ON AN INDONESIAN SAFARI

PUNCAK – Box of 48 cups of water – check. Chips and other munchies – check.  Box of ponkan – check. What else? Note book and pen – check.  Van for 6 a.m. departure from Bekasi – check. Red hoodie – check. Everything was ready for a day trip to Taman Safari Indonesia. Skeptics would raise their eyebrows at the mention of safari, which, admittedly, does not fit into the Asian landscape. Safari always conjures up images of the African savannah teeming with five of Africa’s greatest wild animals, or the Big Five, viz. lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino, until you drive through the 35-hectare Indonesian safari park – wildlife conservation.

Taman Safari is in Puncak, an area between Bandung and Bogor that surrounds the peak of Mt. Gede-Pangrango in the Bogor-Cianjur-Sukabumi kabupaten (regency) in West Java. The name literally translates to peak in Indonesian. Depending on the flow of traffic that day, the drive to Puncak from Jakarta is generally two hours, making it the favorite weekend retreat for the weary city-dwellers wanting a bit of cool winds, lush greenery and serenity within the bosom of Mother Nature. There are numerous attractions to keep the tourists occupied such as the Bogor and Cobodas Botanical Gardens, Gede Pangrango National Park, tea plantations and the most popular of them all, the safari park. 

 

Shall we indulge them and roar?

 

 

Into the Wild

Taman Safari lives up to its name by having visitors engage in a simulated cross-country expedition to observe animals from their own vehicles and be a breath away from them. Somewhere along the safari trail, vehicles pass through rushing waters as the park has replicated the water rapids, enhancing that safari feel.

The zebras heartedly greeted the visitors drawing near the windows.  Roll them down and be ready to give a carrot stick. The entrepreneurial spirit has gripped Puncak’s residents who have set up stalls along the road leading to the zoo selling carrots and bananas for visitors to buy and give as treats to the park’s inhabitants. Bargain with the tenacity of a zealot and you can whittle down the price from Rupiah15, 000 to Rupiah10, 000 for four bunches of carrots – about seven carrot sticks per bunch – and two bunches of bananas.

Woohoo! Snacks are here guys!

 Trundling along, the roads were crawling with animals – tapirs on the left and ostriches on the right. A muncak – small Java deer – trotted on the road while several deer, their heads heavy with antlers, stared at the safari’s first visitors lazily.  Next on the flexuous trail was a family of gargantuan hippopotamuses, their layers of fat jiggling like Jell-O underneath their thick gray skins as they walked about their muddy den. Some blew bubbles underwater.  The pygmy hippos were a striking contrast vis-à-vis their gigantic kin. A group of nyala and deer roamed the road freely waiting for carrots to stick out of the windows.  The Malayan sun bears were standoffish – two slept and one walked about without glancing our way.

 The camels were ravenous for carrots, pushing their spit-laden snouts onto the car window. That sent one of my friends shrieking while posing for a shot. “Watch for the spit!” I cautioned her.

 Passing the huge signs that read Tutup Kaca! (Close the windows), we were eye-to-eye with His Majesty within minutes. Rounding the corner, we found ourselves staring at two lions reclined lazily on an elevated platform. The lions were in the pink of health – their hides bright and furry, disguising the raw muscular strength within. Going further, a cheetah slept below the grassy ravine while a tiger reposed on the platform without a care in the world.  And then it was onto the tiger’s den with two lounging about while one sat quietly by himself, the foliage framing his menacing demeanor.

Ah, they’re here again – these weak, fragile humans

It was a long parade of animals: elephants reached their trunks out for treats; a leopard rested elegantly among the green shrubbery probably deciding whether to give a car a scare; a puma watched stoically from his rocky observation deck; a startled Malayan porcupine quickly hid in his burrow; monkeys grabbed the bananas and carrots coming out of the car windows; a babi rusa, or wild boar, paced in his little corner; the crocodiles were statue-like, not batting an eyelid; the rhinos stood motionlessly; and the bison slept soundly in the hut as droopy-eyed giraffes cantered to the vehicles.

A herd of Barbary sheep met us the end of the trail. They were grazing on the rocky precipice they were gingerly perched on.

Fun at the Park

Get away from my space

Half of Taman Safari’s sprawling grounds are home to the amusement park, Water Park, animal shows and animal displays such as the Reptile and Nocturnal Animal House, which I skipped intentionally. But I did make my way to the Komodo dragon, an animal that intrigues and terrifies me at the same time. It invokes images of the mythical fire-breathing dragon of Merlin’s time yet, in reality, it’s only a huge lizard found on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores and Gili Motang. This member of the monitor lizard family grows up to an average length of two to three meters and drools with lethal saliva that is a breeding ground of 50 kinds of bacteria. Amazingly, this huge creature spends part of its life in trees to escape predators and adult dragons that are impartial to young dragons.

At the amusement park, the first day of the Year of the Tiger was welcomed with a parade punctuated by lion dance acrobats leaping into the air. The parade was almost underway when we reached Safari Theatre from the Komodo dragon to catch the nearby elephant show. This time the elephant show was combined with the special Imlek, as the locals refer to Chinese New Year, performance.

The things I have to do to get my milk

Out of the nine shows, I caught four and out of the four I enjoyed the Sumatran Tiger and Wild Wild West Cowboy shows the most. The first part of the Sumatran Tiger show was amazing; the huge tigers were like rambunctious kindergarten kids messing about with their trainers at play time. The second half was ludicrous; a volunteer picked from the audience to “train” the tiger seemed planted and his antics spiraled down into asininity. The third part was better – we watched the tigers do several tricks.  But tricks or no tricks, it was grand gazing at the tigers, gawking at their fiery eyes while marveling at their vivid stripes and thick fur coats.

Wild Wild West Cowboy Show ended our long day in fits of laughter even though the story line was a cliché – awful cowboys overrunning a town and a need for a hero to save the day. The ending had a twist – the heroes were the long misunderstood and misrepresented Indians. We didn’t need to know Bahasa Indonesia fluently to understand the flow of the story because the facial expressions were distinguishable. The energy level was high and the timing of the special effects (explosions, raging fires, arrows whizzing through the air and gunshots) was impeccable. The animals – chickens, mouse, goats and horses –also knew their parts well.

It rained all the afternoon until we left Taman Safari. Traffic was a problem on the way back but no one seemed to mind. All were quiet in the van.

TRAVELLERS’ TIPS

*  Wear warm clothes as it can get cold when it rains.

*  Wear comfortable shoes.

* Bring an umbrella.

* Entrance fees are Rp60, 000 for locals and Rp100, 000 for foreigners.

* Other facilities in Taman Safari include an Outbound Area for team-building activities, Elephant Trail where you take in the scenery on top of an elephant, Educational School Programs and accommodation such as caravans, villas or motel-type rooms at the lodge.

 

CONTACT DETAILS

Taman Safari

Jl. Raya Puncak 601 Cisarua, Bogor

Tel: (0251) 8250 000 (hunting)

Fax: (0251) 8250 555

E-mail: safari@tamansafari.com

Web: http://www.tamansafari.com

 Photography by Wilyn Magadan and Rico Falcunitin
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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by fistri on March 27, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    It’s been a decade or so since I visited the safari and I’m glad it’s improved tremendously and you enjoyed your visit:)

    Reply

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