Set aside the doubts of taking the total hours of bus & ferry ride (18 freakin' hours from Jakarta!), getting along with a group of 30 strangers, replace them with the seduction of beautiful beaches, amazing underwater life, and new adventure. Guess what I got. Unforgettable paradise that got me all smiling and relaxed even until two weeks after the trip…! ☺
ISLANDS & BEACHES
83 km north to a small town called Jepara, Central Java, there’s a hidden paradise for those of you who seek for natural beauty in the forms of white sandy beaches, virgin islands, sunset and and sunrise on the horizon. It’s the National Marine Park Karimun Jawa.
The main island in the cluster is called Karimun Jawa. Not many people, including Indonesians themselves, know about this heaven. There live not more than 8,000ish people, living mostly as fishermen.
You rarely see cars here. The few cars that I saw here were pick-ups for carrying vegetables or other goods. Even the big bad sacks of goods are sometimes carried with motorcycles, by men or women. Talk about balancing weight! It reminded me of circus shows I used to watch in awe when I was little :P
The village life seems very laid-back, so nice and warm to stroll around the island just before sunset, at the same time sipping the fresh sea air and feeling the wind touches your skin. Can I get any cornier.. err.. more poetic than that?
There are about 27 smaller islands clutter around Karimun Jawa. Some are virgin islands, with only trees, plants, maybe dangerous animals inland, who knows, and obviously oh-so-beautiful sceneries on the beaches..!! A few are managed by some resorts as diving and snorkeling sites.
SNORKELING, DIVING, BANANA BOAT,… PICK YOUR TREAT
I met Nemo!We were taken to snorkel at the Tanjung Gelam and Menjangan islands, not far from our lodge at the Wisma Apung. Wow..! I saw Nemo! *grin* Each of us was lent a life jacket, it came in the snorkeling package along with the boat ride between islands.
Thanks for the life jackets we could safely snorkel for a long time, admiring the amazing cities of colorful fish with various patterns, coral reefs, algaes, and starfish underwater. It’s fun to snorkel in groups, so you can tell each other which spots have what views. Vindhya, one of the girls in the group, brought an underwater camera, so it was cool to take pictures of the views down there, the fishes, corals, and us in snorkel-and-mask faces. Hahaha.. you can’t look any sillier than having those snorkels and masks on!
Having your own mask and snorkel is great, but if you don’t, you can rent them for a relatively low price. Rp 30,000 for a set of mask and snorkel (I forgot if that includes a pair of fins or not) for the whole day! They also rent out diving apparel for about Rp 600,000 – Rp 900,000 I think. Hmmphh.. good thing I don’t dive, so I didn’t have to spare that much money.
Dive safely! Don’t dink and dive!
Mind you, diving license is very important to have, because you’ll never know what situations you’d be facing under or out of the water related to your diving trip. A licensed diver should know more about the tidbits of diving, not only of the right techniques. So I really hope that you adventure seekers out there don’t do a silly thing by diving without having a valid license. Being adventurous is one thing, being safe is more important. (err..do I sound like your grandma?)
It’s said that you can also fish in this area. At the Wisma Apung (relax, you’ll find out about this cool lodge I’ve been talking about just two paragraphs down), you could fish while sitting in the room terrace or even lying down on your mattress in the room! Neat, huh?
Shake your banana!
Our lodge there also has a banana boat (how cute, a boat shaped and colored like a banana). We went riding it, pulled by a speedboat ofcourse, maximum of 5 persons each ride. When it was my group’s turn, all girls, we asked the boatman drop us from the boat by making a quick turn at a point in the middle of the sea (a little adrenaline rush.. with our life jackets on! Hahaha…).
But weirdly the ride went so smoothly and no adrenaline rush there.. Why? Because they didn’t drop us at all, and we got back to the lodge all dry. Damn, I felt like asking my Rp 15,000 back for the disappointing ride! Well next time, if you go out on the ride, make sure the boatman heard you good, or you can all wag the banana boat yourselves until it goes unbalanced and you fall out automatically to the waters. That’s what the group after mine did, consisting of 3 guys and 1 girl. They went back to the lodge satisfied!!
SLEEPING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEA
Lodge on coral
One of the things that got me into signing up for the trip was the accomodation we were getting. I mean, how often do you get to sleep in the middle of the sea? Literally. This wooden Wisma Apung (translates to ‘floating lodge’) is built steadily on a large coral which stands alone between Karimun Jawa island and Menjangan island.
You can get there by 10-minute boat ride from Karimun Jawa island.
Even before our boat docked to the lodge jetty, we were jubilant to see how traditionally cool the lodge was, and we, mainly Novi and I, couldn’t wait to dip in the sea around the lodge area. Soon after the boat docked, we had a little snack fries ‘cos we were starving as hell, then put on our bathing suits, and jumped into the water.
We had to be careful though, ‘cos there were quite a lot of sea urchins waiting at the bottom, on the corals, to sting you like crazy. Fortunately, the water was so clear, we were able to see which part was occupied by the evil sea urchins.
When sunset was approaching, I got out of the water, pulled up by Nicolo to the terrace because there was no stairs nor anything to step your feet on under the wooden floor, and so my right foot and leg got a little bruise and cut from the friction with the wooden pillar and edge of the floor.
It bled a little, I just had to make sure I didn’t plunge to the shark pond :P (read on, and you’ll see what it’s about). Silly enough, later on some of the other guys were swimming at the back side of the lodge, where there was a stair to come down to the water (damn, I should’ve known!).
The rooms and the sharks!!
About 15 rooms are available in the lodge, only a few with air conditioner, some have their own toilets (which function as shower room as well) and some have to share toilets/showers. There are ponds of fish, turtles, and sharks (!!!) in front of the rooms. The shark pond surprised me quite a lot, especially because it was located exactly right in front of my room!
But the trip organizer, Ocon, and the lodge owner, Mr. Joko, convinced us all that they’re only little sharks (this part didn’t really soothe me, ‘cos a shark is shark!) and that sharks only attack if you’re in the water with them with fresh blood out of your skin, or if you’re moving in irregular motion or with pounding heartbeats. The safety is proven to be true when some of us did descend (not jump, not plunge! Remember that!) in the pond and swam around the sharks. I just watched them in awe, no need for me to prove my bravery there (well, ‘cos I wasn’t, anyway.. hehe).
Room rates for a night:
Rp 90.000 – room and matresses only
Rp 100.000 – room with matresses and toilet / showers
Rp 200.000 - room with matresses, toilet / showers, and air con
Yup, you don’t get to sleep on a bed nor bunk, only matresses on the carpeted floor. Each room can accommodate 2 – 3 single matresses. Some rooms don’t have cupboards, tables, let alone a mirror. None is equipped with a TV set. But who needs all that in Karimun Jawa? Just enjoy the sea breeze from outside by leaving the sliding doors open a little when you sleep at night. That’s what my roomates and I did, ‘cos we didn’t have AC in our room (and didn’t need one). And don’t worry about mosquitos. There was none!
Lights on, Lights offBad news for you gadget freaks, the electricity supply in Wisma Apung is very limited to how long the fuel can keep the generator up and running. I suggest you just bring minimum gadgets that need to be recharged. Usually the electricity is turned on starting at 5 pm until 6 am. So if you need to recharge your camera, for example, don’t pass your chance when eletricity is on, ‘cos you’ll regret and won’t forgive yourself until forever if you couldn’t take pictures of the beautiful sceneries around Karimun, I tell you that.
Food buffet by boat
Cup noodles and some snacks are available in the lodge, you have to buy them, though. It’s not for free, my friend. Whereas the main meals are brought from the main island of Karimun Jawa by boat, costing Rp 15.000 / pax, served in buffet. For dinner, you could ask for BBQ food, Rp 20.000 / pax. The menu usually is consisted of fish, squids, shrimps, vegetables, Indonesia’s very own fried soybean curd (tahu), fried soybean cake (tempe), and fresh fruits (gosh, it’s watering my mouth writing this). But they don’t let you barbecue them yourselves for safety reasons. It saves you from smelling like smoke, anyways.
The food is served in the common area, where there’s also a TV set and DVD player, and chairs for you to sit while eating. The common area is open to the sea, so you can also eat while sitting on the edge of the wooden floor with your feet touching the sea water. Ahh.. it was such a nice feeling.. very relaxing..
SUNRISE, SUNSET, AND THE STARS
The common area of the Wisma Apung is also the best spot to view sunrise because it faces east. I was woken up by the dawn sea breeze, hence my new friends and I got a chance watching the sun rose from the horizon.
We had a nice look of the sunset when we were strolling in the Karimun Jawa island, at the small dock where boats to and from Wisma Apung is anchored. Little boys were playing soccer in a green grass field near the dock with sea and coconut trees in the background.
After eating the famous bakso (meatballs) with bluish glass noodles in Karimun Jawa island, we went back to Wisma Apung for supper, showers, and hanging out in the terrace area of the lodge. They have this open hut (it’s got roof but no walls) on the side front of the lodge where we sat and lay down, talking and having laughs, while staring at the stars above.
Better yet, get on the flat buoyant ensembled wooden planks (sort of like a raft) attached to the terrace, lie there, stare at the stars straight above, and probably sleep there until morning, that is if your body can handle the sea breeze all night long. It’s perfectly safe, but just be careful when hopping from the terrace to the raft. The longer legs or the further jump you’ve got, the safer.
THE ROAD TO PARADISE ISLAND
Jakarta – Jepara – Karimun Jawa
I have to agree with what my friend Mumun said, that a trip with hassles usually comes out worth it. In Karimun Jawa case, it was actually not a hassle in the way that everything was organized by Ocon and Ari of MataIndonesia group. All I did was sign up by email, pay Rp 925,000 for about everything, and hop on the Santika bus at Rawamangun bus station, East Jakarta. What I considered the real hassle was.. sitting nicely on the bus for 11 straight hours from Jakarta to Jepara port all night long, started at 7.30 pm. Then, less than an hour after that, we had to land our butts again in the seats of the ferry for 6-7 straight hours to get to Karimun Jawa island. Double that with the trip back to Jakarta 3 days later, a total of 36 hours sitting in bus+ferry is what we had to go through. But like I said, it was all worth the fun and beauty of the Karimun Jawa!
The bus fare from Jakarta to Jepara is Rp 110,000 by Santika bus, and the ferry ride costs Rp 60,000 (executive class, with air con), and surely cheaper for economy class.
The most important thing for you to know is that the KMP Muria is only available on certain days and times. The schedule is:
- Jepara – Karimunjawa: Saturday and Wednesday at 8.30 am
- Karimunjawa – Jepara: Monday and Thursday at 8.30am
THE ROAD BACK TO JAKARTA
We stopped by in one of Jepara's gift shop and bought lots of gifts, mainly sarongs and scarfs. The prices range from about Rp 10,000 to hundreds of thousands. There are also womens's clothes and men's shirts.
Then we had dinner in Kudus, the kudus soto (sort of like soup with beef or chicken) near the historical Kudus Mosque, right across the alun-alun.
Unfortunately, our bus was broken down, so we had to wait about 2 hours for them to fix it, just goofing around and taking pictures at the alun-alun and had a killing-time supper at KFC in the Kudus Mall area. Just when we didn't know what else to do, the bus was done and we continued our trip, stopping by a snack-gift shop to buy mostly jenang kudus, a national-wide known as their specialty.
Hopped on the bus again, the next morning we were already back in the rush-city of Jakarta..
- pictures courtesy of everyone in the Sa'ik Team of MataIndonesia -
This article is also published on Indohoy.com.