On 27th October 2018, Indonesia President Joko Widodo officially declared Indonesia’s longest bridge: the 5.4 kms Suramadu Bridge, completely toll free. Spanning from Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya to the mesmerizing island of Madura located on the other side of the Strait of Madura – Suramadu Bridge became a speedier alternative for commuters compared to the ferry crossing. But still, the toll of Rp.30,000 was felt way too expensive especially for the poorer villagers on Madura. Through this “simple” decision the president released the energy on both sides of the bridge, promising benefits for both to grow together into one vital destination for Tourism, Trade and Investment.
Despite its closeness to Surabaya, Madura has remained rural and remote, away from the glitter and glamor of its neighbor. For this reason, therefore, it has retained its original charms and distinct Madurese characteristics. The Madurese are known as fierce sailors and are open hearted. Madura is known for its mouth-watering Sate Madura, its thrilling Bullraces known as Karapan Sapi, and for concoction of herbs that serve as aphrodisiacs.
The island’s south coast is lined with shallow beaches and cultivated lowland while its north coast alternates between rocky cliffs and great rolling sand-dune beaches. Along these coasts, you will find beaches that offer astonishing sceneries perfect for recreation. At the extreme east is a tidal marsh and vast tracts of salt-fields around Kalianget. The interior is interspersed with limestone slopes, and is either rocky or sandy, so agriculture is limited especially when compared to mainland Java. Amidst this unique terrain are a number of natural caves as well as refreshing most waterfalls.
But what sets Madura apart is its unique culture. Here, sarong and peci(a cap in the shape of a truncated cone worn by men) one will see everywhere and many mosques as people here are deeply religious. The Madurese speak their own Madurese language. Although culturally close to the East Javanese, they do have their own distinct traditions. Among these are the Karapan Sapi or thrilling traditional Bull Racing for which the island is best known. Madura is also wellknown for its traditional herbal drinks or better known in Indonesia as Jamu. Made from carefully picked leaves, fruits, and special herbs, these are boiled together and taken as medicine or health drink. With recipes passed down the generations, Jamu Madura is believed to have real benefits for both health and vitality.
There are over 40 tourist attractions spread across this amazing island, here are the most notable:
The Suramadu Bridge
Having started construction in 2004 under President Megawati Soekarnoputri, it was completed and opened by Indonesia’s 6th President Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009.
Aside from being an important connecting hub, the Suramadu (Surabaya-Madura) National Bridge is also an Instagrammable attraction all its own. Stretching 5.4km, this is Indonesia’s longest bridge, the firs to span across a strait with such distance. The bridge connects the city of Surabaya with the town of Bangkalan on Madura. The iconic main portion of the bridge uses a cable stayed construction supported by 140 meters twin towers on either side. The Suramadu Bridge is 5.4 km long, has 2 lanes and a special lane for motorbikes in each direction.
At night, lights upon the bridge, including on the twin suspension towers, brighten up the Strait all the across offering perfect scenes for photo opportunities.
Karapan Sapi: the Thrilling Traditional Bull Races
This one special event keeps attracting tourists to the island even when it was only served by ferries, the Karapan Sapi is indeed a spectacle not to be missed. Without the use of wheels, pads, or helmets, and with just pure muscle power of the bulls and the sheer courage of its jockeys, this is an extreme race unlike any other and certainly not one for the faint hearted. The tradition is said to have started long ago when ploughing teams raced each other across fields. Practice trials are held throughout the year, but the main season starts in late August to September. During this main season, over 100 of the finest and strongest bulls across the island gather, all dressed up with gold colored decorations. Pamekasan is the center for Karapan Sapi, but Bangkalan, Sampang, Sumnenep, and some other villages also host these heart-stopping races.
The Sumenep Royal Palace and Museum
Though it is not the largest region on the island today, Sumenep probably trumps all other towns in Madura in history, culture and allure. At the epicenter of Sumenep’s rich cultural history is the Kraton Sumenep or the Sumenep Royal Palace which today also serves as a museum. The kraton is located behind a wall that has a particularly fine arched entrance that is pretty high by modern standards but was designed to allow horses and carriages to pass through. Painted in bright yellow, the walls of the kraton match the bright yellow walls of the mosque on the opposite side of the alun-alun or square which separates the two buildings. Built in 1750 the kraton is attractive in design and features. Pretty wood carvings, ceremonial canon, and glimpses inside the private chambers of the palace allow you to get a sense of what life must have been like in royal residences. The Pendopo Agung or Great Hall in the central grounds offers gamelan and traditional dance concerts on certain days, which provides the perfect setting. Aside from the museum across the road, the kraton has its own collection of royal antiques. There is also the Taman Sari or Water Garden which in its heydays was the bathing pool of the princesses.
Beautiful Relaxing Beaches
Madura Island is also surrounded with many beautiful beaches perfect for relaxing and recreation. Among these are: the Siring Kemuning Beach, Rongkang Beach, Sambilan Beach, Camplong Beach in Bangkalan; Nepa Beach in Sampang; and Lombang Beach and Slopeng Beach at Sumenep.
As surprising as it seems, there are amazing waterfalls that you can visit in Madura despite the fact that most of the island is relatively barren. There are the Kokop Waterfall at Bangkalan and the Toroan Waterfall at Sampang. The Toroan Waterfall has a spectacular feature that is rarely found at other falls where you can watch the stream of water drop down down straight into the sea.
The Kangean Islands
If you think Madura has nothing notable to offer for divers and snorkelers, well, you will be happily surprised. Travelling further about 120km east of the island you will reach a group of 38 small islands known as the Kangean Islands. Although still relatively unknown among tourists, the islands offer some amazing and authentic diving and snorkeling experiences in pristine waters. Although transportation may not be too convenient as yet, currently already many dive operators in Bali include Kangean in their packages.
The Eternal Flames of Pamekasan
Situated at the Larangan Tokol Village in the Tlanakan District, Pamekasan Regency, this is a site where you can see an extraordinary natural phenomenon. Here eternal flames emerge from the belly of the earth which can not be extinguished even when you drench it with water. Locals say that a research had been conducted to determine whether there is natural gas below that may cause this phenomenon. But oddly enough, the finding proved that there was no gas source found there. Therefore, it remains a mystery of nature that has presented such an amazing spectacle for visitors.
The Blaban Cave
Situated at Rojing, in the Blabar Village, at Batumarmar District, in the Pamekasan Regency, Blaban Cave was said to have been discovered by a local inhabitant who was digging for a well. Inside this beautiful natural cave you will see white stalactites and stalagmites which glow when light shines upon it. Although it is still managed by locals, there are already a number of lights inside the cave that help illuminate the interior and give visitors the perfect opportunity to take striking pictures.