Jembrana is perhaps the most ethnically heterogeneous regency in Bali. The Loloan area is populated by a malay-speaking populace of Bugis descent. There are also many Balinese Christians, because part of Jembrana was converted to Catholicism and Protestantism at the start of the century. Also there are plenty of traditional Balinese communities, particularly in the rice-growing areas of the regency.
The natural scene is no less varied than the cultural one. The northern half of Jembrana contains a large mountainous regions, which is part of West Bali National Park. West Bali National Park is situated in two regencies, Jembrana and Buleleng. The entrance on the Jembrana side of the park is at Melaya on the Denpasar-Gilimanuk road.
Visit this place if you’re looking for pristine tropical nature. The park is the last natural habitat of the endangered jalak putih-fewer than fifty are believed to be left in the wild, where they are threatened by poaching. The park is also home to banteng and the deer-like menjangan. The National Park contains a broad range of natural environments, from mangrove coastal forests to savanna and rainforests.
To enter The National Park one must first go to the park office in Cekik. Experienced guides in the office offer trekking, diving and snorkeling tours, but diving and snorkeling on the Jembrana side of the National Park are not recommended for beginners. Jembrana is best known for the Makepung traditional buffalo races.
The regency even calls itself “the land of the Makepung”. The Makepung was originally held as part of the harvest festivities. The carts and buffaloes were, until quite recently, still used for transportation. The Makepung consists of a race between two carts pulled by water buffaloes. The colourfully decorated animals race on a 2km course.
These days, championship events are organized under the sponsorship of the local government, which uses the race to help promote tourism. In Perancak, a race can be arranged to order. If you like, you can be your own jockey! There is small temple of white stones to commemorate the landing of Sang Hyang Nirartha.
A crocodile farm commemorates the now extinct Perancak crocodile. Indeed, a small zoo houses crocodiles, tigers, jalak putih, the phoenix bird of paradise, and many more. Besides the Makepung race, there is a cow race called Magembeng. The name originates from the gembeng bell the cows carry around their necks. As they walk, the bell makes a sound producing a special kind of music.
The megembeng competition is not so much about speed as about the elegance and beauty of the cows. Further south, at Candikusuma, there are two temples dedicated to the legendary figure of Dang Hyang Nirartha- Indra Kusuma temple and Taman Sumur Bulus. Locals tell how in 1897 two Dutch officers were attracted to the place when they saw a light coming from the earth.
It turned out to be a kris (a supernatural dagger). Candikusuma beach is known for its beautiful black sand and the gentle hills permeating the beach. Inland from Melaya are the paralleled Christian communities of Palasari (catholic) and Blimbingsari (Protestant), built at the beginning of the century in a settlement area for Balinese who had converted to Christianity.
The villagers are surrounded by hills and paddy fields. Their uniqueness, however, lies in the cultural cocktail present in the churches, which mix both Gothic and Balinese architectural styles. Delodbrawah Beach is a black sand beach, which used to be a swamp (brawah), believed to be a favorite crocodile haunt.
Believe it or not, the sand from this beach is said to cure rheumatism. To the north of the beach is Mendoyo, Negara. There is one of the best racing grounds here for the Makepung which can still be used in the rainy season. Rambutsiwi Temple is on a cliff overlooking a breathtaking panorama of paddy fields on one side and the black sandy beach on the other.
Stairs allow people to get safely down on to the beach. Two caves overlook the sea with a view of the fishermen’s boats and seabirds hovering above. This spot is a favorite hangout for painters. The temple itself was built by Dang Hyang Nirartha. According to the legend, he made a gift of his hair to the temple.
Hence the name Rambut Siwi, which literally means “Hair Worship”! Medewi beach is a small resort in the southeast of Jembrana about midway between Gilimanuk and Denpasar, just off the main road at Airsatang. Small black stones are scattered over the black sandy beach, providing an unusual scene at sunset.