Sunday, October 24, 2010

I actually saw lions and tigers and bears...

I had a free weekend in Jakarta, so rather than go to Bali, which was my original plan, I decided to save a bit of money and do some sightseeing in and around Jakarta after learning the hotel I'm staying in can book excursions and day trips for their guests. So on Saturday, I decided to go on one excursion that takes you outside of Jakarta to the south of the city and go on a safari tour, see a tea plantation, and a botanical garden.

I learned that Saturdays are terrible days to go to Puncak, where the tea plantation is and where the safari is. Much of Jakarta's elite have weekend villas and houses and leave on Saturday morning to get there for the weekend. So there ended up being lots and lots of traffic, and we did end up wasting probably around 2 hours in total during the day just sitting in traffic. I'll know for next time that I should try to have a free day on a weekday if I want to do that again--and I do want to go that way again, which I'll get to in a moment.

The safari was really fun but not quite what I was hoping for. I should have known that because it was called a "safari zoo" in tour brochure that it would not be like the African safaris, where you view wildlife on a game reserve. I was hoping this would be a game reserve, too, especially as I know Indonesia has enough species of interesting wild animals that are likely also under threat of extinction, such as elephants and tigers. What happens is that you drive on this road through the whole zoo/park, and the animals for the most part are out in the open. You see zebras, giraffes, elephants, bears, hippos, alligators, oxen, antelope, deer, emus, ostriches, llamas, a couple of different kinds of monkeys (orangutans and another kinds I can't identify), tapirs, kangaroos, lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, and various birds. For some parts, the animals are sectioned off by moats, generally if they're dangerous, like the wild cats or orangutans, but they're still out in the open, and you can get pretty good pictures of them. Most of the other animals will come right up to the car, and you can feed them carrots and/or bananas, which are for sale in abundance as you drive up to the safari. It's pretty fun, but at the same time, it seems pretty unhealthy for these animals to be eating all the time, and the orangutans were especially rounded. I know some of them were really old, too, but even still, their potbellies were pretty big pots.

They have a baby animal zoo, which you think would be more like a petting zoo for kids, but basically you get to have your picture taken with baby animals, and I got mine taken with a white tiger cub and a slightly older leopard. I have to say, both of them were pretty smelly, and the fur of tiger cubs, despite looking so soft and fuzzy, is actually more like the roughness that some dog breeds have. But that part was fun. The safari on the whole is a nice experience, but I had to put aside how badly I felt for the animals. Some of them get to roam pretty freely while others don't get the space they would normally need to jump and run around to stay physically fit. The fatter they are, the less dangerous they are, but at the end of the day, I think I could sacrifice my enjoying them knowing they would be happier in a wildlife sanctuary or game reserve.

After the safari, we went up the mountain for lunch. You start to see hills and hills of tea leaves. Sadly, the air doesn't smell like tea, but I guess it's not in its drinkable form yet, so you're not going to smell it. In any case, the lunch was really good, but I had thought that I was actually going to get a tour of the tea plantation itself. After I re-read the tour brochure, I saw that it didn't really state that you would go to the plantation; I had only assumed that, so it was my fault for assuming. I really wanted to buy tea from there, and I did notice on the drive back toward the botanical garden in Bogor that the plantation offers tours, so that's why I want to head back out this way next time I'm here if possible, so that I can see the factory in operation and hopefully buy some tea. The plantation is called Wisata Agro Ganung Mas.

The last stop of the tour was in Bogor, as I mentioned, with a tour of a botanical garden there. It seems likely that the gardens were made for the Dutch government officials as a large "White House" of sorts is located to one side of the gardens. The guide, Citi, told me there weren't too many flowers but that there were a lot of big, old trees. She wasn't kidding. Some of them were planted when the Dutch set up shop in that presidential palace, and considering they had arrived there in the mid 1600s, some of these trees were at least 300 years old. I saw trees that were older than the entire country of Canada! It was pretty impressive, and many of them had been brought from all over, like Ceibu trees from South America, for example. It would have been a nice place to just spend some time walking around and enjoying the fresh air, but the tour doesn't really allow for it, and also, I was pretty exhausted by that point because we had spent a long time in traffic coming down the mountain. That drive would usually have taken about 30-45 minutes, and I think we spent about 1.5 hours because we could only drive about 10-20km/h the majority of the way.

Pics will be posted when I return from my trip in November, so let my stories prepare you for now!

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