THE spot for Javan montane endemics. Spend a few days exploring the different altitudes.
Key bird species:
Chestnut-bellied Partridge; Javan Hawk-Eagle; Dusky Woodcock; Pink-headed Fruit-Dove; Wedge-tailed Pigeon; Javan Scops-Owl; Sunda Scops-Owl; Javan Owlet; Javan Frogmouth; Salvadori’s Nightjar; Waterfall Swift; Volcano Swiftlet; Javan Trogon; Javan Kingfisher; Flame-fronted Barbet; Pygmy Tit; Orange-spotted Bulbul; Sunda Bush-Warbler; Sunda Forktail; Javan Cochoa; Javan Whistling-Thrush; Sunda Thrush; Scaly Thrush; Island Thrush; Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush; White-bibbed Babbler; Crescent-chested Babbler; Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler; Pied Shrike-Babbler; Trilling Shrike-Babbler; Javan Fulvetta; Spotted Crocias; Javan Gray-throated White-eye; White-flanked Sunbird; Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch
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 Yellow-throated Hanging Parrot, Pygmy Tit, Javan Fulvetta, Sunda Forktail (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.
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), Sunda Scops-Owl (everywhere) and both Salvadori’s Nightjar and Brown (‘Bartell’s’) Wood-Owl have been recorded.
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. It is not allowed to enter the golf course itself, but views are good near the club house. Other birds that occur here are Javan Kingfisher and Spotted 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 (often 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, Waterfall Swift (around the waterfalls!), Javan Trogon (occasionally), Flame-fronted Barbet, Pygmy Tit; Orange-spotted Bulbul, Sunda Forktail (around the Blue Lake, and below the waterfalls), Javan Cochoa (occasionally above the Blue Lake, but more reliable higher up), Javan Whistling-Thrush, Sunda Thrush (often seen behind the entrance buildings near the bottom, but possible anywhere), Scaly Thrush (rare, but occasionally seen low down), White-bibbed Babbler, Crescent-chested Babbler, Gray-cheeked Tit-Babbler (not so common here), Javan Fulvetta, Spotted Crocias (hard!), Javan Gray-throated White-eye, 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 Barred Owlet and Javan Frogmouth. Javan Scops-Owl is also possible in the area, but is more reliable higher up.
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 its 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 Dusky 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), Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, Spotted 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
Above the hotsprings the path becomes a bit more indistinct but is still fairly easy to follow without a guide. About 1.5-2 hrs above the hotspring is a campsite known as ‘Kandang Badak’. This lies on the saddle between the peaks of Gede and Pangrango, and the path divides here. Chestnut-bellied Partridges regularly visit this camp to feed on the scraps during quiet hours. The path to Gede is the most followed option, and leaves from above the campsite (confused at first, but then gets more clear). 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).
Birds are a bit more thin on the ground at these altitudes, but there are still some goodies to be had. Sunda Thrush is often seen on the stretch between the hot springs and Kandang Badak and Wedge-tailed 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), and finally, Volcano Swiftlet (you are going to have to walk all the way to the crater if you want to see this one!).
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 Gray-cheeked Tit-Babbler, Javan Barred Owlet, and 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 should take you around an hour to pass 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 chose accommodation.
There are several hotel and guest house options at Cibodas, including the famous ‘Freddy’s Guesthouse’ that contains a birders log book. More expensive options also include the guest house within the botanic gardens, and one or two slightler 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 150,000 (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 object 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 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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