20 Best National Parks in Indonesia

Whalesharks at Cendrawasih Bay National Park (Image Courtesy of Scubasigns Foundation)

Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Orang utans, tigers, elephants, rhinos, tarsiers and tropical rainforests, Whalesharks, komodo dragons, orang pendek and swirling mists. Travel Junkie Indonesia scours the globe to find you this year’s 20 greatest national parks.

Cenderawasih Bay National Park
Western Papua, in Papua province of Indonesia. This reserve consists of 18 islands and 500km of coastline, and at 14,300 sq km is the largest of its kind in Indonesia. It’s home to endangered species of giant clams, Whaleshark, turtles and dugongs, and offers some of the best trekking, diving (130 types of coral) and bird-watching (150 bird species) imaginable. Like most of Papua, however, exploration is severely hindered by government travel regulations and a lack of transport. The larger inhabited islands in the area are Rumberpon, Mioswaar, Roon and Angrameos. You can explore the coastline or islands by speedboat from either Nabire or Ransiki, or base yourself on Pulau Rumberpon or at Wasior (though neither is strictly within the park).

Wasur National Park
Wasur National Park lies in the southern portion of the province of Papua, Indonesia. This park is the joint project of the Indonesian Directorate of Forest Protection & Nature Conservation and the indigenous people (mainly the Kanum and Marind) who contribute to, and benefit from, the park and its management. The 4138-sq-km park (Taman Nasional Wasur) backs onto the PNG border, and features termite mounds, wetlands, traditional villages and extensive bird life (74 endemic species). Wildlife includes cuscus and kangaroos (including 27 endemic species), but animals are often very difficult to see. The best time to visit is during the dry season (July to January); access during the wet season (February to June) is often only possible to Yanggandur and Onggaya villages.

Gunung Palung National Park
In West Kalimantan. Home to several thousand wild orangutans, Gunung Palung National Park has managed to cling onto pockets of untouched forest, despite the ugly intrusion of illegal logging. Long known as an area for research, the park is now being promoted for tourism as well. Facilities are simple and tourists are welcome to join the researchers at the Cabang Panti research site to view the orang-utans in small groups. A network of trails covers about 15 sq km of the park, traversing some of Kalimantan’s most pristine tracts of swamp, and lowland dipterocarp, hill and mountain forest. Aside from the orang-utans, there is an amazing variety of wildlife, including gibbons, proboscis monkeys and hornbills. Unless you visit Gunung Palung on an organised tour, patience, money and excellent Bahasa Indonesia are essential.

Sebangau National Park
South of Palangka Raya, this recent addition to Kalimantan’s national parks is a peat swamp forest and home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, including more than 100 species of birds, 35 species of mammals and 6,900 orang-utans; one of the highest wild populations in Borneo. NGO has conducted a tireless campaign to establish protection for the area due to indications that the impact of illegal logging and palm oil plantations may have reduced the orang-utan population from as much as 13,000 since 1996.

Tanjung Puting National Park
This Park is one of Indonesia’s highlights, and not just because of the enigmatic primates living in its maniacal forest. Coursing the river at a leisurely pace aboard a klotok or in a motorised canoe is as much a part of the experience. Long limbs, auburn locks and a willingness to drape themselves over the nearest tree — Orangutans make perfect models. Amateur snappers will capture some classic shots on this photography course in Borneo, exploring the Tanjung Puting national park, where 4,000 of the ginger primates strut their stuff alongside gibbons, crocodiles, hornbills, kingfishers and proboscis monkeys.

Kutai National Park
One of East Kalimantan’s most underrated pockets of wilderness, Kutai National Park holds excellent opportunities to see wild orang-utans and prolific bird life. Sadly sizeable chunks of the park remain damaged due to fire, logging and entrepreneurial farmers, but the remaining forest teems with wildlife. Access to Kutai from Samarinda is easy, and if you’re heading north it’s a great way to break up the journey.

Kayan Mentarang National Park
in East Kalimantan province of Indonesia. This park is unique for trekking as it has several villages connected by trails that lead through mostly virgin forest. The long dry season (July-August) is the best. At this time the forest is at its loudest, leaches are few, trails dry up and butterflies are plentiful. Although you will have to contend with hot afternoons and lots of honey bees.

Bentuang Karimun National Park
This park is a wonderful park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The fauna of the park is rich, with 300 species of bird (25 endemic to Borneo), at least 162 fish species and at least 54 mammals. The park is home to endangered orangutan and seven other primate species: Bornean Gibbon, White-fronted Surili, Maroon Leaf Monkey, Southern Pig-tailed Macaque, Crab-eating Macaque, Sunda Loris and Horsfield’s Tarsier.

Way Kambas National Park
This national park is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia. It occupies 1300 sq km of coastal lowland forest around Sungai Way Kambas on the east coast of Lampung. What little remains of the heavily logged forests is home to endangered species of elephants, rhinos and tigers. The Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) is a subspecies of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). It is the biggest land animal in Indonesia and is found only on the island of Sumatra. They are found in the island’s forests at altitudes of 1 750 m, but they prefer to live in lowland forests. They also have a large home range; they move from the mountain area to the coastal lowland forest during the dry season and then retreat to the hills when the rainy season comes.

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park
This Park is a natural habitat for Sumatran tiger, sun bear (Helarctos malayanus malayanus), Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis sumatrensis), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus), black-handed gibbon (Hylobates agilis), siamang (H. syndactylus syndactylus), mitred leaf monkey (Presbytis melalophos fuscamurina), lesser Malay mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus kanchil), and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). The park is also famous for many endemic bird species that prefer foothill climates, and several species of sea turtle that nest along the park’s coastal zone. Of the 365,000 hectares originally designated as protected, only 324,000 hectares remain untampered. The usual suspects are responsible: illegal logging and plantation conversion, and poachers are also at work.

Orang utan in Gunung Leuser National Park (Image courtesy of Michael Baker)

Gunung Leuser National Park
This park is one of the world’s most important and biologically diverse conservation areas. It is often described as a complete ecosystem laboratory because of the range of forest and species types. More than 300 bird species have been recorded in the park, including the bizarre rhinoceros hornbill and the helmeted hornbill, which has a call that sounds like maniacal laughter. The park faces a great number of challenges. Poachers have virtually wiped out the crocodile population and have severely reduced the number of tigers and rhinoceros. This park receives a lot of rain throughout the year, but rain showers tend to lessen in frequency and duration from December to March.

Kerinci Seblat National Park
This park is the largest national park in Sumatra, covering a 350km swath of the Bukit Barisan range and protecting 15,000 sq km of prime equatorial rainforest spread over four provinces, with almost 40% of the park falling within Jambi’s boundaries. Most of the protected area is dense rainforest; its inaccessibility is the very reason it is one of the last strongholds of endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhinoceros. There have also been numerous reported sightings of the orang pendek. what do you think about Orang Pendek?

Ujung Kulon National Park
The Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is one of the rarest species of mammals and one of the most endangered rhinoceros species, with fewer than 60 animals believed to exist in two known populations. Between 40 and 60 individuals inhabit Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, Indonesia. The population has been stable due to conservation efforts, but numbers don’t seem to be increasing. The Javan Rhino looks much like the Indian Rhino but is smaller and it’s skin-folds are less defined.

Alas Purwo National Park
This park has fine beaches, good opportunities for wildlife spotting, and savannah, mangrove and lowland monsoon forests. More recently, huge breaks – which stretch for 2km – at Plengkung, on the isolated southeastern tip-of the peninsula, have made it famous among surfers who have dubbed it ‘G-Land’ (for Grajagan, another name for the area)

Baluran National Park
This park is quite unlike any other park on the java island. Nicknamed ‘Indonesia’s little bit of Africa’. Baluran National Park was once extensive glassland covering some 250 sq km on the northeastern corner of Java. This park is rich in wildlife and supports important populations of banteng and ajag plus sambar deer, muntjac deer, two species of monkey, and wild pigs. And, also home to between 10-12 leopards.

Lore Lindu National Park
This large and remote national park has been barely touched by tourism. It’s a wonderful area for trekking – the park is rich in exotic plant and animal life, including butterflies larger than a human hand, impressive hornbills and shy tarsiers. It’s also home to several indigenous tribes, and famous for its megalithic remains – giant freestanding stones around Gintu and Doda. Attractions in the park include ancient megalithic relics, mostly in the Bada, Besoa and Napu Valleys; remote peaks, some more than 2500m; bird-watching, including hornbills and Tarsiers, around Kamarora; and the 3150-hectare lake, Danau Lindu.

Tanjung Api National Park
The 4246 hectare Tanjung Api (Cape Fire National Park) is home to anoa, babi rusa, crocodiles, snakes and maleo, but most people come to see the burning coral cliff fuelled by a leak of natural gas. To get here you need to charter a boat around the rocky peninsula from Ampana. It’s more interesting at dusk.

Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park
About 50km west of Kotamobagu, this national park (193,600 hectares) has the highest conservation value in North Sulawesi, but it’s mostly inaccessible. The park (formerly known as Dumoga-Bone) is at the headwaters of Sungai Dumoga and is a haven for rare flora and fauna, including black-crested macaque (yaki), and a species of giant fruit bat. Finding rare fauna requires patience and luck, but you should see plenty of hornbills and tarsiers.

West Bali National Park
This park covers 19,003 hectares of the western tip of Bali. Most of the natural vegetation in the park is not tropical rainforest, which requires rain year-round, but coastal savannah, with deciduous trees that become bare in the dry season. The southern slopes receive more regular rainfall, and hence have more tropical vegetation, while the coastal lowlands have extensive mangroves. There are more than 200 species of plants in the park. Local fauna includes black monkeys, leaf monkeys and macaques; rusa, barking, sambar, Java and mouse deer (muncak); and some wild pigs, squirrels, buffalo, iguanas, pythons and green snakes. There were once tigers, but the last confirmed sighting was in 1937 – and that one was shot. The bird life is prolific, with many of Bali’s 300 species found here, including the extremely rare Bali starling.

Komodo National Park
East Nusa Tenggara, This park is real wonder of the world. Exotic panorama of savannah is presented to all tourists prior their landing, to be enjoyed on board. Komodo Dragons is truly the only living Dragon on earth that live on the island of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, and Gili Dasami in East Nusa Tenggara. And, there are only a few volcanic islands in the Indonesian archipelago that support its natural habitat. A five-day cruise around Moyo island gives the chance to see these extraordinary creatures

So, free to comment and add some of your favorite best national parks finds.

Happy Green Travels!

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