Sawarna, natural splendor
in West Java

Blue sky, golden sand, and green foliage in Ciantir Beach
Blue sky, golden sand, and green foliage in Ciantir Beach

How much money would you have to spend to enjoy the beautiful beaches in Acapulco, Mexico? Okay, let’s find somewhere closer – Bali. Five million rupiah? Two million? For those who live in Jakarta or Bandung, I can tell you that you can take advantage of more than just exciting beach experiences with less than 500,000 rupiah.

When you go to Sawarna, expect an adventure. It is not an easy-peasy journey to get to this naturally beautiful place. Driving southwest from Jakarta for six hours, up and down the mountains without well-built roads is only the beginning. Overcoming your fears to cross a shaking bridge over a broad flowing river is next. Just remember hikers and cyclists have passed over it a thousand times, so you have nothing to worry about.

A whole new ballgame called Desa Sawarna

After the bridge, the green foliage and blue skies of the village Desa Sawarna welcome you. Peaceful rural scenes greet you – children playing tag instead of Xbox, a group of men drinking coffee and having an evening  conversation and some women preparing dinner while others sweep their yards. In some areas, terraced rice fields might remind you of the picturesque and pricey views near Ubud in Bali.

Our temporary house in Sawarna was far from modern. The half-wood, half-concrete house had two bedrooms. The bathrooms were only a little larger than an airplane bathroom, with water coming from a well.

The place had neither a television nor an air conditioner, but that does not mean Sawarna is electricity free. Power is just not available 24 hours a day. On the second night, after the rain drove us away from the beach where we had set up to sleep outdoors under the starry sky, we had to sleep fanless in the dark. We pass along this hint: Bring a flashlight. Still, we managed to sleep soundly that night.

Sawarna landmark in Tanjung Layar Beach

Surfers? This way!

Sawarna’s Ciantir Beach is heaven to explorers and surfers alike. Huge waves roll along the coast and they are unpredictable. A local surfer said he once saw a 17-meter-high tidal wave sweep away a tourist taking photographs. So this beach is absolutely not recommended for amateur surfers, but once you become a pro, seek out Sawarna and face the madness of the Indian Ocean.

Aside from the unpredictable nature of the sea, Sawarna’s beaches offer fantastic natural beauty like Tanjung Layar, a beach with a landmark of two giant triangle-shaped reefs. The isolated privacy of Lagun Pari beach is graced with two barrier reefs at the end of the bay creating a lagoon.

If you are up for it, make plans to ascend and descend hills, cross rivers and walk along pathways through rice fields and reefs for a few hours. As you walk along the coast from Lagun Pari to Tanjung Layar, in an unnamed spot, an arrangement of maroon lava from the eruption of Krakatau forms two natural paths when the tide is low.

Craving for caving

Beach, mountain, rice field and cave make this a combo of an adventure.

We found it a mesmerizing experience to dip our feet into the wet mud of Lalay Cave. It was like walking on jelly. You need to get wet to explore the cave because a river flows inside. The trail is slippery, so here is another hint: Step carefully.

Lalay is the Sundanese word for bat, although none of us saw any. According to one myth, the cave is where the name for Sawarna village came from. The story tells of a continuous quarrel between the northern and southern Javanese. Lalay Cave, also known as Lebak Jati Cave, was the place where the two groups ended their dispute and reached seven agreements. That is why the area is called Sawarna, which means one color or harmony.
No easy way to get to the splendours

Walking north from Ciantir Beach, you can encounter Langir Cave, filled with bats that can be heard all around. Unlike Lalay cave, this remote cave is quite dry and the air inside is stale and hot.

More Tips

We hope you have a good picture of Sawarna. If you are seriously considering going, here are some more helpful tips:

How local boys play around

Travel light. There are some warung in the area to accommodate your basic needs.

Go in a group. As much as the splendor has to offer, nothing is more exciting than having an adventure with your group of friends.

Bring neither your fancy clothes nor a trunk of make-up. These are useless in this natural spot.

Befriend the locals. They will not steal or do harm. They will sincerely help you exploring as long as you are not stingy with them.

Bring your camera along. You don’t want to miss an inch of Sawarna’s beauty, do you?

— ys/Florence Nathania

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