Meru Betiri National park is a large natural reserve located on the southern coast of Jember Regency in East Java. It spans across 580 square kilometers of varying topography; including sandy, coastal plains, mangrove swamps, lush rainforests, and highlands of over 1,000 meters. The Park takes its name from two mountains within its compounds: Mount Meru, measuring 500 meters above sea level, and Mount Betiri, 1,192 meters above sea level, and the highest point in the park.
With a spectacular coastal rainforest and a rich diversity of wildlife, the Meru Betiri national park is one of the most impressive national parks on Java. Traversing thick jungle and a rubber plantation, the journey to get here is an adventure but once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with unspoilt natural beauty unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Here you can search for the exotic wildlife that makes this park their home including black panthers, turtles and leopards. Sukamade is a protected turtle beach within the park and one of Indonesia’s most important turtle spawning grounds.
Meru Betiri is home to 29 species of mammals, including the Banteng, Javanese flying squirrel, leopard cat, dhole, wild boar, and Javan Muntjak, or barking deer. It is also habitat for what is said to be the last Javan Tiger, once thought to have been extinct. The last sighting of the tiger was in 1976, however, tiger paw prints measuring 28 centimeters have led the forest ministry to believe they may still roam the park.
180 species of bird soar through the Meru Betiri skies, and nearly 300 species of flora flourish throughout, including the giant Rafflesia, the world’s largest blossom.
A small area of about 8.5 square kilometers is ocean, and is dedicated to providing nesting grounds for Green Turtles, Hawksbill turtles, Olive Ridely Turtles, and even giant Leatherback Turtles. Almost every night, turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The beaches are guarded 24 hours a day, and eggs are collected in an attempt to protect them from both humans and natural predators. The young turtles are then hatched in tanks to before being released into the sea.
The best time to visit here is in the dry season (April to October) as the road into the park can is prone to flooding in the wet season. The remote location of this park means it is a destination for the truly adventurous.
Since this is a national park, you must first obtain a permit to stay in the reserve. Permits are available at:
The Meru Betiri National Park Authority
Jalan Sriwijaya 53, Jember
There are no restaurants or stores within the park itself, so be sure to bring enough food for your trip when you leave the main city.
Tape is one of the most famous “dishes” from Jember, and is made of fermented cassava. This ingredient is used to make Tape Brownies and Tape Cakes. Suwar-suwir is another traditional snack, made of cassava and sugar, coming in various flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, milk and nuts. Yet another traditional snack is Jenang Waluh, made of sticky rice and pumpkin steamed in coconut leaves.
One of the most popular restaurants in Jember is “Resto Anggrek Jember,” which is famous for its tasty Gurame Kriuk. Crispy and delicious, Gurame Kriuk is pan-fried fish, served with sweet and sour sauce. In other dishes, the fish is cooked in a variety of ways: fried, baked or steamed and flavored with typical Indonesian spices, and of course, spicy chili sauce. If you visit this restaurant, be prepared to wait in line!
Within park boundaries, available accommodations are restricted to the homestays provided by the locals in Sukamade and Rajegwesi. Or better yet, spend the night camping on Sukamade beach!
Here are a few hotels in Banyuwangi:
Ijen Resort and Villas is the only luxury hotel in the region, perched strategically at the edge of the Ijen.
National Park rain forest, with breathtaking views of the area’s terraced rice fields and majestic volcanoes. Standard room facilities include showers with hot and cold water, telephone, WiFi and minibar.
Ketapang Indah Hotel offers a pleasant accommodation, a mouth-watering restaurant, and relaxing swimming pool. Rooms are spread amidst 5 hectares of palm gardens and are tastefully decorated with coconut and wood interior design. Facilities include a private bathroom, television, phone and minibar.
Address: Jl. Gatot Subroto Km.6, Banyuwangi, East Java
From Jungle Trekking to lounging on the beach, Meru Betiri is full of things to do. Embark on a hiking tour of the park, through forests and along cliffs from Bande Alit to Sukamade. This can take 2 – 3 days, so nights can be spent camping on the beach under the stars.
Sukamade is the prime sea turtle nesting area, where you can observe and even participate in releasing hatchings into the sea. When the sun sets, you can watch as the turtles come to shore to nest. Slowly, female turtles will make the arduous climb up the beach where they will dig a deep hole to lay their eggs. Green turtles are the most common, while the enormous leatherbacks usually appear during the rainy season, from December to February.
Huge rubber and cocoa plantations can also be found near Sukamade – plantations that are rarely found throughout the world. In the surrounding forests, you can keep an eye out to see which of Meru Betiri’s diverse wildlife and birdlife you can spot.
Visit Rajegwesi Beach in the traditional fishing village of Sarongan. This is a very natural and secluded beach, with great views of hills, rivers and plantations along the way. Feel free to relax and take a swim, as waves are not very high. Some of the locals have set up homestay style accommodations, for those who cannot bear to tear themselves away.
Bande Alit Beach has various available water activities, such as canoeing, windsurfing and fishing. The “Japanese Cave,” is located on a hill about 200 meters above sea level, and was once a stronghold used by the Japanese army during the occupation period.
The closest cities to Meru Betiri National Park are Jember, to the northwest, and Banyuwangi, to the northeast. Blimbingsari Airport in Banyuwangi is a small, domestic airport, serving only Denpasar, Bali andSurabaya. The closest airport to Jember is in the neighboring city of Surabaya.
From Banyuwangi, you can hire a car and driver to take you to the reserve. As many of the roads you will encounter are not in good condition, and some pass through small fords with no bridges, a 4-wheel drive is your car of choice, as others will not be able to make the journey. The trip from Banyuwangi to Meru Betiri will take between 4.5 – 5 hours.
Take advantage of the experience by planning for at least a night’s stay in Sukamade. Turtles emerge only when night is at its darkest.
Travel time is best during the dry season from May to September each year. During rainy season, roads to the park may become impassable, and rivers may overflow.
Make a donation before you leave! As with most National Parks, Meru Betiri is extremely understaffed. The park covers a huge area, and Park Rangers work exceptionally hard to maintain the park, as well as keep its inhabitants safe from poachers. Turtle eggs are in high demand in the illegal trade.
Please remember that this is park is a natural reserve. Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints. Enjoy your stay!