The sea crossing from East Java's mainland to the small island of Madura takes just half an hour. A regular ferry service transports cars and passengers across the narrow strait between Surabaya's harbour of Tanjung Perak and Kamal on Madura's south west coast. Measuring some 160 km in length and about 40 across at its widest point, Madura supports a population of close to 2.3 million inhabitants, most of whom are farmers or fishermen.
Although the island is a part of the province of East Java, it is home to a completely separate ethnic group, which has its own language and customs. Renowned over the centuries for their sailing prowess, the Madurese are a tough, high spirited people, whose character appears well suited to the harsh climate and dry landscape.
Madura's most famous attraction is the annual bull racing (kerapan sapi), which takes place during the dry season in August and September. These exciting and colourful tournaments consist of a race between two pairs of bulls, each team pulling a rider and sled. Following a series of heats, which take place in different parts of the island for some weeks, the highlight of the season occurs when the finals are held in Pamekasan, Madura's capital. Recently a new bull racing stadium has been built in Bangkalan with the object of attracting more tourists to the island.
Madura is not so large and it is possible to travel the whole way round it in a couple of days. However, there is quite alot to see and more time is needed to explore even the major places of interest.
Starting at Kamal and moving along the southern coast, the first stop is the town of Sampang, near to which lies Camplong Beach. The best time to be here is shortly after sunrise or at dusk, when the blue sailed Madurese fishing boats (prahu) are either arriving or setting off. The air is clearer at these times and from the beach there is a good view of the mountain ranges on the mainland to the south.