Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Banyuwangi: East Java’s Wildlife Safaris and Barrelling Surf

Located on the eastern-most edge of the island of Java, just across the island of Bali, lies the town of Banyuwangi. Its busy port, Ketapang, serves regular ferries that ply daily between Bali and Java carrying passengers, cars and buses, as well as trucks laden with all sorts of goods to and from Java.
Being the east-most city on Java, this is where the dawn first rises in the morning throwing its welcoming rays over Java, this lush green but also most densely populated island.  Not yet quite popular as a tourist destination, the regency of Banyuwangi, in fact, hides many secret gems, from looming mountains, natural game reserves to rolling surge of waves, that are the dream of surfers all over the world.   Here also live the Osing ethnic sub-group, believed to speak the oldest Javanese language from which evolved Java’s most sophisticated civilization over the centuries. 
Banyuwangi Regency extends over an area of 5,800 sq. km, comprising southern beaches brushed by the Indian Ocean, to impressive Mt. Raung that stands at 3,282 m and Mt. Merapi at 2,800 m above sea level.  To its north is the Regency of Situbondo, while the Regencies of Jember and Bondowoso lie to its west, and to its east is the island of Bali.   
 Besides being the largest regency on Java, Banyuwangi is also the largest fish producer of the province of East Java, with the town of Muncar by the Bali Strait, its main fishing wharf. Banyuwangi is also known for its banana crops. Almost all gardens in this district boast trees that produce luscious bananas.
Because of the close proximity here between the islands Bali and Java and for centuries being a busy trading port, the exchange of many cultural influences in Banyuwangi is unavoidable.  Here the kingdom of Blambangan was once its most greatest kingdom, showing a fusion between the cultures of Java and Bali, mixed with that of the island of Madura, as well as absorbing Malay, Eropean, Chinese influences and traces of ancient roots from the ancient Osing Jawa people.  Some typical Banyuwangi dances that are infused with these multi-cultural influences are: the gandrung dance, barong kemiren, seblang, janger, rengganis, hadrah kunthulan, patrol, mocopatan pacul goang, jaranan butho, barong, kebo-keboan, angklung caruk, and gedhogan. These are shown during the annual Banyuwangi Etno Carnival where most of the ethnic dances are performed for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Banyuwangi literally means Aromatic Water, which is associated with the local legend, The story goes that once upon a time a king abducted the wife of his own prime minister. When the minister came to know about it he went into a rage and stabbed his wife. But before she died, she vowed that as proof that she had always remained faithful to her husband the water of the river where her blood flowed would exude an aromatic perfume, which indeed it did. The prime minister, who dearly loved his wife, regretted the murder for the rest of his life.
 The town of Banyuwangi is the gateway to your explorations to watch wild animals roam freely in the reserve of Alas Purwo, the oldest game reserve on Java, go trekking through the savannahs of Baluran, or find secluded and untouched beaches at Pulau Merah or G-Land, and travel to Sukamade Beach where turtles come to hatch their eggs.  Mountain climbers can hike up from Banyuwangi to the stunning Ijen Crater and be amazed by blue flames that spring out among the yellow sulphurous rocks, cut and gathered manually by traditional miners. (Indonesia.travel)

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