If you live in Jakarta and ever wonder about other destinations as short getaway to spend your weekend, else than Bali or Bandung, you should consider Sawarna. The village is located in Banten province, Lebak regency, 6-8 hours from Jakarta. Several travel guides mention Sawarna as a hidden paradise. I think that is overrated. But whether Sawarna is worth visiting or not, I would definitely say it is, especially if you would like to try caving.

There are several guides you can easily find on the internet, if you consider to travel by public transport (via Kampung Rambutan to Pangandaran and continue to Sawarna). However if it is not the case, Sawarna can be reached via Sukabumi, which is preferable if one wishes to drive at ease, but does not mind a longer travel time. Besides, an alternative is Cibadak route, which requires shorter travel time, but comprises narrower road (or cliff road at some point) with overwhelming steep curves and holey surfaces. I recommend traveling in daytime since it can be very foggy at night and most importantly; have your spare tire ready.

We spent two days and one night in Sawarna, visited four tourist attractions: Goa Lalay, Pasir Putih, Tanjung Layar, and Legon Pari. Goa Lalay, is a perfect start for those who would like to try caving. It is a 1.800 meters dead-end route, which is a home for a species of tiny-sized bats, with stalactites and stalagmites along the way. The path is watery and muddy, at some points you will need to crawl so be prepared to get wet… and dirty! This is the point where you might consider what wardrobe will do, I personally wore quick-dry shirt and my usual hiking short. Don’t worry about footwear, the guide will insist that you need to enter the cave barefoot (because it is a lot easier). Bring only what you need. In fact, don’t bring anything. Helmet and headlamp are provided once you pay the entrance fee (I honestly forgot how much). Taking pictures in the cave, you will need a water resistant camera bag (or water resistant camera). If you are only curious about caving but are not keen to enter that far, you can pick the shorter journey of 400 meters (and you don’t need to pay the tour guide, but the entrance fee).

Sawarna is famous for its wonderful beaches, though I personally don’t recommend swimming. However, tourism development as part of economic activities, in many cases, is not followed by sufficient environment preservation efforts. You can find the beach is polluted by waste that comes from the river. Nevertheless, there are plenty of cleaner and strategic spots where you can sit while reading and watching the sun sets on the Indian Ocean.

On the bridge, crossing the river on the way to Gua Lalay

Children swimming in the river

Stalactites in Gua Lalay

Mineral rich water drops at the same place and forms stalagmites

Pantai Pasir Putih

Bewitching sunset on the Indian Ocean
Twin rocks of Pantai Tanjung Layar

Legon Pari

Fishes usually trapped in corals during low tide

Infinite landscape available on top

Favorit spot at the home stay
Accomodation in Sawarna:
Niken home stay: Rp. 500.000,- per room (081906368816)
Alternative is Aura home stay (081906336111). I personally recommend the two for rice field view and closer walk to Pasir Putih.


Papandayan, The So Called Switzerland Van Java

Following my previous post, we were finally informed that Mount Papandayan was recently opened for hiking activities. Everything was set and we departed on October 5th on the stroke of midnight. The sun had already risen when we were still in our vehicle due to traffic congestion. Massive volumes of intercity trucks carrying commodities that supply the population’s needs between regencies triggered this heavy traffic flow. Tracking the only road to the foothill, we were accompanied by the view of a severely burnt forest; dead trees, dried brown leaves, and ash-covered grounds. As soon as we started the hike, we caught ourselves in the middle of a rocky (and slippery) overlay with an amazing view (and smell) of the crater. Sulfuric gas may disrupt your view and respiratory process, so do not hesitate to have your scarf ready for use. Following the rocky track was a dusty path, which quickly turned into a greener sight that indicated a few more minutes before arriving upon the campgrounds. Warm regards from other hikers welcomed us as we arrived in Pondok Saladah. Tents were built, lunch was cooked, hungry stomachs were fed, and off we went to Tegal Alun—the Edelweiss field. Yet to arrive at the flower field, we were already stunned by the Dead Forest we caught ourselves in along the way. Hot gas and the force of the eruption in 2003 devastated the area, which remains lifeless until this today. I immediately recalled the Dark Forest where Kristen Stewart ran into while escaping from the wicked queen’s troops. They were pretty similar except this forest lacked poisonous bushes and leg-sucking mud. The fog created an even more mystical atmosphere, as it got denser. Breathtaking view of edelweiss welcomed us before rain shooed us and we traveled back to the camp. We somehow managed to lit bonfire, which was immediately swarmed by shivering bodies. A warm chat and a nice plate of spaghetti dispelled the jaw-trembling wind. One by one, we each left the vanishing fire for our tents and tried to get as sufficient rest as possible before waking up to catch the sunrise at dawn. However, we were not so lucky with the foggy sky; we could barely see the rising sun. We enjoyed the few hours before leaving camp by taking the last photographs of the scenery around the camp. Some were sunbathing, and others were merely napping on the yellow grass. While hiking down the mount, we stopped at a small river, which led to a waterfall. We took the opportunity to freshen up ourselves before continuing towards the foothill.

Overall, Mount Papandayan is beginner-friendly: easy track, interesting views, and filled with a lavish water source.

Photos by Marco Putra and Novina Sendjaja.

A rocky path starting the hike with sulfuric gas emerging from the grounds.

Superheated water turns into steam as its pressure drops when emerges from the ground.
Some sources say an avalanche triggered by previous eruption caused this hill-split.

Crossing alternative route for the main track was cut by the hill-split.
A hiker is taking a nap in a field where the yellow grass grows knee high.
The Dead Forest.

The Edelweiss Field.

A documentary movie created by one of the hiking participant. Can you find me?


Day Hiking The Burangrang

As an annual event, an organized climbing occasion is arranged every September or October. Unfortunately, dry season demonstrates its uppermost cruelty during these months upon a number of mounts and mountains such as Mount Agung in Bali, and also our pick for the yearly event: Mount Papandayan. Mount Papandayan alas caught continuous fires as reported in the media. Cancellation was not an option; immediate alternatives were conducted. Five of us departed to North Bandung on midnight September 14th. Our destination was Mount Burangrang, which emerges alongside the famous Mount Tangkuban Perahu. We did a one day hike (no camping) via the “Komando” route (the area is occasionally closed for the country’s Special Forces training) and I would conclude that the mount is classified as fairly easy for beginners based on the height (2.057 meters above sea level) and level of difficulty (through the mentioned route). The main attractiveness was its pine forest and view of the valley a few feet before the peak. Though in the end we decided not to choose the site for our event, Burangrang is suitable for anyone who wishes for a little adventure during the weekends. It is always nice to escape from big cities' daily routine, walk into jungle's tranquility, and breath the fresh air released by mountain trees, isn't it?

Clotheslines at one of the habitant's houses in Desa Kertawangi, Burangrang foothill.

The Komando Gate.

A local man collecting firewoods.

Morning light through the mountain trees.

A monument marks the highest peak of Burangrang.

Pine forest after a light drizzle.

Me plus raincoat.