This national park is one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia. It occupies 1300 sq km of coastal lowland forest around Sungai Way Kambas on the east coast of Lampung. What little remains of the heavily logged forests is home to endangered species of elephants, rhinos and tigers.
It is believed that close to 200 wild Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatrensis) live in the park, but reliable estimates are uncertain and poaching and development pressures are constant. The Sumatran elephant is a subspecies of the Asian elephant and is found only in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Another rare but endemic creature in Way Kambas is the Sumatran rhino, the only two-horned rhino of the Asian species. Its hide is red in colour with a hairy coat.
The area around Way Kanan, a subdistrict of the park, is frequently visited by birdwatchers. Of the most remarkable species, the white-winged duck and Storm’s stork get the binoculars fogged up.
Also in the park is the Sumatra Rhino Sanctuary, where four rhinos formerly held in captivity are introduced to wild surroundings in the hope of successful breeding. The Sumatran rhino is a solitary animal and its habitat in the wild is so fractured that conservationists fear the species will die out without intervention. Breeding centres for rhinos are a controversial component of species-protection campaigns as they are expensive to maintain and have reported few successful births. For more information, visit the website of the International Rhino Foundation (www.rhinos-irf.org), one of the lead organisations involved with the centre and antipoaching patrols in the park. It’s estimated around 25 to 35 wild Sumatran rhinos still live within the park.
For the average visitor not engaged in wildlife conservation, a visit to the park is a nice break from the concrete confines of Jakarta, but it’s not a true wild safari. Most visitors are led through the forest on elephants or by canoes on the Sungai Way Kanan and surrounding waterways. The most commonly spotted animals on the tour include primates and birds. Herds of elephants are seen here from time to time but sightings of the Sumatran tiger are extremely rare.
A day trip to Way Kambas costs around US$120 per person for a minimum of two people and can be arranged through tour operators in Jakarta. Bandarlampung-based tour agents include Arie Tour & Travel.
You could visit the park independently, but transport is limited and expensive. To strike out on your own, hire an ojek from Rajabasalama to Way Kanan, where you can hire a guide (around 100,000Rp) and arrange transport.