The remote, tranquil beaches of Ujung Genteng, West Java, offer a variety of memorable holiday activities. (JG Photos/Sylviana Hamdani)

The Quiet Beauty of West Java

JANUARY 29, 2015

As the largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia has a lot of nooks and crannies that offer unspoiled natural charms — one of them is the Ujung Genteng area on the southwestern tip of West Java.

The coastal area boasts a plethora of pristine beaches, dramatic ocean views and unique biodiversity that would thrill any nature lover, as well as experienced surfers. Lush paddy fields, gurgling rivers and misty mountains embrace its quiet shores. And that’s exactly why this area was once labelled as the “hidden gem of Java.”

Hidden gem

Located on the outskirts of Sukabumi, West Java, between Jakarta and Bandung, it might seem odd that the natural charms of Ujung Genteng are considered hidden.

According to Sukabumi’s tourism data, more than 1.8 million local and international tourists visited the district in 2008, but only y 3.5 percent of them chose to visit Ujung Genteng.

Most tourists prefer to visit the more famous beaches of Pelabuhan Ratu, which, according to legend is home to Nyi Roro Kidul, the mystical queen of the South Seas.

Ujung Genteng, which is located about 40 kilometers from that famous beach, remains relatively untouched.

Difficult access becomes one of the main reasons of travelers are reluctant to visit this area.

From Jakarta, the journey to Ujung Genteng takes about eight hours by car. The roads are mostly two-way, narrow and congested, especially when you are passing the small towns and traditional markets along the route. And yet, they will also take you through green paddy fields, tea plantations and beautiful misty mountains along the way.

The roads worsen after you pass the city of Sukabumi; the many potholes force drivers to navigate the bumpy terrain slowly and with great care.

There are also few road signs along the route, so visitors may have to stop numerous times to ask for directions. And be warned: GPS signals may fail in certain areas.

An arched wall gate, inscribed with the words “Welcome to Ujung Genteng,” will meet you at the end of your long journey. Each car is charged Rp 18,000 ($1.44) to enter.

Ujung Genteng offers around 200 forms of accommodations, ranging from humble homestays to star-rated hotels. Most provide two-to three bedroom cottages, complete with a pantry. One night’s stay may range from Rp 300,000 to Rp 1,500,000.

If you choose a beachfront property, you can easily catch Ujung Genteng’s beautiful sunrise from the comfort of your verandah.

Most homestays have their own open-air restaurants that serve fresh seafood with extra-spicy chili sauce. If you prefer a cheaper meal, the many fish markets along Ujung Genteng Beach offer their fresh catch of the day.

“The local fish here is kakap [red snapper], tongkol [mackerel tuna] and lobster,” said Mamang Hidayat, an ojek rider who moonlights as a fisherman during low tourist seasons.

You need an ojek, or motorcycle taxi, to visit most of the tourist attractions in Ujung Genteng, mainly because the roads are made of jagged stony paths that are too narrow and bumpy for cars.

The going price for their services is Rp 150,000 per person, per day. The ojek driver can also act as your guide and take care of your belongings while you take a dip in the ocean or explore the area.

Ujung Genteng boasts more than half a dozen beautiful beaches and waterfalls, most of which are safe to swim in. But only a few provide changing rooms and toilets, so both locals and tourists simply wear T-shirts and shorts when jumping into the cool waters.

Here are a few spots in Ujung Genteng that are well worth the visit:

Cipanarikan Beach

The beach, which is the estuary of the Cipanarikan river, is about 7 kilometers from Ujung Genteng Beach.

The ojek ride is quite thrilling, as you will have to go through a series of paddy fields, bumpy paths and swamps to reach the area.

“Don’t worry,” Mamang assured. “As long as the passenger sits still, I can bring us safely to our destination.”

At the end of your bouncy ojek ride, you will have to hike about 350 meters through paddy fields and a small forest, at the end of which you will find a vast stretch of white sandy beaches and the calm, silvery sea stretched out to the horizon like a giant mirror under the skies.

Even though we were traveling during the holiday season, there were only a few tourists on Cipanarikan Beach.

Batu Besar Beach

Batu Besar is located about 15 minutes away from Cipanarikan. The beach is relatively narrow, with grainy sands. Several humble food stalls stand on its background. 

And yet, facing the Indian Ocean, the beach is blessed with a fantastic view of the waters, with tall waves kissing its seaside.

“It’s a favorite surfing spot for [foreigners],” Mamang said. “In March and April, the waves can be three to four meters tall.”

Huge rocks scattered along the beach make for great spots to take selfies, while children will enjoy hunting for colorful seashells between them.

Cibuaya Beach

The Cibuaya Beach is about 2 kilometers from Batu Besar. Although its name literally means “waters of the crocodiles,” Mamang assured me that no such reptiles live in the area.

“It’s just a name,” the ojek driver said with a smile.

What you will find are plenty of fishermen who are only glad to offer tourists a  quiet boat ride along the coast. Each trip will set you back around Rp 10,000 per person. The 30-minute journey on the calm waves is quite enjoyable as you will get to see many different parts of Ujung Genteng. In some areas, the water is so clear you can clearly see brightly colored fish swimming along the side of the boat.

People, unfortunately, are prohibited from jumping into the waters as “the currents are too strong,” Mamang said.

Pangumbahan Beach

The Pangumbahan Beach is a turtle conservation park owned and managed by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Along this 2.5 kilometer white, sandy beach, giant sea turtles quietly lay hundreds of eggs at night.

“Each night, there are between five and six turtles that lay eggs on this beach,” said Ujan, a supervisor at Pangumbahan Turtle Park.

A chance to watch these gentle giants crawl to shore to lay eggs under the moonlight costs Rp 150,000 per person.

To encourage these animals to return each night, the beach is kept silent and free from disturbances. The sensation of waiting silently in the dark with dramatic sounds of the waves crashing upon the shores and millions of stars dotting a clear night sky is quite otherworldly.

After the turtle finishes laying her eggs, park officials will light up a small kerosene lamp so that the tourists can watch the giant reptile make its way slowly back into sea. The eggs are then dug out and transferred to the nearby hatchery for safekeeping. 

After a couple of weeks, the hatchlings are released into the ocean — an event tourists can witness for only Rp 10,000 per person.

“In another 30 years, the females will return to this beach,” Ujan said as we watched the tiny turtles clumsily scramble into Indian Ocean. “Instinct will guide them back to lay their own eggs.”

Amanda Ratu Beach

The Amanda Ratu beach resort, which is located between Ujung Genteng and Sukabumi, is quite romantic. Located on rocky cliffs surrounded by tall coconut trees, the property overlooks an estuary that gushes out into the Indian Ocean.

The resort offers only 12 cottages, making your stay there a peaceful one. Each contains two-or three bedrooms, a bathroom and a pantry. One night’s stay may range between Rp 850,000 and Rp 1,300,000.

“I’d suggest you to come after mid-February,” said Donny Ony, manager of the beach resort. “It won’t rain so much and you can enjoy more activities around the beach.”

Again, the beach is closed to swimmers because of strong currents. But guests may explore the rocky seaside terrain and visit its natural caves at low tide. 

For those who insist on taking a dip, the resort offers a huge lagoon-shaped swimming pool.

The dramatic cliffs and rocky shores have been a popular setting for pre-wedding photographs, according to Donny. 

Closing

In spite of a number of negative reviews on personal blogs, our holiday experience at Ujung Genteng was quite enjoyable.

The locals were generally very friendly and polite, but as in every tourist destination, it would be wise to exercise caution and never leave your valuables unattended in cars or homestays.

With such a unique natural beauty and tranquil locals, the charms of Ujung Genteng will not remain hidden for long.

“The government has promised to pave the roads this year to provide better access,” said Lilis Rachmawati, owner of the Sinar Ujung Genteng Inn. 

“Hopefully, with better roads, more tourists will come to visit us at Ujung Genteng.”

For more information on Ujung Genteng, check out disparbud.jabarprov.go.id.

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