Occupying the entire Blanbangan Peninsular on the southeastern tip of Java, Alas Purwo National Park is a surfing mecca for its world class surf, revered by Javanese mystics and Hindu pilgrims and renowned for its rich flora and fauna.
In Javanese, the park’s name Alas Purwo translates to “First Forest” and according to Javanese mystics this is the place where the earth first emerged from the ocean. The mystics believe that spirits inhabit every trees, rock, river, spring but line between the natural world and the spirit world is blurred. They tell of people becoming lost for days among the overgrown Hindu ruins, forest trails and bamboo forests and experience mysterious apparitions of ghostly villages and other worldly characters. During Suro, the month that marks the Javanese New Year, mystics and pilgrims come from all over Java to meditate in the caves scattered through the rolling hills to harvest the supernatural energy of the place and make offerings to Nya Loro Kidul, the goddess of the South Sea.
For those more interested in the natural world, Alas Purwo has one of last remaining significant tracts of old growth rainforest in Java although the park also comprises of grassland savannahs, mangrove forests and sweeping sandy beaches. These diverse habitats support a wide range of fauna including some rare and endangered species. The parks most famous inhabitants are the small herds of wild banteng (ox) but it’s also home to the Asiatic wild dog, mouse deer, Javan deer, Silvered leaf monkey and long tailed macaques. The secluded beaches attract nesting turtles; among them the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Green turtles. Avifauna is well represented too with Green peafowl, Red Jungle fowl, hornbills, Kangkareng birds, the recently reintroduced peacock and at certain times of the year, thousands of migratory birds.
Between the months of March and November, surfers from all over the world flock to Plengkung on Grajagan Bay, where the left hand reef breaking barrels are regarded as some of the best in the world. Affectionately known as G-Land, this 1km stretch of beach has several surf camps offering bungalow style accommodation, surfing packages and sightseeing trips around the park.
Despite its popularity among the mystics, pilgrims and surfers Alas Purwo access to the park is limited and there’s virtually no tourist infrastructure. From Banyuwangi (the arrival/departure point for the Bali ferry) head south through Srono-Muncar and Tegaldimo then on to the park entrance, about 3 hours travel time. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee of 150.000Rp per person plus a 10.000Rp camera fee. From here on the 12km track through the park to Plengkung beach is strictly four wheel drive only so you’ll need to rent a jeep from the park management office which costs around 150.000-250.000Rp per day.
Unless you bring a tent and camp, the only accommodation in the park is at one of the three surf camps. Meals can only be purchased at the surf camps or back by the entrance gate so if you’re planning on camping, you’ll need to bring your own provisions.
The best chance of spotting the banteng is between 6:00-9:00AM or 3:00-6:00PM from the viewing platform at the Sadengan Savannah, not far from the entrance gate. Turtles usually come ashore along the southern beaches during the night between January and February, with hatchlings emerging pre-dawn and early morning.