the Florida Beach in Banten
What’s a ‚Florida Beach’ doing in Merak, Banten? This was the first thing that popped up in my head when I read in my Java – Nusa Tenggara Nelles Map about places around Banten. But the word ‚Florida Beach’ is truly there, designated for a small peninsula Northeast from the city of Merak. Florida? The Bantenese can’t even spell the alphabet ‚F’. Why would they have a Florida Beach in their territory? This mystery is enough to start an adventure: The Quest for the Florida Beach in Banten!
On Sunday, September 12th, I finally got a chance to turn a lazy long-weekend-Sunday-afternoon into an action-packed adventure. I was able to persuade my friends to choose Florida Beach over the Jakarta Motor Show (after convincing them that it would take another 250 years before we can buy one of those Bentleys on display). So we set off at 14.00 to go to Merak. The distance between Jakarta and Merak is about 120 km, with toll roads all the way through. The condition of the highway is not as good as Jakarta-Cikampek toll road, but still acceptable. Without it the travel itself would surely need several more hours. We reached Merak aproximately at 16.30, after paying Rp. 14.500,- for the toll road.
I felt a bit discouraged before exiting in Merak, because the journey was a very long and sleepy one. I was starting to think that it might not worth the trip to look for this beach afterall. But as soon as the road turns to the right towards the Merak Harbor, all efforts are paid off. We were greeted by brilliant blue ocean view from the Sunda Strait, with several tankers and heavy duty cargo ships parking and floating gracefully on the surface. On the distance were five giant poles with red color painted on their tips. I thought those were lighthouses, but why are there 5 lighthouses on the same bay? After driving a little bit closer, they turned out to be chimneys from Suryalaya Powerlant which is located right next to the harbor.
Some of the mystery is starting to unfold as we get closer to the harbor. The toll guy told us to ‚turn right before the harbor’ to go to Florida. Then we saw the intersection with signs: left to ‚Merak harbor’ and right… guess what… to ‚Pulo Rida’. Aaaah, that’s why they call it Florida! It’s actually Pulo Rida, which was then probably changed to ‚Florida’ to make it sound more fancy and attractive. The main road was called ‚Jalan Raya Florida’, but the sign explains it all. We follow the direction and about 15 minutes later we found ‚Pulo Rida Resort’ on the left side which was definitely what we were looking for. Or was it? There are a lot of tour busses coming from the other direction. Could it be, that the actual Florida Beach is still ahead?
We decided to follow the road ahead to find where the tour busses are coming from. When I asked an Angkot driver in PLTU Suryalaya, he told me that we’ve passed by Florida Beach, but there’s another famous beach up ahead, which is called ‚Salira Beach’. So we drove on to look for this Salira Beach. About 30 minutes later, we found a left-turn with a big ‚Salira Beach’ billboard hanging over the road. We have to wait in the main road because 5 big ‚Arimbi’ chartered tour busses were just leaving the beach. This must be it! After driving through 500 m of dreadful and beaten-up road and paying Rp. 16.000,- (Rp. 4.000,- per person and Rp 4.000,- for the car), we finally parked in the middle of what looked like a big market with many temporary stalls.
„Are you sure that Salira is a beach and not a market?“ was my friend’s first question. Indeed, that was what we found. Huge market selling everything from toys to mie baso! After searching for a while, we found the beach. It was a normal brown-sanded beach, looks just like the Ancol public beach. But one thing is notifiable: the beach is drenched with garbage!!! The ground was filled with hundreds of lunch boxes with their contents splatterred all over the place. Plastics, paper, food leftover, you name it – all was thrown on the ground. The people that organized the event today must be sued! The stench from rotten and trampled over food is already starting to disturb us. How could these people be so ignorant, just throwing trashes as they will? What was meant as a beautiful beach is now reduced to a giant trash dump. Sad, but true! As suspected, we did not spend a lot of time in the Salira ‚trash beach’. We drove back, going back to the ‚Pulo Rida’ resort, hoping to find a better place.
‚Pulo Rida’ is in fact a very small island, located right inside the Pulo Rida Resort. The area is only about 100 sqm, located about 200 m off the bay. The resort has built a bridge that connects the bay and the island, which is a very good idea. You can walk on the narrow concrete bridge to the island, looking at the open sea with the sun setting on your left side. The bridge offers a spectacular view: it’s like you’re standing on water, overlooking the calm ocean and the bay. Try not to look on your right side, though: you can see a harbor and some cargo ships docking, which reminds you that there might be oil contamination nearby. Yikes!
We walked through the bridge and set out foot on Pulo Rida’s soil. A signboard saying ‚Welcome to Pulo Rida Island’ signifies that we have reached the end of our quest. This is the Florida beach! It’s a neat little island, with some vegetations (including mangroves) in the middle. Most of the island consists of coral and white sand, except in the Northern part where we can find huge chunks of volcanic rocks. This part is probably a reminder of the past, when the mighty Krakatau volcano, located not so far away, poured its anger all over this bay. Maybe a huge chunk of lava landed here and became an island on which we are standing now. Who knows? Even on the end of our journey, there are still some mysteries to be discovered. Yes, the truth is out there. In here, we’re just hanging out on this neat little island, watching the sunset, enjoying ourselves on a lazy-long-weekend-Sunday afternoon.
Pulo Rida resort also have some rooms for rent and a restaurant. You can also do some fishing in the bay or on the brigde. We tried the restaurant, but it was awful, as expected in many resort restaurants. With Rp. 120.000,-, we get a standard cap cay, shrimps (not so fresh) with butter sauce, chicken with sour-sweet sauce, and gado-gado. The taste is just mediocre but stay off sea food because I dont think they’re fresh (funny fact, as they’re located just by teh sea). But the resort itself and its Pulo Rida island is quite recommended if you would like to spend the night or just sightseeing around the area. Try to catch the sunset on the bridge – it’s quite fun! And, last but not least, entrance to the resort is free. So, just bring some lunch and let’s go to Florida! In Banten, there is.