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Published: September 29th 2009
I had originally planned on staying in Bogor and commuting by train each morning to Jakarta for the couple of days I needed to see the essentials in the big city - the essentials of course being the zoo, the oceanarium, the bird park, the bird market and the bird reserve. However when staying there for the one night before going to Cibodas I had discovered that I did not like Bogor one little bit, so decided Jakarta couldn’t be any worse. I ended up in the backpacker haunt of Jalan Jaksa staying at a place called Borneo Hostel 31. Coming from Cibodas, in complete contrast to the trip there, the bus ride only took an hour which was a bit irregular seeing it was meant to take two, and then the train was so quick that I got into Jakarta by 10 o’clock, which should have meant that I had ample time to start the agenda. First I got the bus information for all the destinations from a tourist office (every single bit of which turned out to be wrong!), and then I headed for the local bus station to go to the Sea World Oceanarium. I had been feeling
a bit iffy first thing that morning, and then on the train into Jakarta I was feeling really iffy but put it down to “train sickness”, but walking to the station my guts really started to complain about something and as soon as I got to the station I threw up in one of the gardens outside. At least it was outside the station and not after I was on the bus. (Just as an aside, the Indonesian word for vomit is “muntah” which is interestingly reminiscent of “chunder”). Proving that I’m just not as dedicated as I should be, I did the sensible thing and turned round and headed back to the hostel where I stayed for the rest of the day.
The next morning I slept in (till 6am!) but was feeling somewhat better so decided the Ragunan Zoo should be the order of the day. The first step was dissuading the local prostitutes from trying to pick me up (“Where are you going?”, “To Kebun Binatang ”, “We go together?”…without wanting to sound disparaging, why would the prostitutes want to come to the zoo?). It was Sunday and this seems to be the day of the
week that the Jakartans go to the zoo. I don’t think its an exaggeration to say there were tens of thousands of people there. Anywhere in the zoo in any direction you turned, there were at least a couple of hundred people in your direct line of sight. It was insane. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere with that number of people in one place at one time. It also seemed that most of them were there simply as a place to go and have a picnic. It was rather like what I imagine Woodstock must have looked like, with masses of people just sitting round on blankets surrounded by the detritus of their lunches. The zoo itself wasn’t too bad, although I did feel like most of my time there was spent wandering round looking for where the animals were. It appeared that the centre of the zoo was given over to areas for people to just gather, and the enclosures were scattered round the edges, and as there were no maps I didn’t know where anything was. I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff there. Still, what I did see was good, including a number of
species I hadn’t seen before like the Bawean hog deer, Kloss’ gibbon and New Guinea eagle. The animals in paddocks had quite a bit of space (more than their equivalents at Singapore!) but then there were random clusters of horrible concrete-and-bars cages for primates and birds.
In the middle of the zoo is the non-connected Schumutzer Primate Centre which has an additional entry fee but its well worth it. The gorilla enclosure is fantastic (although I didn’t actually see any gorillas), and is viewable from ground-level and from an elevated walkway. It really looks like a lot of money has been spent on it. The other primate enclosures here are mostly just alright - not bad but not great. The macaque cages are very nicely done though, with glass fronts for viewing and very high mesh roofs. Species at the Centre include a large number of gibbons (including Javan, Bornean and Kloss’), several of the Sulawesi macaques, chimps, orangutans, and a number of the southeast Asian leaf monkeys. Near the entrance are a couple of small moated enclosures for a species which is one of last I’d have expected to see (or not see as it happened) on an
island exhibit -- slow lorises! As an unexpected bonus here, there are guards on the entrance to the Centre who check every bag of every visitor to make sure they don’t have fruit or other food, or cigarettes; and there are no-feeding signs everywhere.
Rather in the opposite direction in terms of primate exhibitry are the cages in the Ragunan Zoo. Small, bare and dark with little for the inhabitants to do but beg for food from the visitors. Again a large number of gibbons are on display, including Javans, as well as many leaf monkeys and macaques, proboscis monkeys, and some foreign ones like capuchins. Every species at the zoo appears to get food thrown at it by the public, from the tapirs to the Komodo dragons. I found it difficult to get any good photos of the maleo because as soon as it realized I was there it came right up to the wire to get some food. All in all, the Primate Centre is excellent, especially given the number of rare species there, and the Ragunan Zoo itself is passable - its not terrible and its certainly better than most Asian zoos but it’s a mix
of relatively good and not-so-good enclosures.
The next day I again planned more than I achieved. Mostly this was because I was travelling round via the city bus network in order not to be forking over uncountable sums on taxis. The Transjakarta bus system is actually very easy to use; you only need one trip to work out all its intricacies and then everything is easy as pie. The only thing with it is that you often need several transfers between stations and so every trip takes time. I had been planning on going early in the morning to the Muara Angke Nature Reserve, then the Pasar Burung (bird market), then the Sea World Oceanarium, and finally Taman Mini Indonesia Indah which has a bird park. It all worked on paper, but obviously not in reality. On the day I only managed the reserve and Taman Mini, having decided with the available time that the Oceanarium and bird market would probably just depress me and were therefore dispensible. Although I had been wanting an early start to the nature reserve, it took me two hours to get there! First I travelled all the way to the Ancol bus station
one of the biggest reticulated python I ever saw
(doesn't look so big in the photo, but it really was!)
because the bus station people had told me that’s where I needed to go, but then I had to catch a little mini-van to the Kota station where I should have gone instead. Then there was a little bus from there to Muara Angke, although that one dropped me at a corner somewhere and I had to get yet another mini-van to Muara Angke from there. None of these trips cost much at all, just a matter of about twenty cents each, but I was starting to wonder if I’d ever get there. Once I was in Muara Angke I then had no idea where I was meant to go. I only knew the reserve was near the fish market, which it turned out it wasn’t really, and it did not help at all that my poor idiot brain went completely blank on the Indonesian term for “nature reserve”! I wandered down several streets the wrong way, getting various unhelpful directions from locals, and then ended up taking a motorbike for what a traffic cop told me was an hour’s walk but turned out to be about five minutes. Still, I got there in the end. The main reason I
wanted to go there was to see a bird called the Sunda coucal which is a big swamp-dwelling cuckoo that is very very rare. The Muara Angke Nature Reserve is pretty much the only place that is easily accessible to try and see it. Try I did, succeed I did not. I didn’t really want to see it anyway. Birds are stupid.
After the nature reserve I made my way via several mini-vans and buses to the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, which is sort of the Indonesian version of Disneyland. It is very large and has areas devoted to every part of the country from Sumatra to Irian Jaya. Like Disneyland, there’s an entry fee to get into the park and then additional fees for everything else inside as well so if you’re making a day of it your wallet would definitely be hurting by the end. I didn’t get there till about 3pm but figured that was alright as it was open to 5pm and I was just going to see the bird park and zoological museum. Once there and looking at the map though I saw there was also an aquarium, an insectarium and a reptile park.
The park is so big that there is a free shuttle that runs round the middle, a non-free train and a sky-train, and you can hire motorbikes as well. There are also taxis cruising all over the park. I just walked. The aquarium was much bigger and better than expected, much better than the pitiful one at the Ragunan Zoo. There was a range of big and smaller tanks, most well-cared for, with a lot of big and way-big fish and several unusual species. One of the more odd exhibits was a “fish spa” where you could put your feet or hands in a pool and have scores of little fishies pick your skin clean. The entry price for the aquarium also included the insectarium next door which was actually a museum of dead insects rather than live ones, but it led out into what I assume was a butterfly garden even though it was utterly devoid of any butterflies whatsoever, and that led onto an awful little menagerie of small mammals and birds in tiny tiny cages. Very sad that was. Further along the road, the reptile park was situated around the zoological museum which was inside a building
constructed in the shape of an enormous Komodo dragon! Unfortunately there was no clear view of the building to take its photo because of the sky-train rail and the surrounding trees. The museum wasn’t very interesting due to the mankiness of the stuffed animals, but the reptile park was alright. Some terrariums were very small but others were very large. Most of the reptiles were quite ordinary species, nothing much to get excited about. I was a bit disturbed at the endangered Bornean turtles that had their shells painted in lurid colours and their names (eg “Nova”) splashed across the paint. The next stop was the bird park, the reason I came to Taman Mini in the first place because I’d heard they had an excellent collection of birds from all over Indonesia including the Moluccas and New Guinea and I was hoping to see some species I hadn’t before - but they were closed! They had closed at 2.30 which is a damn ridiculous time to close if you ask me. I was very put out.
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