Alas Purwo National Park : The Ancient Forest in Java
This is a part of the adventurer’s code written above one of the entrances to the Alas Purwo National Park, that sends a strong message to anyone entering the area to heed and preserve one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts to mankind. Covering a total area of 43,420 hectares, the Alas Purwo Park is situated on the Blambangan Peninsula in the Banyuwangi regency, at the southeastern-most tip of East Java, on a peninsula directly facing the island of Bali.
The Park is made up of mangroves, savannahs, lowland monsoon forests and coral-fringed beaches. The Park is considered to have the most natural tropical rainforests and one of is the oldest in Indonesia. Thousands of migrating birds visit its pristine forests each year and turtles come to lay their eggs on its secluded beaches.
Alas Purwo is also the home of some of rare and endangered species that include the Javanese bull or banteng (Bos javanicus), dhole or Asiatic wild dog (Cuon alpinus), Silvered Leaf Monkey, Green Peafowl, Red Junglefowl, Olive Ridley turtles, Hawksbill turtles and Green turtles. The forests are also the dwelling place for mouse deer (muntiachus muncjak), long tailed macaques, lutung monkeys, Javan deer (cervus timorensis), Kangkareng bird (antracoceros coronatus), Rangkong birds or hornbills (buceros undulatus), and many more.
The national park is highlighted with hundred years old large trees that have an average diameter of 30 cm and grow to a height of 10-15 meters. In 2002, there were approximately 580 types of vegetation that have already been identified. Among some these are the sawo kecik (Manilkara kauki), nyamplung (calophyllum inophyllum), ketapang (terminalia cattapa), and kepuh (stercullia foetida).
In the Javanese language, Alas Purwo literally means “Ancient Forest or The Premordial forest”. According to the local legend, Alas Purwo was the site where the earth first emerged from the ocean. Many seeking spiritual enlightenment and mystics flock here during the month of Suro, the Javanese New Year. These pilgrims come to meditate in caves such as the Gua Istana (Palace cave), Gua Putri (the Princess’s Cave), Gua Padepokan (the assembly house cave), and also Gua Macan (Tiger cave). Pura Giri Selokah, a Hindu temple in the park, also attracts many pilgrims, especially during the Hindu scared ritual of Pagerwesi.
Followers of Javanese mysticism also believe that spirits inhabit trees, rocks, rivers and springs. Those well versed in ilmu Jawa, or Javanese mysticism, are said to have the ability take on the form of wild animals. So, for followers of Javanese mysticism, Alas Purwo’s rich flora and fauna also make the area a highly revered place.
While you’re in the area, you may want to try some of East Java’s traditional cuisine such as rujak soto, pecel, rawon, sego tempong, gecok lucu, jangan banci, jangan klopo, and endok pindang (boiled eggs). You may also want to try some of the traditional snacks such as kue bagiak, jenang selo, and pisang sale (dried banana).
Decorated with a river that runs right through the forest to the beach, the Pancur river is the entrance to your adventure to visit the caves of Alas Purwo and the surfing paradise of Plengkung Beach (morepopularly known asG-land). Pancur is also the name of the place where you can find inns, modest restaurants, and a mosque.
If you wish to watch turtles laying eggs on the white sand beach, you can go to Trianggulasi Beach. There are 4 species of turtles that can be found here: they are the Leatherback Turtles, Scaled Turtles, Grey Turtles, and Green Turtles. The best time to visit this area is from April to November. There is also a turtle hatching and conservation area at Ngagelan which is 3 km from Rawabendo.
In Tanjung Sembulungan you can enjoy the picturesque scenery of Mountains and forests bordering the Muncar Beach. The area also offers fascinating rocky cliffs facing the Indian Ocean. The fishermen of Muncar regularly conduct the “petik laut” ritual every 15th Suro by bringing offerings to the sea.
In Bedul, there is the Segoro Anakan which has one of the largest mangrove forest-areas in Asia. The site has also become the breeding and nesting area for several coastal birds like Herons, Trinil, Pelicans, Oriental Darters, Kingfishers, and more.
If you want to watch wild animals grazing on the beautiful savannah, you can go to Sadengan. The area is completed with a watchtower to observe the Javan bull, deer, wild boars, peacocks and many other wildlife.
Alas Purwo National Park is located at the Kalipuro district, Banyuwangi Regency, in the province of East Java. There are now regular flights by Garuda Indonesia from Bali toBanyuwangias well as between Surabaya and Banyuwangi.
Alternately you can travel overland from Surabaya, capital of East Java. The trip will take about 10-12 hours by car. The route will take you from Surabaya to Jember for about 4-5 hours drive and then continue southeast to Gunung Kumitir-Kalibaru-Glenmore-Genteng-Rogojampi for about 2 hours. From Rogojampi in Banyuwangi, the route continues to Srono-Muncar and Tegaldimo for about 2 hours. From Tegaldimo it is another 1 hour drive before you reach the entrance to Alas Purwo National Park.
From the neighboring island of Bali, you can also reach Alas Purwo by taking the ferry crossing the Bali Strait from Gilimanuk Port to Ketapang Port in Banyuwangi, and then continue along the same route from Banyuwangi to Alas Purwo.
In Alas Purwo National Park you can rent a Jeep from the Park’s Management (Perhutani) to explore the vast area of the national park for about IDR 150,000 to IDR 250,000 per day.
Best times to observe wild animals are from 06.00 to 09.00 in the morning, or from 15.00 to 18.00 in the afternoon, because around high noon the animals usually take shelter in the dense woods.
Prior to your trip, you must take a permit and make arrangements with the management of Alas Purwo National Park (Balai Taman Nasional Alas Purwo), located on Jalan Achmad Yani No. 108 Banyuwangi, East Java.