Batukaras, East Java, August 2015. Flying into Jakarta at 9 pm, filtering through the hour long immigration queue with a patient wife and two daughters, it was a great pleasure to meet friend and surf guide Irvan (facebook Irvan van Haln). Boards on the roof, luggage in the back and the girls safely on board, the 7 seater Mitsubishi pulled out of the parking bay and our road trip began. Irvan, a Cimaja local, is a brilliant guide. Knowledgeable of all the spots in the region, hard working, and having kids onboard it is good to have a safe and responsible driver.
Leaving in the evening has two distinct advantages, the first being the roads are far less congested, cutting perhaps 2-3 hours off a daytime trip, and if lucky enough you can fall asleep quickly and wake up hours later at your destination. Feeling peckish? There are ample road side shops and restaurants selling, satay, snacks, and a plethora of different foods. Luckily the kids travel well, after 8 hours of bums on seats and not a single complaint.
Arriving a little before 6 am the following morning, we were welcomed by a rising sun. A left turn off the main road that meets the coast took us quickly to our our beach side residence that we were to stay for the week, Villa Monyet (Monkey). We were met by Obai, who quickly welcomed us in. The Villa has say 4 or so freestanding two story units, large, airy and comfortable, a balcony that opens up to the ocean, with the main break of Batukaras about 1500 meters to the right, and a surfable but not outstanding reef break out front. One of the nice things about here is there is a nice afternoon and evening breeze which cools everything down and little humidity.
There are many options for accommodation, prices ranging from say 20USD per night to a couple of hundred. The main break would have the greatest concentration of villas, and it is certainly convenient, but is is nice and a little quieter to be away from the hustle and bustle, especially on the weekends when local tourists are bussed in by their hundreds.
After a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and Javanese coffee my wife and I grabbed our boards and walked to the main break. There is also a very old Fiat that can be used. Good engine and gear \box, but steering and suspension is barely there. She is a blast to drive though and would seem to be free for guests to use. The walk is an easy 20 minutes where the genuinely friendly locals give you a wave and say hi.
On arrival we were met by a lovely black sand beach, very soft underfoot, and a lively scene of surfers, banana boats, surf instructors, surf shops, restaurants and beach goers. Never overwhelming, though. The waves, the main reason to be there, would break behind or in front of the headland, and would roll gently in for three to four hundred meters.
My wife was on an 8’0 single and I was on a thicker 6’8 thruster. Not ideal boards, the 8’0 was good, but honestly the only board you need is a straightforward 9’0 longboard single. The kids had a 7’2 foamie, which proved its worth.
The break is fun, and can get a little crowded, but there was zero aggro, and lots of waves to be had. The locals rip, mostly riding longboards, and they surf really well, walking front to back, hanging ten, all the moves. And did I say no aggro, after multiple drop ins by beginners, the local crew would keep on smiling. Try that in Bali 🙂
Just be prepared for the weekend crowds. Indonesian tourists arrive in the busload and the area is kept pretty busy.
Food was great. The local fare was delicious, ranging from the local road side stores serving rice, curried meats and veggies. The four of us had trouble spending RP40,000 for the whole meal. Add a Bintang and it would come to RP80,000. Beer ain’t cheap! There are many restaurants as well serving fresh seafood, western style food etc.
What else is there to do? Visiting the near by market by bicycle takes about 30 minutes. A gentle ride along the main road and across the bamboo bridge. Veggies, local handicrafts, tools, foods.
A must do is to visit the Green Canyon. The guide picks you up, supplies life vests, helmets, shoes and shin guards, and takes you to the start of a four hour down river adventure where you float down gentle rapids, jump off boulders of various heights, and take in the amazing scenery. It looks like a scene out of Jurassic Park. Topped off with a great lunch of local fare and a ride back to the villa, all for RP200,000 per person.
There are also some good value markets, surf shops etc around the main break. Locally made clothing is well priced, as are handy crafts. The surf shops have good quality clothing, boards to sell and rent, and basic accessories. Fins are one thing not in abundance, and the search for a second hand fin or a single fcs fin proved futile. BYO fins is the best policy.
As far as other surf breaks go, we made a 30 minute motorcycle ride to Pangandaran, the site of a 2006 tsunami. The trip is pretty, with huge fields of rice stretching as far as you can see. The day was no good for surfing though, the wind was up and it made the very exposed surf very messy. Go if there is not a breeze in the sky. The beach itself attracts far more swell than Batukaras, and is the spot to break out the short board
On the day of departure, with the wind up, a good swell running, the main break of Batukaras was empty bar two people. Surprised, we walked down expecting a few good waves, but on arrival it was clear why there were so few in the water. The beach was strewn with Portugese Man-O-war, or bluebottles. Beautiful to look at, the sting of these creatures is very painful, like a jolt of 220 volts. So that was it. No more surf. It may be wise to bring lycra leggings and top though, if willing to get some waves when they are running.
Depending on what time you leave, and what time you hit Jakarta traffic, it could take a little longer back by car. We left in the evening and got back to Jakarta airport at around 2 am, in good time for our 5.30am flight home.
All in all is was a great trip, smooth as clockwork and a very well priced surf trip.
Just my opinion on getting there. Drive in, don’t fly, particularly if in a group. The trip is fun, good food to be had, and is by far the most economical way there and back at around RP17 million each way. Note that flying in is about RP17 million or so per persons, and boards are charged the same as one person (According to someone who had just flown in)
Images may in no way be reproduced. © Antony Dickson