Apart from its rich cultural heritage and courts in Yogyakarta and Surakarta, Central Java province also boasts beautiful nature and landscapes that earned it the name Jawadwipa (land of the prosperous).
One of the numerous nature-based tourism spots in the province is Karimun Jawa National Park, which is located off Central Java’s northern coastline. Declared a national park in 1988, the Karimun Jawa Islands consist of 27 small islands.
There are several interesting spots for island-hopping and water sports, such as snorkeling and diving.
Snorkeling spots are available around almost all of the islands, while a shipwreck dive spot around Kemojan Island may satisfy adventurous diving urges. If you are not into water sports, you can lounge on the beach and get some serious rays.
About an hour’s boat ride from Karimun Jawa Island, you will find Gosong, a five-by-eight meter sandbank located in the middle of the sea that only appears at low tide. The clear water surrounding the sandbank makes it an ideal place to swim and take pictures of the gorgeous scenery. A few minutes boat ride from the sandbank is Cemara Kecil Island which is great for walking along the pristine white sand beach or snorkeling around the dock.
While you are in the area, swim with the blacktip reef sharks on Menjangan Besar Island (now that’s a conversation starter). Sharks have a bad name due to their depiction in movies, but they seldom harm humans unless provoked. The national park also has a sanctuary dedicated to protecting sea turtles.
Although you may have worn yourself out with all the nature-based activities on offer, the island has a laid-back atmosphere. Tourists can stay in home stays that are run and owned by the locals, or in resort style accommodation. During the day, the island is pretty quiet as tourists go island-hopping and fishermen go out to sea to fish.
The buzz begins again at night when tourists and the fishermen come back ashore. Electricity is only switched on between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., so don’t forget to recharge your electronic gadgets during the night. Souvenir shops also only open during the night. To get from one place to another, people can rent a motorcycle or car, or take a ride on a becak (tricycle pedi-cab).
The island does not have many eateries, which is why the homestays are a good option as the host can cook for you. For dinner, tourists usually flock to a small square near the fishermen’s port where several food stalls are open. The day’s fresh catch, from snapper to grouper, is on the menu.
Another dining option is Café Amore, near the ferry port. Serving Indonesian food and Western-inspired food, the tables at the café have a nice view overlooking the ocean.
The best time to visit the islands is during the dry season, which falls between April and October. During the rainy season, the high waves on the Java Sea can disrupt transportation and sometimes result in people being stranded on the islands for days.
To reach the Karimun Jawa Islands, there are three options for transportation: the KMC Kartini fast boat from the port in Semarang, which reaches the islands in around three hours; KM Muria ferry from Kartini port in Jepara, which takes around five hours, and the KM Bahari Express fast boat, which only takes around two hours from Jepara.
Tickets for the boats are only available at the ports, and cannot be ordered by phone or Internet, or booked in advance. During the holiday season or over long weekends, tickets are usually sold out. Boat and ferry schedules can sometimes change depending on demand and the season, so if you have limited time, it’s advised to use a reliable tour agent to assist with arranging tickets.
— All Photos by Tifa Asrianti