Having fun in the emerging playground town of Batu
I’ve spent most of my lifetime thinking that the only amusement park worth visiting in Indonesia is Dunia Fantasi (Dufan) in Ancol, Jakarta, and the only decent zoos are Taman Safari in Cisarua, West Java and Gianyar, Bali.
A few years ago, I heard of Batu Secret Zoo and Batu Night Spectacular in a small town called Batu in East Java.
Triggered by curiosity, my husband and I decided to include them in our honeymoon itineraries, as we prefer liveliness to romantic secluded resorts.
Batu Secret Zoo
The fact that not too many of Indonesia’s approximately 250 million citizens have heard of Batu Secret Zoo is probably what makes this awesome zoo so special.
The zoo concept is like any other zoo, where animals are exhibited in cages, ponds or pens, and visitors walk around freely among them.
This zoo, which opened in 2010, has so far kept the exhibits well-maintained and the animals seem healthy and well-fed.
The animal collection consists of species from around the world, such as handsome tigers from Africa and Sumatra, the biggest rodent, a capybara, from South America, various kinds of small apes mostly from South America, as well as orangutans from Indonesia.
Reptiles and marine creatures are placed in transparent tanks, in separate sections from the rest.
Most of the visitors are families with young children. But groups of youngsters and couples like us were also frequently spotted.
Aside from the good maintenance, what I really like about this zoo is its informative and effective signage system, making exploring an easy task.
The back section of the zoo houses the Happy Land amusement park with rides such as mini roller coasters, carousels, bumper cars, water slides, and even a house of horror. No mega adrenaline-pumpers here.
Batu Secret Zoo is actually a part of Jatim Park 2.
The whole park, including an animal museum called Museum Satwa and a hotel with a gigantic tree façade called the Pohon Inn, are located side by side on a 15-hectare site.
There’s also an Eco Green Park in the complex, which offers fun learning about ecology.
Jatim Park 2 is a “sequel” to the, obviously, Jatim Park, which is also located in Batu, but marketed more as a playground as opposed to a learning center.
The word “Jatim” itself is an acronym for ‘Jawa Timur’, or East Java.
Batu Night Spectacular (BNS)
Located in a small town, far from any bright city lights, this amusement park packed with rides and excited children boasts colorful lights of its own.
Batu Night Spectacular accommodates the need of locals and people from nearby towns for outdoor entertainment.
The ambience may not be as lively if you were to go there in daylight because the bright lights would be absent. Hence the name.
There are about 25 rides in the park, including the classic carousel, a go-cart arena, a glass pyramid that reminded me of the Louvre, and a radiant lantern park with all sorts of forms from ducks to the Eiffel tower.
Occupying only about 3,000 square meters of land on the side of Jalan Raya Oro-Oro, I feel that the park could use a little more space so as not to be too crowded.
We chatted with one of the staff when queuing for the sky bicycle. The conversation revealed that there is apparently a form of world association of theme parks, where the members purchase and sell rides that are old but still fully functional.
Smaller parks usually get the old rides that fit their purchasing ability. Perhaps this is why the top theme parks have all the latest and most futuristic rides, and BNS has ones with a more retro look. Nonetheless, it’s fun for everyone.
How to get there:
Batu is usually accessed through Malang. Rent a car for about Rp 500,000 (US$45.50)/day, which includes gas and driver.
It takes about 30-45 minutes to get from Malang to Batu. If you’re driving from Surabaya, it takes about two hours to get there.
BNS: IDR 15,000 / person. Each ride costs from Rp 7,000 to Rp 12,000.
Jatim Park 2 (Batu Secret Zoo plus Museum Satwa): Rp 90,000 / person.
Jatim Park 2 plus Eco Green Park: Rp 110,000 / person.
Most out-of-town visitors stay at hotels in Malang city. But for more convenience you can check in at the Pohon Inn, whose entrance is just next to the Jatim Park 2 gate. Rate per night: Rp 485,000 (week days), Rp 990,000 (weekends).