Sukamade beach is about 97 km to southwest of Banyuwangi. It is a natural, quiet, beautiful place and part of the 50,000 hectare Meru Betiri National Park.
Almost every night of the year, turtles appear on Sukamade beach to lay eggs. It is clearly a globally important site and one which is protected 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by the over-worked park rangers. Some eggs are taken by the rangers to protect them from predators, both human and other animals. These are incubated in the safety of the park hatchery and the youngsters are released to the ocean on the very beach from where the eggs were laid. There are similar beaches within the park boundary but it seems to be Sukamade that the turtles prefer.
The stability of the turtle population has been helped by a careful system of tagging and monitoring, as well as the use of the special hatcheries. Watching these giant creatures emerge from the surf and struggle-up the beach to lay their eggs on a moonlit night is a unique and unforgettable experience, and one which is certain to ensure Sukamade's ever-growing profile. This is certainly off the beaten track and requires some effort to reach but it is very worthwhile indeed.
The Meru Betiri National Park officially came into being in 1982 but Sukamade has had a turtle conservation facility since 1972. Since then, nearly 3,000 turtles have been tagged here. Records show that the Dutch first found this beach as recently as the 1920s.
Lush coastal tropical forest including fringing mangroves with some more open savannah-like areas. The beaches are stunning with white sand and big waves.
Flora and fauna
At Sukamade Beach itself: green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle and the occasional leatherback.
The wilderness jungle of the surrounding Meru Betiri National Park is probably the last hope for a surviving Java tiger. The only recent evidence though has been footprints and faeces and your chance of seeing one is as close to nil as to be irrelevant. Some of the rangers believe the tiger is already extinct while even the most optimistic estimates put the population in low single figures.
Other mammals present in the park include banteng, leopard cat, wild pig, muntjac and Java rusa deer. There is also a diverse and varied birdlife.
Tropical and not noticeably different from elsewhere in Java. It rains a lot from December through March when the rivers (which are always difficult to cross) may prove to be impassable and the way in very difficult to negotiate.
National Park Office
Meru Betiri National Park Office: Jl Sriwijaya 53, Jember 68121, East Java, Tel/Fax: +62 331 335535, E-mail: [email protected]
This journey requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle or large truck for the last 50 km. Hiring a driver/guide guided in Banyuwangi with a suitable 4 x 4 is certainly the most comfortable way. The roads are very rough and several rivers need crossing via fords (there are no bridges) - a regular road car will not make this. The journey into Sukamade bench is a good 3-4 hours of off road drive involving mountain tracks, river and plantations. Enjoy very nice scenery along the ride which included rice fields, coco plantations, cliff and beaches.
You should aim to stay at least one night at Sukamade, take in the beauty of the beach and understand the place. That being said, visitors do day trip from Banyuwangi (returning very late at night as you need to be on the beach in the hours of darkness for the full turtle experience). Expect to pay a driver about Rp 800,000 (1 jeep up to 4 passenger) for his services and the car on trip sarongan-sukamade (go and back). Petrol will be extra.
An alternative is to approach from the village of Kalibaru, 60 km east of Jember. From here, stay at the splendid Margo Utomo Homestay (see lodging below) and they will organise to get you to Sukamade by truck.
Travellers on a tight budget can try the following:
admission region Meru Betiri National Park (sukamade) is Rp. 150,000 / person on weekdays and Rp. 225.000 / person in weekends and holidays, but there are talks to increase the national park entrance fees to as much as Rp 250,000 / person (still pros and cons). Other costs to be paid at the beach in Sukamade are: a guided tour seeing the turtle landing at night is as Rp. 100,000 / group (a group up to 10 people). Other costs are: guide tour to see the release of baby turtles (tukik) in the early morning is Rp. 50,000 / group. When visiting the jungle a Rp. 10.000 / person fee is applied. As of 2016 the baby turtles are only released in the early morning. You can also make a donation to fund the conservation of sea turtles.
Beach is only 5 mins walk away from the Guesthouse and it is marvellous - long sandy beach and beautiful waves 24 hours. You can visit the hatchery to see the eggs and turtles that will be released into the sea. Turtle watching begins around 8 pm – 10 pm. The guide will bring you to the beach where all must then turn off all lights and remain silent. While waiting, take a look at the sky – the stars are bright and beautiful. When the rangers spotted egg laying turtle, all must hurry to the part of the beach where the turtle has been spotted. Depending on where is the turtle, this can involve walking 1 km on sandy beach in darkness with only moon light and starlight (no torch lights allowed). On reaching the site, all were told not to stand in front of the turtle (only behind and at the side of her). No flash light photography and the ranger will only shine light from behind the turtle. All this is to avoid disturbing the turtle. From many articles in other forum, these rules are unfortunately not observed. It is sad to see that the excitement of many tourists many have caused disturbance to the turtles. This may have impact on their future breeding patterns on the beach. Please remember that the sight is already magnificent to watch even without good photographs, it will leave wonderful memories in everyone’s mind forever. The eggs will then be collected by the rangers after the turtle returns to the sea. The eggs will be kept in semi natural hatchery until the babies came out from their egg shells. These babies will then be released back to the sea. All are invited to witness the releasing of hatched turtles from the hatcheries into sea in the next morning.
If you are staying at Wisma Sukamade, payable basic meals are available. Not such a bad thing to bring some food in with you, and inform staff or your external guide if you do not wish to eat there (otherwise bill will be added upon checkout). Food is now not included in Economy room package when you stay in the Guesthouse, according to National Park contact Mr Wahyu (mobile 082337887766 or +6282233743665) , Dinner (IDR70,000), Breakfast (IDR50,000) are served Outside your room as the restaurant is undergoing renovations (as of early Jun'2017). While Mr Wahyu says VVIP Room (with attached bathroom) comes with meal option, another couple was billed for their food too. And there is no way to verify with this Mr Wahyu till you pay & leave Sukamade (due to non mobile reception).
The conservatory ground houses the Natural Park Office and their staff, a 5-room guesthouse, semi natural hatchery, mosque, in-house restaurant and support staff quarters. Electricity is available only from 6 pm to 7 am. There is no mobile signal or WiFi in the vicinity. Guesthouse offers only very basic room – dirty bed, cold water shower from pail and toilet. Rp. 150,000 / room.
Camping is very possible at Sukamade. Ask at Wisma Sukamade for the best sites and sources of fresh water.
Should you decide to engage 3rd party guide at Sarongan or elsewhere on top of the 4WD jeep, be aware/ confirm the final bill before taking up her service. One guide charges more than 850,000Rp for jeep/ per couple (though the 4WD can seat 4pax comfortably). Her guide charges is separate and on top of the local guide/ ranger fees paid to Mess Pantai; as she provides service via pointing out details during the journey into Sukamade.