Around Batu Karas

One of the pleasures of staying in Batu Karas is renting a motorbike and riding around enjoying the scenery. There are a number of short trips you can take.

I’ve already written about Green Canyon, and Pangandaran, but there are a few more choices.

Batu Hiu (Shark Rock) has an interesting past.

According to an 11th century legend, a group of soldiers from the kingdom of Mataram, led by Aki and Nini Gede, came to this spot.

The soldiers had been exiled from the kingdom because of their mystical abilities – something the ruling party feared.

Upon their arrival, the soldiers started fishing, and caught a huge shark. Aki and Nini Gede ordered the release of the magnificent fish, and upon its return to the sea, the shark turned to stone.

From then on, this area has been known as Batu Hiu (Shark Rock).

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Enter the Batu Hiu recreation park through the mouth of a giant shark.
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Government ran sea turtle breeding project near Batu Hiu.

Citumang is sometimes referred to as ‘Green Canyon 2′ – it has a beautiful nature trail through a Balsa wood forest, along a river fed by a natural spring.

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The natural spring in this cave is the source of the river.
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The river goes over several waterfalls as it winds its way through the valley below, providing a natural irrigation system.
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A very easy to follow trail among the Balsa trees.

Just a short walk over the hill from Batu Karas, the lies the very private and secluded Batu Nungul beach. Just walk through the car park in the center of the village and ask directions. There is a marginal trail that leads up and over the hill. Take your lunch – it’s a nice spot to spend the day.

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The pictures below are a small sampling of the scenic beauty around Batu Karas you can enjoy by just riding around.

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Living with the ever present possibility of a tsunami is a fact of life here. A tsunami can happen at any time, even when no earthquake is felt.

Batu Karas Accommodation

There are just a few accommodation options in Batu Karas. The majority of visitors to Batu Karas are Indonesians, so avoid arriving on weekends, or public holidays, unless you book ahead – Batu Karas hotels fill up quickly at these times.

During busy, holiday periods, hotel rates can quadruple.

Bonsai Bungalows, Java Cove, and Teratai Hotel are the only hotels in the center of the village, near the best surf break. The others are over the hill to the north towards the secondary surf (reef) break.

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Bonsai Bungalows

This Australian owned hotel is my top choice. It’s extremely well managed, clean, and has a very helpful staff. Its design also blends well with the rustic atmosphere of Batu Karas.

They have four rooms with twin beds, and two large rooms that sleep six. Air conditioning and hot water showers are available. Rates start at Rp.150,000 for a fan room with a cold shower – there is a community hot shower that everyone has access to at no additional charge. Complementary coffee will be waiting for you every morning on your veranda.

Phone:+62 26 5709 3199

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Java Cove

As far upscale as you can go in Batu Karas, Australian owned Java Cove offers plush, air conditioned rooms, with cable TV, and hot water for Rp.900,000. They have other room options all along the price scale, down to a fan room, with cold water shower for Rp.150,000. Their restaurant serves up fresh bread flown in from Bandung, and the best (and only) pizza and western breakfast in town.

Phone:+62 26 708 2020

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Teratai Hotel

Teratai is getting all new rooms that are scheduled to be complete 12 September, 2010. They have twin rooms and bungalows with fan and cold water showers from Rp.150,000. Leni, the owner, is a delight.

Phone:+62 26 5708 2024, +62 81 662 3372

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Sindang Asih

This is closer to a home stay than a hotel – a very friendly family offers three small, fairly new rooms with fan and cold water shower for Rp.150,000. On occasion, they may invite you for dinner with the family.

Phone:+62 81 3951 42258

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Sunrise Resort

Batu Karas’s newest luxury option, Australian owned Sunrise Resort, will offer plush rooms with all the amenities. It’s scheduled to open later this year.

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Pondok Putri Hotel

This is a simple, clean mid-range hotel. It has air conditioned rooms, hot water showers, a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and the only bar in town. Rates start at Rp.260,000. The entire top floor is a family suite with a living room, study, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and two balconies that goes for Rp.1,000,000 a night.

Phone:+62 81 323 106 115, +62 81 323 085 284

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Reef Hotel

Reef Hotel is right across from the reef break at the north end of the village. They are currently doing some renovations, so it should be a bit nicer than it was in the past. They have simple fan rooms with cold water showers for Rp.200,000. Their restaurant serves up the normal traveler’s menu at fair prices.

Phone:+62 81 3203 40193

Batu Karas

Batu Karas is a secret Indonesian surf spot, only known to those in the know, so implies one website that offers a tour to an unnamed, charming surf village offering sand barrels and shorty takeoffs on a 300 meter point break.

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Batu Karas Point creates the famous Point Break surf wave in Batu Karas.
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Black sand beach at Batu Karas.
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Surfer challenges the reef break at Batu Karas.

In 2006, Tom Williams, owner of Bonsai Bungalows, came to Batu Karas on a holiday, fell in love with the village, and never left. A local surfer showed him the plot of land where Bonsai Bungalows now stands and he made a snap decision to buy it. He realized there would be pitfalls, but also knew they could be dealt with along the way, as they have.

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Bonsai Bungalows offers simple, clean accommodation from Rp.150,000. +62 26 5709 3199

So, what is it about Batu Karas that makes it so special?

Batu Karas is a sleepy village, possessing a rare charm and friendly vibe, despite recent growth in tourism to the area.

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Downtown Batu Karas

The locals are a large part of what makes Batu Karas special – always ready with a smile, eager to interact with visitors, and they seem to have a good understanding of what travelers want to experience.

It’s the best place in Java to learn to surf – lessons from talented local surfers are readily available. But, you don’t have to be a surfer to feel at home here – you may choose to simply relax on the beach, and enjoy the charm of this relaxed fishing village.

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Most of the locals are fishermen.

There is no one trying to sell you sunglasses, sarongs, or massages on the beach, your privacy is warmly respected, and yet, if you do need something – a bike to rent or a guide to a nearby place of interest – then they will easily accommodate your needs. Prices for things such as surf board, bike, and boat rental are fairly fixed in the village, which helps to avoid haggling, and any ill feelings or misunderstandings.

Although choices for places to eat are a little limited, the few restaurants that do exist are friendly and have a nice atmosphere. Jesfas restaurant in particular, is a warm, friendly, family run establishment and a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. If it’s a delicious seafood meal with fresh local produce you seek, then Bay View restaurant has an impressive array of lobsters, tiger prawns and local fish, freshly caught on the day.

Night life is fairly non existent, but partying is not really what this place is about – its true asset is that it’s a relaxed friendly little village where the days can be passed eating, surfing, and simply lazing in a hammock and working on your sun tan. There are plenty of adventurous things to do in the surrounding areas, but for Batu Karas itself, there is just one rule – take it easy and soak up the serenity!

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Sunset on the reef.

Getting to Batu Karas

The easiest way to get to Batu Karas from Jakarta or Bandung is the 40 minute Susi Air flight. My experience on Susi Air was fantastic!

By bus: to Pangandaran, then to Cijulang, then an ojek to Batu Karas.

By Train: Banjar is the transit point on the Jakarta – Jogjakarta line. From Banjar it’s a two hour bus ride to Pangandaran, then on to Cijulang where you can get an ojek to Batu Karas.

batr karasWalking from Cijulang is also an option. From the bus station in Cijulang, go left about a half km, across a bridge. Turn left just after the bridge, walk through the sawmill, then onto a very easy to follow path that will take you through the jungle, across a bamboo bridge, then to the main road. Turn left at the “Y” intersection, and follow the road into Batu Karas. It’s about 4.5 km from Cijulang and takes about an hour.

The path from Cijulang to Batu Karas looks like this:

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Top left: After you turn left after crossing the bridge on the main road.
Top right: At the top of the hill, turn right.
Bottom left: Walk straight to the top of the next hill.
Bottom right: Follow the nice tree-lined path through the jungle.

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Cross the beautiful bridge.

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Top left: After you cross the bridge, pay the Rp.1000 toll.
Top right: Turn right, and walk down this path for about 100 meters.
Bottom left: Turn left at this intersection.
Bottom right: Enjoy the walk through the villages.

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Top left: Continue walking along the shady, tree-lined road.
Top right: Past children who seldom see a foreigner.
Bottom left: To the end of the road at Batu Karas.
Bottom right: Turn right, and walk about half km to the main village.

Pangandaran

After enjoying the calm of Batu Karas for a week, Pangandaran’s hawker, and warung lined beaches seemed a bit harsh. In reality though, Pangandaran is charming – an over-grown fishing village that has evolved into a popular beach resort for Indonesian’s. It remains mostly off the foreign tourist’s radar for a couple of reasons – it’s difficult to reach, and nearby Bali seems to offer much more.

But, more is not always better. For the foreign tourists who do make the effort, Pangandaran has one of Java’s best beaches, a chilled atmosphere, and waterfront café’s that offer a relatively quiet respite from the crowds of Bali, especially during the week. On weekends, it gets crowded as people from Jakarta and Bandung arrive. Public holidays are definitely a time to avoid visiting.

Pangandaran is on a Peninsula, so its beaches face East and West. The road along the west beach is lined with hotels and restaurants, and the beach itself is crowded with makeshift vendor tents offering everything from sandals to tattoos. There seems to be an endless parade of hawkers as well, which tend to take something away from the serenity of the beach. Then, of course, there are the obligatory banana boat and jets ski rentals that detract a bit more. Surfers enjoy the good swells that roll in from the southwest. The beach gets quieter at the north end, but swimming at the northern end is not safe.

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West Beach - Pangandaran

The east beach is much quieter, but it’s mostly a fishing beach. It’s the place to be at dinner time when the numerous seafood restaurants are cooking up the catches of the day – crab, a variety of fish, shrimp, and squid. Some of the restaurants are market style where you chose your dinner while it’s swimming in an aquarium.The seafood and atmosphere is so good, I know people who drive all the way from jakarta on the weekend just for dinner.

Taman Nasional Pangandaran (Pangandaran National Park) covers the southern end of the Peninsula. The stone path around the recreation area is very easy to follow, and a very pleasant walk through the Pananjung forest. There is a variety of wildlife to see – monkeys, deer, lizards, Flying Lumur, Hornbill, and a variety of other birds are in abundance.

Taman Nasional Pangandaran, Pangandaran National Park,Pananjung forest
An easy to follow map of the trails in Pananjung forest.

The monkeys are very aggressive, because of visitors being encouraged to buy peanuts to feed them. Be prepared to be challenged by a group of monkeys expecting a handout. If you don’t have anything, pick up a tree branch – that will disperse them. Keep a close watch on all your belongings – the monkeys take pleasure in snatching anything that is loose.

About 700 species of plants live in the Pananjung forest – Marong, Ki Segal, Laban, Teak, Mahogany, and Acacia. The real gem is the huge Rafflesia flower when it’s in bloom – June and July.

If you want to see more than the well defined recreation area, a guide can show you more remote areas of the recreation area, and may even venture into the jungle preserve, which is normally off limits to tourists. Guides will offer their services at the entrance – Rp.100,000 for a three hour tour.

Overall all, Pangandaran is a great place for a holiday for those wanting to escape the crowds. One could spend a chilled week there and go home refreshed. But, does it rival Bali, as some claim? It could, if relaxation is what you’re after. But, for diversity of choice, scenery, surf, beaches, shopping, and nightlife Bali scores far ahead.

Getting to Pangandaran

From Jakarta, Bandung, or Jogjakarta, take the train to Banjar, then a bus to Pangandaran.

Alternatively, you can go the whole distance by bus – Pangandaran is well served by bus from all points in Java. The scheduled time from Bandung by bus is five hours, but that can easily stretch to 10, depending on road, and traffic conditions.

The easiest and most enjoyable way to get to Pangandaran from Jakarta or Bandung in on Susi Air – I’ve used their service, and it’s excellent. You may want to check out my post about my Susi Air experience.

Have you been to Pangandaran? What was your experience like? Please share with a comment.