From Bali to East Java, Exploring Red Island and Tiger Track

By Dan Chipperfield

At precisely 3AM Sesilia, Aryok and I set off in the height of early morning Bali darkness to drive north from the town of Canggu to the harbour of Gilimanuk. This stretch of road should take about three and a half hours, traffic permitting, but then we must remind ourselves this is Bali and, not only that, this is the main stretch of road for trucks going back and forth importing and exporting goods to and from Java.  All the way up the coast, dipping in and out of Jungle and towns, you can see amazing surf spots every 15 – 20 minutes or so peaking on the roadside with not a soul out in the line up. For a longer trip, stopping at each of these spots would be a very fine idea indeed.

Red Island (Pulau Merah), East Java, Indonesia. Photo by Dan Chipperfield

The drive starts well and is easy going for the first 30 – 60 minutes, with beautiful scenery, the sound of the call to prayer from the local Mosques and the bustle of early morning markets, with locals getting breakfast and trading goods. The moment you start to reach the surrounding areas of Medewi, the steep hairpin corners and frantic driving truckers begin to take hold of you. While needing to drive at reasonable speed to keep up with our schedule, I cannot help but be very cautious, slowing to a snail’s pace for a lot of the corners and blind verges where, before you know it, a careering lorry with headlights full-beam comes barrelling around a blind corner straight into your line of sight. All you can do is hope the truck sees you and makes it back into the correct lane before you are rendered more road than human. Given that it is pitch black at this time and with just a centre road marking made invisible due to oncoming lights, we consider ourselves lucky. Finally, day breaks and we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the drive will now get easier and all three of us are unscathed.

A morning from above. Photo by Sesilia Kadrie

We reach Gilimanuk, tired but restless, and we are shortly ready to board the ferry to Java. The ferry crossing is only a short 45 minutes (weather depending) with beautiful scenery all around which only makes the trip a whole lot more satisfying

When we arrive in Ketapang we have a three and a half-hour drive down to Red Island (Pulau Merah) and as soon as you hit the road you feel like you have gone back in time. This transition is welcomed with open arms. With such beautifully unspoiled and natural surroundings, the comparison between Bali and Eastern Java is outstandingly different. The drive consists of many small villages, jungle and huge areas of dragon fruit plantations. It’s 10 am as we pull up to Red Island Beach and we stop at a local warung for a spot of well-deserved lunch, Nasi Ayam Pedas. The lunch is set out so you can choose what you like from a wide range of things including rice, chicken, salty fish, mixed veggies, corn fritters, egg, noodles, tempe/tofu and, of course, an absolute necessity no matter what meal of the day, spicy red Sambal (lots of it). A large, cheap and very tasty plate of food.

After our lunch, we head to our friend’s Home Stay, Big Daddy’s Surf Camp, owned by the legend himself, Bagus Prihandoyo, aka King Kong.  A local surfing legend in these parts, he is also an amazing host and all-round great guy.

Big Daddy’s camp is situated on a track 50 meters from the beach with nothing but a beautiful wooded area to separate it from the ocean. Waking up for a stroll through the woods with a coffee in hand to check the surf is an awesome way to start the morning!

The last stop from big daddys before reaching the beach. Photo by Dan Chipperfield

Red Island is a magnificently beautiful place with its white sand beaches, translucent waters and the stunning islands that surround it. In the early mornings, there is a sea mist that gives the place a truly mystical appearance while, in the evenings, the westering light under the clouds creates the effect that the mountains are on fire (hence Red Island).

Along with the natural beauty of this place, it is also a superb surf spot with a wide variety of peaks that cater for beginners to the advanced surfer.

Bird Eye View from the beach front of Big Daddy’s Surf Camp. Photo by Sesilia Kadrie

The following day we set off for a surf mission to G-land, about a two-hour drive to the south-eastern peninsular of East Java. Upon reaching G-land you enter a huge, dense jungle, through which you have to drive for about half an hour before reaching the entrance. There you pay admission and you meet your driver, who will take you by jeep even further into the jungle to your desired surf spot. We chose Tiger Tracks.

Tiger Track. A Surf Spot in Alas Purwo National Park. Photo by Sesilia Kadrie

Its name is given for the very simple reason that tigers and leopards frequent the area. On this occasion I think we were lucky not to have seen any up close. Our driver leaves us and will return to get us in four hours after we have surfed and enjoyed the scenery. This is a world-class surf spot, yet there were just five people in the line-up. Tiger Tracks offers an A-frame peak with equally great left hand and right hand waves, great for regular and goofy foot surfers.

Always remember to be respectful in the water by greeting the locals with a smile and by never having a negative attitude. Manners cost nothing and ensure a very warm reception from the local surfers here. We are, of course, guests in their country. Also please be mindful of your impact on the pristine environment: clean up any trash after you and if you see any on the beach please do your part and take some away with you. The ocean is for everyone and more importantly the marine life that lives in it and we want to keep enjoying it for a long time. These are great waves with great people.

I would recommend to anyone to come to East Java with its outstanding natural beauty, great food, fantastic people and amazing waves. It is definitely worth the travel by car — even if a bit hairy at some points!

I would highly recommend staying at Big daddy’s Surf Camp for good vibes, good people, good food and good surf.

If you want to explore East Java or go on a surf guided trip, or go on a hassle-free surf guided trip, please contact our friends at Hey Surfing Yuk on Instagram or Facebook for bookings.

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