Ujung kulon National Park is one of the last remaining natural forest on Java and one of very few areas
offering a profile of sea-shore to mountain top tropical vegetation. The park
holds well over 700 species of plant life of which at least 57 are classified
as rare in Java, and perhaps the world.
Although a great deal of
Ujungkulon’s forest is as it was centuries ago, some areas have been modified
by the force of nature. Tidal waves from the Krakatau eruption have inundated the northern shores and volcanic ash deposits at times
have impeded plant growth.
People have also played a role in
altering some of the park’s vegetation. Areas of Ujungkulon were once
cultivated by the local people – the grazing grounds of the Cigenter and Cidaon
were past village and paddy field sites – and until the 1930’s the land was
being burnt to increase grassland for game hunting.
LOWLAND RAIN FOREST
Among the most fascinating of the
park’s plant life are the many species of figs. These can take the form of
trees, climbers of epiphytes and are the larders of forest that provide
abundant fruit for the wildlife.
The strangling fig begins from
seeds deposited in cavities in the trunks or branches of large trees by birds,
bats and other small animals. Once germinated, the fig sends veils of tendrils
down into the soil which then form a lattice work of roots around the trunk of
the host tree. Eventually, over-whelmed by the vigorous fig, the host tree dies
and rots away, leaving within the roots of the fig the hollow shape of original
tree, its strangled victim.
A number of trees such as the
Kigentel, the Tokbray and the Kondang produce flowers and fruit on their lower
trunks or larger branches rather than at the usual twig ends.
Why this interesting
characteristic, called cauliflory, has evolved is puzzling. One theory is that
the fruit of these plants, being more accessible to larger animals, allows the
seed to be scattered over a wider area. However, other animal such as monkeys
and birds become more vulnerable because they must leave the safety of forest
canopy to feed upon the cauliflorous fruit.
The climbing lianas are feature
of rain forests and grow towards the light without damaging the host tree.
These vines only fruit and flower in the forest canopy and to regenerate must
reach the sunlight. They create aerial pathway for wildlife, assisting in their
search for food and in seed dispersal. Several species which include kawao,
leuksa and asahan are water-logged with sap.
Not only animals benefit from
climbing plants. Certain climbers are high medicinal value and are used in the
treatment of cancer and in Indonesian traditional tonics jamu. Others provide
the Derris root powder used in insecticides or the latex in chewing gums while
yet another produces a substance that is 1.500 times sweeter than sugar.
Another climber is the aggressive
rattan, valued in furniture making, which use the thorns on its whip-like
tendrils to attach itself to vegetation and passers-by. The angle of thorns
enables the rattan to anchor deeper with any attempt to pull away from it. As
with other palm, its tightly folded immature leaves are very palatable to
One of the characteristics of
Ujungkulon’s forest is the wide variety of palms of which the most common is
the langkap. Although these forests are found in very few other locations in
the whole of the Malayan region, its rapid regeneration and ability to spread
into undisturbed forest has made this a dominant species in Ujungkulon.
Rain forests also hold a wide
variety of epiphytes and although they also grown on trees, inflict no harm.
They include the splendid bird’s-nest ferns and an abundance of orchids. The
brilliant white with a yellow centre Moon orchid, the deep red Pipit orchid,
the white to purple Squirrel tail which only opens for one day, are just a few
of the varieties.
The most obvious characteristic
of these areas are large trees with high canopies and more open undergrowth
which usually make walking in this type of forest not difficult.
The largest are of primary forest
in the park stretches from the highest point of Gunung Honje Range to the south
coast. On the Ujungkulon peninsula, roughly a third is primary forest. It
covers most of the Gunung Payung Range with narrow band crossing eastward to a large oval-shaped tract in the central
Talanca Plateau.Peucang Island also has a fine, although unusually spacious
example while on Panaitan Island it is isolated to
the slopes of Gunung Raksa.
The tallest of the trees in
Ujungkulon’s forest include the fan palm gebang, the bengang and the salam
which can grow beyond the high canopy species to heights of 40 meters.
Just beneath them the large trees
such as bayur, gadog and in the Gunung Honje region the putat, all of which may
grow to 35 meters with under-stories at 20 to 30 meters beneath the closed
Of these trees, the salam, bayur
and putat are the ones which have the largest plank buttresses flowing from
their trunks to the soil.
The young secondary forest lies
between the primary forest and the coast, occupying most of the Ujung kulon Peninsula,
Panaitan Island and the lower slopes of the Gunung Honje Range.
The density of vegetation can make this type of forest impenetrable and
jungle-like in places.
A common trees of the secondary
forest is the bungur. This tree produces a spectacular purple display and its
prolific flowering around October to November is believed by the local people
to indicate the beginning of the rainy season.
Most of the bamboo species found
in Indonesia are not truly native but this does not apply to the two pre-dominant species in
Ujungkulon. The bamboo cangkeuteuk favours steep slopes and river banks while
the bamboo haur likes the wet soil of the uplands. The impressive giant bamboo,
used in furniture making, is not common in the park and tends to be associated
with former cultivation sites.
The most outstanding trees of the
coast include the pagoda-shaped katapang and the robust nyamplung which has
bunches of bright green fruit resembling large marbles.
The sands are often scattered
with the magnificent white-petal flower of the broad, low-branched butun tree.
These flowers are as large as an opened hand and hold numerous pink tipped
stamens which exude a strong, rich perfume. They drop to the ground in the
early morning where they are raided by pollen collecting wasp before rapidly
Hibiscus-like flower of waru laut
change in color from bright lemon to deep brownish pink and are also widely
found on the sea shore.
Of the coastal vegetation the
most distinctive is the giant pandanus. Its notable features are large reddish
pineapple-shaped fruit and a network of tripod-like supporting roots emerging
from the trunk some meters above the ground. Large stands of pandanus are found
along the south coast of ujungkulon.
The coconut palms, although not
numerous, are believed to have been mostly planted by people rather than washed
up by the sea and often indicate the sites of earlier cultivation in the park.
Beneath the canopy species of the
shore are stretches of tarum, a shrubby lupin-like tree with yellow flowers and
long thin pods behind which shelters the white spidery-flowered bakung lily,
used by local people as fishing lures. While twining across the sands from the
verges of the forest are the bright pink flowering convolvulus.
The mangrove forests of
Ujungkulon are mainly situated along the shore of Welcome Bay and their root system can vary in appearance. Some are stilt-like, as found
in the surprisingly attractive mangrove lined rivers of the Cihandeuleum and
Cikabembem. Another species has root poking above the mud allowing them to
breathe at low tide and these can be seen south of Tamanjaya. Yet, another has
tendril-like roots hanging from lower branches.
The mangrove’s fruit and seed
system also have special adaptations such as seeding that germinate while still
attached to the parent tree allowing them to quickly take root once they drop.
Their seeds come in while a wide variety of shapes and size and being buoyant
can drift in water for weeks.
Mangrove forests support a wide
range of other life form including marine life and are one of the most
productive of all the natural environments that the bounteous rain forests
contribute to our planet.
In earlier centuries when the
population was small and the forests were large, the people of the land lived
with deep respect for the forest and its wildlife. Then began a two-century
long struggle between humankind and nature.
The world first became aware of
the natural treasures of Ujungkulon in the 1820’s when botanist began venturing
onto the peninsula to collect exotic tropical specimens. This was a time of
colonial expansion and exploration and by the middle of the century;
expeditions from the organization for Scientific Research in the Netherlands
Indies drew attention to its unusual richness and scientific importance.
They wrote of the Peucang Island area in 1853:
“Beautiful and safe bays… fertile
soil… a wealth of timber for ship and shore… a splendid situation for commerce…
the seed for a new Singapore.”
Despite their recommendation to
exploit the park’s resources, and fortunately for the future generations,
nothing came of developing the region. Thirty years later in August 1883,
nature intervened with a force that was unknown at that time when the nearby
volcanic island of Krakatau erupted. It
produced tidal waves that devastated the coastal areas destroying much of
Ujungkulon’s vegetation and northern coastlines.
Some insight into the impact of
the tidal waves was recorded by a British ship 222 km south of Ujungkulon on
“Encountered carcasses of animals
including even those of tigers and about 150 human corpses…. beside enormous
trunks of trees borne along by the current.”
However, the re-growth was rapid
and created lush new vegetation on which the browsing wildlife thrived. The
first step toward the region becoming a national park began at the end of 19th
century when the Ujungkulong peninsula was establishing a reputation as a big
game hunting area. During the following decade, there was no other region in
all Java with as much game and so the trophy shooters came and animals were
killed without limitations.
A group of conservationists and
game hunters became concerned about the declining animal numbers and that some
species were nearing extermination. This led in 1910 to the government’s first
decree protecting some of the fauna, however the hunting continued.
Two years later, came the
formation of the Netherlands Indies Society for the Protection of Nature. Their
efforts had very little effect until 1921 when the society granted 300 sq.
kilometres of the Ujung kulon Peninsula as a nature
reserve.Panaitan Island was also protected
as a separated reserve.There was however no supervision and during the 1930’s
hunting parties shot numerous animals.
The Park's 120,551 hectares are divided into 76,214 ha of land and 44,337 ha of surrounding reefs and sea. It can roughly be separated into three areas:
1. The triangular shaped Ujung Kulon PeninsulaThe Gunung Honje
2. Range to the east of the peninsula's isthmus
3. The island of Panaitan to the north west
highest points in the park are the 620 metre Gunung Honje, the Gunung Payung Range peaks of up to 500 metres and Panaitan Island 's Gunung Raksa at 320 metres. In
the central section of the Peninsula is a large region of wilderness known as
the Telanca Plateau which reaches 140 metres above sea level, however most
consist of low rolling terrain seldom morre that 50 metres above sea-level.
by unusually warm warters, seldom varying from between 29o to 30o C. The
coastlines of the park are moulded by the sea around them, battered by thee Indian Ocean, the long, sandy beaches of the south coast
are backed by dunes, lagoons and forest broken by rocky outcrops - a wild and
events that led to the formation of the land we know as Ujung Kulon began about
200 million years ago when what is now the Indian continent broke away from the
super-continent of Goandwanaland. It collided with the Asian continent creating
huge ripples acrross the earth's crust forming the snow-claad Himalayas along
with Sumatra's mountaain rarnge, Bukit
is believed that the Ujung Kulon Peninsula and the Gunung Honje raange were at that time the southern end off the Bukit Barisan Range as Java and Sumatra were connected by a land-bridge. Then 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, the
land-bridge collapsed to eventually form the Sunda Straits about 9,500 years
the period when the Straits was fformed is somewhat contradicted by aan
intriguing account in an early Javanese chroniclee The Book of Kings. It states
that in thee year 416 A.D. the mountain Kapi (Krakatau) "burst into pieces
aand sunk into the deepest of the earth' and the seas flooded the land from
Gunung Gede near Bogor to the mountain Raja Basa in southern Sumatraa. The chronicle concludes:-
"After the waters subsided the mountain Kapi and the surrounding land
becaame sea and the island of java was divided into
is curious fact that no sea straits between Sumatra and Java wa known before the 1100's by the far-ranging Chinese and Arabian
traders and later European explorers.
the mountains and forest of Ujung Kulon, carved by
the thousand of centuries of rain, wind and sea, are the foundations of the
land - a young mountain system formed over the older strata of the Sunda Shelf.
the Ujung Kulon Peninsula, Gunung Honje and PAnaitan Island are al part of this young
Tertiary mountain system whilee the central part of Ujung Kulon is of older
limestone formations wwhich have been covered by alluvial deposits in the north
aand sand-stone in the south.
of the underlying rocks and early soils of the park are covered by volcanic
ash, in places up to 1 metre deep, a legacy from the Krakatau erruptions.
mountain ranges were all formed by the same folding event in the Mioocene
period creating beneath the forest of the Gunung Honje Range an eastward tilting
reminder of this activity is a geological fault line situated off the Tamanjaya
coastline. It bisects the park beneath the isthmus as it passes through the
Sunda Straits connecting the volcanic island of Krakatau to a major tectonic fault
line to the south of Indonesia