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Karimunjawa, A Great Place for Marine Enthusiasts.
My friends and I have just made this memorable trip to Karimunjawa. Here is the complete story of the trip which took four days and had made my skin much darker as the result of sun exposures.
Karimun Jawa is a name of the main island with some small islands around it and homes of corals, mangroves, coastal forests, and estimated 400 marine faunas, around 242 species of which are ornamental fish. These clustered islands are located at north sea of Central Java which can be reached around 3 hours from Semarang by fast ferry "Kartini", from Jepara by a ferry named Muria or by a pioneer ship (we accidentally knew) which costs cheaper but takes longer, or if you don't want to take those sea transports, and have sufficient budget, then you can reach Karimunjawa by plane from Ahmad Yani Airport in Semarang to Kemujan, an island near Karimunjawa.
Considering the important role of Karimunjawa and surrounding islands in flora-fauna conservations, in 2001 The goverment had declared the area as Karimunjawa National Park.
We headed for Jepara city which can normally be reached for 12 hours by night bus. To begin our trip we, 12 people with the similar interest in traveling, left Jakarta at around 04.30 pm. We took taxis divided into three groups to go to inter-city bus terminal where a night bus, from which we had reserved 12 seats, was waiting for us.
The traffic condition which was terribly congested at that time made us worried not to be able on board at the agreed time, 06.30. The congestion was caused by an incident at one of the buildings being partly on fire so that the policeman stopped the traffic to give way to fire brigades to reach the fire location quickly.
After changing taxis two times plus a motor cycle taxi (this is another popular mode of taxi which is often used as an escape from severe traffic problem) ride, we finally left the traffic jam behind and managed to get to the bus terminal half an hour later than the scheduled time. We thanked the driver for waiting for us and the bus soon departed, starting its 12-hour-trip.
The torture continued....
Having got on the night bus didn't mean the 'torture' caused by traffic jam was over.
It was Thursday night, April 22, or one day prior to Easter holiday, when almost all people in the country usually have the same plan to go out of town to enjoy long holidays either by their own cars or by public transport like us. The effect was predictable : bumper-to-bumper cars had left only little space for our bus to move on toll road.
Jepara was still a long way to go but the mileage only made little progress, my watch showed 10.20 pm but the bus hadn't moved significantly. This unfavorable situation made us pessimistic if we could reach Jepara like our plan.
When we reached Tegal, a city around 80 km away from Jepara, the time was 05.30 am. We contacted our Travel Agent in Jepara and they informed us that the ferry would be able to wait for us until 10.30 am. It made this bus trip became more stressful for us since we were not sure if we could reached Jepara at that time. We tried to calm down and eased up each other although that helped only a little.
We finally reached Jepara at 11.30 with our apprehension coming true : Ferry Muria no longer seen at the Jepara port, had left us behind in disappointment. We didn't stay in this frantic moment for long, we thought hard and made effort to get an alternative transport.
Thanks to a friend on Facebook.
We got a surprising solution !. A friend in our team had contacted his friend on Facebook and he offered a help with an alternative ship, a ship that we had never thought : a pioneer ship !
A pioneer ship is a medium-sized ship which has regular routes from one remote island to the others with the main duty to distribute prime commodities. This very modest ship had saved us although we had to travel together with some smelly cargo.
As I mentioned earlier, this ship's main function is to transport commodities to remote islands, passengers didn't get priority here, so we all had to be satisfied sitting and having our lunch on the floor. The heavy loads which were piled up on the lower deck also made this 1976-made-ship run in more limited speed, around 16 knots per hour. Averagely slow speed, and the smooth sea we sailed gave an advantage for us, the land dwellers, no one of us got sea sick, and what's more, welcome and warm acceptance from the ship crews made this cruise more enjoyable.
All the Struggles are Paid Back.
At 05.30 pm, with the beauty of sunset greeted us, the ship entered Karimunjawa beach. All of us didn't want to miss this beautiful moment by taking pictures. One of their pictures is shown here with an angle that made as if a friend played around with the sun.
Passengers seemed impatient to get off and some were ready to be the first to get the land as soon as the ship touched the pier. Our team was just the same: we eagerly left the ship and without any command some were ready with their pocket digital cameras. After taking pictures at some interesting sites of Karimunjawa seaport, we headed for our home stay. After those long- and-tiring-but-fun journeys on land and sea, taking enough rest was what we needed to get ready for tomorrow's activities.
Early in the morning we prepared the first visit to Menjangan Besar Island. We were going to stay in water all day, so having breakfast was an essential thing to do in order not to catch cold.
Like normally in other coastal areas where fish is the main menu for meals, the host at our homestay also served it for us, the difference was that we really enjoyed the serving for its richer taste thanked to the host cooking skills.
Mingle with sharks. Dare to try ?
The first island we visited was Pulau Menjangan Besar or Big Deer Island. Here visitors were challenged with a mettle test to mingle with some sharks, stingrays, sea turtle and starfish which all lived in a captivity.
Some of us took the challenge. We slowly got down into the pond where those creatures were living. Again, we warily checked if they, specially those sharks, were really safe to human, and after the guard's assurance then we were more confident to move in.
There were 5 sharks in the pond which were very active to roam in . They were not as aggressive as we had thought and even seemed reluctant to be too close to swimmers, this behavior made it difficult to take their pictures with us. Dealing with those sharks, we had to be satisfied being in the same pool with them without any harm indeed.
The stingrays showed opposite attitude. They were calmer and not very sensitive to human approach. With the help from a guard, we could take a closer look and touch them safely since those stingrays belong to harmless type. This condition is much different from its image, as its name implies its ability to sting other creatures. Another lesson we got from this interaction that we could correct our wrong perception about particular animals.
Scared with those sharks and stingrays, some female friends showed more interest in other marine creatures instead. They had fun touching and putting starfish on their hands, and wondered whether a sea cucumber was a sea plant or a sea animal but then remembered about biology lesson in Senior High School that sea cucumber was an invertebrate (animal which doesn't have back bone).
A Park Under Sea Water.
From Shark and stingray breeding place, then we moved on to Pulau Menjangan Kecil (Small Deer Island) which took half an hour boat ride from the previous island, Pulau Menjangan Besar.
The beach around Pulau Menjangan Kecil was so white and pristine. The sea water was very clear so that we could see the sea floor with colorful corals, exotic and cute fish living there. Wearing life jackets, snorkels and frog shoes, we swam around Menjangan Kecil beach. We were so amazed by the wonderful views below us as if we swam over a garden, which made it different from common garden we knew that various colorful fish "flew" around flaunting their colorful bodies instead of butterflies.
The water at the beach areas was estimated around 2 meters deep but at some locations it was shallower so that we had to be careful not to step on the corals which may broke them.
Humble Lunch Freshly From the Sea.
After swimming, enjoying sea garden through snorkeling goggles, and playfully mingling with sharks and stingrays, the time for other enjoyment had come : lunch.
It was not an exclusive lunch but we found it special since the fish being served were freshly caught from the nearby water.The fish were grilled in a natural way with ground spices were repeatedly pasted on them during the grilling. We could smell the tempting aroma brought by billowing smokes while waiting for the fish to be ready.
When the process was done, the grilled fish were served together with chili sauce made in their own secret recipe. I didn't really care how they made it as long as they didn't keep us in awaiting too long since this hungry feeling didn't want to compromise.
Grilled fish, rice, sambal (chili sauce), fresh (drinking) water were all served on the mat and 12 of us were sitting around the dishes ready for lunch action. It only took less than one hour for the hungry stomachs to eat up everything which also made all of us surprised us how this snappy lunch could happen.
Having had been stuffed, we continued our sail to the next island : Pulau Geleang or Geleang Island. Here we were offered another attraction: sea garden with different looks of corals and fish.
We noticed that corals and fish around Geleang island were more varied, colorful and attractive. Those corals reminded me to fictional story I had once read telling me about a jungle with strangely exotic plants shaping like balloons, needle, and banyan trees. Fish living under the Geleang beach made the beauty more decorative. Clown fish were found among those fishes but their appearance looked usual compared with their peers which flaunted combination of colors which I've never seen before.
A floating island.
One thing which made the scenes more enchanting that we found a floating island in Karimunjawa. the island looks floating not because of its wings but the sea water around the island which was so blue, as blue as the sky at its background that made the island really looked like floating.
When we travel to beaches or marine areas, sunset is always a great show presented by mother nature, and so was in Karimunjawa. We didn't miss any single moment to enjoy the last seconds of the sun going down and disappearing in the horizon. The dim sun lights and its twilight had caused the sky like burning and created silhouettes on the objects at its foreground.
Karimun Jawa, the World War II Battle Sea.
The speculations about Karimun Jawa as the battle sea during WW II slowly-but-surely have been cracked. Two revered Nazi German submarines hit by the allied forces during the war and sank in Java sea around Karimun Jawa in 1944 and 1945. One the the submarine wrecks, a German Unterseeboots or U-Boat 168 has been found by a research team from Indonesia National Archeological Center recently although it is only 60 left of the whole body while the other one, U-Boat 183, is still not known.
They confirmed it was a Nazi German U Boat 168 based on several artifacts found in the U-Boat like dining plates with Nazi symbols, cups, remain of a googles, a shoe sole, aqualung hose, a battery, and a binoculars. The finding is supported by data from the German Government and from U-Boat Archives.
The Last Day.
On the last day of our tour we still wanted to make good use of the rest of our time in Karimunjawa by visiting Nirwana beach.
Nirwana beach was actually a private property but had been opened for public by buying entrance ticket. Like its name suggested, Nirwana was a very beautiful beach with white sands carpeting its grounds and coconut trees grow in good orders from which we could order some coconuts to drink and eat the flesh at the site.
At the left side of the area we could see a resort for rent which overlooked the open sea. In front of the resort, there were seen a cluster of big, blackish rocks which, after visiting and taking a closer look, I found like hardened volcanic rocks.
The Location Map of Jepara.
Jepara is a city in Central Java from where you can sail to Karimunjawa.