Cibodas Botanic Garden Kebun Raya Cibodas and Puncak Pass
Cibodas Botanic Garden is situated about 1400 m high on the slopes of Mount Gede-Pangrango. The garden covers 125 hectare of land, including areas of valley, grassy lawn, waterfalls with beautiful highland vistas. You can experience this piece of tranquility. But there is a catch. Go to Cibodas on a weekday, not the weekend.
Eight o’clock in the morning, I met my driver-tour guide-body guard all rolled in one at the hotel lobby. We were heading to Cibodas from Bogor of West Java, Indonesia. “No smoking,” I told my driver. “No Air-Con,” he said. That suited me just fine, since we were slowly climbing the tropical highland and I could feel we left the heat behind in Bogor and were starting to breath in the breezes on Puncak Pass.
Along the way, I saw Indonesians lazily watching the passed by vehicles. Everything seemed fine and unhurried. My driver said it is a whole different story during the weekends. There would be unmoving traffic jams and street vendors screaming and selling their wares to vehicles. Basically a resort stripes overran by holiday makers from Jakarta.
Our first stop was Gunung Mas Tea Estate. You can see rolls and rolls of Camilia brushes on steep slopes picked twice a day by experience workers. The tea leaves then are transported in sacks to the main factory for drying and washing and fermenting and all subsequent processes. After grading, the finished tea leaves are packaged in bulk for export to Europe. The excellent black tea could be sampled and bought in the Tea House. This place also has accommodation for holiday makers during the weekends. But I was soon going to be staying inside Cibodas Botanic Garden.
Almost at the top of the pass, Telaga Warna is another magical place for a family picnic or with your loved one. It is a tranquil piece of water surrounded by forests on all sides. Indonesians call it “Lake of Many Colours” because the colour of the lake will change according to the amount of sunlight it receives. The plant life and organism in the water react to the sunlight to bring changes in colour. I went on a cloudy day, so it was not particularly exciting. But it was very rewarding after negotiating all the potholes along the dirt road leading to the entrance of the lake.
We took our lunch at the spectacular Rindu Alam Restaurant on top of the pass. On the observation deck, you can see Bogor in the distance and also the winding road you just climbed to come to this place. I ordered Keng Klung and rice with iced lemon tea. My driver declined the stir-fried vegetables but settled down with Nasi Goreng (fried rice). He told me that drivers will not eat this water spinach for fears of falling asleep while driving in the afternoon.
After the wonderful lunch, we continued on the highway and passed Istana Cipana, then further near the hill side, we passed the Puncak Pass Hotel, a five-star luxury for holiday makers. After, we entered the village of Cibodas. The Cibodas Botanic Garden is by the end of the road 15 minutes away from the village with flower nurseries lining both sides.
To secure a room to stay at Wisma Tamu, we went to the Administration Building and registered. I also went into the library to buy several published books on the garden.
I bought the 2005 edition of “An Alphabetical List of Plant Species Cultivated in the Cibodas Botanic Garden” and also a Japanese book called “Tree Watching in Cibodas Botanic Garden” by Hiroaki Hatta, Keiko Hashiba and Anggun R. Gumilang.
“Tree Watching” covers various routes for walks within the undulating topography. Prunus Route brings the walker an enjoyment of trees growing in the tropical montane rainforest. Natural Forest Route is the best to take to get to know the largest trees. Cinchona Route takes you to the highest area of the garden. Araucaria Route and Ciismun Route give the best vista, combining open lawn with shady avenues, secondary montane forest and Ciismun falls. Finally the Cibogo Route brings fragrant shrubs and beautiful display garden together showing them on a terraced slope with new additions of Japanese cherry blossoms.
Other than following the different walks, I quickly found my favourite spots to explore in this big garden. The Amorphophallus Collection has about a dozen of giants in leaf form. There are numerous tree fern individuals planted in the Fern Collection in front of the nursery beside the guest house. Musa uranoscopus (IB 20) has scarlet flowers, suitable for cultivation in a temperate conservatory. Brunfelsia species (ID 29 ab) have flowers opening in purple, then changed to pale pink and then white as time goes.
On the terrace slope behind the guest house, I was painting the ginger collection for 2 days. Etlingera elatior (IK 102 Aceh) has 3 metre high leaves but with eye level flowers of intense red or pure white. Etlingera solaris (IK 103 Aceh) on the other hand, is more dwarf and the flowers are near the base of the plant. The multiple yellow flowers on the cone head arranged like the ray of the sun. Plagiostachy species (IK 116) is from Paupa New Guinea while Alpinia malaccensis (IK 118) is from Sulawesi.
At 4pm, you can see the mist rolling down the mountain obscuring your path. It is cool and getting cooler and darker. By 6pm it started to get dark and by 7 pm, it is complete darkness outside my 2 floor guesthouse (an old fashion wooden chalet). My guest house has 9 bedrooms and a huge common living room completed with fire places. Although it is 25 degrees during the day time, at night it drops to about 13 degrees. I had all the windows closed to keep out the chill. With 3 blankets I fell asleep with the sound of the wild. The next morning at 6 am, I woke up by the sound of birds and Indonesian prayers. Indeed, the view in front of the guest house is spectacular from my master bedroom on the second floor. I can see the garden lawn in the foreground, the small lake in the middle ground and the valley in the distance. The price for all these is only US$ 25 for a night during weekdays.