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Savannah Calling

Travel30 March 2017

By Olivia Elena Hakim

Savannah Calling

Ujung Kulon: a refuge to your weary soul, a getaway right at the tip of Java Island. When the going gets tough, step away from it all and follow the savannah’s calling.

Ujung Kulon also stands as the last known refuge for the critically endangered Javanese rhinoceros; and speaking of rhinos, local folklore has it that the number of rhinoceroses in the national park will always be 40, no matter what happened. Ujung Kulon natives are familiar with the mythical story of King Galuh’s daughter, a very beautiful princess who is forced into marriage to a giant from Panaitan Island.  She, despising the future of becoming a giant’s wife, decided to transform herself into a rhinoceros instead. That’s why Javanese rhino is considered sacred by the locals; they believe people who dare to hurt the animal will be followed by misery.

The Savannah

To reach the place, there’s a 14-kilometer trek crossing rhinos zone, and usually you will reach the savannah in the afternoon. So, it’s camp time! Set up your tent and campfire near the riverbed, catch some fish and cook it for dinner. The experience will amuse the ‘wild’ side of yourself. Spending the night in a savannah is simply magical—the nocturnal sounds, the fresh air, the night sky. And then comes the morning, which will leave you in awe. You will be familiar with the untouched beauty of savannah nature; here is the endemic plant, rhinoceros’ favourite meal, and then there are lots of bird-watching experiences.  Right at the heart of the savannah, a pack of Javanese banteng (wild oxen) is grazing. The best time for banteng-spotting would be 7 o’clock in the morning and 4 o’clock in the afternoon, where the animals are looking for food and the sun is quite nice. But take note, visitors aren’t allowed to get too close to the banteng as they can get easily disturbed.

Moving on from Cibunar, an 8-km trek to north and you will meet Cidaon Savannah, where wild peacocks are roaming, proudly flashing the magnificent feathers. For those who are really into banteng, however, there’s a watching tower in Cidaon from which you can conveniently watch the wilderness with the help of binoculars. When afternoon comes, as the place is a mixed-up affair between savannah and the ocean, it’s highly suggested to stroll across the beach to watch the sunset in quietness.

The Beaches

A relaxed stroll from Cidaon Savannah will take you to Peucang Island, another best-kept secret of Ujung Kulon. The word ‘Peucang’ itself is derived from the name of a local snail, native to the beaches. The azure water and white sandy beach (the texture is like flour!) here are complemented with peacefulness; no noisy tourists, no demanding phone calls, no traffic jams. It’s just you and the nature alone.

And speaking of nature, the island is a great place to see Ficus plant, or also known as ‘the strangler’ – no, it’s not a name of the new MMA athlete.  Ficus makes a living by being a parasite, swirling around its host (usually a tree) and sucking its nutrition.

When you find the time to hop into a boat and get into the ocean, you’ll be greeted by an abundance of fish–perhaps, millions of it! Take a dive to enjoy the treasure lying within the ocean–the corals, the tropical fish.. all are just too good to be true. And of course, don’t forget, the sunset is a must.

Then of course we have Handeleum Islands, biggest islands of the Ujung Kulon Cape. One will never be ready for Handeleum Islands. The place, also a UNESCO World Heritage, is filled with mangrove ecosystems and much wildlife, including snakes, crocodiles and of course, rhinos.