By Shahida Sakeri on February 20, 2018
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a familiarisation trip organised by the Consulate General of Republic Indonesia Johor Bahru, in collaboration with the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism, to promote an up-and-coming destination called Tanjung Lesung – an area 170 kilometres west of Jakarta in Banten Province – that is downright amazing and holds so much promise.
Tanjung Lesung is a low-key place that still holds little recognition among foreign travellers, but has been an absolute favourite among the Jakartans for many years as weekend getaway destination where they can chase sunsets and sip cool drinks underneath swaying palm trees. It is also blessed with picturesque beaches and stunning views of the mighty Krakatau volcanic mountain rising from the plains and dominates the skyline. The place is imbued with soul and romance that just by looking at it, you’ll understand why locals want to keep this dreamy paradise all to themselves.
However, I guess Jakartans now have to learn to share their hideaway with the world, especially since the government has announced that Tanjung Lesung is designated as one of the country’s ‘Special Economic Zones’ for tourism with various major projects in tow, including the development of new access toll road, a marina, an oceanarium, golf courses and more state-of-the-art hospitality to increase Tanjung Lesung’s international appeal.
To get to Tanjung Lesung that is on the west coast of Java, travellers can take a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), KLIA2, Senai International Airport Johor Bahru, Penang International Airport or Kuching International Airport to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, then embark on another four to five hours’ drive passing by sleepy and quaint villages, an exciting water park called Coconut Island Carita (Instagram: coconutislandcarita) and a stunning 75.5 metres Dutch lighthouse in Anyer (Cikoneng) before reaching Tanjung Lesung.
Upon arrival, as we were being checked in at Tanjung Lesung Hotel and Resort and in the middle of gulping down refreshing coconut water handed to us at the lobby, a group of men dressed in colourful hula skirts and contagious cheery mood approached us and persuaded us to dance along to some happy tunes. Some of us hesitated at first, but eventually gave in to the pleasant atmosphere that filled the air. Before we knew it, it was time to retreat to our own room.
My accommodation was at one of the 61 cottages built within the property: decorated in wood, rattan and off-white walls with warm and welcoming feel. It also comes with both private and open air shower (I skipped the latter in fear of showering under the gaze of curious birds). There is a small living room in each cottage that I reckoned would be advantageous for families or small groups staying together. Should travellers feel like going all out, then they can opt for one of the 50 villas available that comes with a private pool and a kitchen each. Rates of these cottages and villas start from IDR700,000 and IDR2,500,000 per night respectively.
This resort, despite being built in the mid 90s, offers facilities that are still among the best in Tanjung Lesung. It dominates the area between the woods and water that includes a 15-kilometre private beach, an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, a three-hole golf-course (with a plan to transform it to 18-hole underway), a Beach Club and an Activity Centre, altogether covering only five percent of the 1,500 hectares of land slated to be developed under the SEZ plan.
During the night of my visit, we had dinner at the Pangrango Restaurant that serves delicious traditional Sundanese dishes and fresh seafood including my top pick, the tender grilled squid. In some ways, the restaurant takes on a beach resort clichéd look with an open-air concept and teak furnishing, which nonetheless creates a relaxing atmosphere.
But the highlight of that dinnertime was the cultural showcase by a group of local children from the school funded by the resort. Performances include an eerie yet extraordinary super-human art called debus that requires its performers to pierce their body parts like tongues and cheeks with sharp instruments, similar to what Malaysians see during the Thaipusam celebration at the Batu Caves Temple. There were also the dramatic ‘Sendera Tari Dewi Tanjung Lesung’ that depicts the legend of Tanjung Lesung’s sea goddess, and a breathtaking fire show.
Guests who come to Tanjung Lesung Hotel and Resort tend to congregate by the swimming pool and the Beach Club, besides having fun under the sun while playing water sports such as snorkelling, banana boat rides, wake boarding, water polo, volley polo and jet skiing. There are also at least five attractive diving sports in the area’s waters that include a Dutch shipwreck drowned during the colonial era. But if land activities are more of your thing, the resort provides facilities for cycling, ATV adventure, badminton and table tennis.
In the next morning, I ventured out to the unspoilt Peucang Island that is part of the Ujong Kulon National Park, the country’s first national park and protected by UNESCO since 1992. This is also home to the endangered species of one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Sondaicos), famously known as the Javan rhino, which is unique to Banten. However, being shy as they are, I couldn’t spot a single one during my trip but instead saw a surprisingly tame deer, peacocks and boars roaming around freely and undisturbed by our presence at their natural habitat. Since travellers are actually entering the wild domain, they are reminded to keep a respectful distance from these animals to give them space.
Agriculture was rife in Ujong Kulon until the industry was destroyed when Mount Krakatau erupted on 27 August 1883 and killed its inhabitants, eventually turning the area into forest like it is today. If you like jungle trekking, there are plenty of tracks that you can explore, one of them leads you to a century-old Kiara tree that survived the eruption. Should you prefer to spend a night here, there is decent accommodation available here for IDR700,000 per night. The fact that the former Indonesian President, Soeharto, used to have his own space here gives an idea of how wonderful this place is. The boat ride to this island takes around two hours and the fare (IDR10,750,000) includes a lunch box and an English-speaking guide.
My time in Tanjung Lesung was rather limited, I must say, or else I’d be keen to visit a village belonging to the members of the Baduy community in the district of Lebak who still adhere to their ancestors’ traditional customs and rules due to their limited contact with the ‘outsiders’ and modern world. The Baduys, who called themselves ‘the people of Kanekes’, neither travel by car (mostly still walk barefoot) nor do they use electronic gadgets.
Every year, this community celebrates Seba Baduy, a festival that involves the Baduy men numbering in hundreds and even over a thousand walking over a hundred kilometres to present their offerings to the Governor of Banten in Kota Serang, a tradition kept alive since the days of the Banten sultanate. Thus, if travellers have time, I would really recommend taking the excursion trip to the village organised by the resort and learn a thing or two about this unique culture. In 2017, Seba Baduy is held from 28 until 30 April – travellers are recommended to research on when Seba Baduy will be held in the following years if they are interested to witness this festival.
Tanjung Lesung is indeed a tropical haven so isolated and distinctive in culture. It’s calm shimmering blue sea and coconut palms that dot the coast stretching out towards the sea are truly beckoning. On On top of that, it’s people are as unique and sweet as the area’s cuisine. High seasons are between June-August and November-December, but if I were you, I’d book my ticket early and come here now before the crowd starts to swell and rooms all fully booked.
Since travelling to Tanjung Lesung takes quite time, I’d suggest that travellers stay overnight in Jakarta prior and post-journey for proper rest. While in Jakarta, why not explore some of the city’s interesting attractions such as Dufan Amusement Park, which is a great place to bring your families and friends. Or, if you are into shopping, head to Mangga Dua where you’ll find many products ranging from apparel and food to gadgets – just remember to bring much cash since most retailers here do not take credit or debit cards.
Gaya Travel Magazine team members express our heartfelt gratitude to the Consulate General of Republic Indonesia Johor Bahru and Indonesian Ministry of Tourism for the opportunity to experience the memorable Tanjung Lesung.
Travel Agents that could arrange travellers’ trip to Tanjung Lesung: