WESTHILL CONSULTING, TRAVEL & TOURS, INC. based in Singapore provide services such as booking, tour facilitation, travel documentation and other related services to Southeast Asian countries like KL Malaysia, Beijing China, Jakarta Indonesia and many more. However, aside from giving out warnings regarding scams, providing tips and advice out of our concern for travelers we also promote responsible travel.
We hope that the article Responsible Travel in Indonesia (Jakarta’s Monsters and Mangroves) written by Sarah Baxter, a freelance teacher and writer, will create awareness about responsible tourism.
Go and Travel to Jakarta
Jakarta is a sprawling and crowded city home to approximately 12 million people, which puts it in the category of “Mega-City.” Sadly, the size of the city is taking a toll on the health and well-being of its inhabitants. The smog that blankets Jakarta is legendary, and is chiefly produced by the cars, buses, and minivans that flood its highways. The pollution that motor vehicles, factories, and the improper burning of waste is the leading source of lung infections and other respiratory diseases affecting some of the city’s youngest inhabitants. Just walking down the street, visitors can get a sense of the chaotic lives of urban residents who must cope daily with the noise, traffic, and fumes that come with city living in Jakarta. Yet, there are still some places that offer a retreat.
On Saturday morning, I wake up early and catch a taxi to the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve to meet with members of the Jakarta Green Monsters (JGM), a non-governmental organization that cares for Jakarta’s last Mangrove Forest. The wildlife reserve is located in the Northwestern part of the city only 15 kilometers from the airport. Maneuvering through the traffic, my taxi passes large scale housing developments and modern-looking businesses before finally reaching the park. While Muara Angke is located near a busy road, the sound of traffic diminishes as one enters. I look around at the large imposing trees trying to get my bearings, when I’m greeted by a park guide who shows me to where Edy and Riri are already waiting at a bird hide. These two, with binoculars around their necks, are enthusiastic bird watchers and committed members of the Green Monsters.
Over sweet tea and fried bananas at the forestry station, they tell me about the reserve and their work to preserve the ecosystem of the mangrove forest. Originally 2,000 hectares along the Jakarta Bay, the reserve has been reduced to only 25 hectares making it the smallest wildlife sanctuary in Indonesia. The park still accommodates over 90 types of birds and other wildlife such as monkeys, monitor lizards, and snakes. The spidery arms of the mangrove trees, ideal for preventing erosion and controlling flood tides, also act as a net for the city’s garbage before it can be swept out to sea. The JGM group works valiantly to limit the damage caused by pollution and helps preserve the 25 hectares that remains of the park. In such a big and crowded city, the park feels like an oasis and offers a quick getaway to those wanting to see a different side of Jakarta.
Concerned about the marsh and its wildlife, JGM formed in 2006 to clean up the reserve and generate awareness of the wetlands. In addition to continual cleaning efforts organized every 3-4 months, the group’s first project was to replace the boardwalks winding through the park. The new walkways include a bird viewing shelter, and provide excellent observation spots for visitors. The group hopes that by generating knowledge about the importance of coastal wetlands, and the value of green spaces, they can show visitors how the environment plays a key role in the overall health of a city. In addition, by educating school children through visits to their classrooms and by conducting special organized viewings of the park, the group works to teach kids about the significance of water quality and proper waste disposal.
As we get up, Edy, Riri, and I bypass some lively monkeys near the front of the park, and take a stroll on the path that extends around 900 meters into the park’s center. They let me borrow the binoculars and I see a Fantail, and numerous other birds I can’t even begin to identify. We also see a baby monitor lizard scrambling over the wooden boardwalk and then disappearing back into the marsh. Around the reserve’s perimeter I can still see houses and buildings, occasionally a plane overhead, but in the park it’s easy to get lost while staring off at an seemingly immovable twisted mangrove tree, or waiting patiently for the next creature to present itself.
Like most environmental areas, there is a looming threat on the horizon. This particular area faces danger from the effects of Jakarta Bay’s North Coast reclamation project. The scheme entails developing Jakarta’s Northern area into a waterfront business district. A large number of people will lose their homes, and the project threatens to disrupt wildlife habitats. It’s even expected to affect the water flows of the tides. Regrettably, when people are not aware of the importance of their natural environment, and do not exert social pressure to maintain a balance between development, social welfare, and environmental protection, it’s much easier for a place’s natural assets to be lost.