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National parks

This is the list of the national parks of Indonesia. Of all the national parks, 6 are World Heritage Sites, 6 are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and 3 are wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar convention. A total of 9 parks are largely marine. The first group of five Indonesian national parks were established in 1980. This number increased constantly reaching 41 in 2003. In a major expansion in 2004, nine more new national parks were created, raising the total number to 50.

Way Kambas
National park

Way Kambas National Park is a large national park covering 1,300 square kilometres in Lampung province, south Sumatra, Indonesia. Way Kambas consists of swamp forest and lowland rain forest, but was extensively logged before becoming a reserve in 1972 so there is little primary forest. The reserve still has a few Sumatran Tigers and reasonable numbers of elephants. It is also provides excellent birdwatching, with the rare White-winged Duck among the species present.

Another special feature of this national park is the Sumatran Rhinoceros still present in the area. Only 275 remain in South East Asia today. In Way Kambas a managed breeding center or Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) has been build up in 1995. At this moment 5 Sumatran Rhinos live at the Sanctuary, most have been translocated from zoos to the large enclosures (with natural habitat) at the SRS.

The park consists of a triangle of swampy lowlands along the coast of Lampung with an area of about 1300 Way Kambas mainly consists of freshwater swamps and also includes one of the few locations of dipterocarpaceae, an important part of the lowland rainforest, and that makes the difference with other Sumateran parks. The coast is covered in mangroves nipapalms and casuarina's (cemara). Way Kambas was declared a reserve because of the fauna; unfortunately most of the original forest was chopped down. Commercial important products like damar (a raisin which is used when making varnish _, wood, honey and animals are still substracted to the area.

During the last 30 years the rainforests of Southern Sumatera are chopped to make place for plantations and transmigration settlements. Of all homeless animals the elephants caused the biggest problems by destroying crops and even by attacking houses. Villagers complained about the fact that the elephants were free to go anywhere, while they were not able to do anything, since the elephants are a protected animal.
The solution seemed simple. In other parts of South- and Southeast Asia it's common to catch animals and pet them. On Sumatera, this habit disappeared hundreds of years ago, but why could it not be started again? So two Thai elephants with their mahouts (riders) were taken to the reserve in 1985, with as target to start a training program to get them trained for the tourist industry. Since the program was started the imago of the park has changed drastically: from an unknown reserve in a popular place of visit, where 'safari-rides' can be made on elephants through open terrain of the park.

In the west the use of wild animals for entertainment of labour is convicted. The alternative for these elephants would probably be a lonely death, in the nets of hunters or the poison of the villagers. Instead they fullfill an usefull task by attracting tourists (and their money), create jobs and show the people in a direct way why national parks can't be missed.

Visit Way Kambas

The main entrance of Way Kambas can be reached from the village of Tridatu, ten km north of Jepara. The turn to the right is clear. From Bandar Lampung it's about two hours by car, and from the ferry terminal in Bakauheni about three hours (seven hours in total from Jakarta). Be sure you arrive during office hours, so the park servants can give you a permission.
Way Kambas is the best spot in Indonesia to watch wild elephants; an estimated 250 live here. After the animals are catched, they are tought two times a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. These lessons are also for training of the local mahouts, which each have their own elephant. People hope that the elephants will create a source of income and pride, and that the sons will eventually take over the work of dad later on.

Way Kanan, 13,5 km past the entrance of the park, is an simple guesthouse. Park rangers can bring visitors without transport there for a small fee. Food has to be brought by yourself, cooking will happen on an open fire. Most people rather make a day trip to the reserve, and let their visit coinside with the lessons in the trainin centre.

There are many more other animals in Way Kambas. Along the road to Way Kanan observing Javanese monkeys and the more heavy-built laponder monkeys show themselves to the visitors, before jumping in the dense rainforests, while families of wild pigs regularly cross the road. Early in the morning it's the siamang apes, gibbons and birds which create a very nice concert.

Take from Way Kambas a boat which goes downstream towards the sea and ask for the motor to be turned off, so you can float with the stream, and enjoy the magnificent rainforest. On the riverbanks, dragons live, which slip into the river at almost any noise. Giant squirrels and monkeys shoot over from tree to tree. For bird-lovers which have a little more time, there is an alternative route to the park, via the southern harbour Labuhan Meringgi.

From here it's about four hours by boat along the coast to the rivermouth of Way Kambas. The river can be used by boat for another 25 km, and from the boat you can see various spiecies of birds. During the wet season (November until March), the higher waterlevel offers an excellent opportunity to explore the swamp-floors, which normally can't be accessed by canoo.

Location map of Way Kambas

Last revised on January 06, 2011
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