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Wednesday 8 May 2013
Pangandaran, Indonesia

A night walk without the rain!

We spent much of today in a minibus on the 7 1/2 hour journey to Sukio's home town of Pangandaran, or Pangaranga-wotsit as it became known as nobody could remember the proper name.  Luckily we had a very comfortable minibus with plenty of space so we could relax and enjoy the journey.  I've now started listening to 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. It is set in India rather than South East Asia, but seemed to fit the scenery none the less.

Pangandaran is a seaside resort town on the south coast of Central Java.  One beach is too dangerous for swimming, but there is a sheltered cove a short drive along the coast which has perfect waves for boogie boarding and swimming.  The town borders onto a National Park.  Our Park guide, Aed met us at the hotel and within five minutes walk we were in the jungle... literally. We climbed up a steep slope pushing through the foliage with no sense of a path whatsoever.  After a few moments we found a trail of sorts and then had to play hide and seek to find the others ahead, following their voices until we caught up.  Suddenly there was a disturbingly loud crashing through the undergrowth to our right, complete with shaking plants, as we disturbed a monitor lizard who beat a hasty retreat.  

Around the corner, Aed showed us an old Japanese war bunker half buried in the undergrowth.  We'd all got torches, so we headed in to investigate.  The roof was low enough that even I had to duck to move around.  It felt distinctly reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as we gingerly tried to avoid disturbing the enormous crickets and rock spiders on the walls.  We even found a few small chattering fruit bats hanging upside down in the main chamber - and discovered Lynda's fear of bats as she refused to get any closer.  I was struggling with the proximity of the rock spider in such an enclosed space and flinched dramatically as a bat suddenly flew past my ear.  After a lot of slightly hysterical giggling, we all bailed out and left the bugs and bats to themselves.

Outside the bunker, we came across another monitor lizard sitting a few feet above our heads up a nearly tree.  Before we could point a camera in his direction he suddenly took a flying leap off the branch and crashed to the ground with a wallop, before darting off through the undegrowth again.  He must have jumped a good 8' to the ground - I am not sure who was more startled, him or us!  

We followed a trail back through the trees and down another steep section of bank to the edge of a small meadow.  Along the path a little way, we spotted a family of grey macaque monkeys.  They came down the bank and scrambled around for the food that Aed threw out for them.  There were at least 20 of them of different sizes, including a couple of tiny babies clinging to their mothers and a big male with a full face of whiskers.  As we crossed the meadow we saw a number of grazing deer.  This was already more successful than the night walk I did in the Danetree Rainforest where all I saw was a lizard and a couple of spiders due to the heavy rain.

Aed led us along the main path until we came out on the beach at the far side of the peninsula.  Looking above the tree line we could see more and more black shapes flitting around which turned out to be fruit bats out foraging.  These were added to by the huge black silhouettes of flying foxes - giant fruit bats which have the classic bat-shape silhouette.  They can have a wingspan of up to a metre and fly up to 60km in a night to find the fruit they need. (We later learned that the male flying fox is incredibly well endowed - approximately the same length as its legs in fact! Nearly a quarter of its body length. Just saying...) 

Our next discovery was an enormous cave opening right onto the beach.  The mouth had to be 20' wide and the roof around the same at the opening, but it got lower the further back we went.  In the centre of the cave we heard a furious chattering above us and discovered a huddle of fruit bats clustered together in a pocket in the ceiling.  I think Lynda was almost ready to bolt at that point, but we persuaded her to keep moving. In another corner we found a porcupine - I'm not sure I have ever seen one before in real life.  He started at us and we stared back.  He seemed content to pose for photos for a while, before shuffling back into his corner out of sight.  The cave became very narrow forcing us all to duck low to avoid the stalagtites, before just as suddenly opening out again.  We thought we had found another chamber, then realised we had actually come right out into the air again. The sun had set fully and it was now quite dark in the forest.

Walking back, we had a constant stream of bats overhead and fireflies floating around in the bushes on either side.  We even spotted a black monkey and a few gheckos on the gates as we left the national park.  What a fantastic experience!  I would highly recommend this guided walk to anyone visiting Pangandaran.

We finished the evening with a fresh seafood buffet and a swim in the beautiful hotel pool, which had a brilliant addition over almost any other pool have ever been in: a short person's ledge all the way around the deep end!  The ledge was a tile-width deep and ran right around at about 4' deep, so everyone can comfortably stand at the edge without having to tread water the whole time.  Genius!



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