The extensive grounds of the presidential palace were converted into the gardens by the German-born Dutch botanist, Professor Casper George Carl Reinwardt. The gardens officially opened in 1817 and were used to research and develop plants and seeds from other parts of the Indonesian archipelago for cultivation during the 19th century. This is a tradition that continues today and contributes to the garden's reputation as a major center for botanical research.
Today the garden contains more than 15,000 species of trees and plants located among streams and lotus ponds. There are 400 types of exceptional palms to be found along the extensive lawns and avenues, helping the gardens create a refuge for more than 50 different varieties of birds and for groups of bats roosting high in the trees. The bats can be easily detected by the noise they make while competing for space under the canopies. The orchid houses contain some 3000 varieties.
At the heart of Bogor are the huge, world-class botanical gardens, known as the Kebun Raya (Great Garden) covering an area of around 80 hectares. They are said to be the inspiration of Governor-General Raffles, but the spacious grounds of the Istana Bogor (Presidential Palace) were converted to botanical gardens by the Dutch botanist Professor Reinwardt, with assistants from Kew Gardens (London, UK), and officially opened by the Dutch in 1817. It was from these gardens that various colonial cash crops such as tea, cassava, tobaco, and cinchona were developed by early Dutch researchers during the so-called Forced Cultivation Period in the 19th century. The park is still a major centre for botanical research in Indonesia.
The gardens contain streams and lotus ponds and more than 15,000 species of trees and plants, including 400 types of magnificent palms. The gardens' orchid houses are reputed to contain more than 3000 orchid varieties and are open to the general public. Admission to orchid houses is Rp.1000. North of the main entrance to the gardens is a small monument in memory of Olivia Raffles, who died in 1814 and was buried in Batavia, and further north, near the palace, is a cemestry with Dutch headstones. The cafetaria on the eastern side of the gardens, has fine view across the lawns and is a pleasant place for a snack or drink.
The gardens are open between 8 AM and 5 PM and, although they tend to be crowded on Sundays; on others days they are a very peaceful escape from the hassles and crowds of Jakarta. The entrance fee is Rp.5000 on weekdays and Rp.4000 on Sundays and holidays. The southern gate is the main entrance, other gates are only open on Sundays and holidays.