Jawatan Perhutani Benculuk
Have you been dreaming to visit Lord of the Rings kinda place? If New Zealand is too far away and too expensive for you, Jawatan Benculuk in Banyuwangi can be an alternative. Some also say it looks like the forest of Alice in Wonderland, thanks to the mystical Trembesi trees. This area was used to be the storage of teak woods during Dutch colonialism. Now it’s owned by Indonesian Government but mainly for tourism purpose. There is a very old open building unused for decades that has been taken over by a group of bats. Yes, you read it correctly, bats. However, they are harmless especially during the day and you could still enjoy sightseeing.
|Jawatan Perhutani Benculuk (before I lost those sandals in Green Bay)|
Other than nature itself, there are other interesting spots to take a picture such as a tree house and Grandong Rasta. Grandong is a traditional truck run by diesel machine usually used by villagers to transport harvests from farms. Why Rasta, because it was painted colorful: green, yellow and red, like a Rasta. This attraction is located about 30km from Banyuwangi city center, on the way to Green Bay.
Teluk Ijo (Green Bay)
Teluk Ijo is located inside Meru Betiri National Park. Ijo or Hijau means green because the sea bottom is covered by algae making the water looks green. It is located about 90km from Banyuwangi towards Jember. Before reaching the Park, we passed field after fields such as rubber, cane and other plantations owned by the government. The roads were quite bumpy (off-road) and challenging but that was the fun, right? Our driver and Fortuner car did a good job.
First, we arrived at Rajegwesi Beach. The view here is really amazing because it’s surrounded by hills. However, the beach is full of fishing boats and not good for swimming. To get to Teluk Ijo from there, you could do free trekking through a forest for 1-hour walks (2kms), or take a paid short trip boat for 15 minutes in big currents of Indian Ocean. Hmm, what a difficult choice. Some people take trekking to go there and go back with a boat, or both ways go trekking especially when the sea waves are too strong, or both ways take a boat like us.
The beach wave was quite strong when we went there around 2 PM, but there was a tiny spot in the corner where people could swim and play in the water safely. Then they could rinse in the waterfall just behind it. The sands are white, soft and made the beach more beautiful. We were quite reckless with our sandals, leaving them in the sands while we walked around the beach barefoot, and when we were back we found them gone. I lost a pair of sandals and my sister lost half. My first instinct, they were taken by one of many monkeys there (like it happened to me in Bali). Then we realized they were taken by the sea because the place where we put our sandals, even though it was quite far from beach line but apparently not that far, the water sometimes reached it. Later that night the tour guide sent me pictures of my sandals through WhatsApp. They were found floating in the middle of the sea by one of the fishermen. Goodbye my sandals, now you’ve found another owner.
Red Island Beach (Pantai Pulau Merah)
Before reaching Green Bay we would pass by Red Island Beach, about 60km from Banyuwangi City Center. We skipped it first, went straight to Green Bay then went there on the way back to the city because this beach was nicer for sunset. We passed Tumpang Pitu Mountain (also called Tumpit, means 7 Summits) which was being exploited for gold mining by a local company and supported by local government. This mining operation got many protests from environmental organizations and local people because it could harm the surrounding ecology and tourism. They said one of the impacts was mud flood in Red Island Beach last year. So sad.
Fortunately, Red Island Beach was quite nice when we got there. Many people were swimming and few were surfing. Just like the usual Java Southern Beach (Indian Ocean), the waves were quite strong and perfect for surfing. That is why this beach is quite famous among surfers (even foreigners). I love that this beach has official lifeguards who keep watching people playing on the beach. They notified loudly through speakers and put colored big flags along the beach line according to sea currents. So for people who are swimming/surfing too far from the beach that they could not hear the speakers, they could see the flags warning. Similar to traffic lights, green means ok to swim, yellow means careful and red means no swimming.
A small hill is standing in the middle of the coast not far from beach line. That is the Red Island. The uninhabited island is covered by green vegetation but the soil is red, that’s where it got its name. When the tide is not too high, people can walk from the beach towards the island. At that time we couldn’t walk there but the view was still amazing.
|Cloudy Sunset in Red Island Beach|
I saw the beach was quite clean. There were beach chairs that we could rent and many food stalls in the back of the beach near entrance gates, especially grilled fish and seafood. Still few food sellers were walking around but not annoying. Toilets and shower rooms were available but need to pay and not too proper. However, this is considered a very fine beach compared to last public beach I visited in Anyer.
Baluran National Park
On our second day, we went up to the north of Banyuwangi, to see Baluran National located in borderline with Situbondo. Most roads are stretched along sea line so we can see Bali Strait. On the way there, we passed Ketapang Seaport where ships crossed between Banyuwangi in Java Island and Gilimanuk harbor in Bali island. We also passed Watu Dodol, a big stone in the middle of the main road. Watu means stone, Dodol means selling, because many local people selling fruits and vegetables here during harvest season. There is a mystical story regarding this stone. Because it was blocking the road, once the stone was tried to be removed by pulling it by a ship. The stone was not moved even an inch, while the ship was sinking. Not far from the stone, a big statue of a Gandrung dancer, a traditional dance from Banyuwangi, was built on a hillside with a text “Selamat Datang di Banyuwangi” (welcome).
|Bekol Savanna at Baluran National Park|
From Watu Dodol to Baluran National Park gate is another 20kms. Baluran has a mountain and wide forest. The most favorite spot in Baluran is Bekol Savanna, a large open grass field with few trees here and there. Looks like we’re in Africa (van Java). It would be more dramatic in dry season where the grass is yellow and no leaves on the trees. This forest is still inhabited by many wild animals. I could see only monkeys, deer and bulls. Not as variant and wild as Africa, but they said there is also a tiger in Baluran. The other spot is Bama Beach that is facing Bali Strait. Not like beach facing the Indian Ocean, beaches of Bali Strait has mild waves. It was quiet and peaceful, except for the monkeys. From the gate to Savana Bekol it is about 11km and another 6km to Bama beach. We could use our own car to go around; offroad. Just like Meru Betiri National Park, the roads are quite bumpy, but that is the fun part.
Kampong Kopi Lerek Gombengsari / LeGo (LeGo Coffee Village)
For those who are a maniac to coffee, you should take this tour. I think this is one of the attraction places in Banyuwangi that is required local people to guide or someone that has been here before, but really worth it. We visited one of coffee farmers’ house in village Lerek Gombengsari (or popular as LeGo). His name is Pak Haryono (also called Pak Ha-O). Not just farming coffee plants, but he’s also roasting and grilling them to produce coffee in packages ready to sell. He has Arabica, Liberica, and Robusta coffees. He and his friendly family really welcomed us. They made us each type of coffee to taste, served well with Kue Cucur (a traditional sweet sponge cake), showed us how to produce the coffee, and let us try to roast few coffee beans in a traditional heating method. They also have Ettawa Goats in their house yards and let us milk the goats. Surprisingly the milk was not smelly at all, and nice to sip. Since our family loves traditional cultures like this, we really enjoy our time here.
|Drinking (a lot of) Lego Coffee|
Ancient Osing Culture Tour
We still had time in that last afternoon in Banyuwangi, why not make a stop in Osing Village for a while. This was not on our itinerary so we paid extra for the fuels, and it’s worth it. Osing people are known as descendants of Blambangan Kingdom in East Java and still living in a traditional house and wearing traditional clothes daily. However, their village is not that far from Banyuwangi city center and they are quite mingled with modern people. Some of them built homestay and culture center for tourists to try living as Osing and know more about it, which is very good. Since the guide did not prepare for this tour, we did not expect anything. We just wanted to see a glimpse of Osing houses and the village in general from our car windows. We stopped by at a culture center building formed like Osing house to take a picture. It was Closed but the door was opened and some people were walking around. One of them was apparently a Gandrung dancer preparing for the show that night! We asked permission and she was very kind to let us take a picture with her. We were incredibly happy. In the back of this house, there was a big hall for tourists to watch Gandrung dance while having traditional meals such as Nasi Tempong. Next time to Banyuwangi, we definitely will put this show on our itinerary!
|In front of a Osing Traditional House with a Gandrung Dancer|
Local Foods and Souvenirs
Traveling to new places is not complete without tasting their local foods. One of the famous foods of Banyuwangi is Rujak Soto, a mix between Rujak Sayur / Pecel (vegetables with peanut sauce) and Soto Daging (meat soup). Another favorite food is Nasi Tempong or Sego Tempong, which contains rice, some boiled vegetables, fried tempeh/tofu, fried chicken/beef/fish and very spicy Sambal (chili sauce). Nasi/Sego means rice, while Tempong means slap. Tasting the chili sauce feels like you’re being slapped haha. These foods can be found easily in street stalls or anywhere in Banyuwangi. You also need to try its Durian fruit, usually sold on the street in Cungking area (near Cungking Market). For hunting gifts or souvenir, Osing Deles is a complete place. Like Dagadu Jogja and Joger Bali, not only selling funny t-shirts, but also raw fabric (like Batik), bags, accessories and local snacks. Most authentic snacks from Banyuwangi is Bagiak, a sweet dry cake comes in different flavors such as cheese, milk, and peanuts.
Where to Stay
The travel agent arranged us staying 2 nights in a 2-star hotel in city center named Hotel Selamet. I like that the building is fully covered with Lee Kwan Yew plants. The room is nice and the breakfast meals in their restaurant are tasty. It is not difficult to find and book other good hotels in Banyuwangi. As Banyuwangi tourism is booming now, many big chain hotels are currently building their hotels there.
That was our family short trip to Banyuwangi, the Sunrise of Java. Usually, Banyuwangi trip would include catching the sunrise and seeing Blue Flame in Kawah Ijen (Ijen Crater), but this itinerary is more recommended for a family trip with children and elders because I heard trekking in Ijen Crater was quite challenging. Maybe next time I’ll go there after doing some exercise and work out (and lose weight and build muscle and… when?!). I adore Banyuwangi unique culture, a blend of Javanese and Balinese. I also fond of its nature view, how you can enjoy mountain and sea in one frame. The local people are friendly and the foods are delicious. The perk of using a travel agent is you do not need to worry anything, but walking around by yourself. Most online transportation such as Uber, Gojek, and Grab are already operated in Banyuwangi but many attraction places located outside city center so perhaps you would need to rent a car. We got a good service from tourbanyuwangi.com.
Let’s travel to Banyuwangi and bring along your family.