Birding in Gede-Pangrango National Park
THE spot for Javan montane endemics. Spend a few days exploring the different altitudes.
Key bird species:
Chestnut-bellied Partridge; Javan Hawk-Eagle; Indonesian (Spotted) Kestrel; Sunda (Dusky) Woodcock; Pink-headed Fruit Dove; Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon; Javan (Yellow-throated) Hanging Parrot; Javan Scops-Owl; Collared (Sunda) Scops-Owl; Javan Owlet; Javan Frogmouth; Salvadori’s Nightjar; Giant (Waterfall) Swift; Volcano Swiftlet; Javan Trogon; Javan Kingfisher; Flame-fronted Barbet; Brown-throated Barbet; Pygmy Bushtit; Orange-spotted Bulbul; Javan (Sunda) Bulbul; Sunda Bush-Warbler; Sunda Forktail; (Javan) White-crowned Forktail; Javan Cochoa; Javan Whistling-Thrush; Javan (Sunda) Blue Robin, Javan (White-browed) Shortwing, Sunda Thrush; Horsfield’s (Scaly) Thrush; Island Thrush; Javan (Rufous-fronted) Laughingthrush; Javan (Chestnut-backed) Scimitar-babbler; White-bibbed Babbler; Crescent-chested Babbler; Javan (Grey-cheeked) Tit-Babbler; Pied Shrike-Vireo (Shrike-Babbler); Trilling Shrike-Vireo (Chestnut-fronted Shrike-Babbler); Javan Fulvetta; Javan (Spotted) Crocias; Javan Heleia (Grey-throated/Mees’s White-eye); White-flanked Sunbird; Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch, and Indonesian (Mountain) Serin. Two further species Javan (White-breasted) Babbler and White-bellied Fantail were historically present at this site, but the former has not been recorded for many years, and the latter is now only very rarely recorded at Gede.
Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park and the general vicinity is the most famous spot for montane birding in Java, and deservedly so. It is worth spending a few days here to properly explore the area and to stand a chance of seeing the many species on offer. Some of the endemics are easy, others are hard! Some of the best birding locations are considered below:Cibodas Botanic Gardens At the end of the road, on the left before the entrance to the park proper lies the Cibodas Botanic Gardens. This is the montane sister park to the more famous botanic gardens in Bogor (the ‘Kebun Raya’). The gardens are well laid out with open areas and patches of natural forest, intersected by wide paths and roadways. The gardens make for a nice gentle introduction to Java’s montane birdlife, as the roadside birding and views into the canopy allow for good views of many things that are otherwise hard in the forest proper. Things to look out for in the gardens include Javan Hanging Parrot, Pygmy Bushtit, Javan Fulvetta, Sunda & Javan Forktails (along the streams), bulbuls, barbets, flycatchers and White-bibbed and Crescent-chested Babbler. The gardens usually also hold Javan Kingfisher, although this is at about their altitudinal limit and they are generally much easier to see in any of the farmland around Bogor for example. At night look out for mysterious brown scops-owls in the area of the Guest House… Salvadori’s Nightjar is regularly seen at dusk and dawn where the garden borders the National Park. Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch has also been recorded around the gardens – look in weedy edge areas and uncut seeding grassland, particularly in the quieter corners of the park. Dinosaur Park At the top of the road, next door to the main Park headquarters, is a small carpark with a entrance gate in its corner. This leads to the ‘Dinosaur Park’ (so named as the path passes through the middle of a giant concrete dinosaur!). By following the path (through the dinosaur…) it comes out at the edge of the forest alongside a lake. This area is good for many of the same things as the botanic gardens, but comes into its own at night. Here you can find Javan Frogmouth (particularly from a small side trail that heads north to a pond), Collared Scops-Owl (everywhere) and both Salvadori’s Nightjar and Brown (‘Bartell’s’) Wood-Owl have been recorded. Golf course Just a few 100 meters up the main entrance of the park, lies a golf course. Because of the wide view this is an excellent place to see soaring Javan Hawk-Eagle. Views are good near the club house. Other birds that occur here are Javan Kingfisher and Indonesian Kestrel. Entrance to Waterfall By entering the park proper you get to the first section of the path, stretching around 2.5 km from the entrance gate to the waterfall. This section includes some of the best birding and is probably an area you will want to spend some time. Things to look out for here include most of the endemics, particularly Chestnut-bellied Partridge (occasionally seen on the trail below the ‘Blue Lake’ at dawn), Javan Hawk Eagle (try scanning the ridges from the open area along the raised walkway), Pink-headed Fruit Dove, Giant Swift (around the waterfalls!), Javan Trogon (occasionally), Flame-fronted & Brown-throated Barbet, Pygmy Bushtit; Orange-spotted Bulbul, Sunda Forktail (around the Blue Lake, and below the waterfalls), Javan Cochoa (occasionally along this section of trail, but more reliable higher up), Javan Whistling-Thrush, Sunda Thrush (often seen behind the entrance buildings near the bottom, but possible anywhere), Horsfield’s Thrush (rare, but occasionally seen low down), White-bibbed Babbler, Crescent-chested Babbler, Javan Tit-Babbler (not so common here), Javan Fulvetta, Javan Crocias, Javan Heleia, White-flanked Sunbird and Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch (occasionally near the entrance, but hard). This same stretch of the trail is also good at night. Starting at the waterfall at dusk should get you Salvadori’s Nightjar easily enough, as they fly around the falls and perch on the cliff. The section of the path from the raised walkway down then holds Javan Owlet and Javan Frogmouth. Javan Scops Owl is also possible in the area. Waterfall to Hot-springs About half a kilometre before the Waterfall the path splits and one fork heads up the mountain to the summit. About two hours steep walk along this trail brings you first to the hotsprings (‘Air Panas’). Here a river of boiling water flows over the path itself, so it’s hard to miss! Birding along this section of the trail gives you a better chance at some of the more high altitude species, and so is worth some time. Species more likely here include Sunda Woodcock (get lucky and see one on the path, or listen for them at night around the hot-springs), Javan Scops Owl (actually quite common along this section of the path, but you need a tape to realise that as they rarely call otherwise), Javan Trogon (more reliable here than lower down), Javan Cochoa (listen for their distinctive call), Javan Laughingthrush, Javan Crocias, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch (occasionally around the hot springs). Fire-tufted Barbet is also seen here in recent years and it is not clear where these birds originate from (likely escaped birds). Hotsprings to the top About 1.5-2 hrs above the hotspring is a campsite known as ‘Kandang Badak’ (Rhino Hut). This lies on the saddle between the peaks of Gede and Pangrango, and the path divides just past this campsite, with straight on going to Gede and right to Pangrango. Chestnut-bellied Partridges regularly visit this camp to feed on the scraps during quiet hours. Birding from the trails either side of the camp site can provide many of the parks highlights including Javan Scops Owl, Sunda Woodcock, Javan Cochoa, Pink-headed Fruit Dove, Javan Scimitar-babbler, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch, Javan Shortwing, White-flanked Sunbird. Mammals come into food scraps left by campers, as with other shelters along the main trial. These can include Javan Ferret-badger and Javan Stink Badger. Above the campsite the path to Gede is the most followed option (confused at first, but then gets clearer). A short section of the trail to the summit requires scrambling up a cliff face using ropes and cables provided (a longer route avoiding this is also signposted). About 1-2 hrs above Kandang Badak the trail comes out on the lower rim of the crater of Gede, and then follows then follows the crater around to its highest point at just under 3,000m (about another 0.5-1 hrs walk). Past the summit is an area of grassland and scrub. Birds are a bit more thin on the ground at these altitudes, but there are still some goodies to be had. Sunda Thrush has been recorded on the stretch between the hot springs and Kandang Badak and Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon is relatively common. Above Kandang Badak, around the crater itself, there are still birds to be seen, including in particular Island Thrush (common in the dwarf forest), Sunda Bush Warbler (common in the dwarf forest and scrub around the crater), Orange-spotted Bulbul, and finally, Volcano Swiftlet (you are going to have to walk all the way to the crater if you want to see this one!). Indonesian Serin has also been recorded here. In the winter months non-breeding migrants such as Siberian Thrush have been recorded. Bodogul Bodogul does not form part of the areas listed above, but lies on the western flank of Gede-Pangrango. Here the forest descends to lower altitudes making this site suitable for a couple of the mid-altitude birds that are hard at the sites listed above. This includes Javan Tit-Babbler, Javan Owlet, and possibly still White-bellied Fantail. There is a small research station at the end of a track that starts at ‘Lido’ on the so called ‘Sukabumi Road’ (see map). From the research station a number of trails fan out and can be easily followed. The hardest thing about this site is getting there in the first place (see below).
Access and Accommodation:
The main sites at Cibodas (all of those listed apart from Bodogul) are easily accessed from Jakarta or Bogor. By car take the ‘Puncak’ road from the end of the Jakarta-Ciawi toll road. Follow this over the Puncak Pass and down again to Cipanas. From there take the side road to Cibodas. Park at the highest point you can, or wherever you plan to stay, and take it on foot from there.By public transport from Bogor, take a minibus labelled ‘Cipanas’ from outside the main Baranang Siang bus terminal (at the end of the toll road). This goes from a smaller terminal about 100m to the left of the ‘Damri Bus Terminal’ as you leave the latter’s entrance. It should take you around an hour (traffic depending!) to get over the Puncak pass and then drop down to the end of the Cibodas Road. From there take a yellow angkot up to Cibodas and get dropped at the end (for immediate birding), or in front of your chosen accommodation. There are several hotel and guest house options at Cibodas, including the famous ‘Freddy’s Guesthouse’ that contains a birders log book going back to the 1990’s. More expensive options also include the guest house within the botanic gardens, and one or two higher class joints along the access road from Cipanas to Cibodas. Try a guide book like Lonely Planet for more suggestions, or post a query below for other people’s ideas of where is nice. There are several shops near the bottom that will sell you water and snacks, as once in the park there is neither. Gede-pangrango is a national park, so you need an entry permit to visit it. The simplest option is to buy a one-day ticket for the section of the trail as far as the waterfall. These tickets can be obtained from the entrance gate itself (assuming it is open) and are nowadays IDR 155,000 (at least for foreign visitors…). No one is likely to insist you need a guide, and you don’t need a guide. With one of these day-tickets you are supposed to only stay on the section to the waterfall, but no one is likely to notice if you decide to explore a bit further afield. To visit higher areas of the park, to stay in the park overnight (camp), or to obtain a multi-day entry ticket, you will need to make a visit to the park HQ. This is pretty straightforward, as the park gets many visitors. If you are planning to walk to the summit, or camp overnight, it is possible you may be asked to pay for a guide. If you don’t want to do this, try just insisting you don’t need one (politely), or tag yourself along with a group of locals heading into the park, at least until you get in! For the Botanic Gardens and Dinosaur Park you will need to pay separately at their respective entrance gates, as they don’t form part of the national park. You don’t need a guide for either of these places, and it is unlikely that anyone will insist that you do. Finally, Gede-Pangrango is a VERY popular weekend destination. This includes families walking to the waterfalls and many groups of students heading to the summit. If you like your birding to be undisturbed it is definitely worth aiming to visit on a weekday, and doing your best to avoid national holidays. To reach Bodogul you really need your own transport, and a 4×4 at that! Take the Sukabumi road from Ciawi as far as ‘Lido’ and then turn into the Lido complex. Ask someone there for the access road to Bodogul and then follow it up the mountain until you reach the research station. You may then be asked to pay a fee to enter and use the trails, but they get so few visitors you are likely to be warmly welcomed
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3 thoughts on “Birding in Gede-Pangrango National Park”
I visited Gede Pangrango at the beginning of November 2015. Organisational things have changed quite significantly compared to my last visit one year before.
I got there Friday afternoon at 15:30 and wanted a permit for the summit, returning Saturday. I was told politely but with clearly no room for negotiations that I NEED to have a guide then. I therefore opted for a permit to the lower section for which I didn’t need a guide. A very positive change: this permit now allows you to go to Air Panas, not just the waterfall. However, I wanted to go birding in the park on Friday afternoon until darkness for night birds but was told the park was now “closed” until the next morning. For those with a permit to the summit, the park would open at 5:00, for those with a permit only to the lower part at 6:00.
I therefore spent the afternoon/evening at the Bot. Garden and went to the park the next morning at 6:00, going to Air Panas and back until heading out of the park at 17:00.
Maybe due to these changes, the park was much more quiet even on a Saturday, and the birding conditions had therefore improved significantly compared to the year before. There was even a time in the late morning between the waterfall and Air Panas where I didn’t meet anyone on the trail for half an hour! Last year, I had gone into the park on Friday evening for night birds and wanted to leave around 23:00 to get some sleep, but it was nearly impossible to get from the waterfall to the gate because there was a constant stream of people going up, it was like trying to walk against the stream of people in an IKEA.
In additon to these changes, there is now a canopy walk at the lower end of the trail (which I didn’t try) and it seems the trail network off the main trail had been expanded there. This is great for birders as you get to experience quiet side-trails away from the “highway” to the summit even on weekends.
All in all, the stricter rules make it a bit more difficult to organize a short visit to the park . However, once you’ve worked out a plan that meets these times, the birding quality has definitely increased due to the changes.
Planning a trip in June / July 2017
Visited the site for a few days end of july. Very beautiful but frustrating site to visit! Getting to and away was a nightmare (8.5 hours back to the Airport almost missing my flight). Monster traffic on the trail too in the early morning hours so crucial for birding, the office is clearly there to exploit overseas visitors so didn’t even bother dealing with them just entered tge park before opening hours!
The only positive was the newly opened Mon Bel hotel just opposite Freddys! Great luxury option (compared to Freddys) with great food for affordable prices (weekday rates 350 Inr). I had two days I spent (stomach probs) on the rooftop terrace and it was probably the highlight of the trip with distant but great views of Javan Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Serpent eagle, Giant Swiftlet ( better views than at the waterfalls) and Javan Kingfishers. The hotel is easily bookable on Agoda or Booking.com! Please check out my pix on : http://www.flickr.com/photos/145149033@N05/albums