Meru Betiri National Park

Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Java East Java Meru Betiri National Park

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Introduction

A turtle hatchling

A turtle hatchling

© theo1006

Meru Betiri National Park is the least accessable of the national parks in East Java, and the only place left in Java with lowland rain forest. The forest was given protected status in 1931 by the Dutch and declared a national park in 1982. By that time the Javanese tiger, whose last refuge the park was, probably was already extinct. The Dutch also founded the Sukamade coffee plantation. Nowadays there are six plantations within the borders of the park, comprising 2,000 hectares.

The 580 square kilometres park is named after its highest peak, Meru Betiri (1,192 metres). It provides habitat for 29 species of mammal and almost 200 species of bird. Among these are the the Javanese wild bull (banteng), the Javanese leopard, the wild boar, the Javanese flying squirrel, the leopard cat, the Javanese eagle and the green peafowl. Its protected flora includes the parasitic rafflesia zollingeriana.

The park is managed by the Jember office of the PHKA (Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Preservation). Address: Balai Taman Nasional Meru Betiri, Jalan Sriwjaya 53, Jember 68121, phone 0331.321530 or 335535. The management is trying to attract more domestic visitors, but most of them are deterred by the long ride on bad roads. Foreign tourists come for Sukamade turtle beach in the east, the other access point is Bandealit beach in the west. Who says ‘jungle trekking’ tends to think of Kalimantan; yet Meru Betiri park is ideal for jungle trekking, e.g. a three day east-west crossover.

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Sights and Activities

  • Sukamade turtle conservation - People coming to Sukamade, do so for seeing egg-laying turtles and conservation efforts. Some visitors report not having seen any egg-laying. By authority of the rangers we can say that you should come in the rainy season, October through March; in that season some turtles are guaranteed to come to the beach each night. Why not in the dry season? The sand at a certain depth needs to be moist, otherwise the turtle mother can't dig a hole; the dry sand rushes back in. The turtle one will most likely see is the penyu hijau (green turtle, chelonia mydas). It is the most common of the four species laying eggs at Sukamade. The rarest is the penyu belimbing (leatherback turtle, dermochelys olivacea), weighing up to 200 kg. It is only sighted on Sukamade beach once in several years. If one has arrived by daylight, one will be shown around the hatchery. Then one can have dinner and should be back at the hatchery by 7:30pm, when the rangers go on their daily egg-collecting round. Bring your own flashlight! The rangers will tell you to wait silently while they search along the beach, then ask you to approach when the mother has started laying. If she is disturbed before she has started, she will return to the sea without achieving her purpose. But once she starts laying, nothing can stop her and you can touch her and make photos with flashlight. The rangers take the eggs from under the mother as soon as they are laid, for a reason. If they even wait to dig them up the next morning, wild pigs will have already done so and eaten them all. So the sole reason to hatch the eggs in a protected area is to save them from the pigs. The eggs are counted, one mother lays a least a hundred, and reburied at the hatchery. It takes about two months for the eggs to hatch. As some are collected each night, some hatch each day too. The rangers release the new turtle babies to the sea in the morning (7:00 am) and in the afternoon (4:00 pm). Get the most out of your visit and make sure to be there on time; then you yourself may set the babies free. There is a standard fee for the rangers’ guidance at night, irrespective of the size of one’s group. A donation is welcome for the releasing of the babies.
Green Bay

Green Bay

© theo1006

  • Green Bay - A visit to Green Bay (Indonesian Teluk Hijau) is more popular among local holiday-makers. The bay takes its name from the color of the sea water. It lies on the road to Sukamade, but only 3 kilometres from the border of the park. If one is not in a hurry, one may well spend a few hours at Teluk Hijau on the return journey from Sukamade. At a small parking one overlooks a bay, called Teluk Damai (Peaceful Bay). A flight of stairs and a footpath of about one kilometre lead to a beach with pebbles. From the other end of Teluk Batu (Stony Bay) a short path leads to a sandy beach, that is Green Bay. For the best spot keep going to the other end of the beach, where not only you can swim, but also take a shower under a small waterfall.
  • Permisan Bay - They say the name Permisan is a Javanese rendering of the Dutch word vermisten. If so, it is an apt name, because vermisten means 'lost people'. And it is easy to get lost in Meru Betiri National Park, guides are essential. The bay is three times deeper than it is wide, therefore the surf is very calm. There is a small island in the middle of the bay. Here one can sleep like Robinson Crusoe on the beach, but bring mosquito repellant. The easy way to get to Permisan Bay is by chartering a boat at Rajegwesi, the fishermen’s village close to the border of the park. The hard way is by a four hour jungle trek from Sukamade.
Bandealit Beach

Bandealit Beach

© theo1006

  • Bandealit beach - Bandealit beach can be visited on a day trip from Jember, but then one spends most of the time on the road. However, there are a camp ground and two cabins (to be reserved through the PHKA office in Jember). The beach is part of a wide bay, so that the surf is calm and the beach is safe for swimming as well as for fishing boats landing. And for children there is the shallow estuary of a river to play in. The scarcity of domestic visitors means that the beach is not spoilt by rubbish. And very few of these scarce visitors seek out the Japanese bunker (goa Jepang), which lies at 200 metres above sea level on a hill at the western end of the beach. Half way along the 14 kilometres jungle road to Bandealit is a rafflesia conservation site, where with luck you might see a flowering Rafflesia Zolleringiana.
  • Jungle trekking - Jungle trekking is best done in the dry season, June through September. A trekking adventure can be booked with specialised tour operators or arranged through the park office in Jember. In Sukamade one can also deal directly with the rangers; at Bandealit there are no rangers stationed. Most challenging is a three day trek from Sukamade beach to Bandealit beach or v.v. with camping overnight at Permisan Bay and Meru Bay, a total distance of 18 kilometres. With one camp night one can choose between Wildlife spotting at Sumbersari grazing area, Sukamade to Pemisan Bay and back, or Bandealit to Meru Bay and back.

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Cost

There are checkpoints at the border of the park, where one pays for admission: domestic IDR 7,000, foreign IDR 50,000 and another IDR 50,000 for permission to take pictures. Keep the ticket, it is valid for all beaches and for trekking through the park.

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Getting There

The two access points to the park are Sukamade in the east and Bandealit in the west. For Sukamade one would set out from Banyuwangi, where one arrives with the ferry from Bali or by train from Surabaya. The route to Bandealit starts at Jember town, on the railway line between Surabaya and Banywangi.

Sukamade

  • Package tour - Most foreign visitors come to Sukamade beach in Meru Betiri National Park with a 4WD tour ordered from their hotel in Banyuwangi or Kalibaru, or from a travel agent found on the internet.
  • By bus, motorbike and/or truck - An alternative to a 4WD is a motorbike. It is easier to navigate between the rocks and potholes, and it can cross Sukamade river by bamboo raft, saving a detour of 7 kilometres. One can take a bus to Jajag and there hire an ojek (piggy-back motorbike) to Sukamade, typical price Rp 250,000 for the 56 kilometres. If you are lucky a truck will take you from Jajag as far as Sarongan (14 kilometres from Sukamade), and if you are luckier still to your destination Sukamade village. No more than one truck daily goes that far, but several go to Sarongan.

Banyualit

  • Package tour - Although less popular than Sukamade, some jungle adventure tour agents will provide a trip to Bandealit beach, including a jungle hike if required.
  • By rented car or motorbike - There is even less traffic heading to Bandealit beach than to Sukamade beach. So the only feasible way to get there is by own or rented motorized transport. The distance from Jember town is about 60 kilometres. The best route is from Jember south to Ambulu, then west staying on the sealed road until one reaches the park gate outside Padukuhan (45 kilometres altogether). From here it is another 14 kilometres on a bumpy jungle road. A 4WD is advisable but during dry season a sedan car can just make it.

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Sleep

Sukamade

There are only two places to stay in Sukamade. The most popular is the plantation guesthouse Wisma Perkebunan. This lies at 5 km from the beach, so if you do not come with a tour or your own transport, you might prefer Wisma Pantai at only 700 metres from the beach. The latter is run by rangers of the PHKA. For seeing the turtles you have to deal with the rangers anyhow. One can't phone either guesthouse, no telephone line and no mobile coverage. Out of season there may be only a handful of guests. In peak season (July-August) it is advisable to make a reservation through their office in Jember. It is not necessary to bring your own food, but you can do so if you wish. But a sufficient supply of drinking water is advisable and mosquito repellent is essential.

  • Wisma Perkebunan - The plantation guest house has rooms that can accommodate three, including private bathroom with bak mandi. There is electricity from a generator only from sundown to 10:00pm. The guest house serves good meals, dinner and breakfast, and undertakes to provide lunch boxes. Office for reservation: Jalan Gajah Mada 178, Jember 68133, phone 0331.484711.
  • Wisma Pantai - The Wisma Pantai has dirty rooms with twin beds and somewhat better rooms accommodating three. If required the rangers provide meals, cheaper than at the Wisma Perkebunan. You probably share their cooking for themselves. PHKA office for reservation: Jalan Sriwjaya 53, Jember 68121, phone 0331.321530 or 335535.

  • Raflesia Homestay – The last accommodation before the park entrance, located in Rajegwesi village. Convenient if one can’t make it to Sukamade before dark or of one wants to make a boat trip to Permisan Bay.

Banyualit Beach

  • Camping - There is a camp ground close to the beach, the only facility being a tap for water.
  • PHKA Cabins - Rooms in one of two cabins, named Wisma Raja Udang and Wisma Soneratia should be booked in advance through the Jember PHKA office. There are two types of rooms, standard and VIP.

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This is version 11. Last edited at 21:33 on Jan 28, 20 by theo1006. 2 articles link to this page.

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