A reddish hill on the southern coast of Banyuwangi regency in East Java has earned the island its name: Pulau Merah [Red Island]. The island, located near Tumpang Pitu Islands, shows a reddish tinge on its rocky hill when the sea recedes.
Lore has it that a long time ago, the area in Alas Purwo forests was a mystical place with a special energy. It has been known since the time of the Majapahit Kingdom that the area is sacred.
People visit to carry out rituals and meditate. Locals believe Pulau Merah and Tumpang Pitu have deposits of gold, but only chosen people can see it. Some geologists also believe the hill contains gold.
The island is home to Hindu temple Segara Tawangalun. Javanese spiritual followers and Hindus sometimes visit the temple. People do not dare to disturb the peace there.
The past few years, however, have seen a tug of war between locals, gold mine investors, the Banyuwangi administration and the central government about possible gold deposits, estimated to be the biggest after the PT Freeport Indonesia mining site in Papua.
Apart from the possible gold, Pulau Merah has its charms. Its white sand spans a long distance, facing the Indian Ocean. The waves are popular among surfers, especially for beginners, because they roll far and do not break.
Many surfers visit between stays in Bali. For those who don’t surf, Pulau Merah is a place to find peace and spiritual healing. [evi]