I know I’m way late in getting these photos posted, but I swear I have a reason! This is actually my second blog post about Karimunjawa. The first one I wrote will be published soon on Discover Your Indonesia, a blog about luxury travel by a delightful young lady named Firsta. I’m excited to have my work featured on her page and of course I’ll put up a link as soon as it goes live.
Fortunately our trip was long enough (with a massive amount of photos) for me to do two if not three or four posts about our radical trip. Karimunjawa loosely translates to ‘a stone’s throw from Java’ and it’s mind boggling that this picture perfect paradise is so close to where we live. Karimunjawa is an archepeligo of 27 islands off the north coast of Java, 22 of which are part of a marine reserve and the islands themselves are a national park. There’s been much discussion of Karimunjawa being one of the spots that could turn into ‘the new Bali’ and after spending a week in the glistening, turquoise waters, that seems a very likely destiny for this hidden gem.
We booked a bungalow at Breve Azurine Lagoon Resort and loved our accommodations. Our small air conditioned hut was the perfect, quiet getaway. The open air lobby in the main building sits on the water with sweeping views of the Java Seas from the wrap-around porch, gazebo and swing at the end of the dock. The resort also boasts its own private beach that was mostly deserted with only two other couples staying in the hotel the week we were there. There were tall fruit trees that lined the edge of the beach that the flying foxes, the world’s largest bats, call home. I think Joel could have just watched the giant bats climbing from limb to limb munching on fruit all day. He says his affection for them stems from their resemblance to his beloved dachshund Jackson. They are about the size of a small dachshund and have the same pointy muzzle, but I still prefer my Blanche over a bat any day.
We spent the first half our trip on the water either on our all day snorkel tour or making daily use of the hotel’s complimentary kayaks exploring the vast lagoon where the resort is situated. We spent hours on the water paddling to secluded beaches and Joel’s favorite, a nearby abandoned hotel. Being in the kayaks was like having your own personal window into the coral reefs that line the coasts. Those views were only surpassed by the snorkel tour when we were able to anchor at two different locations with coral communities straight out of Finding Nemo. Our guides created quite the frenzy by hiding bits of cooked fish under a rock in the coral. The only downside to the day was that even with sunscreen Joel and my pearly white skin couldn’t quite handle the brutal serving of UV doled out by the equatorial sun and we arrived back at port quite red. To the great amusement of our Indonesia tour mates, Joel dubbed us ‘bule bakar’ which means grilled white people.
Anytime we left our hotel on foot we encountered a chorus of “Hello Mister!” from the giggly gang of neighborhood kids. It’s hard to even fathom the kind of lifestyle they lead in such a remote area. Unless you can afford a generator (only the nicest hotels can) the island only has power from 6:00pm until 6:00am so modern conveniences are few and far between. There are plenty of bodegas selling basic necessities like soap, shampoo, rice and candy, but large chain groceries stores are nonexistent. The homes in the area were simple, many only cinderblock structures without even panes of glass in the windows and certainly devoid of any air conditioning. Despite their lack of Western amenities, it didn’t hinder the chances of coming out to see all the boys intently staring into games on tablets or phones.
The most unusual abodes we came across were those on the water, some still connected to an island but jutting out over the water and others on floating, raft-like structures completely independent from any dry land. The last stop on our snorkel and island hopping tour was a floating community of sorts where the locals have built pools to house sharks. For 40,000 rupiah or just over $3 USD you can have your photo taken in the shark pool. Though it would have been an interesting photo opportunity, we did not partake. It doesn’t feel like there’s much regulation of the tourism industry in this area so there’s really no way of knowing if you’re contributing to some kind of animal cruelty. I’m sure the sharks are well fed, hence them not being interested in the meaty tourist legs plunging into their habitat so frequently, but the thought of wild animals living their entire existence in a tiny pool doesn’t thrill me. However I say that after having patronized multiple aquariums so maybe I’m being hypocritical.
One dilemma of the tourism still being up and coming is travel options varying daily and up-to-date schedules can be hard to come by. Our four night stay turned into six nights after the one and only flight to Semarang was sold out and the ferry that we were told would leave on Friday actually left on Saturday morning. But we made the most of our extra two days by renting a scooter and burning rubber until there no roads were left unexplored. Maneuvering the treacherous, pothole laced roads to the north side of the island is not an easy task for a novice driver but Joel was my scooter hero! We stopped periodically to explore the mangrove forest, check out the beaches and to take photos of local workers cutting, milling and bagging grains on the roadside. They even got Joel to come lend a had stripping the grains off the stalks from the fields (we’re not sure exactly what he was harvesting).
After an unforgettable week in paradise we finally made it onto a ferry home. Despite leaving our utopian tropical isle, we were happy to get back to Semarang and rest up before heading back to work. Joel and I agreed that this was by far our favorite trip we’ve taken thus far in Indonesia and it’s going to be a hard one to top. This was really our last chunk of vacation before summer break when we’ll go back to the US for six weeks. We may take one more over night trip to visit Prambanan, but this was our last big trip and we went out with a bang for sure. We’re looking forward to keeping things low key during May and June, just staying home to rest and build up some anticipation for our big American wedding trip this summer.