Jambi is a province of Indonesia located on the east coast of central Sumatra. The capital of the province is Jambi city. Jambi province is divided into nine regencies (kabupaten) and one city (kota). The population is of mixed origin with 38% being Malay, 28% Javanese, 10% Kerinci, 5% Minangkabau, 3% Banjarese, 3% Sundanese and 2% Buginese.
Exciting climax of a journey through Jambi is a visit to the magnificent, isolated Kerinci Valley along the western side of the island. The most nice part of the valley belongs to Kerinci-Seblat, with a total area of 15,000 sq.km, it's the biggest national park of Sumatra. It consists of a 345 kilometre long stretch of the highlands of Bukit Barisan ('Chain of Hills') and it's located on the area of four provinces: Sumatera Barat ('West Sumatra'), Jambi, Bengkulu and Sumatera Selatan ('South Sumatra'). The administrative center of the park is the small city of Sungai Penuh, which belongs to Jambi.
Three routes connect the Kerinci Valley with the outside world. A road runs from Sungai Penuh ('Penuh River') through the narrow valley of the Batang Merangin towards the east to Bangko in the province of Jambi. A second road runs from Sungai Penuh towards the north along Gunung Kerinci ('Mount Kerinci') and over the state tea plantation Kayu Aro to the province of West Sumatra, a third climbs the western side of Bukit Barisan and descends into the coastal plane towards Tapan (West Sumatra), from where it runs north to Padang, and south to Muko-Muko and Padang.
A visit to Kerinci-Seblat will take much time. Available accommodation is always not too luxury, but facilities for eco-tourists are increasing. The cooperative Eco-Rural Travel in the village of Kersik Tuo gives proper advice for trekking, takes care of organizing day trips and hires camping equipment.
Rich flora and fauna
The landscape of Kerinci-Seblat belongs to the most magnificent of Sumatra. It's dominated by volcanoes, among them the active Gunung Kerinci (3,800 meters), the highest mountain in western Indonesia, which overshadows the valley in the north. The name Kerinci is probably taken from the Tamil word kurinci which means 'hilly landscape'.
The national reserve was founded to protect the unique habitat south of Danau Toba ('Lake Toba'), like National Reserve Gunung Leuser is representative for the habitat north of that lake. The big volcanic eruption which occurred 10,000 years ago, and formed Danau Toba, destroyed the center of Sumatra so a biological barrier was created, which separated populations north and south on the island.
Nowadays there are important differences in the fauna on the northern and southern size: several species of monkeys only live on one side. The same goes for various kinds of birds; seventeen kinds only live in the north, and ten only can be found in the south.
Except from orang-hutans, which only life north of the border, most bigger Sumatran animals are represented in Kerinci-Seblat. There are also several smaller local mammals, like the Sumatran rat and Sumatran bunny. The black mountain goat only lives on the slopes which are inaccessible, but sometimes close to cultivated areas. Among the local population there are strong stories that there are small black people which are known as orang pendek, possibly these stories are based on Malay bears which were sighted in the dark forests or orang-hutans which once lived in southern Sumatra.
Because of the big differences in height in the park, Kerinci-Seblat knows a big variety of habitats, among them lowland forests, alpine vegetation and the the highest forests with fresh water swamps of western Indonesia. This type of forest can be found around Danau Bento, south of Gunung Tujuh, and northwest of Danau Kerinci ('Lake Kerinci'), where high waves have blocked the formation of peat.
A climb to the top of Gunung Kerinci or one of the many other volcanoes shows an important and remarkable change in vegetation; high trees are gradually replaced by lower trees which are covered in mosh and sub-alpine meadows and swamps at the top. A remarkable flower on higher altitudes it the Javanese edelweiss Anaphalis javanica, which only grows on volcanoes.
This flower usually reaches four meters in height and is colored white-green because of it's small hairs, the flowers are yellow with white. The peak of the volcano itself is bald, because of the last eruption in 1934. The park also houses the biggest flowers in the world, the monstrous, flesh-red flower of the parasite Rafflesia arnoldi and the two-meter-high flower-flames of Amorphophallus titanum.
The protection of Sumatrans national reserves against the ever growing outside world is problematic because of the fast growth of the population. In Kerinci-Seblat two by-coming problems worsen the problem: the fact that the park belongs to four different provinces makes effective protection hard, and the dense population inside the park itself in fact forms a treath from the inside, especially Kerinci Valley, which houses protected area as well as cultivated rice-fields, tea-, clove-, and coffee plantations.
Kerinci-Seblat in fact is an excellent demonstration for the conflict between man and nature, a conflict that is - certainly here - not only from the recent times. It's known that the forests around Gunung Kerinci were touched by humans as long as 7,500 year ago, probably to ease their hunting and to cultivate crops. In the vicinity of Danau Kerinci, boiling drums from the bronze-, or stone age have been found, and in Jambi remains of a megalithic culture have been found. Traces of these cultures can be found in the traditional way of life of the Kubu people, hunters-collectors which inhabit the forested areas of Kerinci-Seblat and other parts of South Sumatra.
The findings point at the fact that Kerinci-Seblat, once known for it's gold deposits, is very important from historical point of view. Besides the megalithic remains from the bronze time, traces of Buddhist influence and imported Chinese pottery from the start of the second millennium were found. City names like Sanggar Agung seem to point at the fact that it was not too long ago there were Buddhist influences. The area was only subjected by the Dutch in 1903.
Charles Campbell, which visited the area in 1800, described the inhabitants of the area as 'smaller than the Malay, with tougher faces and high cheekbones, compact arms and legs and active; not inhospitable, but wakeful against foreigners.' He wrote this after four days of climbing. 'They lived with many families in a long building.' The longhouse where Campbell stayed was 77 meters long and housed 25 families. Similar houses have been disappeared and replaced for 'normal' houses quite some time ago. The people cultivate 'excellent tobacco, and cotton as well en indigo', as well as potatoes, which were introduced several years before. Kerinci now is an important place for rice production.
Historic places of interest
The park houses a big number of historically important places. On several places, mostly only reachable by four-wheel-drive car, contains important megalithic remains. Near Desa Kunun, about six kilometers south of Sungai Penuh, is a stone of one and a half meter high, known as Batu Gong. Desa Muak, the district of Gunung Raya, south of Danau Kerinci, about thirty kilometers out of Sungai Penuh, has two important stones: Batu Bergambar (Stone with Image), which was moved from it's original location to it's current position in 1960; Batu Patah (Broken Stone), is an overturned menhir. Furthermore Desa Pondok in the same area, 35 kilometers south of Sungai Penuh, houses a 3,85 meter-high stone with motives.
The village of Pondok Tinggi houses a big wooden mosque from 1874, which should have been constructed without nails and is decorated heavily with woodcarvings and paintings. Here is a giant bedug, an horizontal drum which was used in old Japanese mosques to call people for prayer. This originally pre-Islamic custom goes back to the Indo-Jawanese civilization, where it was used in temples, and it's comparable with kulkul signal drums in Balinese temples.
Trekking in Kerinci-Seblat
Especially long trips through the park need a guide. Local guides can be hired in the village of Kersik Tuo at the foot of Gunung Kerinci. The office of Eco-Rural Travel can also be found here, it's a company wich selles good maps, hires camping gear and organized trips for several days. It's sponsored by the WNF. Gunung Kerinci, or Gunung Inderapura, can be reached with most vehicles. The popular climb to the top of Kerinci takes two days. On your way you will see the 6,000 hectares of tea culture of PTP VIII Kayu Aro.
Danau Gunung Tujug is a 10 sq.km big crater lake about 50 kilometers north of Sungai Penuh. It's on 1966 meters and it's called the highest sweet water lake in Southeastern Asia. The environment offers simple accommodation, from where people can book a day trip to the lake.
Another, easy to reach lake is Danau Kerinci, surrounded by mountains, 783 metres above sea-level and 42 sq.km. big. It's a good plan for a day trip. Both lakes and the surrounding rain forest are good places to enjoy the avifauna of the park.
Location map of Kerinci National Park
Last revised on November 03, 2009
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