Our first destination in Indonesia is the Karimunjawa archipelago. In 1999 the group of 27 tropical islands have been declared the Karimunjawa Nationalpark, which is located about 80 km off the north coast of Central Java. It takes quite a while to get to the islands, but once you notice the turquoise water, the shoal of fish and the smooth hills of lush green that appear on the horizon, you will forget about every inconvenience.
Karimunjawa is an adventurous island with outstanding nature
The village on the main island is a tiny fishing village with just a handful homestays. We rent a bungalow at Ayu Hotel that is owned and managed by a lovely Indonesian/German couple. The bungalows are friendly and clean. The breakfast is a mix of Western and Indonesian dishes, which makes it rich of variety.
After we arrived at the homestay we couldn’t wait to rent a scooter to explore this magical island. The scooter costs around 60.000 / 75.000 IDR a day – approcimately 4 – 6 Euro. Oh, and don’t worry, when you won’t get helmets. Somehow its not a common thing on the island, so drive safely.
The streets are in no good condition and tourists are rare. In fact Karimunjawa is a well known travel destination for Javanese locals and not overrun by western tourists simply due to its a lack of access. Anyhow, we managed to pass some adventurous streets to reach the most beautiful beach on the island – Tanjung Gelam. The crystal clear water and the palm fringed beaches with its white sand are overwhelming. There are a whole bunch of tiny warungs along the beach that offer fresh coconuts and Nasi- or Mi Goreng. Perfect for a small snack at lunchtime.
These islands form the Maledives of Indonesia
A snorkeling trip to inhabited islands around Karimunjawa is probably the best chance to catch the whole unspoiled nature and peaceful atmosphere in one glimpse. Snorkeling trips can be arranged by almost every homestay and cost around 250.000 IDR. The trip include some breathtaking coral reefs for snorkeling experiences and a rest period on one of the tiniest islands. With a length of 3 kilometers we can easily walk around it within 15 minutes. We had freshly grilled fish, rice and tofu salad for lunch and felt like Robinso Crueso. Before we made our way back we had another opportunity to watch Nemo within his natural habitat. When the sun dropped down into the ocean, we made our way back to the main island.
The next days we explored the island by scooter and discovered some more beaches, beautiful lonesome landscapes and tiny villages. Another activity is an excursion to the national mangrove forest. For little money you have the chance to submerge into the wild mangrove woods and enjoy some of the best viewpoints.
Where to eat on Karimunjawa
There are a few homestays and a couple of restaurants that serve dinner. But basically there is just one location in town, where everyone meets. The Alun Alun is a soccer place, where tables and hudge canvas covers are set up during night time. Imagine a hudge public picnic. But don’t get scared when the electricity turns down several times. It’s part of it and quite charming. Here I have enjoyed some of the best fish I have ever tasted. You have a choice of different warungs that offer fresh fish, calamari, nasi and mi goreng. A dish of fresh fish and rice costs around 50.000 IDR.
I have hit upon these magical islands, when I made our travel arrangements back in Germany. This was when I became curious about this hidden perl of the Javasea. On the whole we spent 5 days here in August 2015 and are still overwhelmed by the fond memories, when we look at the photos.
How to get to Karimunjawa
Take the train from Jakarta to Semarang early in the morning. Buy a first class ticket for your 6 hours train ride. When you arrive in Semarang you have two options. Take a taxi or take a local bus to Jepara, that takes around 3 hours. Latter is way cheaper, but might take you as twice as much time. We really enjoyed it though – it can be a great experience. Book an accommodation in Jepara and stay overnight. Try to arrange tickets for the ferry in advance, every homestay should offer this service. Here you can find the website for the ferry schedule. The next day you need to take a taxi to the harbor, where you can take a fast boat to Karimunjawa. This will take another 2-3 hours – be on time, the ferry won’t wait.
Good to know – Useful facts about the island
Electricity on the island is only available at night between 6pm and 6 am. There is the occasional surge of power during the day, but it can’t be relied upon. Also the Wifi of our homestay used to work only at night time. 3G internet is also available on your phone through Telkomsel.
There is only one ATM on the island, which only accepts Mastercard. No Visa. So make sure to take enough cash with you. A police station is located in the main town of Karimunjawa, the main ferry port is within walking distance of all the hotels and homestays.