Berbak National Park is situated in Jambi province, Sumatra. Located on the east coast, this site begins approximately 10 km inland of Berhala Strait, extending down the coas to Benu river. The eastern boundary was revised in 1985 to exclude the coastal settlements that extend from Benu river in the south to Remau river in the north. The city of Jambi lies approximately 50 km to the west and reserve headquarters are locaten at Nipa Panjang, 10 km to the northwest. Access is difficult and time-consuming due to poor infrastructure. The entrance to the park at Desa Air Hitam Laut can be reached in approximately 5 hours by boat from the reserve headquarters, although travel time may double during the wet season.
Berbak National Park covers an area of 162.700 hectares, lies at the geographical location between 104o05' - 104o26' East and 1o08' - 1o43' South, altitude 0 - 20 m above sea level, rainfall in average of 2.300 mm/year.
Berbak National Park forms a nature conservation area for the largest unexploited swamp forest in southeastern Asia. The uniqueness of the park lies in its attractive combination of peat swamp forest and freshwater swamp forest which stretches along the east coast of Sumatra.
Plant species in the park include Meranti (Shorea sp.) and various species of palm. The park in fact boasts the largest number of ornamental palm species in Indonesia. Of these, a number are categorized as endangered, including Daun Payung (Johanesteijmannia altifrons), and a newly found species, Lepidonia kingii (Lorantaceae family), which has a large, red/violet flower.
Berbak National Park is also a habitat for the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatraensis sumatraensis), Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), Lesser-malay Mouse-deer (Tragulus javanicus kanchil), 300 birds species including Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), Lesser Adjutan-stork (Leptoptilos javanicus), all species of Kingfisher (Alcedinidae spp.), White-winged Wood-duck (Cairina scutulata), Malayan Giant-turtle (Orlitia borneensis), and Batagur Turtle (Batagus baska).
Hundreds, even thousands of migrant birds can be seen in this park, makin an amazing sight when they are flying through the air in a flock.
Nine months of the year, large areas of the park are flooded. The soil in the area is highly acidic and the trees tend to be low growing, having a canopy of about 40 metres.
Though much of the area was once considered poor tiger habitat, due to a low prey base, it seems the area still holds a large number of tigers. The distribution and number are very vague and many of the conclusions drawn regarding the tigers of this area are based on little information and calculated quesswork. It is assumed, at the present time, that tiger occupy the entire park rather than restricting themselves to areas of higher prey base. The estimated tiger population for Berbak is 18 - 21 cats, 6 -7 males and 12 - 14 females.
When heavy rain cause vast flooding, the wildlife heads towards often inaccessible mountainous areas. Despite the high ground Berbak National Park is considered one of the least secure reserves for the tiger and a proposal for an improved buffer zone is underway to assist in remedying this.
Berbak National Park is home to approximately 150 members of the nomadic 'Kubu' tribe. These people were the original inhabitants of the swamps and even today they have almost no contact with outsiders. There are some people who consider the tribe may even have disappeared by now. The effect their presence may have on wildlife is unknown, but not presently considered of importance.
Declared by the Ministry of Forestry No. 285/Kpts-II/1992. February 26, 1992.