The wild rooster perching on a tree branch in the distance calls and swivels it head around, its bright red and metallic blue feathers glistening every time it moves, making each gesture visible from 50 meters away.
I was in awe. I have never thought a rooster could be so graceful given all its macho traits and reputation, but my visit to the Baluran national park in East Java showed me another side of the creature. It also enlightened me on the knowledge that peacocks can fly.
In the early 2000, my ecology class visited this nature reserve, which is blessed with numerous types of ecosystems packed into its 25,000 hectares of land, such as an evergreen forest, mangroves, tropical forest, lowland forest, monsoon forest, sea grass plain, and coral reef.
Its most famous landscape, however, is its savanna.
While a certain amount people will be impressed by the rich variety of ecosystem in a relatively small reserve, many more are captivated by the park’s wildlife. There is much to see in Baluran, such as the wild rooster that fluttered the feathers of this ex-birdwatcher.
The chance of sighting wildlife in Baluran is quite large, since they have a degree of tolerance of the presence of the very few visitors to the park each year.
Peacocks, or the Pavo muticus, are spread all over the park. They are seldom seen from the main road amongst the sparse trees.
It is easier to spot them during the dry season, as they can’t camouflage themselves amid the brown-hued settings.
Watching them fly or just perching on top of a high branch is such an amazing experience- their heavy beautiful tails are hardly a problem, it seems, to their brief moments of levitation.
Deers, or the Cervustimorensis, are usually seen in herds with both males and females within the group.
The males are especially stunning with their antlers rising high to the sky. Moving slowly and quietly toward the herd would give you a better look of this group.
Another herd likely to be spotted is that of the water buffalo or Bubalus bubalis, at the water hole of the Bekol Savanna.
In the dry and hot day, they cover themselves with mud as a refreshing way to cool down.
Some of the regulars of Baluran National Park are the monkeys, who are a bit aggressive in sight of any dangling belongings or items in your hand.
I have lost a cheese snack to them and I’ve had my eyes on them ever since, not in a good way.
These monkeys would visit the accommodation and beach the area where most people would be seen.
At night, nightjars sit along the main road forming a long line of red dots against the dark night.
There is also the Bama Beach reefs’ marine life that which is viewable when snorkeling, which is also a refreshing activity after probing the savanna and forests for wildlife during the dry season.
A watchtower for observation at Bekol Savanna, available for public use, allows one to see wildlife activities happening within the savanna. Hiring a ranger with knowledge of their patterns of behavior for the day would increase your chance to see the wildlife.
The experience of seeing wildlife in a natural surrounding is both educational and a joy in itself, something greatly different from seeing them in a zoo. There is also that adventurous rewarding feeling when finally spotting your “prey” in your adventure in a nature reserve.
How to get there:
The easiest way is take a private car or rent one. The more challenging yet a lot less costly would be to take a bus from Surabaya to Banyuwangi. Hop off at the gate of the Baluran National Park, which is located in the Situbondo area.
Rp 5,000 / person for Indonesians, Rp 25,000 / person for foreigners.
Baluran National Park provides a couple of accommodations within the area. On Bama Beach, bunk up for Rp 200,000 / room. At the Bekol Savanna, it’s Rp 75,000 / person. If you’re up for a more adventurous experience, camp in Batangan, about 500 meters from the entrance. Wash rooms are available for campers.