East Java is the least densely populated part of Java but still home to around 40 million people. It has a variety of attractions: temples, beautiful beaches, highland lakes, coral reefs, volcanos and wildlife reserves. When the power of Central Java waned in the 10th century the vacuum was filled by East Javanese kings who estabished the Majapahit Kingdom that at its height in the 13th century included all of present-day Indonesia as well as the Malay peninsula and the Philippines. Under the Dutch, East Java was turned into a major plantation area, with coffee, cacao and rubber being the major cash crops. Many Madurese have settled in East Java, particularly on the north coast and have given the whole province a rougher, earthier character as opposed to refined Central Java.
East Java has plenty to see. The capital of East Java province, Surabaya is a cosmopolitan city with lots of good places to eat and comfortable hotels. Within a short trip are a adventures such climbing Mt. Bromo, a very active, often smoking and erupting volcano also accessible from Central Java. You can also try to conquer Mount Semeru, the highest mountain in Java at 3676 meters. Madura island, off the northeastern corner of Java and nearly connected to it, is famous its people, the Madurese, who have a distinct and notorious culture, and enjoy bull races called karapan sapi, usually held in August and September every year.
The Majapahit Dynasty, based in and around East Java, was the first Javan or Indonesia power that was able to dominate the entire Indonesian archipelago — as well as the Malay Peninsula and part of the Philippines — for hundreds of years. It conducted profitable trade relations with China, Cambodia, Siam, Burma and Vietnam. During the reign of King Erlangga, both East Java and Bali enjoyed lucrative trade with the surrounding islands, and made great artistic and intellectual advances. Part of the Hindu epic Mahabarata was translated and re-interpreted to conform to East Javanese philosophy and view of life, and it was from this area that East Java inherited most of its temple art.
East Java is efficiently connected to the rest of Java by good roads, regular trains, and air service between Surabaya and other major cities in the country including Denpasar on Bali, which only takes about half an hour. East Javanese are known for their outspoken manner and loud voice. They are the type who would talk to strangers and help them if need be. They tend to be frank and enjoy a good conversation. East Javanese people love to eat and you can enjoy various dishes while you're around. From sea food variety to beef and chicken, each dish is cooked lovingly and with great care. Make sure to try soto Madura (chicken soup Maduran style) and sate Madura (roasted skewered chicken with tasty peanut sauce) and avoid the sambal or chili if you're not into spicy food.
Surabaya's climate is very hot and humid with an average humidity of 75 percent, and an average temperature of 27°C (81°F). The average annual rainfall ins around 150 centimeters (60 inches), The rainy season runs from November to April. The rest of the year, particularly June through October is drier. The periods when the monsoons change direction (usually March-April and November-December) are characterized by harsh rains and often result in some flooding in East Java and in greater Surabaya. The months of July and August are the most comfortable of the year.
Java is the world's most populous island and the center of Indonesia culture, politics and economic life. Historical events that took place here shaped Indonesia as a whole. Outsiders still seek it out as the place to make one’s name and seek fame and fortune in the archipelago. It is an incredibly rich place, with a rich cultural traditions and places of extraordinary beauty that are not marred by island’s dense masses, noise and traffic. It is about a third the size of California but has more than three times the people.
Long and narrow and about the size of Alabama, Java covers 132,107 square kilometers (50,229 square miles) and extends about 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) from east to west and 30 to 200 kilometers (20 to 130 miles) from north to south. It is located between 6̊and 9̊south of the Equator, divided in East Java, Central Java and West Java and encompasses thin, fertile, densely populated coast plains and mountains and volcanos. They are a few remaining tracts of rain forest left but most of the land is cultivated, primarily for rice.. The climate is tropical. The wet season lasts from September to March and the dry season is from March to September. The mountains and plateaus are somewhat cooler than the lowlands.
Java is also one most geologically active places on earth. Of the 60 volcanos in Indonesia designated as dangerous enough to warrant having observation posts 30 are in Java. Smoke still emanates from 17 active volcanos on the island and Anuk Krakatau (son of Krakatau) about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Java. Some 20 peaks on Java rise above 10,000 feet, the highest being 12,060-foot Mount Semeru.
The volcanos have enriched Java with volcanic ash soil, which with the abundant rain found in most Java yields a wide variety of plant life and crops such as cloves, pepper, figs, jasmine and rattan palms. Wild animals found on Java include crocodiles, hornbills, eagles, cobras, pythons, leopards and wild pigs. Loss of habitat has led to the extinction of tigers and other animals on Java. Only a handful of Javanese rhinos remain.
Java’s productive soil has helped make it one of the densely populated places on earth. Over 60 percent of Indonesia's 270 million people live on Java, which occupies an area smaller than New York State and occupies only 6.9 percent of Indonesia (Java, Bali and Madura are home to nearly two thirds of the people). Some areas of Java have the highest rural densities in the world, with an average density of 1,600 people per square mile. Some areas it is much higher. Around the rural area of Modjokuto densities of 6,000 to 8,000 people per square miles have been recorded.
Because Java is so densely populated the rural areas have a urban quality to them.. Villages are often only a few hundred meters apart and usually no more than eight kilometers separates towns. The only cities with a true urban and industrial character are Jakarta, Surubaja and Semarang. Population growth combined with small and fragmented land holdings produce severe problems such as overcrowding and poverty.
The Javanese, Indonesia's largest ethnic group, make up 45 percent of the population of Indonesia. Five major languages are spoken in Java: 1 Javanese around Jakarta; 2) Indonesian in northwest and central Java; 3) Sundanese in southwest Java; 4) Madurese in northeast Java and nearby Madura island; and 5) Balinese in eastern Java and Bali. Each group has their culture and is regarded as an ethnic group.
Indonesia has traditionally been rule from Jakarta, which is located on Java. The Dutch had their headquarters there from 1611 to 1949. It also has become the center of Indonesia's industrial and economic boom. [Source: Kenneth MacLeish, National Geographic, January 1971]
Madura (across the Strait of Madura from Surabaya) is an island off the coast of Java that measures 35 by 160 kilometers. It is the homeland of the notorious Madurese and is famous for its bull races held each year after the harvest. About 3.5 million Madurese live on the island. More than three times that number live elsewhere in Indonesia. Only a handful on Non-Madurese live on Madura. The climate on the island is much drier than that on Java. The northern part of ths islands has cliff and sand dunes. The southern part has some cultivated lowlands. The main industries are cattle rasing, salt and fishing.
Tourists generally don’t visit Madura except during the bull racing season. A 30-minute ferry that runs roughly every 30 minutes connects the western Madurese town of Kamal with Surabaya’s Tunjung Perak harbor. Places worth a look in Madura include Bangklan, with a museum devoted to Madurese culture; the tobacco farms around Waru; the salt farms around Kalianget; and the fishing towns of the north coast with nice beaches and fishing villages with brightly painted perahu (fishing boats). Sumenep was the home of the Madurese royalty. Inside the Kraton there is a museum with possessions of the royal family. For more information on the Madurese See Minorities.
Malang (80 kilometers south of Surabaya) is one of the most attractive towns in Java. Home to about 850,000 people, it is well maintained and has leafy boulevards and relatively cool climate. Its painted pecaks, buildings and streets show the strong sense of civic pride among its citizens. This and the town's cool climate make it a popular place for Javanese to retire. Most points of interest are around the central square (alun alun), where families take evening strolls and street performers perform near old colonial buildings, There are also some interesting markets. The bird market has large selection of butterflies as well as birds. Nearby are two other hill resorts: Selecta and Songgoriti. Also, 30 kilometers away from Malang is the Purwodadi Botanical Garden.
Check out Candi Badut, a small Shivaite temple dating back to the 8th century. See the old Dutch reform Church the Gereja Katherdral Jun. Visit to Nuansa Fajar an organization that trains and employs blind masseurs from around Indonesia and seek out the ancient Singosari temples surrounding Malang. These were built between A.D. 1222 and 1292 and are mostly dedicated to the kings of the Singosari dynasty. Among them are the candi or temple of Singosari, Candi Kidal and Candi Jago,
Spend some time at the Kebun Wonasari tea estate where you can take a tour of tea plantations, play a game of tennis or visit the mini zoo. For the more adventurous, hire a guide here to take you on a demanding hike up the dormant volcano, Gunung Arjuna. Seek your fortune with a visit to Gunung Kawi. Pilgrims come to this mountain from all over Indonesia as it’s believed that the sage who is buried here will answer the prayers of those seeking fortune.
The town of Batu 15 kilometers from Malang is small but it does have spectacularly beautiful natural scenery and a cool climate and is well known for its apples and flowers. Founded in 1941 for the study of plants, the Purwodadi gardens lie about 30 kilometers northeast of Malang on the slopes of Mt.Arjuno at about 300 meters altitude. This dry climate botanical garden covers an area of about 85 ha (212 acres).
Airlines flying to Malang’s Abdul Rachman Saleh airport are: Merpati Nusantara from Denpasar (Bali) and on to Surabaya; Sriwijaya Air from Jakarta, and Mandala Airlines flies to Malang from Balikpapan, Jakarta and Surabaya. You can also reach Malang overland by bus, minibus or care with a driver from Surabaya.
Batu Family Resort
Batu (15 kilometers west of Malang and 100 kilometers from Surabaya) is a popular restort in the East Javan Mountains, dubbed Klein Switzerland (“Little Switzerland”) by the Dutch. Surrounded by three mountains, Mount Panderman, Mount Arjuna, and Mount Welirang, the town of Batu sits on a hill between 680 to 1,200 meters above sea level and has plenty to offer and do. It is known for its fresh green apples, cool mountain air, stunning natural beauty and w7-oriented recreation parks
Jatim Park or East Java boats a science stadium that can house approximately 300 persons and comes complete with indoor and outdoor science collections. The Water Park, Midi Skater, Airborne Shoot, are among some of the popular rides. Jatim Park 2, which officially opened in 2010, features an Animal Museum, with fossils and life-size animal dioramas, the Batu Secret Zoo, whoch animals like a regular zoo but also “secret” stuff, interesting facts presented through various interesting media. Jatim Park 2 also features a tree style hotel called Pohon Inn (literally meaning Tree Inn). The Batu Night Spectacular located not too far from Jatim Park 2 and opened in 2008, has rides and other features are specifically designed for night entertainment and recreation. Open from 3.00pm to 2.00am, it has gallery of ghosts, tocking boat ride,, bumper cars, the Vertical Spinning Bike, High air Bike, go carts, and other rides designed to be enjoyed under the Batu moonlight.
There are a lot of exclusive hotels in Batu which are designed to cater to the weekend market. If you are visiting Batu on a weekday outside of the school holiday season you can very likely get a nice deal at one of these higher end hotels. Simpler budget accommodations are also available and if you visit on weekdays without a reservation you will almost certainly find plenty of available options. Batu easily accessible via several transportation modes. From Surabaya, Jakarta or Bandung you can take the train which will stop at the Malang City Station. Then you can continue to Batu by taxi, or public transportation. The Abdurrahman Saleh Airport in Malang serves flights from Jakarta and Bali. From the Bungurasih Terminal in Surabaya there are frequent bus services to Malang's Arjosari bus station. The trip will take about 2-3 hours. From Arjosari Station you can take a taxi or public transportation to Batu.
Banyuwangi (Site of the Ferry to Bali) and Nearby National Parks
Banyuwangi (eastern Java) is where the ferry for Bali departs. The bus terminal and train station have transportation to destinations elsewhere in Java. Bali is not very far away and the ferries leave pretty regularly,
Meru Betiri National Park (at the end of a rough 20 kilometer road which fords a half dozen rivers on the southern side of East Java) was the last refuge of the Javanese tiger. A hundred a fifty years ago they were considered a nuisance now there may be a five left but are probably extinct. Tracks were last recorded in 1997. Black panthers, leopards and turtles are also found here. Maybe you'll see a turtle when you visit but you'll be very, very lucky if you see a big cat.
Meru Betiri National Park covers 580 square kilometers and mostly embraces coastal rain forest. Most animals are seen in the mountain forests and includes wild pigs, deer, banteng, black giant squirrel, civets, pangolin, and rhinoceros hornbills. It is rich in wild life, but the rivers make reaching the park and wildlife viewing places difficult, reach, especially in the wet season. There are not many trails within the park.
Sukamade Turtle Beach (80 kilometers south of Banyuwangi in Meru Betiri National Park) is one of Indonesia’s most important turtle egg-laying areas, Five species of turtles lay their eggs here. Most are green turtles. Leatherback occasionally show up. Grren turtles are seen mostly from December to February. Among the sandy beaches and turquoise blue water are cocoa, rubber and coffee plantations. Triangulasi, nine miles south of Sadengan is another nice beach where turtles sometimes lay eggs.
Alas Purwo National Park (southeastern corner of Java, accessible from Banyuwangi) is another small park that is rich in wildlife but is not very developed and is difficult to reach. Most of the visitors are surfers who come for the two-kilometer-long “G-Land” break and arrive by boat.
Baluran National Park (eastern tip of Java, just off the Surabaya-Banyuwangi main road) covers 250 square kilometers and is situated around 1247-meter-high high Gunung Baluran. The forests here are open dry land forests. You can go game viewing here the same way you would if you were on a safari in Africa, in a Land Rover, or from a viewing tower that has a view of a 300-hectare area. Deer, Banteng wild ox, wild dogs, samber deer, two species of monkey, wild pigs, jungle fowl, hornbills, bee-eaters and other birds can be seen. Although there are believed to be a dozen leopards in the park there are only a few sighting every ten years. In recent years there park has been overrun with Acacia thorn trees introduced as a fire break.
Sadengan Wildlife Reserve (80 kilometers south of Banyuwangi) is a better place for viewing animals wildlife because there is a feeding ground that can be seen from a viewing tower. There 700 wild buffalos in this park as well as other animals.
G-Land Grajagan: World's Best Surfing?
Plengkung Beach (at Grajagan in Alas Purwo National Park, southeastern corner of Java) is regarded as one of the world’s best surfing spots.. Nicknamed by surfers as the ‘gland’ or G-land, the surf here consistently produces some of the best and most well known waves in the world. Set amongst picturesque jungles and rain forests, the beach is located on the edge of a national park rich in exotic flora and fauna
The internationally-renowned waves at this beach are famous for their extremely long length of tube time. The long perfect barrels are the stuff surfers dreams are made of. The beach is divided into three sections, Kongs, Money Tree and Speedies. Money Tree is Grajagan’s premier wave. In season, Grajagan probably has the most consistently rideable waves in the world. The surf here though is demanding and only recommended for surfers with high skill levels. The Bahasa Indonesian for surf is ombak; good surf is ombak bagus, words that are used a lot around here. For more details on Grajagan Surfing, visit: grajagan.com.au
Despite it’s popularity in the surfing community, accommodation around Grajagan remains good value. It consists mainly of cheap losmen, basic cottages and homestays geared towards the surfing community. There are also a number of surfing tours which can arrange accommodation and transport for you. Bobby’s Grajagan Resort provides good quality comfortable facilities with views of the surf and surrounding tropical landscape.
Grajagan beach is in East Java, but is easiest reached from Bali, where it takes about half a day by boat to reach Grajagan from Bali. To reach Grajagan overland take the bus to Gilimanuk, Bali and then take the ferry to Banyuwangi, East Java. From there you will need to take another bus, often over bad roads, to get to Grajagan village. A quicker but more expensive way to get there is by ferry from Bali. The G land express runs every few days. It departs from Bali at 6am and takes two hours to get to Grajagan. Check when you arrive at Grajagan whether you’ll need a permit to surf here.
Surfing isn’t the only activity that goes on here. You can also: 1) Visit the local village of Grajagan and see the local fisherman go about their business and enjoy a simple way of life; 2) Explore caves that were used by the Japanese during World War II; 3) Hire a canoe and take a leisurely paddle to Alas Purwo National Park; 4) Try your luck fishing and catch some of the enormous creatures that roam the waters here; 5) Discover what lies under the surface of the magnificent ocean by snorkelling on the reef. With jungle, lakes and mountains surrounding this area there are no shortage of natural wonders to discover.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020