Madura is a large island outside East Java, 5.290 square kilometers, about 160 km long and 35 km wide. It is separated from Surabaya by the narrow Madura strait, and is administered as a part of the East Java district. Main income is fishing, salt, cattle and agriculture.
The local capital is Pamekasan. Number of inhabitants is about 3-4 million, and the population is considered to be an unique ethnic group like Javanese and Sundanese. Madurese is also a separate language.
A large number of the population has taken part in a government program to reallocate people from densely populated areas to remote regions like Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. Particularly on Kalimantan this program, called transmigrasi, has lead to large problems with bloody clashes between the local Dayak population and the Madurese, also the environment has suffered considerably due to this. It was originally started by the Dutch in 1905, and became a large scale operation under Suharto. Other Madurese has moved by their own will to large cities like Jakarta and Surabaya to try to make a living there. As much as 10 million Madurese is supposedly living outside Madura.
Madura became in 1624 a part of the Mataram kingdom and ruled by the Cakraningrat family. This family were opposing the rulers on Central Java until mid 1800, and they often attacked Mataram and seized large parts of the kingdom. The Dutch took control over the eastern part of the island in 1705 after a deal with Puger, who later took the title Pakubuwono I. In return the Dutch should support Puger in his war against his nephew Amangkurat III on Java. Cakraningrat IV, who ruled the western part of Madura, had to escape in 1743 when the Dutch took control over the entire island. Later he was captured and sent in exile to South Africa. The island became a major source of soldiers to the colonial army, and later of large economic importance as a deliverer of salt to the Dutch.
Madura is famous for the yearly bull races (“kerapan sapi”), which are held in August to September, with the large final in Pamekasan. The bulls are specially trained to win the race, fed on a diet which is a mixture of beer, eggs and chili. The race is performed on a track about 100 m long, the fastest animals can reach a speed of up to 50 km pr. hour, the record is said to be 9 seconds on the 100 meters.
On Java this island is also known for the myths about the sexual ability of the Madurese women. The men here claim that the name Madura is derived from “madu” (honey) and dara (girl). The stories are most likely exaggerated, this is a very traditional and strict Muslim society.
There are some good beaches on the island, especially on the south and east coast, Lombang on the northeast side is said to be the best. The north side are more rugged, the landscape varies between cliffs and large sand beaches. There are several islands outside the east coast, some inhabited by fishermen and their families.
The largest cities is located on the south side. Easiest way to Madura is by ferry from Surabaya, where you can rent a car and a driver. The ferries leave every half hour from Tanjung Perak harbor in Surabaya, you can also go by bus from Surabaya to Sumenep on the southeast coast.