Sukamade Turtle Beach: East Java

Sukamade Turtle Beach is located south of Banyuwangi city in East Java, and is part of the 55,845-hectare Betiri Meru National Park.

The best way to reach this beach from Surabaya is through Jember regency and from there through the subdistricts of Jajag-Pesanggaran-Sorogan and Sukamade. Visitors coming from Denpasar can reach the turtle beach through Banyuwangi regency, then straight through the subdistricts of Jajag-Pesanggaran-Sorogan and Sukamade.

Either way, the land journey takes about six hours.

Unless you’re using a 4WD off-road vehicle, the final leg of the journey to Sukamade Turtle Beach can be very difficult. There’s no scheduled public transportation outside the Pesanggaran area, from where the journey can be continued only via an open-top truck.

Although the local people call these trucks “taxis”, they are also used for goods and produce. They are the only local vehicles that can negotiate the steep tracks and rugged roads leading to Sukamade.

Some of the plantation produce these trucks transport include cacao, coconut, rubber, coffee and timber. Very often, passengers are carried in the same truck used to shift livestock for sale in the city.

Four such “taxis” ply the route to Sukamade. At 6:30 a.m., a truck sets off from Sukamade to Pesanggaran. Although the distance is only 35 kilometers it takes three hours.

At 1 p.m., the truck starts heading back from Pesanggaran to Sukamade.

“If there are no passengers who want to travel, then we usually don’t bother to make the trip,” said Kariyono, a truck driver plying the route.

When I visited Sukamade one Friday, no truck was available. The second choice was rural transportation; in this case a station wagon traveling the 18-kilometer road between Pesanggaran and Sorogan.

Unlike city buses rural transportation will not run unless it has a full load of passengers, and these also operate as a delivery service for local residents.

Once you arrive at Sorogan, the journey can be continued on an ojek (motorcycle taxi).

A narrow ravine runs along both sides of the 17-kilometer rocky switchback, and it is a scenic journey to Sukamade. Visitors to the area are asked to sign the guest book at the Sukamade Plantation guardhouse.

From Sukamade, the journey passes through a coffee plantation for about 4 kilometers. You can either hire a motorbike or wade across the 7-meter wide Gethekan River, which is only 40 centimeters deep. Some motorcyclists are brave enough to ride their machines through the water.

The last stop before reaching the beach is the Sukamade home stay, from where a 300-meter walk through a mangrove forest and across Gethekan River will lead to the turtle beach.

Here in the vicinity of the home stay, the forest rangers and forest ecosystem staff maintain their offices.

This is also the location of the turtle egg hatchery, and all turtles that are successfully hatched are released back into the sea.

I.D. Nugroho