Living in Bangkok and having access to Airasia is a big blessing. Still, the time has to be right and circumstances do play into when one will travel.
I had read Gary Babic’s trip report from Gunung Gede 2006 a few times and when Andy Roadhouse kindly sent me his report from 2011 I knew I had to visit at some point.
My flight arrived after midnight but I had arranged for the hotel to pick me up and that worked well.
The hotel was located only 3 km from the airport. Breakfast was included and free transport the following morning to the DAMRI buses at the airport was included. Simple hotel, slightly over priced at 60$US but efficient and saved me the hassle of going into town.
Instead of taking a taxi to Bogor or all the way to Cibodas I decided to take the bus. It was cheap at 4 $US and comfortable with air-conditioning. The ride took about an hour and a half and I arrived at Bogor right next to the botanical garden. The Garden hold a few interesting pigeons and fruit doves but I have seen them elsewhere so I decided to move on.
I got into a white van destined to the town of Cibanas and asked to be let off at the road that leads up to Cibodas. The van was inexpensive but took a long time since there is a lot of traffic going up the mountain ridge towards the town and the road only has 2 lanes. Well, that meant I got to watch some scenery and road side life from this area.
At the junction that leads up to Cibodas I took another mini van, they run here continuously. Everyone knows the place I was going to: Fredy’s Homestay. There is a fellow who prey upon ignorant tourists at this junction saying that he is Fredy and will escort you to the Homestay. He is very friendly but is simply after some earnings.
At Fredy’s I settled in a room. Rooms are very basic but clean. There is hot communal shower and toilet in one. No WiFi, no TV but a log book that goes back some 20 years of birding. I had all my breakfasts and dinners here and paid 100$US for the lot.
Some 30meters up across the lane towards Fredy’s there is a little WiFi joint that mostly kids use to play games. Connection works very well but no chairs are provided so be ready to squeeze into a little improvised box on the floor in damp light with kids playing games all around you.
For lunch I bought fresh tomatoes and avocadoes in some stalls and took along my bag of mixed nuts. Also asked for boiled eggs from Fredy’s.
Beer can be purchased in a couple of small shops along the main road. Beer is double the price from Thailand but Bintang is a very tasty lager.
Going up the hill some 500 meters the entrance to Cibodas Botanical Garden is on the left. You can also catch one of the vans that pass by, bringing workers each morning and save the walk and the 15 minutes it takes to get to the park entrance.
I started out my birding in the Botanical Garden. This is probably the most beautiful garden I have been to. It exudes perfect balance and harmony. It was started as an extension of the Bogor Botanical Garden by a Dutch guy almost 200 hundred years ago. Now the trees are majestic and there are showpieces from all over the world. Especially impressive are the many coniferous trees. The garden is located between 13-1400m above sea level, it is very large and undulated with many walkways. I visited during weekdays and found much tranquility by simply strolling around in here.
Pygmy Tit likes it in with the pines and I saw these endemic birds 3 times both high and low in the trees. It was also the best place I found for Orange-spotted Bulbul, another endemic, with a song reminiscent of Yellow-vented Bulbul.
In the garden I also got my best views of Flame-fronted Barbet which otherwise mostly were heard all over the mountain. Grey Tit are very obvious in the garden and the stunning endemic White-flanked Sunbird like to feed in flowering trees. This was also the best place for Olive-backed Tailorbird a bird endemic to Java and Bali.
The entrance fee to the park was 60cent.
To get to the National Park of Gunung Gede you have to continue walking up the hill right next to the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. There is a small fence that divides between those that want to visit the park and those that want to visit the golf course on the right. The vegetation along the walkway here holds plenty of Oriental White-eyes and many Bar-winged Prinias. Also look out for Blood-breasted Flowerpecker in these more open areas. I even had one in the garden next to Fredy’s. Birding on the mountain begins immediately upon entering the gate. No one will be there to charge you in the early morning but be prepared to pay on your way out. Fee was 2 $US.
Since I have rather weak knees and walking these steep trails was going to take a lot out of me I decided to not use a guide. Birding has so many aspects to it and besides chasing lifers I wanted to do photography, learn the bird calls and behavior and let it slowly come to me. The lower levels of the trail on the way up to the waterfall were easily the birdiest. Birds that are very hard to see well in Thailand were a lot more confiding here. So I enjoyed good views of things like Eye-browed Wren Babbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, White-browed Shortwing and Javan Tesia. The latter being a lot easier then the Tesias in Northern Thailand. This little endemic bird to Western Java was a major attraction for my visit and I enjoyed many a nice view. The bird seemed common at all levels that I visited.
Horsefield’s Babbler is heard throughout the lower area in the early morning. Flock’s of the endemic Grey-throated Javan White-eye are regular. Watch out to not mistake the Mountain White-eyes for Oriental, it is easily done.
Many Javan Fulvettas roam around in flocks up to 40 birds. They sometimes associate with other species such as Sunda Warbler and Crescent–chested Babblers, a bird that I was very happy to connect with. I only managed to see the White-bibbed Babblers once but they are also more common on the lower part.
Along the trail there were regular sightings of Javan Whistling Thrush. Almost the largest bird one will see. Most birds are small passerines.
There are several specialty birds to be looked for. The first one I connected with was Spotted Crocia. It was in a mixed flock right before the Blue Lake but unfortunately I never saw it. At the lake a pair of Javan Kingfishers were hunting. Beautiful, but very skittish birds. I had to try several times in order to get a decent shot.
Past the lake shortly one will get to some boardwalks that cross wet grasslands. This area is good for flocks of smaller birds but also soaring raptors though I only saw Crested Serpent Eagle. Down at the waterfall there is chance for Sunda Forktail but I didn’t see them there.
One day while sitting down at the junction towards Air Panas, 2 Sunda Forktails simply came walking along the road towards me. That brought a big smile on my face! Thank you little birds!
A little before the waterfall is a trail that leads to the top of Gunung Gede. The trail goes to Air Panas hot springs. This part of the trail is very steep and cumbersome with all the many uneven boulders to walk on. I already struggled along the main trail so imagine how it felt like on this part.
However, it is up here that some ‘must see’ birds are found: Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush, Chestnut-bellied Partridges, Pink-headed Pigeon, Javan Trogon and Javan Cochua to mention a few. Of these I only heard the Cochua and didn’t get a whiff of the others. I think this was because either I arrived too late for the morning activity or I didn’t stay long enough for the late afternoon activity. I took a long time to walk back down as the impact on the knees are worse walking downhill. However, I know these birds are up here and will plan my day a little differently next time. I only walked up here on 2 of the 4 days.
My 1st day produced 12 lifers, 2nd day 7, 3rd day 1 and 4th day 0. But 20 lifers is a lot to be happy about and many of them being endemics.
I caught a local bus all the way to Jakarta and shifted to a DAMRI bus at the Rambutan bus station.
I had some time to spend at the airport. The air was stuffy and hot inside the building. Outside it was windy and dry heat so a lot nicer. Got my camera and bins and managed to find a handsome Long-tailed Shrike of a race we don’t see in Thailand.
I would heartily recommend this place as a birding destination but also for its natural beauty, temperate climate and natural setting. A haven for the millions of people of Jakarta all squashed up in a congested city.
Pictures of birds are here: http://www.pbase.com/peterericsson/gunung_gede_java
Here is my birdlist
1. Little Egret – a few in ditches at the airport
2. Cattle Egret – several at the airport
3. Javan Pond Heron – a few in breeding plumage at the airport
4. Crested Serpent Eagle – seen twice, heard daily
5. Javan Hawk Eagle - one seen briefly above the Blue Lake in display flight, lifer
6. Feral Pigeon –common in towns
7. Spotted Dove –common in Cibodas Botanical Gardens
8. Little Cuckoo Dove - 2 in flight by boardwalk
9. Yellow-throated Hanging Parakeet – only seen in flight over the Botanical Gardens, lifer
10. Sunda Cuckoo – Readily heard daily in the forest, never seen
11. Cave Swiftlet – very common everywhere
12. Collared Kingfisher – Conspicuous and vocal at the Botanical Garden and golf course.
13. Javan Kingfisher – a pair at the Blue Lake daily, lifer
14. Flame-throated Barbet – heard daily , seen twice, lifer
15. Horsefield’s Babbler – heard daily, seen twice
16. Eye-browed Wren Babbler – heard daily and seen a few times
17. Pygmy Wren Babbler – heard daily and seen a few times
18. White-bibbed Babbler – 1 flock seen on lower level, heard daily, tape responsive, lifer
19. Crescent-chested Babbler – several flocks encountered, lifer
20. White-browed Shrike-Babbler – I female seen, heard daily
21. Chestnut-fronted Shrike-Babbler – common in mixed flocks
22. Javan Fulvetta – common in flocks, lifer
23. Spotted Crocias – 1 heard at 8 o’clock before Blue Lake one morning
24. Oriental White-eye – huge flocks in Cibodas Botanical Garden
25. Mountain White-eye – along the trail along with Grey-throated.
26. Grey-throated Javan White-eye, seen daily, lifer
27. Blood-breasted Flowerpecker, seen 3-4 times, lifer
28. Olive-backed Sunbird, 2 in Cibodas
29. White-flanked Sunbird, seen daily, lifer
30. Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, lower levels
31. Tree Sparrow – common
32. Black-winged Flycatcher Shrike – a few seen
33. Ashy Drongo – seen in small numbers
34. Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo – seen in small numbers
35. Rufous-tailed Fantail – 1 seen daily, lifer
36. Pacific Swallow – seen around townships
37. Grey Tit – daily at Botanical Gardens
38. Pygmy Tit – seen on two days at Botanical Gardens low in pines, lifer
39. Javan Tesia – seen daily, lifer
40. Mountain Tailorbird, very common
41. Sooty-headed Bulbul – airport and golf course
42. Orange-spotted Bulbul – seen at Botanical Gardens and grasslands by boardwalk, lifer
43. Sunda Bulbul – only seen once in mixed flock, lifer
44. Mountain Leaf Warbler – common
45. Sunda Warbler – common, lifer
46. Blue Nuthatch - common, seen daily
47. Olive-backed Tailorbird, daily at Botanical Gardens, lifer
48. Snowy-browed Flycatcher, twice seen
49. Little Pied Flycatcher – common
50. Indigo Flycatcher – only seen once
51. Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher - common
52. Sunda Robin – seen a few times along lower level, lifer
53. Javan Cochua – heard only at 1st shelter on trail to Air Panas
54. Sunda Forktail – a pair seen at junction to Air Panas, lifer
55. White-crowned Forktail – 1 at Blue Lake
56. Long-tailed Shrike – 2 at the airport
57. Javan Whistling Thrush – regularly seen along the trails daily, lifer
58. White-browed Shortwing – a pair at the 1st shelter towards Air Panas. Song is extremely rich and loud.
59. Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch - 1 near the 1st shelter on the Air Panas trail, lifer
60. Scaly-breasted Munia - 2 in Cibodas Botanical Gardens
61. Banded Broadbill - heard daily at lower levels