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The port to Bali

This ferry port at Bali's westernmost tip-88 km from Singaraja and 134 km from Denpasar-links Bali with East Java across a narrow strait, Selat Bali. Looming up purple through the haze to the west are three of Java's most easterly volcanoes. Much of Bali's imports and exports, and most of its domestic tourists, pass through this point. Except as an around-the-clock ferry terminus, Gilimanuk has little to offer tourists, who usually alight the ferry or landing barges from Java and shoot straight through to Denpasar or Lovina. But with its basic no-frills services and amenities, Gilimanuk is a friendly little town for stopovers, for resting up.

The strait that separates Java and Bali, less than three km wide and only 60 meters in depth, is said to have been formed by some mythical king who, hoping to excommunicate his son, gouged a line with his finger along the ground. Then the earth parted and the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Java Sea rushed in, separating Bali from Java. It was an easy matter for Neolithic humans hunting in the primeval wilderness of East Java to cross this narrow strait. During WW II, stone adzes and pottery fragments were discovered just two km south of Gilimanuk at Cekik. Over time, about 100 burial places were excavated-containing funerary objects, simple tools, earthenware vessels, and sacrificed animals-demonstrating that this was Bali's earliest human settlement discovered to date.

See these Neolithic artifacts in the Bali Museum in Denpasar, the Archaeological Museum in Pejeng, the archaeological project at Sanglah, and at Gilimanuk's Museum of Ancient Life north of the Bay of Gilimanuk.
Gilimanuk shows a greater influence from Islamic Java than other parts of Bali. In fact, it was from Java that Balinese revolutionaries derived their material and ideological sustenance in their fight to oust the Dutch. In Cekik a war memorial commemorates landing operations by the Indonesian army, navy, and police on Bali from April to July 1946.
Boarding a large number of outrigger canoes under cover of darkness, Indonesian irregular troops set off from Banyuwangi in East Java and landed at three points-Melaya, Candikusama, and Cupel-along Bali's southwest coast. The republic's first sea conflict took place during these operations, and fierce land battles erupted as the Indonesians came ashore. Many lost their lives. The survivors fled to the hills, where they joined units from earlier landings and engaged in guerrilla warfare.

The lagoons and extensive mangrove swamps north of Gilimanuk harbor have an unusual variety of wildlife. Pulau Menjangan, off Bali's northwest coast, is famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving. This marine reserve is part of Bali Barat National Park, the last wilderness area on Bali. Access to the park is easiest from Labuhan Lalang, about 25-km northeast of Gilimanuk. Three km south of Gilimanuk in Cekik is the park headquarters. Visit the friendly staff at the Government Tourist Information Center on Jalan Muhara beside Hotel Nusantara to pick up their map and brochure.

Getting away

From Gilimanuk's Bemo Station, 'bemo' head out regularly to Denpasar until 2200 (two hours, 134 km). Dark red 'bemo' also travel regularly to Singaraja via Lovina until around 1800 (88 km). Less crowded minibuses travel to Singaraja/Lovina or to Denpasar's Ubung. Crossing from Gilimanuk over the Bali Strait to Ketapang on the Java side takes only 30 minutes. Ferries depart 24 hours a day every 20 minutes during the day and about every 30 minutes at night. The crossing takes only 30 minutes including loading and docking time.

Buses to Surabaya (five hours) wait for passengers on the Java side. Agents all over Bali will sell you a ticket to any point on Java that includes the ferry crossing. In Banyuwangi, eight km south of Ketapang, is a major bus terminal if you miss out on a cross-Java bus at Ketapang. Consider a different approach by heading up Bali's north coast road, visiting some of the island's most serene beach accommodations. The road between Gilimanuk and Singaraja (88 km) is also very scenic bicycling country, mostly flat with only a couple of hills. Not as much traffic as on the Gilimanuk-Denpasar road.

Location map of Gilimanuk

Last revised on January 24, 2010
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