In earlier centuries when the population was small and the forests were large, the people of the land lived with deep respect for the forest and its wildlife. Then began a two-century long struggle between humankind and nature.
The world first became aware of the natural treasures of Ujungkulon in the 1820’s when botanist began venturing onto the peninsula to collect exotic tropical specimens. This was a time of colonial expansion and exploration and by the middle of the century; expeditions from the organization for Scientific Research in the Netherlands Indies drew attention to its unusual richness and scientific importance.
They wrote ofthe Peucang Island area in 1853:
“Beautiful and safe bays… fertile soil… a wealth of timber for ship and shore… a splendid situation for commerce… the seed for a newSingapore.”
Despite their recommendation to exploit the park’s resources, and fortunately for the future generations, nothing came of developing the region. Thirty years later in August 1883, nature intervened with a force that was unknown at that time when the nearby volcanicisland ofKrakatau erupted. It produced tidal waves that devastated the coastal areas destroying much of Ujungkulon’s vegetation and northern coastlines.
Some insight into the impact of the tidal waves was recorded by a British ship 222 km south of Ujungkulon on that day:
“Encountered carcasses of animals including even those of tigers and about 150 human corpses…. beside enormous trunks of trees borne along by the current.”
However, the re-growth was rapid and created lush new vegetation on which the browsing wildlife thrived. The first step toward the region becoming a national park began at the end of 19th century when the Ujungkulong peninsula was establishing a reputation as a big game hunting area. During the following decade, there was no other region in all Java with as much game and so the trophy shooters came and animals were killed without limitations.
A group of conservationists and game hunters became concerned about the declining animal numbers and that some species were nearing extermination. This led in 1910 to the government’s first decree protecting some of the fauna, however the hunting continued.
Two years later, came the formation of the Netherlands Indies Society for the Protection of Nature. Their efforts had very little effect until 1921 when the society granted 300 sq. kilometres of theUjungkulon Peninsula as a nature reserve.Panaitan Island was also protected as a separated reserve.There was however no supervision and during the 1930’s hunting parties shot numerous animals.
The Park's 120,551 hectares are divided into 76,214 ha of land and 44,337 ha of surrounding reefs and sea. It can roughly be separated into three areas:
1. The triangular shaped Ujung Kulon PeninsulaThe Gunung Honje
2. Range to the east of the peninsula's isthmus
3. Theisland ofPanaitan to thenorth west
The highest points in the park are the 620 metre Gunung Honje, the Gunung Payung Range peaks of up to 500 metres and Panaitan Island's Gunung Raksa at 320 metres. In the central section of the Peninsula is a large region of wilderness known as the Telanca Plateau which reaches 140 metres above sea level, however most consist of low rolling terrain seldom morre that 50 metres above sea-level.
Surrounded by unusually warm warters, seldom varying from between 29o to 30o C. The coastlines of the park are moulded by the sea around them, battered by thee Indian Ocean, the long, sandy beaches of the south coast are backed by dunes, lagoons and forest broken by rocky outcrops - a wild and windswept shoreline.
The events that led to the formation of the land we know as Ujung Kulon began about 200 million years ago when what is now the Indian continent broke away from the super-continent of Goandwanaland. It collided with the Asian continent creating huge ripples acrross the earth's crust forming the snow-claad Himalayas along withSumatra's mountaain rarnge, Bukit Barisan.
It is believed that the Ujung Kulon Peninsula and the Gunung Honje raange were at that time the southern end off the Bukit Barisan Range as Java andSumatra were connected by a land-bridge. Then 20,000 to 15,000 years ago, the land-bridge collapsed to eventually form the Sunda Straits about 9,500 years ago.
However the period when the Straits was fformed is somewhat contradicted by aan intriguing account in an early Javanese chroniclee The Book of Kings. It states that in thee year 416 A.D. the mountain Kapi (Krakatau) "burst into pieces aand sunk into the deepest of the earth' and the seas flooded the land from Gunung Gede nearBogor to the mountain Raja Basa in southern Sumatraa. The chronicle concludes:- "After the waters subsided the mountain Kapi and the surrounding land becaame sea and theisland ofJava was divided into two parts".
It is curious fact that no sea straits betweenSumatra and Java wa known before the 1100's by the far-ranging Chinese and Arabian traders and later European explorers.
Beneath the mountains andforest ofUjung Kulon, carved by the thousand of centuries of rain, wind and sea, are the foundations of the land - a young mountain system formed over the older strata of the Sunda Shelf.
Geoligacally, the Ujung Kulon Peninsula, Gunung Honje and Panaitan Island are al part of this young Tertiary mountain system whilee the central part of Ujung Kulon is of older limestone formations wwhich have been covered by alluvial deposits in the north aand sand-stone in the south.
Much of the underlying rocks and early soils of the park are covered by volcanic ash, in places up to 1 metre deep, a legacy from theKrakatau erruptions.
The mountain ranges were all formed by the same folding event in the Mioocene period creating beneath the forest of the Gunung Honje Range an eastward tilting mountain block.
A reminder of this activity is a geological fault line situated off the Tamanjaya coastline. It bisects the park beneath the isthmus as it passes through the Sunda Straits connecting the volcanicisland ofKrakatau to a major tectonic fault line to the south ofIndonesia