Birding in Baluran National Park
Savannah like forests in east Java. Green Peafowl and Banded Pitta abound
Key bird species:
Green Junglefowl; Green Peafowl; Beach Thick-knee; Orange-breasted Pigeon; Banded Pitta; Javan Cuckoo-shrike; Black-winged Starling; Small Buttonquail; Small Blue Kingfisher; Brown Prinia; Grey-cheeked Tit Babbler;
Baluran National Park covers 25,000 ha of dry lowland forest, savannah and hill forest in the north-east of Java. It doesn’t get many visitors, but if you find yourself in the area it is definitely worth a look in. Baluran remains one of the most reliable places to find a couple of sought after species like Black-winged Starling and Grey-cheeked Tit-babbler, plus it is easy to see Green Peafowl which despite being widespread across south-east Asia, are almost always hard to see, expect here.The main birding areas are pretty straightforward. A paved track leaves from the entrance gate at Batangan and stretches 15 km to the park offices at Bekol. From there the track heads east 3-4 km to the coast at Bama. The best birding is along these tracks and around Bekol and Bama. Most visitors will head to Bekol first, where the accommodation is found, and it makes a good base for exploring. Directly behind the offices and accommodation a small hill rises up with an observation tower built on its summit. From this hill and tower there are great views all around and so this a good place to start looking for Green Peafowl and Green Junglefowl, or to catch a glimpse of Banteng or Wild Dog. Also near the accommodation is a watering hole that is worth an early morning (or even night time) look for both birds and mammals. Small Buttonquail and Brown Prinia also are seen in the grassy savannah around this area (and elsewhere). Back a few kilometres on the entrance road the track passes through some areas of wetter forest. This area is a good spot to try for Banded Pitta and other forest birds such as Orange-breasted Pigeon, Javan Cuckoo-shrike and Grey-cheeked Tit Babbler, plus Red and Green Junglefowl and more peafowl. More such forest is found by heading from Bekul towards the coast at Bama, where you also have a chance at mangrove species and, by scanning the beaches, Beach Thick-Knee. Baluran also has some hill and sub-montane forest on Gunung Baluran (1247m), and it may be possible to arrange a trip to this area by talking to the national park staff. Species found here would be similar to those found at lower altitudes on the Ijen Plateaux, so most birders just opt to go there instead as the access is easier.
Access and Accommodation:
Baluran is easy to access, as the entrance gate and park offices lie in the village of Batangan directly on the main Javan east-west highway between Wonorejo and Banyuwangi. You can easily get a bus or other transport along this road from Surabaya, Banyuwangi or even Denpasar, and get dropped at Batangan.Once you have reported to the park office and visitor centre in Batangan and paid your entrance fee you can simply catch an Ojek to take you to Bekol/Bama (and arrange a pick up time unless you want to walk out..). The accommodation at Bekol has six rooms, is cheap and pretty basic. There is no real need to book as the six rooms are generally just shared out between however many people happen to be there (which is usually none!). You should take whatever supplies you need for your stay as there are no shops in the park. There are a few small shops in Batangan where you can get rice, noodles, eggs etc, but for more extravagant items you’d be better off shopping in Banyuwangi or Wonorejo. Once at Bekol you can use the cooking facilities there to prepare your own feast. There may also be an option to stay at the even more basic accommodation at Bama, but you would need to check with the park to find out what state of disrepair this is in when you visit! As with all parks in Indonesia, you may or may not be compelled to take a guide with you when you are out birding. Feel free to haggle and negotiate over this, as the rules are pretty vague and flexible. For example the guards would probably be fine with you birding on your own around Bekol or Bama (and the roads that connect them) but may insist you take a guide if you plan to venture further. For more information (mostly in Indonesian) check out the park’s website at www.balurannationalpark.web.id
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