Dec 292011

Gunung Halimun National Park, The Mountains of the Mist, a largest remaining rain forest in Java.

Gunung Halimun National Park, Sundanese for “The Mountains of the Mist”, is the largest remaining primary lowland forest in Java. Each year visitors come to Gunung Halimun to explore mountainous terrain, canyons, rivers and waterfalls, natural hot springs, tropical forests and tea plantations at the center of the Park.

Established in 1992, the Park is a nirvana for the native wildlife of West Java with an abundance of untouched wildlife and stunning scenery. Comprising an area of approximately 40,000 hectares, the Park is home to more than 200 species of endemic, rare and common birds such as the endangered Javan Hawk Eagle, as well as several species of primates, including the endangered Javan Gibbon, Javan Leaf-monkey and Black Leaf-monkey.

The Park is also home to the indigenous Kasepuhan people as well as other Sundanese communities who continue to live in and around the Park, and who remain largely dependent on the Park’s natural resources. The Kasepuhan have lived in the area for over 600 years. The Park protects an important watershed for Java. However, small-holder and plantation agriculture, infrastructure development, small-scale gold mining, and unsustainable fuel wood and non-timber forest product harvesting threaten GHNP’s resources.Javan Gibbon, an endangered species of primate living in Halimun

To counter the various threats to the habitat, and taking advantage of an unprecedented set of positive developments, a unique consortium of organizations came together for the purpose of working with local communities to develop an ecotourism enterprise and conservation awareness program geared to attracting more domestic and international visitors from nearby Jakarta. Thus the Gunung Halimun Consortium was born in 1995.

The consortium was formed by the Gunung Halimun National Park Department of Forestry (PHPA), the Biological Sciences Club (BScC), the Wildlife Preservation Trust International (WPTI), The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies, the University of Indonesia and McDonald’s Indonesia Family Restaurants. Upon successful application, the consortium received three years funding from the Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN) to provide the local community with guesthouses in the North, East and South of the National Park.

Gunung Halimun National Park, located in West Java, can be reached about 5 hours drive from Jakarta.Three guest houses have so far been built around Halimun and have been handed over to local communities to operate as commercial ventures. The guest houses, built by community members on community land, are constructed to traditional design guidelines using traditional materials.

Hard to reach and little known, Gunung Halimun attracts far fewer visitors than the nearby Gede and Pangrango volcanoes. Though it’s a main base for eco-tourism, only around two thousand people visited last year. Here, you find no signs that Java is the world’s most populous island. Forest trails wind through huge trees, tree ferns with enormous leaf fronds are suspended on two-storey high trunks and streams gushing over cascades and waterfalls. Wildlife can be elusive, but here you can see busy flocks of birds, turquoise blue flycatchers and even eagles soaring overhead.

Visitors to the Park can choose from a variety of activities in and around the Park, from bird watching, and hiking, to camping and trekking. For those who seek serenity, it’s a superb spot for quiet walks or just observing sunrise and sunsets. The Park’s wonderful natural geography offers waterfalls, hot springs and tranquil bubbling streams that elevate your mind and carry your thoughts to another plane through the choir of gibbons in the trees above, a wonderful wake up call that echoes through the jungle. These Javan Gibbons seem to rule as kings of the trees and you can catch glimpses of them as they project themselves from treetop to treetop with skill and finesse.The Canopy Brigde, one of the main tourism attraction in Halimun and also use for scientific purposes, built by JICA

Community-based tourism, still a relatively small percentage of overall tourism at the Park (10 – 15%), has successfully contributed to the Park’s conservation, proving once again that when local people are involved in self-community group participation, they can realize a higher degree of conservation awareness compared with uninvolved members. Tourism activities in Halimun have also been effective in reducing forest encroachment and poaching by local people, since most such activities are conducted in the forest.

With its rich variety of attractions, the Park is an ideal site for both recreation and ecotourism. The silence of the deep forest, broken only by the song of birds and animals, offers a magnificent backdrop from which to observe wildlife at close quarters. Gunung Halimun National Park is a cool and refreshing spot that connects the weary soul with nature and gives you a chance to rejuvenate and recharge. Only 80 km south west of Jakarta this national reserve is a well kept secret offering an endless supply of things to do and enjoy. [rs]


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