Located at the southern tip of Sumatra, 110 km from Bandar lampung, the Way Kambas National Park(WKNP) is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia. It occupies 1,300 sq km of coastal lowland forest around the Way Kambas River on the east coast of the province of Lampung. WKNP is closely associated with elephants, since aside from being a sanctuary for these gentle giants, the national park is also known as their training ground.
Way Kambas was established as a game reserve by the Dutch administration in 1937. Sadly, between 1954 and 1974 it was intensively logged. In 1978, it was proposed as a national park, with provisional declaration in 1989, and final declaration in 1997.
It is believed that approximately 200 Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranensis) live within the park. The Sumatran elephant is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sumatra Island. In general, Asian elephants are smaller than those of Africa and have the highest body point on the head. Among the Asian elephants, the Sumatran elephants are the smallest, with a shoulder height ranging between 2 meters and 3.2 meters (6.6 ft. to 10.5 ft). Wild Sumatran elephants were formerly found in eight provinces of Sumatra. However, the dense and tangled vegetation of the tropical rainforests there makes it difficult to estimate their exact number.
Officially established in 1985, the Elephant Training Center, located 9 km from the park’s Plang Ijo entrance, is an establishment aimed to protect the existence of the elephant and at the same time create mutual benefit for both the elephants and men. The training center is also a reminiscent of the time when kings or sultans ruled Sumatra, when elephants were trained and deployed in warfare and also for ceremonial purposes. Here, visitors can observe elephants perform various tasks such as transporting lumber or plowing fields. They can also perform peculiar activities such as playing football or other entertaining performances.
Also operating in the park is the Sumatra Rhino Sanctuary (SRS), where rhinos, formerly held in captivity are introduced to natural surroundings in the hope of successful breeding. The breeding center was established in 1995, and encompasses 100 hectares (247 acres) for propagation, research and education. The five Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis ) living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary – Rosa, Ratu, Bina, Torgamba, and Andalas – serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. They also act as specimens for education for local communities and the general public and play a vital part to ensure the continuous existence of their species.
The area around Way Kanan, a sub-district of the park is frequently visited by birdwatchers. Of the most remarkable species are the white-winged ducks and the Storm’s stork.
Other mammals that also inhabit the national park include: the Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae), the tapir (Tapirus indicus), the jungle dogs (Cuon alpinus sumatrensis), and the siamang monkeys (Hylobates syndactylus syndactylus). Among the 406 species of birds are: the Jungle ducks (Cairina scutulata), sandang lawe Herons (Ciconia episcopus stormi), tong-tong Herons (Leptoptilos javanicus), blue sempidan (Lophura ignita), kuau (Argusianus argus argus), and pecuk ular (Anhinga melanogaster). There are also numerous reptiles, fish, and insects within the sanctuary of WKNP.
WKNP is also home for many exotic floras. Among them are: api-api (Avicennia marina), pidada (Sonneratia sp.), nipah (Nypa fruticans), gelam (Melaleuca leucadendron), salam (Syzygium polyanthum), rawang (Glochidion borneensis), ketapang (Terminalia cattapa), cemara laut (Casuarina equisetifolia), pandan (Pandanus sp.), puspa (Schima wallichii), meranti (Shorea sp.), minyak (Dipterocarpus gracilis), and ramin (Gonystylus bancanus).
Office of the National Park:
Balai Taman Nasional Way Kambas
Jl.Raya Labuhan Ratu Lama, Labuhan Ratu, Sukadana – Lampung Timur – 34196
1. Satwa Sumatra Elephant Ecolodge
The main facilities found near the national park are located 500 meters from the entrance at a place called Satwa Sumatra Elephant Eco Lodge. Set in an extensive walled garden full of tropical fruit trees, it offers four cottages each with spacious rooms that can accommodate up to four people with spring beds, ceiling fans, hot water showers and western-style toilets. All guest cottages, facilities, some perimeter lighting and office are powered by renewable solar energy. In a delightful open air restaurant, original Indonesian meals are served, with a full western breakfast to start the day. If you are travelling with children, the local village kids will love to have a game of soccer in the afternoon in the eco lodge grounds.
Satwa Sumatra Elephant Eco Lodge, Way Kambas
Jl. Taman Nasional Way Kambas
2. Way Kanan Resort
About 13 km from the entrance to the park is Way Kanan. Here you can find a collection of simple guesthouses, with price ranging from IDR 75,000 to IDR 200,000. The accommodation is simple but adequate with clean linen provided, and mosquito coils or nets are advisable. There is no food available at Way Kanan so it is necessary to bring your own. There is a warung at the Elephant Training Center but it is only open during the day so it is advisable to bring your own evening meal. There is a good market at Rajabasa Lama and it is possible to buy essentials such as coffee, noodles, and sardines at the park’s gate shop at Plang Ijo.
3. Elephant Training Center
There are several wooden lodges at the elephant Training Center for researchers and Ecotourists. Located pleasantly near the Elephant Bathing pool, the lodges can accommodate up to 4 persons per rooms and charges IDR 200,000 per rooms.
4. Way Kambas National Park Camping Ground
For the ultimate outback experience, you can set up tents at the Plang Ijo Watch post, please check in to the officer in charge and get the entry permit or SIMAKSI if you wish to camp at the National Park.
5. YESTOYA Club House Hotel
If you wish to venture to Way Kambas National Park, but still looking for the convenience of modern facilities, you can check yourself in at the Yestoya Club House Hotel at the small town of Way Jepara just 15-20 minutes from the main entrance to Way Kambas National park. The Yestoya Club House Hotel provides Air Conditioner, water heater, Television, and refrigerator on each room. There are also a swimming pool and fitness center facility for the guests. The room rate ranging from IDR 220,000 to IDR330,000.
Jl Cempaka Way Jepara 34196, Lampung Timur.
At the Elephant Training Centre (ETC), there are elephant attractions every afternoon with the special elephant football exhibition match held every weekend. Elephant rides are great fun with longer ‘safari’ rides available, where with a little bit of luck you may come across wild elephants. The ETC visitor centre deals with aspects of elephant training, while the centre at Plang Ijo is designed to inform about the park, its wildlife, and conservations issues.
For the average visitors not engaged in wild life conservation, a visit to the park is a nice break from the concrete confines of bustling city life. Guided treks are available around Way Kanan, but you should not attempt to enter the forest without a guard as it is dangerous and you can easily get lost.
Out-board motorboats and driver can be hired for trips to the coast, with shorter journeys available and priced accordingly. If you want to potter around, a sampan (paddle boat) is available for hire. This quieter mode of transport may be more suitable for seeing wildlife.
If you are using public transport, the simplest route is taking a bus from Rajabasa Terminal in Bandar Lampung in the direction of Way Jepara. Get off at the stone elephant at Rajabasa Lama Village, Way Jepara, and resume by an “Ojek” or motorbike taxi ride to the Way Kanan or the Elephant Training Centre (ETC), which is the entrance to WKNP. Keep in mind that the last direct bus back to Rajabasa Lama returns at 15.00 hrs Western Indonesia Time, and it is best if you arrive before dusk, since the “Ojek” driver won’t drive you there after this time. The whole trip would take approximately around 2-3 hours. Alternatively, from Bandar Lampung, you can catch a bus to Metro and subsequently another bus to Rajabasa Lama which also last around 2-3 hours.
If you happen to use or rent a car, from Bandar Lampung take the Kota BumiRoad northward and just follow the serial elephant signs that will easily take you to WKNP. It is possible to hire a taxi from Bandar Lampung to Way Kambas but it is considerably more expensive. From Bandar lampung to east Lampung district, the roads are relatively in good condition. However, as you enter Sukadana area the trip will get a little bumpy since some parts of the road are in poor condition. From Way Jepara market to the entrance of WKNP the poorly condition road last for about 5 Km.
A permit to enter WKNP can be obtained at the gate. They can also be obtained from the conservation HQ in Bandar Lampung (Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam 11). These offices are half a kilometer up the hill from Rajabasa Lama bus station on the left hand side – look for another elephant stone statue. Everyone at the office is very friendly and helpful and will be able to give you further details about Way Kambas.