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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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) as Rp.70.000 / person, but will be issued new regulations concerning the increase in 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 visitors Sukamade are: guide services saw turtles landed at night as much as Rp. 150,000 / group (a group up to 10 people). Other costs are: guide services release baby turtles (tukik) in the late afternoon or early morning as many as Rp. 100,000 / group.You can also make a donation to fund the conservation of sea turtles.
Once you have reached Sukamade, walk.
If you are staying at Wisma Sukamade, basic meals are available. Not such a bad thing to bring some food in with you.
Camping is very possible at Sukamade. Ask at Wisma Sukamade for the best sites and sources of fresh water.