Just 60 km south, or a mere one hour by road from Jakarta lies the town of Bogor, once known as “Buitenzorg” meaning “free of care”, located at the foothills of Mt. Salak. It has a high, year-round rainfall and a much cooler climate compared to metropolitan Jakarta.  Here are spread out the 87 hectares world famous Bogor Botanical Gardens (Kebon Raya Bogor), with the impressive out-of-town Bogor Presidential Palace fronting it and soaring Mt. Salak at its background.

Bogor Botanical Gardens boasts over 400 species of palm trees, 5,000 trees gathered from around the tropical world, and an orchid house containing 3,000 varieties. Records show that the Bogor Botanical Gardens harbours 3,504 plant species, 1,273 genus in 199 families.

The Gardens are said to have been initiated by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who, between 1811-1816, became Governor General of the East Indies during the interim reign of the British over the archipelago. With the help of botanists from London’s famed Kew Gardens, Raffles first laid out a small garden. However, the Gardens were officially established by the Dutch in 1817 under the directorship of CGC Reinwardt. A memorial to Raffles’ wife still stands in the Gardens.

The Bogor Gardens today function as an ex situ conservation site, a research center for taxonomy and plant utilization. In horticulture the Gardens study adaptation, planting and propagation of plants and develop the science of plant growing. The Bogor Palace, built by Sir Stamford Raffles, was the historic site where five Asian leaders from India, Pakistan, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma and Indonesia, held the preparatory meeting to decide on convening the First Asian-African Conference in Bandung in April 1955. This meeting is also known as the Bogor Conference of 1954.

Bogor itself is a pleasant town that has grown around the Gardens. Here are Iindonesia’s Agricultural University and the Zoological Museum, where is displayed the last stuffed rhino found in the Bandung plateau. From Bogor the road climbs up passing picturesque mountain resorts all the way to the Puncak, or the Peak. The Safari Park is located on this beautiful but winding route. Further beyond Puncak before reaching Cipanas is the Cibodas Park just at the foot of Mount Gede-Pangrango, laid out for the study of temperate plants, where Java coffee was originally cultivated.   At Cipanas is another out-of-town palace that has hot water springs in its gardens. Today, Bogor is a favourite place to spend weekends and short holidays. Bogor is famous for its “asinan”, fresh fruit and vegetables sour salads, and oddly enough also for its apple pies and baked macaroni.

Aside from the gardens, there’s also The Bogor Palace, which was built by Governor General van Imhoff and became the residence of Sir Stamford Raffles during his rule over the islands. Later, in December 1954, the Palace became the historic venue of the Bogor Conference attended by then Prime Ministers of Indonesia (Ali Sastroamidjojo), India (Jawaharlal Nehru), Ceylon (Sir John Kotelawala), Pakistan (Mohammed Ali) and Burma (U Nu), in preparation of and to agree on the convening of the First Asian African Conference. The  Asian African Conference held in Bandung in April 1955 and attended by 29 countries became the collective platform of the Third World in the fight against imperialism and for national independence. The Bogor Palace is laid out amidst manicured lawns where hundreds of spotted deer graze. Near the entrance to the gardens is the Zoological Museum that has a collection of some 300,000 specimens of land and sea creatures from throughout Indonesia. It houses the skeleton of a blue whale, the last rhino found on the Bandung plateau, and the coelacanth “living fossil” fish found in North Sulawesi. 

The Bogor gardens have several branches on Java, Sumatra and Bali, most important of which is the Cibodas Park located further up Mt. Gede at Cipanas. The gardens are beautifully landscaped, and are perfect for strolling.  Here, researchers produced the quinine and coffee for which Java became world famous.


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