Pangandaran National Park

West Java

This national park, which takes up the entire southern end of Pangandaran, is a wild expanse of dense forest. Within its boundaries live porcupines, kijang (barking deer), hornbills, monitor lizards and various species of monkey. Small bays within the park also enclose pretty tree-fringed beaches, so bring your bathers. The park is divided into two sections: the recreation park and the jungle. Due to environmental degradation, the jungle is usually off limits.

Well-maintained paths allow the recreation park to be explored, passing small caves (including Gua Jepang, which was used by the Japanese in WWII), the remains of a Hindu temple, Batu Kalde, and a nice beach on the eastern side. English-speaking guides hang around both entrances and charge around 350,000Rp (per group of four) for a three-hour walk on a weekday and 400,000Rp at weekends. Longer hikes are also possible.

Pangandaran’s best swimming beach, white-sand Pasir Putih, lies on the western side of the national park. It's a thin stretch of soft sand fronted by a reef that's pretty well thrashed, though plenty of fish still live, eat and love there. You can swim over here from the southern end of the main resort beach if the surf is not too rough, but take care of rip currents and the steady stream of boats that shuttle people back and forth (per person 40,000Rp return). They will not be looking for you. The beach stretches to a point that gets a reasonable wave (it's very shallow and not suited to learners) when the swell is big. On calm days, the swim out to the point is peaceful and devoid of boat traffic. The large marooned ship here is an illegal Antarctic toothfish fishing vessel that was sunk by the ministry of Maritime Affairs as a monument to the government's efforts in fighting illegal fishing. However, it's supposed to sit upright, not toppled over as it is now.

Note that many tourists take advantage of a scam whereby boat operators will ferry you over to the park in their boats allowing you to avoid paying the park entry fees. The park authorities are already starved of money to properly preserve the park, so consider the morals of your actions before taking advantage of this.

At sunset, huge fruit bats emerge from the forest. They fly down the length of Pangandaran’s beach but have to evade local boys who patrol with barbed-wire kites. Few are trapped this way, but every now and then a bat’s wing will get caught on a kite string and the creature will be brought crashing to the ground in a fit of squeals, before being dispatched to the cooking pot.

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