Mon, 14 Apr 2003

Cibodas gardens a paradise on earth

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

If Jakartans thus far have been familiar only with the Bogor Botanical Gardens as a retreat from Jakarta's hectic life, it is time to turn to Cibodas, West Java.

Unlike the gardens in Bogor, which are situated in an urban area, the Cibodas Botanical Park is the perfect place to withdraw from the chaos of the city.

Situated on the slopes of Gede-Pangrango mountain, the 125- hectare garden, where temperatures average 18 degrees Celsius, offers perfect isolation. After breathing polluted air in Jakarta and on the way to the garden, one can inhale as much clean air as one wants.

Before midday, mist often engulfs the park bringing a mesmerizing image of middle-earth.

Established in 1852, the park was initially founded by the Dutch colonial government to cultivate a variety of plants from other parts of the world, before they were planted for commercial purposes.

Inside the park one can see a trees originating from Brazil or Argentina, which can only be found in the park. There are also trees that have grown for more than a hundred years, all of which are well-documented by the garden's management.

Inside of 6,000-square-meter glass houses, there are hundreds of well cultivated species of flowers, ranging from orchids to cactus, some of which are available for visitors.

On certain occasions, according to Didin Ahmad Nurdin of the botanical garden, if visitors are lucky, they can get a glimpse of Javan tigers or eagles, which roam free looking for their prey. Javan tigers have been extinct since the 1980s, though some claim to have seen them. The botanical park borders with the wildlife reserve on the Gede-Pangrango mountain.

So beautiful that if paradise still exists on earth, Cibodas must have been part of it, Dutch scientist F.W. Went said of the park in 1945.

Celebrating its 151st birthday this week, the park will be opened for visitors free of charge on Thursday.