The Community-Based Tourism of Cibuntu Village, Kuningan, West Java
“The Dead End”
My destination, Desa Wisata Cibuntu, is situated in the Pesawahan Subdistrict of Kuningan District, West Java. Accessing the Village, the car I was riding needed to go through Desa Paniis. A Desa Wisata Cibuntu sign directed the car to turn left. The roadway, later, went all the way to my destination. The long asphalt road was flanked with extensive woods and dense tropical plants, where I spotted no inhabited villages. On the journey, the ambiance was green and serene. I could see Mt. Ciremai standing behind the clouds, in the distance. Then, the view on the route noticeably switched to a plantation of tall rubber trees. Their towering trunks on both sides of the road slightly covered the sunlight.
Setting foot in the village’s entrance gate, I sensed a rural atmosphere of a traditional West Javan village. On my left hand, as far as my eyes could see was a spacious paddy field. The range of freshly grown paddy fields to the yellow ones displayed a charming live painting of nature. On the right side were the small clusters of residential houses that were located distant from each other. There were no cars or motorcycles passing by. It was silent.
Driving further ahead was the forest of the slope of Mt. Ciremai. There was no more pass through, I realized I had reached my destination. Cibuntu derives from two words of the Sundanese language, ci means water/river, and buntu means the dead end. The village’s name does reflect its position. It is geographically a secluded village.
Desa wisata or tourist village is a village having a distinctiveness that attracts tourists to come. In the last few years, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has promoted some potential villages to become tourist villages. A potential tourist village should have viable sites for tourism. Its villagers are ready and enthusiastic to develop their sites for tourism and they have a unique concept for their tourist village
Receiving a special award as one of the Inspiring Tourist Villages from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy in 2021, Desa Wisata Cibuntu has been qualified to be a tourist village.
The story of how Desa Wisata Cibuntu has grown to be a tourist village was quite impressive. It started when Kuningan District‘s administration and the Trisakti School of Tourism of Jakarta made a memorandum of understanding in 2010. They liked to develop an organic base of agro-ecotourism to improve the competitiveness of the District. The two parties later decided to select Cibuntu as a tourist village. Two years later, Kuningan District‘s administration soft-launched Desa Wisata Cibuntu. And the Village began to open its door for external guests.
In the mean time, the Trisakti School of Tourism facilitated Cibuntu villagers in the technical knowledge and management of tourism like developing homestays, local culinary, and tourist sites. Some natives of Cibuntu also played a role in establishing their village to be desa wisata. After having careers in Jakarta for several years, some of them determined to return home to contribute to developing tourism in their village.
The entire Cibuntu tourist village has now been managed by the villagers. They managed from the entrance ticket to a performance of cultural attractions.
Seeing the current Pagergunung campsite, for example, it was hard to believe that the campsite had been a neglected site of former mining of rocks, gravels, and soils. In 2010, led by some local key persons, the villagers started to fill the barren land with the soils and planted the two-hectare area with trees. To prevent landslides and to boost the reforestation in the elevated lands bordering with the forest, the villagers conserved the area by planting bamboo betung. Additionally, they sorted up the whole site by constructing the stone path and stairs.
By my visit, green grasses have covered the whole campsite. The pines, ferns, and other tropical trees encircled the campsite. It was completely fresh and lush. Established in 2016, the Pagergunung campsite that borders the forest of the slope of Mt. Ciremai now has permanent shower rooms and toilette, bamboo huts, and even swimming pools!
In the course of time, the creativity of the villagers has expanded. They made a center for crafts making, a kind of workshop where talented artists created crafts from terracotta, woods, and bamboo including traditional musical instruments like angklung and suling (flute). These handicrafts were for sale too. To enhance cultural life, the villagers provided a studio for the local youth to coach and rehearsal traditional dance and traditional music performances.
Both men and women alike participated in strengthening the economic life in the village. By the parking lot, some women in the village had kiosks selling local and Indonesian food. The food kiosks were aptly arranged.
On the positive side, the tourism-driven activities in the Village could resist the youth to move to big cities for jobs. They have been actively involved in tourism projects. No wonder, in 2017, Desa Wisata Cibuntu accepted the second-best tourist village award in community-based tourism from Indonesian Ministry of Tourism.
In Cibuntu, to be selected as a homestay a household needs to fulfill some requirements. First and foremost, the house must be clean. The household is ready to welcome external guests at the house as well. Furthermore, the household should provide a sleeping room and a bathroom dedicated to the guest.
Having been trained as a host, the host needs to interact with the guest and accommodate his/her need to some extent. In turn, the guest mingles with the host’s family as if s/he is the family member, including dining with the family.
According to Pak Asep, a member of the marketing team, Desa Wisata Cibuntu had 107 guest rooms that were scattered in different homestays. Interestingly, the guest could not deal directly with the host. The guest should contact the marketing unit of the village to book a homestay. “This is to avoid any disparity among the homestay owners,” Pak Asep explained.
“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Desa Wisata Cibuntu could receive a group of up to 100 people on the school holiday season,” said one of the hosts. The group consisted of school students who came to the village for study excursions.
The Village was proud of its homestays. One of its homestays, Homestay Teratai, received the fifth-best homestay Award in ASEAN from ASEAN Tourism Award in 2017.
In a glance, the residential area was very conducive. The environment was clean and green and all stone houses looked in order. The hospitable villagers knew each other very well. Similarly, the Village was safe as it has had no theft cases. “I could park my motorcycle in my home yard all night long without any worries. None would steal it,” said one of the homestay’s hosts.
What to Do
Desa Wisata Cibuntu extends in an area of 1,102-hectare land covering forest on the slope of Mt. Ciremai, rubber plantation, paddy fields, plantation land, and residential area. With such an expansive area, the Village could offer diverse activities.
Guided forest walk or village trekking was one option for physical activity. The village was well connected by smooth asphalt road. Village trekking posed paddy field and rural agricultural scenery. To access the forest, the villagers have constructed cobblestone paths and stairs as well as trekking pathway. Besides enjoying the forest vegetation, visitors could also see the waterfall, water spring, and archaeological sites.
Waterfall and Water spring
Located in the forest, visitors needed to step along the stone stairs to reach Gongseng Waterfall. The villagers found Curug Gongseng or Gongseng Waterfall in 2011. The water of the seven-meter tall waterfall fell over the granite rocks. The villagers have put out the site. They built a small pond to contain the water where some visitors were tempted to plunge into it. For the visitors to sit and enjoy the forest, the villagers have constructed wooden huts near the site.
In ci kahirupan (the water of life) water spring, visitors could taste its crystal clear water. The water was drinkable.
The land of Desa Wisata Cibuntu also hid prehistoric artefacts. “In the 1970s, there was a big archaeological project of excavation by the Local and Central Archaeology Offices,” said Mulyana, the relation officer of the Village. In the excavated site, the archaeologists found hand axes and stone bracelets inside a sarcophagus. The villagers have protected all the archaeological sites discovered in the Village. Until now, there have been Bujal Dayeuh and Saurip Kidul archaeological sites that visitors could take a look.
Considering its landscape, I could not recommend elders or children under seven years old to see the waterfall, water spring, and the historical sites on the elevated forest since they needed to step on the stairs and walk some distance. However, alternatively, they could relax at the flat and spacious Pagergunung campsite that could serve as a playground for the children. In the campsite, some wooden huts stood for hanging out. There were swimming pools for children and adults, too. The pool water was natural, it was not chlorinated. The pools got constant water supply from the water spring.
For those who like driving, the Village offered an off-road tour where visitors could go around the plantation by riding in a jeep for two hours. The final destination of the off-road tour was the hill that overlooked Cirebon City.
Those who are interested in art and culture could learn to play a traditional musical instrument or to dance traditional dancing. The youth in Studio Cibuntu can accommodate it.
Another interesting spot in the Village is Kampung Kambing/Domba. It is a complex of stables of goats. In the past, the Village Head did not allow the villagers to raise goats in their home yards out of sanitation. As a result, they pooled the stables of goats in a land segregated from the residential areas by the paddy field. In Kampung Kambing nestled 70 stables that housed 100 goats. Covered by terracotta roofs, the stables looked like small huts from a distance. The school students who wanted to learn about goat farming didn’t miss visiting Kampung Kambing.
Given its uniqueness, the Village has drawn diverse visitors. “Guests of Cibuntu were not Indonesians only. We also got expatriates from Jakarta and Cirebon,” added Mulyana.
Desa Wisata Cibuntu opens daily. The recommended time to visit is in the dry season. It is necessary to check the opening time during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Located at Pesawahan Subdistrict, Kuningan District, the nearest biggest city is Cirebon. The village is about 24 kilometers in the southwest of Cirebon, West Java,
Calendar of Event
Sedekah Bumi: an annual event in the second week of October. It takes about three days with cultural attraction and art performance and culminates on the third day.
Main entrance gate: Rp 5,000/pax
Pass ticket to the swimming pool: Rp 15,000/pax
Motorcycle parking: Rp 2,000
Car parking: Rp 5,000
Off-road tour by jeep Rp 250,000-Rp 350,000 (depending on the package)
Homestay rate: Rp 200,000/2pax including breakfast
Camping rate: Rp 250,000 -Rp 350,000 per night (depending on the package)