“Leave nothing but footprints, Take nothing but Pictures”
This is a part of the adventurer’s code written above one of the entrances to the Alas Purwo National Park , that sends a strong message to anyone entering the area to heed and preserve one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts to mankind. Covering a total area of 43,420 hectares, the Alas Purwo Park is situated on the Blambangan Peninsula in the Banyuwangi regency, at the southeastern-most tip of East Java, on a peninsula directly facing the island of Bali.
The Park is made up of mangroves, savannahs, lowland monsoon forests and coral-fringed beaches. The Park is considered to have the most natural tropical rainforests and one of is the oldest in Indonesia. Thousands of migrating birds visit its pristine forests each year and turtles come to lay their eggs on its secluded beaches.
Alas Purwo is also the home of some of rare and endangered species that include the Javanese bull or banteng (Bos javanicus), dhole or Asiatic wild dog (Cuon alpinus), Silvered Leaf Monkey, Green Peafowl, Red Junglefowl, Olive Ridley turtles, Hawksbill turtles and Green turtles. The forest s are also the dwelling place for mouse deer (muntiachus muncjak), long tailed macaques, lutung monkeys, Javan deer (cervus timorensis), Kangkareng bird (antracoceros coronatus), Rangkong birds or hornbills (buceros undulatus), and many more.
The national park is highlighted with hundred years’ old large trees that have an average diameter of 30cm and grow to a height of 10-15 meters. In 2002, there were approximately 580 types of vegetation that have already been identified. Among some these are the sawo kecik (Manilkara kauki), nyamplung (calophyllum inophyllum), ketapang (terminalia cattapa), and kepuh (stercullia foetida).
In the Javanese language, Alas Purwo literally means “Ancient Forest or The Premordial forest”. According to the local legend, Alas Purwo was the site where the earth first emerged from the ocean. Many seeking spiritual enlightenment and mystics flock here during the month of Suro, the Javanese New Year. These pilgrims come to meditate in caves such as the Gua Istana (Palace cave), Gua Putri (the Princess’s Cave), Gua Padepokan (the assembly house cave), and also Gua Macan (Tiger cave). Pura Giri Selokah, a Hindu temple in the park, also attracts many pilgrims, especially during the Hindu scared ritual of Pagerwesi.
Followers of Javanese mysticism also believe that spirits inhabit trees, rocks, rivers and springs. Tthose well versed in ilmu Jawa, or Javanese mysticism, are said to have the ability take on the form of wild animals. So, for followers of Javanese mysticism, Alas Purwo’s rich flora and fauna also make the area a highly revered place.