Tagged: Surf

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.

Batu Karas surf, indonesia surf
Batu Karas Point creates the famous Point Break surf wave in Batu Karas.
Batu Karas beach
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.

Bonsai Bungalows, batu karas hotel
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.

Batu Karas
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.

batu karas beach
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:

cijulang to batu karas

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.

bamboo bridge
Cross the beautiful bridge.

cijulang to batu karas

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.

cijulang to batu karas

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.

Indonesia’s Top 10 Surf Spots

Batu Karas, Indonesia surf
Contemplating the conditions in Batu Karas.

Hanging around Batu Karas, the conversation tends to drift to surfing in Indonesia, and the legendary surf adventures Indonesia has to offer.

Here are the top 10 surf spots in Indonesia everyone seems to be talking about.

Everyone has their own story of a particularly long ride in a perfect tube, or an almost romantic reminiscence of how the sand tasted when they bit the big one.

Stretching roughly east to west along the equator, Indonesia is perfectly positioned to receive the magnificent surf swells that come in from the South and Southwest on the Indian Ocean side.

This includes some of Indonesia’s major islands, such as Bali, Java, Nusa Tenggara, and Sumatra. But there’s a lot more – Indonesia has 17,508 islands, so outside of the majors, there are hundreds of small islands that hold hidden surfing pleasures that require local knowledge to find.

Bali

Being the most accessible part of Indonesia for tourists, Bali tends to come up most frequently. Bali is easy to get to, and has a good transportation infrastructure. Bali certainly has great surfing, but also has crowds of wave hungry surfers competing for position. Many surfers have told me they’ve given up on Bali in favor of quieter surf spots.

Bali’s surfing is concentrated in its southeast and southwest coast where giant arctic swells roll in unimpeded. The southwest coast is surfed in the dry season (April – November) to take advantage of the offshore, easterly winds. The southeast coast is popular during the wet season (November – April) when the prevailing winds switch direction.

Kuta Beach is the most crowded surf beach because it is the center of Bali’s tourist industry where hotels, restaurants, bars, and shopping centers abound. Kuta beach is a great place to learn to surf with its gentle, rolling waves and sandy bottom.

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Dreamland

Dreamland has an ever popular reef break, but of late, has become overcrowded, despite its difficult access, which used to help keep the numbers down.

Canggu (Echo Beach) is north of Kuta and faces slightly more southerly, so tends to have bigger breaks, especially in the early morning.

Padang Padang, Bingin, Impossibles, Ulu Watu, and Pantai Suluban are all on Bali’s southwest coast. These surf spots are the adrenalin rush surfers live for – certainly not for beginners – you can get hurt here.

Nusa Lembongan is an island off the coast of East Bali that offers excellent surfing, and in a very laid back atmosphere. The surf spots Lacerations, Playground, and Shipwreck all break across a shallow reef, making for a dangerous, challenging ride.

Java

Plengkung Beach, also known as G-Land is Java’s crown jewel surf break. It’s home to what many consider the best, most consistent left hander in the world. It’s difficult to get to though – most surfers arrive by charter boat from Bali.

Tiger Tracks Surf Camp offers an all inclusive package that includes pick-up in Bali, return transport, food, accommodation, beverages, and pretty much anything else you’ll need – they even throw in the beer.

Prices start at U.S.$275/double;U.S. $425/single for a five day, four night stay in a standard room. Bungalows are also available at a slightly higher price. For safety’s sake, helicopter evacuation (at the guest’s expense) is available should it be needed.

Bookings can be made through Pt. Plengkung Eco Lodge, Jl. Raya Kerobokan Perokoan Semer Jaya No.7, Bali. Phone: +62 36 1847 5105. Email: plengkungecolodge@yahoo.co.id

The main G-land break is made up of four unique breaks. Kong’s is the first break. It produces a consistent, long three foot wall. Next, there is usually a natural transition into fast and furious Money Tree, and it’s nearly perfect barrels. If you’re still on the wave, Launch Pad takes over and thrusts you into it’s famous barrel. Finally, finish off with a smooth transition into Speedy – the name says it all.

If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed, 20/20 is a short walk away. It has left and right intermediate level waves. Further down is Tiger Tracks, where you’ll find the most relaxed wave – a right hand barrel that breaks over a soft (relatively) sponge reef.

Pulau Panaitan in the Ujung Kulon national park, offers experienced surfers the chance to conquer a very challenging shallow left hander rolling across a coral reef – not a good place to take a spill!

Cimaja Beach, near Pelabuhan Ratu, has a very consistent point break wave that occasionally barrels. The The Rip Curl GromSearch 2010 Indonesian Surfing Championship was held here.

About five hours from Jakarta, on Java’s south coast, Ombak Tujuh (7 – Waves), Sawarna, Turtles, and Loji are all excellent surf spots. These places are pretty remote, so you’ll want to take all the supplies you need with you if you’re camping. There are a few scattered resorts and cheap losmens in some areas, particularly around Cimaja, and Palabuhan Ratu. The environment is a paradise with its heavy left hander and barrels – experienced surfers only.

Bulak Benda, near Batu Karas is a remote, quiet surf beach that has a good supply of two to three meter righthanders.

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A righthand ride at Batu Karas.

Batu Karas is a little known, quiet fishing village 42 km from Pangandaran. It’s much quieter than Pangandaran, and offers one to two meter swells with a smooth, sandy bottom, as well as a more challenging (and dangerous) reef break. It’s known as the best place in Java to learn to surf – lessons and board rentals are available.

Nusa Tenggara

Nusa Tenggara is a chain of islands that lie to the east of Bali, and includes the islands of Lombok, Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno, Sumbawa, Sumba, West Timor, and Rote.

Lombok’s most famous surf spot is Desert Point (Bangko Bangko Beach) – a three meter hollow lefthander that can give you a 300 meter ride. It’s a bit isolated – hence the name.

Kuta has a variety of excellent waves – left and righthanders.

Batu Bolong and Ekas Bay have a famous left and right hand peak breaking in medium and large swells.

There are many surf spots on Lombok that require local knowledge to find. The local surfers are well known for their willingness to show traveling surfers their secret spots.

Just off Lombok’s northwestern coast Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno has some sporadic lefthanders with long tube rides, double overheads that wall intensely. The problem is, you have to catch it when it’s working.

Sumbawa’s west coast offers many good surf spots. The famous ones are Scar Reef (left hander), Super Suck (tube) and Yo-Yo’s (right hand reef break).

Sumba has many undeveloped, unknown surf spots that you’ll have all to yourself once you find them. Befriend a local surfer to guide you, and don’t tell anyone where you went.

West Timor, Roti, and Rote Islands are steadily gaining popularity among surfers in the know. There isn’t much surf infrastructure, but take your board, find a local surfer, and enjoy some of Indonesia’s secrets.

On West Timor, T-Lands (lefthander) is known as “Gentelman’s G-Land – the consequences of falling off a wave are much less severe than at G-Land.

While, on Rote, Nemberala ( long left hand reef break) is off a beautiful, isolated stretch of white sand beach.

Sumatra

Located 130 km off the west coast of West Sumatra , Mentawai needs no introduction – it’s a surfing legend. There are many world class reef breaks including: Bankvaults, Lance’s Left and Lance’s Right, Macaronis, and Gilligan’s. A live aboard surf charter may be the best way to go here.

Another internationally famous destination that rivals Maui, Nias’s hot surfing spot is Sorake Bay, and the beaches of Lagundri and Sorake, with excellent right and left hand waves breaking to five meters. The nice thing is that the waves are always pumping, so if you make the trip, you won’t be disappointed.

Whoops, I got a bit carried away – there a lot more than 10 surfing spots here. That’s Indonesia – an almost unlimited surfers paradise.

Please share your surfing adventures!