Birding in Ujong Kulon National Park

Summary:

Pristine lowland forest, but hard to access. Home to the last Javan Rhino.

Key bird species:

Javan Barred Owlet, Javan Frogmouth; Banded Kingfisher; Lineated Barbet; Banded Pitta; Javan Cuckoo-shrike; White-breasted Babbler; Grey-cheeked Tit Babbler; Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird, Javan Sunbird; seabirds.

Birdwatching locations:

Ujong Kulon is a big, wild, and inaccessible national park occupying the south-western tip of Java. For those with time on their hands, exploring this park means entering a real wilderness where pristine forest ends on white sand beaches. Your chances of seeing wild Javan Rhino are remote, but you chances of encountering most of Java’s lowland forest specialities is pretty high.

The options for birding in Ujong Kulon are a bit all or nothing. Undoubtedly the best option for seeing the most is to take on a week-long trek along the south coast and crossing the peninsular to Cidaun at the western end of the park. This will take you through the full range of coastal scrub and forest and pristine lowland rainforest. The walking is pretty tough (much of it on sand) but the opportunities this would provide for birding would be hard to beat. If you add an extra day or so and take the trail to the furthest point of mainland Java at the Tanjung Layar Lighthouse the opportunities for seeing seabirds are very good, with Brown Booby, Streaked Shearwater, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Bulwer’s Petrel and Christmas Island Frigatebird all being recorded in the past.

For those without the time or inclination to make the long walk in, the alternatives are to visit one of two small islands that lie just offshore of the main peninsular. The first (and budget) option is to visit Pulau Handeuleum. This small island is on the north side of the park and is dominated by mangrove around its edges and a small area of proper forest in its centre. The second (expensive) option is to visit Pulau Peucang. This island lies off the western side of the park, opposite Cidaun and is bigger with more forest (plus better views of the sea if you were inclined to try a bit of seawatching). The birding on these islands is likely to be more limited than on the main peninsular, but you should still be able to pick up many of the good birds on offer. It may also be able to combine a trip to the islands with a bit of exploration on the mainland.

Access and Accommodation:

Given the remoteness of the park, it is surprisingly easy to arrange a visit to Ujong Kulon. The main reason for this is the number of domestic tour operators and travel agents that offer trekking trips or visits to the islands. These range from the upmarket Fauna Eco lodge on Peucang Island, to the more budget accommodation on Pulau Handeuleum, to camping and trekking trips on the peninsular. To get a flavour of what is on offer visit www.peucangisland.com or search on the internet for ‘Ujong Kulon Tours’ (or take a walk along the backpacker haven that is Jalan Jaksa in Jakarta!).

If you wanted to visit the park independently then the best bet would be to get yourself first to the town of Labuan on the Javan mainland (not far from Carita), where the national park run an information centre. They would be able to fill you in on the options from there, but it is likely that you would next have to move further around the coast to the village of Tamanjaya where there is the national park office and guesthouse accommodation. Once you have paid your entrance fees and arranged a guide etc (which will be compulsory) you are free to start walking! Alternatively from Labuan you may be able to arrange a boat direct to the islands. Check with the national park information centre for the options (and costs…).

More info:

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Java & Sumatra – Jul 2001 An excellent report of a birding trip to Gunung Leuser, Kerinci, Carita, Sunda Straits (briefly) and Ujong Kulon. Lots of site details, including maps, some nice photos and a systematic list

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