Pangandaran / Java




Pangandaran, actually a town at the south coast of Java, also covers a peninsula with a pretty tourist beach on it's western coast. It's white sand and invites for longer walks along the coastline, and the open air restaurants make it a pleasant place to have some food or a cool drink. The parallel road to the coastline houses plenty of accommodation, many of it are pricy hotels. The eastern coast spans kilometers of long quais for fishing boats.

The tip of the peninsula expands to a greater area, covered with tropical rainforest. The first part is a smaller natural park and, the bigger area behind is a nature park. A park guide claimed, that at the west coast 47 species of fish are living, at the east coast there were 26.


Indonesian Tourists by Asienreisender

Indonesian tourists, probably students. For the younger Indonesians, I guess, I am sometimes more interesting than an orangutan. Astonishingly, the beach is crowded with Indonesians already immediately after sunrise - that's before 6 a.m. Image by Asienreisender

The town itself is not too small and has a grown structure. That means that the lanes and alleys are not straight, but full of curves. It's not always easy to orientate in the town when leaving the main roads.

At dusk masses of bats come out and fly around, hunting insects. The local people let kites fly to catch the bats with the strings. That is to eat them. It's incredible, but people eat almost anything - on many Indochinese markets I have seen a lot of bugs, rats and even cockroaches for sale.

By the way, food is expensive nowadays in Indonesia, the country has even to import rice, because a great deal of the agriculture is producing palm oil and rubber for the car, oil and chemical industries. That has a severe impact on food prices. Eating animals from the natural surrounding is not just a traditional custom, it means also 'free' food for many of the locals.

Since it's relatively quiet and natural, Pangandaran is a good place for relaxation and watching the nature and the local population. Many people here still live traditionally from fishing, more people probably meanwhile from tourism. Pangandaran is the most popular beach ressort on Java. Few Western tourists are seen here these days, but plenty of Javanese, particularly at weekends and national holidays. It's a place for relaxing, sun bathing and surfing. More activities are possible as jungle trekking, snorkeling the coral reefs, visiting the green canyon, visiting paradise island, hiring a motorbike and having a look around etc.

Photocomposition Pangandaran


At the green edge of the natural park the western beach starts. It's stretching over many kilometers along the seaside (Image 1). But there are obstacles. Domestic pools, filled with brackish water, are connected to the bay via wider channels. It's not easy to come over them.

The eastern bay therefore is the pier for Pangandaran's fishing fleet. Masses of boats, most of them wooden, are anchored here. Walking along this side, towards north, one reaches after a few kilometers another greater pool with a connection to the sea. It requires a large detour to go around. At the southern end of the eastern coastline are some restaurants, the epigones of the former restaurants there. They are far worse than the restaurants here in the 1990s. A bit behind is Pangandaran's fresh market placed (Images 2+3).

Watching the incoming waves... quite rough. Good for surfing, I guess.

A bamboo fishing net construction. Fish is lured at night with light, like insects. This fishtrap is placed in one of the pools who bar the acces on the west coast to further north and west (Image 7).

Seafood, the fruits of the sea (Image 8). It's good that the sea is still recovering from all the attacks of mankind. The coasts are overfished since decades already. But, at least, there is much space to the south. From Java's south coast it's almost the span of a quarter of the globe to the next coast - and that's the antarctica then. However, the huge, wide oceans are also raped by grand trawlers who destroy much more than can recover. Particularly the destruction of animals nests and hideouts harms the species.

Greetings from rafflesia arnoldii (Image 9).

'Photocomposition Pangandaran' by Asienreisender

Paintings, seen on becaks (Javanese bicycle rikshaws). They are stylish, colourful, romantic - the 'good old' orient (Images 10, 11, 12).

Deer, a clear overpopulation of them. They are no more shy, for they are used to see humans every day and get fed by them. The equatorial deer is considerably smaller than that in the northern hemisphere (13, 14).

Typical peasant rice paddies. Typical for whole Southeast Asia. Here they are dotted with coconut palms; in Cambodia are mostly sugar palms grown instead (15).

After kilometers walking along the western coast, for my very surprise, there was an old, out of service passenger plane placed (16).

All photos taken in May 2012 by Asienreisender.

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Some Oldies

So, coming to Pangandaran the first time, having no idea what to do here and all day time, I went around the town, into the nature park and along the beaches for hours every day. Once done with all the walking, it mostly ended up in a restaurant, having delicious seafood. As already mentioned, there were pretty good restaurants at the east coast, near the park entrance and close to the fresh market.

Hanging out there and watching the streetlife... (1-3)

Becak drivers, fishermen, practically no cars in that time - now there is much traffic of all kind, it's noisy, dirty, dusty, and dangerous to walk on the streets. Pangandaran has developed.

The three guys who smoke my cigarettes I met in the first part of the park, which is marked yellow on the map in the sidebar and the third photocomposition below. Anyhow I get the phrase 'Javanse Jongens' in my mind when seeing this photo - it's actually a tobacco brand in the Netherlands (4).

I got to know quite a lot of people in these days there.

The girl scouts came over me very surprisingly one afternoon when walking along the seaside. They saw me with my camera and the leading scout, the one at the left, addressed me and arranged without further ado a group photo. The girls appeared neat and very disciplined. After the photo I praised them and they were very excited (5).

Pangandaran is a coastal town, and most of the local people are traditionally fishermen. The touristic service complex is a comparable young appearance. There is a fishing fleet at the east coast, which grew considerably in the last years (as to see on images 2 and 3 of the photocomposition above). Before the tsunami the then few fishingboats went out and dropped large nets further out in the sea and then a number of fishermen and women pulled in the trawl nets. In 2012 I didn't see that anymore. Recently I saw the same technique applied in Kampot province, Cambodia (6 - 10).

'Photocomposition Pangandaran - Oldies' by Asienreisender

Day for day for day the same procedure at the beach, over hours. Most of the fish they caught were small fish (14 and 15). Some were somewhat bigger, and here and there was an exceptionally big one among the catch. The stingray was one of them (11 - 13). He suffered a miserable end. One or two of the men played a cruel game with the poor animal. Too many people on earth like to see living beings suffering and dying. Estimated 10 percent of the world's human population is necrophile. Many more are indifferent against the suffering of or injustice against others, humans or animals, so long it does not touch themselves.

After the prey is shared between the fishermen, most of the small fish are layed out in the sun to dry (15). That conserves the food.

'Ellisa' was a guesthouse/resort with a combined restaurant. 'Bintang' means 'star' in Indonesian. It's the name of the largest brewery in the country. It's originally a daughter of the Dutch Heineken brewery (16).

Nightfall is early in the tropes. Near the equator it's almost around the whole year the same day-night frequency - twelve hours daylight, twelve hours nighttime, roughly from 6 am to 6 pm and vice versa (17 and 18).

All the photos have been shot still on film and were digitalized later; the only exception is the jumping fish (below 15), which was painted on the body of a wooden fishing boat which I saw in 2012. All images by Asienreisender, 1996, 2012.

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Click the header to enter a photocomposition of Pangandaran's past. Images and collage by Asienreisender, 1996, 2012, 2015


Pangandaran Nature Reserve

The Pangandaran peninsula is at it's narrowest point just 200 m wide (the isthmus of Pangandaran). After that it opens widely up again. That's where the nature park (Pananjung Pangandaran nature reserve) is situated. It's densly forested, but 80% of it is secondary rainforest.


Deer by Asienreisender

Deer is to see here in a great number. In fact, there is an overpopulation of them here, for they get frequently fed by visitors. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Although the area is heavily damaged by people already (too many tourists go there; tour guides guide people deep into the forest where it's actually better not to go and to disturb the animals; besides I remember that it was in the 1990s officially forbidden to go there), still many animals are living there. All the tour guides around offer tours to tourists. For them it's a source of income, and they start negotiations with a pretty high markup. They also say it's highly recommendable to take a tour guide. In fact it's highly recommendable to go in without guide, at least to have an own look for the entrace area first.

The park is divided in two parts. The first, smaller part is free to go alone. There are some paved ways and some unpaved ways splitting up from them. The paved ways are absolutely easy to walk and there is no risk to get lost.

Following the unpaved ways requires some attention; therefore they are much more interesting. The walks are not difficult, but one has to care for slippery and some steep walks, because the terrain is not all flat but mostly hilly. These paths split up into more and more other paths, so one has to make sure to find his way back. When walking the same way back one came before, in the other direction everything looks different. That's why it's crucial to remember remarkable spots like a certain tree or stone or whatever.


Macaques by Asienreisender

Macaques are unavoidable and sometimes quite aggressive. They appear in groups of about 20 individuals. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Some of these paths lead into the second part of the forest. This part is much bigger and following these paths becomes difficult for a foreigner. One might loose orientation, particularly when the sun is not to see (by the way: Java is south of the equator; therefore the sun is in the north). In many occations these jungle paths start big and look like frequently used, getting smaller after a time and finally, sometimes after kilometers, they end up inmiddle of nowhere. Then one has to make a decision: continuing without path through the green or walking back. Continuing is only advisable when one has a clear idea where he want's to come out and a good orientation. Even then it's not clear if one makes it through. There might be dense bushes who block the direction, there might be a canyon or swamps or a bigger water one can't pass. Then again one must go back. But now he must first find his old path back... it's no fun to get lost in the jungle and have to spend a night or even more than a single night in it.

A Hornbill

'A Hornibll in the Treetops of Pangandaran Nature Park' by Asienreisender

A hornbill inside the dense jungle trees, watching the intruder carefully. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

If one want's to get deeper into Pangandarans relatively small rain forest patch, it's advisable to hire a guide. That's difficult itself, because there are better guides and really bad ones, who don't care at all about the nature. I have seen a guide littering rubbish around when feeding [!] the monkeys and occationally kicking them with his feet when they came close to him. When I complained about that he told me that were no problem - he could burn [!] the (plastic) litter (in the 'protected' park). I made a photo of this guy and soon after I complained about him at the park officials and showed them the photo. I am not sure if it caused any consequences. I don't believe so - it's commonplace. So, again: it's a challenge to find a good guide who knows the rainforest, the animals, the places where to find a blooming rafflesia for example and to be able to tell you about the surrounding in a half way understandable English.

But also in the first part of the park with the paved ways are already many animals to see. There are deer, hornbills, langures, a curious kind of animal hanging high in the trees and is able to slide to another tree (cynochepalus variegatus), the unavoidable macaques (several groups of them, the officials spoke about five to eight groups and between 100 up to 200 macaques in total in the park. Quite an overpopulation - sometimes bigger ones can get aggressive) and in the evenings, a lot of bats come out. There are varans (monitor lizards) living in the swamps and there are many more species. Deeper inside the jungle are also a kind of big bats living, called flying foxes, with a span width of 40 - 50 centimeters They are very rare in the world.

Ficus subcordata

Ficus - Jungle Tree by Asienreisender

One of the huge jungle trees, one of the ficus family. The roots of the ficus trees (as the 'bodhi tree' or 'Buddha tree' is one as well) are stretching out far in all directions above and below the ground. Although the most trees here are young, thin and small, some are old, big and tall. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

According to the information of an official there are no snakes [!] in the park, except very seldom a very small one. I can only wonder about this information - there are snakes everywhere in Southeast Asia, even in the cities sometimes. There were also no crocodiles and aligators in the park, they say. Certainly not, because these big, dangerous animals got hunted until extinction; first it's for the safety of the local population who had to fear their sudden attacks, second a crocodile easily brings several thousand dollars on the market for it's precious leather; besides their meat is edible. Aligators anyway don't exist in Southeast Asia.

Among the 700 plants species here is the famous rafflesia arnoldii. The forest is dominated by marong (cratoxylum formosum) ,ki segel (dillenia excelsa) and laban (vitex pinnata); together with teak (tectona grandis), mahogany (swietenia macrophylla) and acacia (acacia auriculiformis). The real gem of this forest is the rafflesia flower (rafflesia patms) as an information sign in the park explains.

Pangandaran Nature Reserve

Photocollage Pangandaran Nature Reserve

Inside Pangandaran Nature Park

In the tropical rainforest of Pangandaran. A first approach, leaving the paths, turning into the green. The jungle appears chaotic, sometimes hostile. The struggle for survival shaped the species. Only those who always were best adapted made a career over 4,000,000,000 years. The first exception from that in the history of earth's life is homo sapiens. Since recently this single species reversed the development and started more and more to shape the natural environment. In it's blind success man is in the advanced process of destroying the global biosphere. In the not so far future he will, without doubt, fall.

What we see here is secondary rainforest. All the trees have thin trunks, what gives witness of their young age. Only twenty percent of Pangandaran's jungle is primary rainforest (1). It's great to go early, for there are fewest people and most animals around. It's great to go alone. After a rain shower the air is humid and it smells for nature.

So, have a look around the scenery here (still 1). Where do you go? Left is the fallen trunk, the glade is surrounded by bushes; no path to see. Where to go now? Keeping orientation up is crucial in the nature. The brightness in the background comes from the early morning sun and indicates an eastern direction.

A large map at the park's entrance gives some information about the geography (2). What the map doesn't show is the hills on the peninsula. Hiking into the forest means climbing and descending. The yellow part is still the entrance area which is pretty much designed like a park now; there are still paved walkways. The green part is the actual jungle.

A jungle path, leading deeper into the green (3). The leaves are still covered with a layer of water from the last shower.

Many trees of the ficus family grow in the jungle. This one is still pretty young, but seems to have a future here (4). It looks strong and healthy.

Well, it's not easy to find a blooming rafflesia arnoldii, the grand superstar of the scene. Their flowering time is just two or three days, so far I am informed. If you don't find one, you can draw your own, as I did (5).

Another ficus (6). They grow in many different shapes, sometimes very impressing ones. Climbing up a slope... (7).

Millipedes (8) and centipedes (9) live in the rotting leaves and wood of the forest ground. While millipedes are completely harmless for hikers, centipedes can cause a great harm! For more on these guys I wrote an extra article on them... By the way: the centipede is the only photo which wasn't made in Pangandaran; it was shot in 1/2015 in Kampot.

'Photocollage Pangandaran Nature Reserve' by Asienreisender

Trees, trees, trees - that's where the rainforest, in combination with the monsoon, got it's name from, right? Treetops, large roots, covering mostly the soil's surface (10, 11, 12). There is a place in the deep forest where flying foxes, large bats, live in a certain tree. In 1996 I approached the place by a distance of some 100 meters and watched the bats hanging in the tree in daytime. Not much to see, actually, and it wasn't possible to further approach. However, their time is dusk, when they all leave the grand tree and chase along the coastline and partially the inland on the search for food. Many farmers in the wider surrounding try to kill them, because the bats have the tendency to feed from orchards. And, moreover, the locals can eat them (left of 12).

And suddenly deer, inmiddle of the green (13). They grow an overpopulation for they get extensively fed by tourists and have no natural enemies here anymore. The last tigers on Java extinct, if I remember that right, around 1930.

High trees with long lianas. Mosquitoes are a problem in the tropes, and particularly in the forested areas. Malaria is a jungle disease, and the only positive aspekt of the clearance of the tropical rainforest is, in a way, the lowering of the malaria rates (14).

Mighty roots are covering the ground. However, they don't reach deep. The soil of the tropical rainforest is a thin layer, and once destroyed it needs a very long time to recover slowly again. If it can (15, 16).

Leaving the forest, one comes back to the park before the entrance; the ways are paved again, and walking is suddenly very easy again, while it was in the nature step by step what someone has to care for. And then one meets one of the many groups. Indonesians often gather in large groups and join activities (17). And, not far away, one of the dubious guides in the park is feeding the macaques to promote their overpopulation and throwing the plastic rubbish without hesitating into the green. On my inquiry he comforted me with the suggestion he would burn the [plastic] rubbish. And he did. Great nature protection, they have here. No doubt that many animals get hunted here and sold on the pet markets in Java's bigger towns and cities.

All photos taken in May 2012 by Asienreisender, except the centipede as mentioned above, who was photographed in Kampot, 1/2015. It's not too easy to make a good photo of a centipede, for they are rather seldom and disappear often quickly.

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Click the header to enter a photocomposition of Pangandaran Nature Park. Images and collage by Asienreisender, 2012, 2015



On July 26th, 2006 there was at 3.20 pm local time an undersea earthquake 170 kilometers away from the Javanese south coast. It caused a tsunami wich reached the land in surprise with several meter high waves. Mostly devastated was Pangandaran. Some 1.000 people died in total, 38.000 people lost their homes (on the whole part of the Javanese coast which was hit), Pangandaran was heavily destroyed. Everywhere on the coast were dead bodies lying around. Tsunamis always trigger a long-term trauma among the survivors.

Japanese and Hawaiian meteorological authorities warned the officials in Indonesia before, but the Indonesian government didn't give out a warning. Later they claimed they were too busy by watching the aftershocks...

Everybody living near a coastline should know that the sea is retreating before a tsunami happens. The December 26th 2004 tsunami was also caused by an earthquake in the Indonesian archipelago. It caused 220.000 death victims, most of them in Aceh in north Sumatra.



Pangandaran changed a lot in the last 16 years. When I was here the first time, it looked completely different. That's partially due to the tsunami and the thorough reconstruction of the place. But more than that, time changes places rapidly nowadays. Not to speak of that in 1996 there was no internet infrastructue and only a very few people used email; mobiles were rare and reception only possible in bigger cities. Motorized traffic rose massively.

Since a few years the local authorities are charging entrance [!] for the town (it's 2.500 Rupees) and additionally for the nature park (another 7.000 Rupees). In the 1990s the park was free accessible.

The whole east coast is now covered with a wall and fishing boat quais. That wasn't the case in the past - the sand beaches of the east coast seem to be washed away by the desastrous flood. My favorite fish restaurants don't exist anymore. There were some very nice ones along the east coast - there is nothing now what could compete with them. And the prices rose twentyfold - Indonesia is not a cheap country to travel anymore.


Around Pangandaran

The Western Beach

Pangandaran Beach by Asienreisender

The west coast with the long beaches. The hilly, green back is the protected peninsula, the park area. By the way: swimming at the northern part of the beach is extremely dangerous; there are strong currencies, pulling swimmers out. Many people died here already. Image by Asienreisender, 2012

Walking along the west beach in the early morning is fine. One can walk some 90 minutes until reaching a natural barrier. It's a river coming from inland, and there is no bridge to come over it. Jogging or horseback riding is also fine. Some Indonesians are all the time around there on horses, and it's pretty sure that there are horses for rent.

Walking along the east coast leads to the same outcome - there is another rivermouth, and no crossing in sight.

Some 15 kilometers from Pangandaran there is the so called 'green canyon'. It's a river in a canyon where boats go inside - looks cavelike. But, it's a main tourist attraction and 500 until 2.000 tourists go there per day. Pretty many...

There is another place, called the 'green valley'. It's supposed to be quiet and nice, but not that easy to find.



Finally Pangandaran is a nice place to stay and a severe contrast to the big cities like Jakarta and Bandung. But it's very touristic and business orientated. I eventually got enough from it within a few days and then it's time to continue travelling. Besides, when there are national holidays, school holidays, long weekends - prices rise and one needs a booking ahead. If you stay already in Pangandaran, inquire about the next days - if there are holidays, your guesthouse or hotel might cancel your room without telling you before, when they get a booking from other guests. Particularly, when the bookers pay more than you do, the landlord/landlady would set you out.

Asienreisender Up to the top!

Published on May 16th, 2012


Last update on February 5th, 2015