Meru Betiri home for leatherback turtles

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Leatherback turtle on Sukamade Beach. (Photo: Pramitha Hendra)

IO – If you want to directly observe a leatherback turtle habitat while experiencing a sensation of adventure in the open, please visit Sukamade Beach, part of Meru Betiri National Park (TNMB) across two regencies in East Java, namely, Banyuwangi Regency and Jember Regency. Sukamade is home to 449 types of flora and 325 fauna. 

No doubt in recent years Meru Betiri, which has both forested and beach areas, has become a favorite tourist site, based on ecotourism. Based on TNMB historical data, the Netherlands designated Meru Betiri a conservation area in 1929. 

One of the favorite activities of tourists is watching leatherback turtle nesting process on the coast of Sukamade Beach. Besides the leatherback turtle, this coastline is also often a breeding ground for hawksbill turtles, green turtles, and Ridel/ Lekang turtles. 

“Usually the turtles lay their eggs from 7 PM until dawn; they need about two to three hours, starting off digging holes to returning to the sea,” said Puji, an officer at Sukamade Resort, on Sukamade Beach, Barongan Village, Pesanggaran, Banyuwangi Regency, Tuesday (11/12/2019). 

Puji explained that while turtle nesting there is quite natural, it is not every time that turtles stop by Sukamade Beach. If they are lucky, tourists can see a turtle laying eggs. 

“Tourists can see turtles laying eggs – but only if they are quiet and do not use flashlights, as well as keeping their distance from turtles who want to lay eggs. They should also stay behind the turtles; this is natural – some nights there could be no sea turtles laying their eggs,” he said. 

Marzie Fallah, one of the participants in the Ecotourism Tour Operator Forum held by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, said that the trip to Meru Betiri was a very memorable experience, demonstrating that Indonesia has the potential to develop ecotourism and attract many tourists. 

The “Tour Operator Forum” takes place from November 8-13, 2019; domestic and foreign tour operators are invited to visit several destinations, looking to develop ecotourism travel packages targeting high-end tourists. 

“Although there is no mobile phone signal in this location, it is very good for tourists to be closer and integrated with nature. That’s very impressive. And I learned a lot from my trip this time,” she said. 

Deputy of Industrial and Institutional Development of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy Ni Wayan Giri Adnyani confirmed that ecotourism is the best benchmark in implementing the concept of Sustainable Tourism Development (STD) while targeting well-to-do tourists. 

This is because the development of ecotourism is not the same as mass tourism, which only pursues the number of tourist arrivals, but rather focuses on targeting quality tourists. 

“We are trying to pursue all the potential. For this reason, we strengthened the network between national and international ecotourism tour operators, so that they can package attractive tour packages for each country’s markets,” said Ni Wayan Giri Adnyani. 

The Meru Betiri National Park area can be reached via four routes, either from Jember or Banyuwangi. To visit this national park, you should come during the dry season, because the path to this place is vulnerable to flooding during the rainy season. 

The vehicle used can also make the travelers’ experience more memorable, namely, a car with a four-wheel drive, given that the rocky and muddy road conditions must ford several streams. 

Before heading to Sukamade Beach, visitors will pass two famous beaches: Rajegwesi Beach, known for its beautiful coral formations, and Ijo Bay, with turquoise shading. (Pramitha Hendra)