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Also known as Sukamade (or Sukomade, or Sukamande, depending on which map or book one consults) or "turtle island", Meru Betiri National Park is one of the least accessible places of Java, Indonesia. The park is located along the southeast coast of Java, south of Jember, and covers 580 square kilometers; mostly coastal rainforest, but also mangrove, lowland swamp and bamboo forest along with several plantations (rubber, coffee, cacao and coconut).

Along the coast, Meru Betiri sports a number of beautiful beaches, some of which are used as spawning grounds by five species of sea-turtle.

Although now mostly known (and visited) for the turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs, the park used to be known as the last home of the Javan Tiger. Even though sightings still occur, it is sadly nearly certain that this member of the family Panthera Tigris is extinct.

Not yet extinct are the turtles that visit Meru Betiri National Park, and most common is the green turtle. Olive-Ridley, hawksbill and the huge leatherback also lay their eggs here.

Besides turtles and the extinct Javan tiger, the park offers the chance of seeing a nice variety of wildlife, mostly to be found in the mountain forests. Leopards (which account for most tiger sightings), wild pigs, kijang (deer), bantengs, black giant squirrels, civets, silver-leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques, kalongs (fox bats) and a large number of birds can be sighted. Of the birdlife, the rhinoceros hornbill is probably the most satisfying (and, remarkably, the easiest) to see. Sitting high up in a tree this bird is often only then seen when it takes wing, as then it is by the loud whooshing sound of its wings that one becomes aware of its presence. Keep that camera handy...

Next to wildlife, some of the endemic plants are worth keeping an eye out for, such as the Rafflesia rollingeriana, a parasitic plant that sports the world's largest flower. Balanphora fungosa is another rare endemic parasitic plant.

Sukamade is the name of the main plantation in the eastern part of the park, and often lends its name to the whole park. Located between the factory that processes the cacao and coffee, and the small village is the guesthouse, which is the better of the two places one can stay at, at the eastern end of the park. The other place to stay is the Mess Pantai, which offers three- or four bedroom cottages with separate, shared bathrooms.

The Mess Pantai is situated about 500 meters back from the main turtle-beach, so it is far better suited for nightly excursions to see the turtles lay their eggs than the guesthouse of Sukamade, which lies some 5 kilometers1 farther inland. Unless one is very adventurous and has scouted the way beforehand, this necessitates the use of motorized transportation to and from the turtle-beach. In the west of the park the plantation near Bandealit also sports a small guesthouse, but the main interests of the park are in the east.

Meru Betiri National Park is a very beautiful and nature-rich place, and due to its inaccessibility has remained largely un-spoilt by tourists. Those tourists that do visit are generally of the more adventurous and nature-savvy type than the regular tourists one meets in, for example, Kuta, Bali. Thank god for that, because it is probably the reason why it has remained the unique place that it is.

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1 5 kilometers according to the local populace. I am under the impression it is more like 10...

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