are used to managing the forests feel their livelihood is under threat, and the situation is aggravated by population growth.

After lunch at the Citalahab homestay, we hike up the valley again to go to our car, which is parked near the road on the hilltop. A cluster of village children are stopped at the bend in the road, pointing up and whispering to each other. “Surili! Surili!”
Two surili (grizzled leaf monkeys) are hanging in the high branches, but they quickly “hide” themselves when they sense the presence of humans. They hide their faces behind the branches, but their big bodies are still quite visible.

I wonder – monkeys right outside the village. Are they starting to get used to the presence of humans, or is their habitat under so much stress that they’re forced to seek food near human habitation? If only there weren’t so many people, there would be plenty of resources for all other living creatures, who also have the right to live. And conservation wouldn’t need to conflict with other interests, such as people’s need to eat.

A Green Journey through a Range of Hills


In a recent visit to Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS) in Lampung, southern Sumatra, I and my colleagues from WWF Indonesia saw just a small portion of the assets the park contains, but had a tremendous experience.

We chose this park because it’s not too far from Jakarta and thus fairly easy to get to; it’s just a short hop across the strait from Java, followed by a land journey of about five hours from Bandar Lampung via Pringsewu and Kota Agung. If you’re using public transport, take the bus from Raja Basa terminal toward Kota Agung and stop in front of the TNBBS main office.

Several campgrounds are available for visitors to rent; information is available at the park office. I chose a small but comfortable site called Rhino Camp, operated by the Indonesian Rhinoceros Foundation (YABI) specifically for people who want to explore the park.

The camp is also designed to accommodate the patrol personnel who monitor large endangered mammals such as tigers, elephants, boar and rhinos. This camp, located in Tanggamus Regency, was the starting point for my journey into TNBBS.

It’s easy to get up early in the camp; the natural “alarm” sounded by various wild creatures rouses you to start your morning journey. From Rhino Camp, we headed towards the headwaters of Way Bamban, through some fairly easy terrain. Our guide told us that if we were very lucky, we might see some elephants or rhinoceros, which receive special attention, as their numbers are steadily declining.

the-head-of-the-rhinoThe Head of the Rhino Patrol Unit told us that during 2000-2002 there were still around 80 rhinos in TNBBS, but by 2003 they were down to only 60. However, no rhinoceros deaths have been recorded since that year. One reason the population has remained fairly constant is that rhinos have a life span of up to 30 years.

Along our way, as we headed toward the small stream that runs through the trekking area, we encountered some trees whose bark had been stripped off, as if rubbed by some large object.

“These are traces of elephants, which probably just passed through this area,” said one of our friends from YABI, who seemed quite familiar with this phenomenon. And in fact, we saw a lot more of this indicator later.

We kept walking; after around two kilometers, we headed into a hilly area with soggy soil. Though the trek itself wasn’t very tiring, we still had to be very careful; the area is full of leeches that can creep unnnoticed into the crevices of your body.

As we were about to return to the camp, we saw a hornbill display; we had heard their loud cries constantly during our trek through the woods. We tried to conceal ourselves and watch from afar so that the big birds would continue their “performance” on the tips of the tall trees. Data from the Park’s main office state that nine species of hornbill, or rangkong, have been identified here. Hornbills are very lively creatures; they can run and leap so fast that your eyes can’t catch their movements. Their display really enlivened our hike.

We continued hiking after lunch in order to see the giant flower, Rafflesia Arnoldi. We had to drive to the trailhead, as it was quite far from camp and the trail was slippery from the previous night’s rain.

We took a rather long but level route so as not to tire ourselves out. Along the way we encountered a Rafflesia Arnoldi that was now a bit wilted, as it had bloomed a month earlier, in February. The area was also teeming with insect and mushroom species. As well as flowers of several Rafflesia species, there were odiferous snake plants (Amorphophallus titanum and A. deculsivae), known in Indonesian as bunga bangkai, or “corpse plants”. This is also an excellent place for night hikes, as it is inhabited by tarsiers, those cute, tiny, wide-eyed nocturnal primates. We continued until we came to the Rafflesia Pillar, erected to indicate that this area is home to the unusual flowers, which attract both tourists and researchers.

This pillar also marks the boundary between Tanggamus and West Lampung districts.


The clear weather that day gave us a splendid view of the vast forest, part of which is within the Park. With an area of 356,800 hectares, the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park plays an important role in supporting life systems by conserving wildlife and their ecosystems, thus enabling the sustainable utilization of the larger environment.

The main problems faced here are illegal logging, which generates a lot of income for the perpetrators but causes great losses to the state, hunting of wildlife, and clearing of the forest to grow commercial crops such as coffee and cacao. WWF Indonesia is working with other NGOs to help tackle these problems.

After our afternoon hike, we visited a village where a group of organic robusta coffee farmers has recognized the importance of conserving the park area. After being given instruction and provided with certain facilities, they have applied the concepts of sustainable agriculture.

Their local wisdom alone has not sufficed to maximize coffee production outside the park zone, but it has inspired other farmers to protect this and other important areas for future generations. UNESCO declared this National Park the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra in July 2004.

bbsnBukit Barisan Selatan National Park extends over the provinces of Lampung, Bengkulu, and South Sumatra. Its natural phenomena include unique topography combining forest, beach, and mountains, and no less than 23 watersheds that support the lives of at least ten million humans. Lying within it are five specific tourism destinations: Tampang, at Belimbing, with a prestigious tourist resort; Kubu Perahu, with waterfalls and a variety of orchid species; Suoh, with natural hot springs; and Keramat Menula and Pemerihan. To the southeast, south and west, the park is bounded by Semangka Bay, Tanjung Cina, and the Indian Ocean, offering spectacular views of the waters.

We ended our experience in the Park with a visit to Bengkunat, the village closest to West Lampung. Here we saw another form of local wisdom at Sungai Way Baru, where the local people are generating their own electricity with a “micro hydro” plant using the swiftly flowing water and turbines. The villagers operate the plant collectively and use the power they generate for their own purposes.

According to the TNBBS Main Office, there are around 215 such micro hydro plants in and around the Park, with generation capacity of 3,000 to 7,500 watts each. In total, these plants generate 860,000 to 1,000,000 watts. At a rate of Rp 650 per watt, the power generated by micro hydro plants at TNBBS is equivalent to between Rp 559.000.000 and Rp 650.000.000.

From this fact alone, it is clear why application of local wisdom is essential to conserve our national parks.

Bromo Tour

One of the most exciting experiences in visiting East Java is being the witness of the wonderful sun rise from the crest of BROMO vulcano from the highest possibility of Peak Pananjakan(2.600m).A ride of more or less three hours are needed from Surabaya,where We pick you up upon your arrival at the international airport of Juanda (Surabaya),after arriving in Bromo area,We will bring you directly to your hotel for check in,either in Ngadisari village or in Tosari,the nearest villages from Bromo where the local people are mostly Hindus followers what We name them the famous Tenggerese.Vulcanic sulphur fumes and smokes quite often from it's depth, while during intense rumbling sound the surounding population who believes in the God of Bromo quickly brings offering.
The annual offering ceremony of Kasada is regularly held on 14th day of Kasada. The twelfth month in the Tenggerese calender year. Our Travel company,Bromo Tour offers you this itinerary below to visit the beautiful sunrise in Bromo..Our company,Bromo Tour which has been famous to provide service related with this wonderful visit to Mount Bromo,Semeru,Ijen crater,even crossing the strait to Bali by ferry,or just a short city sight seeing both in Malang and Surabaya.An easy step of connection to Central Java can be also organized after an unforgetable moment in Bromo,either by train ,flight or by coach to enjoy the interesting culture of the ancient Javanese,such as tour to Borobudur Temple,Prambanan Temple,Sultan Palace,and Dieng Plateau.

The Best Bromo Vulcano Tour

Day 1 : Arrival at BROMO
Pick up at Juanda International airport in Surabaya , meet and greet then transfer to hotel in Bromo, check In and Dinner at hotel.

Day 2 : BROMO Tour
Wake up call at 03:30. Leaving from Hotel by 4X4 Toyota Jeeps take you into the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park; first of all to Mt. Pananjakan (2.600)to see the breathtaking sunrise as well as the regular attractive explotion of Mt.SEMERU , the roof of the island,which officially noted as the Java`s tallest Vulcano(3.676m),the explotion accumulate up to the form of mushroom,and then to the “Sea of Sand “ where you can climb the crater of Mt. Bromo. After this trip, back to your hotel for breakfast at . As your flight schedule you will be transfered to airport or next destination. End of Tour.

Bromo-Ijen Crater-Bali

Day 1 : Surabaya-Bromo
Upon your arrival in Surabaya,meet and greet,direct transfer to your hotel in Bromo area
Dinner and overnight in your hotel.

Day 2 : Bromo-Ijen
at 03.30 depart to Mt.Pananjakan by jeep after a cup of tea in your hotel lobby.Easy climb to the top of mount for a wonderful sunrise,then continue to the sea of sand by jeep,further on the horse/pony back.Reach the active craater of Bromo,return to your hotel for breakfast,then proceed to Ijen by passing the beautiful high land of Jember and Banyuwangi area which is very rich of Coffee,Cacao and Rubber plantation.

Day 3 : Ijen crater-Bali
On early morning,right after breakfast,depart for Paltuding peak,before starting the real soft trekking to Ijen Crater to see the Colourful Sulphur Lake with wonderful rain forest in the surrounding.Return to Licin village to explore the plantation of Coffee and Clove.Further proceed to Banyuwangi to cross the strait by the afternoon arrive in Bali.End of our service

Beside organizing the above tours, Bromo tour also offers some other services, l

  • Hotel Reservation in Java Bali Lombok and beyond
  • Transport Hire , from the small size up to the big bus with the capacity of 45 Persons
  • Air Ticket Reservation
  • Meeting and Organized Events
  • Incentive and Company Gathering
  • Tours Desinger

All tours are conducted by our friendly staffs with long years experiences in organizing tours to BROMO, BOROBUDUR, JOGJA, BALI, LOMBOK, SEMERU, KRAKATAU, IJEN, JAKARTA, TANGKUBAN PERAHU, TORAJA, AND BEYOND.

Wherever you go , to entire destination in Java and Bali,Our Operators are ready to assist you.In case you do not need our full arrangement,and You prefer only hire our small car with licenced driver , We will pick you up exactly in front of your hotel entrance before starting the tours.
We do not only provide the English speaking Tour Staffs , but the number of multi languages Speaking Staffs are ready to answer all of your questions, such as Germany, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Japanese.

Baturraden Mountain Resort

Baturraden gateway

As Indonesians breathe a sigh of relief after a barrage of warnings of eruptions from the country's most active volcanoes, Baturraden resort at the foot of Mount Slamet in central Java remains calm and shines as an eco-tourism jewel.

Mount Slamet or Gunung Slamet in Indonesian, is an active volcano and the second-highest peak on Java island, reaching 3,428 metres above sea level.

The resort itself was established in 1979, and is surrounded by beautiful green gardens, hot springs, ponds and bungalow-style hotels 650 metres up the slopes. As we indulge ourselves with the harmonic surroundings of a vast pine forest and green valley, we can also dip our feet in the cold spring water running through the middle of the resort.

'It's such a great place to breathe fresh, clean air for me and my family,' said Widyanarti, 32, a mother who came all the way from Jakarta and who goes by a single name.

Baturraden area

'You don't get this kind of weather in the polluted cities such as Jakarta,' she said, adding that the resort is also a perfect place for children to learn about nature and the importance of preserving it.

The cool mountain breezes are a special draw for domestic and international visitors, and the resort caters to all. Admission is only 3,000 Rupiah or 0.30 cents. It opens daily from 5:30 am and closes around midnight.

Baturraden is also a well-known spot to spend a day trekking through its splendid natural forest and villages. Always green, blanketed with a light misty air, the area is blessed with an abundance of natural water resources spouting in numerous waterfalls and rivers, which flow between the huge boulders of hardened lava.

Mount Slamet

'Baturraden has been a great example of how a mountainous area can be managed as a potential asset for eco-tourism,' Indriyani, a programme manager at Indecon, a non-governmental organization specializing in the expansion of eco-tourism in Indonesia, said.

Destination: Baturraden mountain resort located near Purwokerto city in central Java, Indonesia.

Climate and best time to travel: Tropical country, best time is in the dry season between March to October.

How to get there: Seven to nine hours drive from Jakarta by car, bus or train. Bus ticket costs around 40,000 Rupiah with AC (about 5 dollars) or by executive train with AC is 190,000 Rupiah (about 20 dollars).

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Raja Ampat at a Glance

The local people believe that the Raja Ampat region was formerly ruled by four kings who hatched from four eggs. They shared the area and lived together in peace by establishing four territorial alliances, or traditional kingdoms.

These four territories ruled by the kings are now known as Pulau Waigeo, Pulau Misool, Pulau Batanta, and Pulau Salawati. Together with around 600 smaller islands, these four major islands now comprise Raja Ampat Regency.

Administratively, Raja Ampat lies within the province of West Papua; geographically, it extends north and northwest from Sorong, covering 4.6 million hectares of waters.

Since 2003, Raja Ampat has been a newly-created regency, separate from Sorong. The administrative capital of Raja Ampat is Waisai, on Waigeo, the largest island in Raja Ampat, which is roughly the size of Bali.

Raja Ampat is a maritime region located within the world Coral Triangle, which includes parts of the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands.

In 2007, Raja Ampat Regency was declared a Maritime Regency by the Indonesian Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

A Diver’s Paradise

raja-ampatThe islands of Raja Ampat were visited by several European explorers in the nineteenth century. In 1860, the renowned British researcher Sir Alfred Wallace spent three months in Waigeo studying birds and insects.

Diving activities began in Raja Ampat in the early 1990s, but the area remained relatively unknown until the 2000s.

Attracted by the reports of biological diversity in the Raja Ampat Islands, since 2002 several world conservation organizations have been conducting research. The survey results are amazing; Raja Ampat is home to at least 537 species of coral – 75% of all coral species known in the world – as well as at least 1074 fish species.

Thanks to these discoveries, Raja Ampat has been declared the center of the world Coral Triangle, with the greatest biodiversity found anywhere. A renowned scientist, Dr. Gerald Allen, says that in just one dive he recorded 283 fish species, far higher than the average diversity level of 183.6 species.

With these survey results, the eyes of the world turned to Raja Ampat. Over the past few years, Raja Ampat has become known as one of the world’s best diving regions. The limited facilities did not deter enthusiasts from diving at Raja Ampat. These underwater explorers were enticed by the chance to encounter rare creatures or even discover new species.

The islands of Raja Ampat extend over quite a large area; to explore the islands properly, you need highly mobile transport facilities. More than 15 diving ships now operate regularly, enabling visitors to explore the entire Raja Ampat area. As well as providing transport to diving sites, these tour ships also offer full accommodation, just like floating hotels. And if you’d prefer to relax on the beach and interact with the local people and their culture, resort accommodation is available on several islands near Waisai and Misool, which are surrounded by extraordinary diving sites.

Live-aboard and land-based accommodations each have their advantages; together, they complement one another and offer a truly different experience.

raja-ampat-leftAll foreign tourists entering the area are required to pay an entrance fee of Rp 500.000, which entitles them to visit for one year; for domestic tourists, the fee is Rp 250.000. The entrance fee can be paid at a counter at the airport or through any live-aboard or land-based dive tour operator in Raja Ampat.

The 36-nautical-mile journey from Sorong to Waisai takes 2 to 2½ hours by speedboat. We docked at an area near Waisai to visit Waiwo, an area managed by the Raja Ampat regency government as a local development facility. Waiwo has several guest houses, and diving facilities such as scuba tanks and air compressors.

Waiwo is located near Waisai, just ten minutes away by speedboat; it takes only 20 to 30 minutes to reach the best diving sites in the area. To visit the Manta Point at Arborek Island takes around 90 minutes.

The diving sites near Waiwo include Sardine Reef, Mike’s Point, The Passage, Cape Ri, and Mansuar Reef. Here you regularly encounter schools of fusiliers, jacks, snapper, and anthias. Though reef damage is evident in a few places, most of the reef coverage is still excellent.

One unusual species that can be seen here fairly easily is the pygmy sea horse, a tiny creature (±1-2 cm) that lives in symbiosis with gorgonians and in the gaps between hydroids living in the coral reefs. Another rare species found here is a shark seldom found elsewhere, the wobbegong shark, which conceals itself among the reefs and plays dead. You can get quite close to them, but mustn’t touch them or disturb them in any way; though they seem very passive, they are very dangerous and likely to bite.

To the south of Waiwo is Pulau Saonek, the administrative capital of South Waigeo District. For those who enjoy “muck diving” (diving to dig for unusual creatures in the sand, dead reefs and/or slime), the dock at Saonek is the perfect place. Living in the shallow waters below the pier are several rare species of octopus, such as the mimic octopus, often called the “wonderpus”, which camouflages itself by imitating various fish species to avoid detection by predators.

raja-ampatAlso found here is the blue ring octopus, a small but highly venomous octopus that can be recognized by the blue rings that appear when it is stressed or otherwise disturbed. Never try to touch this beautiful creature! Other exotic species found here include the ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp, and crocodile fish.

A short journey to the west takes us to Pulau Arborek, home to schools of manta rays. The currents run swift here, and you can see the schools of mantas playing while seeking food. Below the simple pier at Arborek you can find many other schools of fish, ideal subjects for photographs.

There’s always more to say about the beauty of Raja Ampat; every time you dive, you discover something new and unusual.