I have been wanting to write this from a couple of month ago, while everything about my adventure in Karimunjawa’s still clearly presented inside my mind. However, I have a sort of bad habit of postponing anything, yet against my wish I’d rather write it now. Quite surprisingly, the reminiscence of these wonderful islands in Java region is as fresh as a basket of freshly picked tomatoes in your backyard.
Several Tips Before You Go
To go to Karimunjawa, we can choose one of two routes, via Jepara or via Semarang. If you like to go by plane, you should take Semarang route, where several airline companies like Sriwijaya Air, Citilink, or Lion Air serve flights from Jakarta to Semarang and vice versa. However, you only can get 2D1N tour when you took Semarang route, then it recommended to take Jepara route.
You will sail to Karimunjawa Island via Kartini Port (Jepara) or Tanjungmas Port (Semarang). The boat will not be available everyday. The fast-boat trip will take about 2 hours from Jepara and 3,5 hours from Semarang. You can choose Express Bahari/Cantika from Jepara or Express Kartini from Semarang AND it is important to make sure that you have got the fast-boat ticket 3 months before your holiday date! It’s kinda tricky business here since you will find the ticket would be sold out even if you buy several days before departure. Ticket brokers are everywhere, so you have to book seats about 3 months prior your departure date. We really have bad experience with the boat ticket. We nearly had to cancel our holiday only because we didn’t know about booking the ticket very early. We depart from Jepara (we arrived there about 8:00 am and the ticket counter even still closed). When they finally opened at 9:00 am, there only 5 VIP tickets left. Luckily we’ve got the 2 last ones, but cannot get any return ticket (from Karimunjawa back to Jepara). Then we have to take the slow-ferry Muria from Karimunjawa, which took about 6 hours at sea -_-
To avoid problems with tickets, I recommend you to take tour package form agents. They will handle all of your needs during holiday, so you can enjoy your time comfortably and worry-free-ly. They will also arrange your tour to the Islands around Karimun Island, where you can snorkel, take photos, swim with sharks, watch sea turtles lay their eggs, have fish barbecue party in the island. The tour package also includes accommodation in Karimun and meals (really good seafood), as well as underwater photo-shoot without any additional fees (exclude tips for the guides). Recent tariff of 3D2N Karimunjawa Tour Package is about IDR 600K – 700K (late 2013).
Oh yes, Karimunjawa is one of some islands with limited electricity. You can only enjoy electricity between 5:30 PM to 6:00 AM everyday. SO, be sure that you have your gadgets fully charged at night. Bring power bank when necessary.
One more thing, not all mobile phone providers be able to provide their service at Karimunjawa; only Telkomsel and XL do. I hope other providers will follow soon.
How to Reach Karimunjawa?
If you are from Jakarta or other big city in Indonesia, you can take bus, train, or plane. I don’t have any experience with the train, so I will not write about it here. If you choose bus, here’s some tips:
The bus Jakarta – Karimunjawa will took 12 hours land trip thru Pantura line. You can take bus “New Shantika” from Rawamangun, Pulogadung, Kalideres, and several other terminals in Jakarta. The one way bus ticket will cost you IDR 125K – 140K including dinner or snacks.
Here’s their ticketbox:
Rawamangun: 021-71262295 / 0818498806
Lebak Bulus: 021-68922737 / 085697036376 / 085286181798
Pasar Induk: 081574029457
Grogol: 021-94627795 / 081511679952
Mangga Besar: 021-93275906
Besides New Shantika, you can also choose many other bus operators, like “Bejeu”, “Muji Jaya”, “Haryanto”, or “Nusantara”. Please goolgle for more information 🙂
If you think you can’t bear 12 hours land trip, you can choose airplanes to Semarang. There are several flights from Jakarta to Semarang, served by Sriwijaya Air, Citilink, or Lion Air. The ticket varies between IDR 300K – 900K one way (excludes 45,000 airport tax). The flight will only take about 1 hour. So fast and comfortable. Despite you fly to Semarang, it is not necessary to start tour from Semarang. You can choose Jepara as starting point (for longer holiday) because it’s only take 2 hours to go there from Semarang. There are several travel agent serving this route. Google for more information.
From Jepara (or Semarang, if you choose this track) to Karimunjawa, you have to take fast boat or ferry. I recommend fast boat, except if you can enjoy 6 hours sea journey without having nausea. The ticket may vary between 65,000 to 200,000 (if I’m not mistaken), from economy class to VIP class.
Here’s the schedule for boats:
Fast Boat Express Cantika 89 / Bahari (2 hours):
Jepara – Karimunjawa
Monday : 10.30 WIB
Tuesday : 10.30 WIB
Friday : 14.00 WIB
Saturday : 10.30 WIB
Karimunjawa – Jepara
Senin : 13.00 WIB
Rabu : 10.30 WIB
Sabtu : 08.00 WIB
Minggu : 14.00 WIB
Slow Ferry Muria (6 hours):
Jepara – Karimunjawa
Monday, Wednesday, Saturday.
Karimunjawa – Jepara
Tuesday, Thursday dan Sunday.
Fast Boat Kartini from Semarang (3,5 hours):
Semarang – Karimunjawa
Saturday : 09.00 WIB
Monday : 07.00 WIB (twice a month, every 1st and 3rd week every month) transit in Jepara.
Sunday : 14.00 WIB
Tuesday : 11.00 WIB (twice a month, every 1st and 3rd week every month) transit in Jepara.
Well, as previously mentioned, we went to Karimunjawa via Kartini Port Jepara, after struggled with boat tickets. And oh, I forgot to mention that we took bus from Jakarta to Jepara, from Rawamangun Terminal. The bus took 12 hours normal trip from Jakarta to Karimunjawa and vice versa. Was a loooong journey we have and it even felt like an adventure! Actually we enjoyed the trip and lucky to “visit” several cities that the bus passed. However, if you cannot stand the long land-trip, you can take flights to Semarang, and you can take travel to Jepara (for 2 hours, and they can take you directly to Kartini Port), except if you intend to start tour directly from Semarang (only short tour available).
Ok, back to our story. After the long winding road from Jakarta to Jepara, we head to Kartini Port (after finally got the ticket) and waited there for the ship’s departure time. With the stomach growled, we found a small restaurant at the port and order 2 portions of chicken satay with rice cake (lontong). The satay was surprisingly good, and with such a hungry stomach we took no time to finish them. Too bad I forgot to take picture of the satay.
Finally the ship arrived at the port and passengers commanded to board in. It was a small fast ship with small seats, the Express Cantika 89. Less comfortable than the executive Jakarta-Jepara bus, yet we didn’t care. We were too excited about exploring Karimunjawa, where the Marine National Park enjoying its fame as a very beautiful underwater ecosystem. Our dreamy thoughts has interfered by a sudden-storm. We were sat sill on our seat, hoped that the intoxicating storm and tide will stop immediately. Well, that hope fulfilled in 1,5 hours, when we arrived safely in Karimunjawa port. There we met our travel agent, Mas Bowo, from who we took a one day package tour. He also arranged our accommodation in a nice homestay called Aulia.
Arrived at Karimunjawa
Karimunjawa only has a small and modest port, which wasn’t too far from the Alun-Alun (center point of the island, where people gather to eat and buy souvenirs). We met Mas Bowo here, and he hired a becak for our transportation to the homestay (only about 5-7 minutes far). At the Alun-Alun we saw Warung Ibu Ester, which was an unofficial meeting point for travelers before island hopping tour started.
Where to Go?
In Karimunjawa, the main attraction is to see the Karimunjawa Marine National Park, and you have to take fishing boat (with packs of “fishermen” as guide) to go island hopping. If you have to rent the boat by yourself, sure it would be pricey. You have to share the cost with other travelers (that’s why I recommend you to take tour package and all of its comforts). If you don’t belong to any touring group, contact the homestay owner or try to gain information from people at Alun-Alun. In our case, we asked Mas Bowo to provide one day tour for us, with 150,000 per person (May 2013), including boat rent, guides, snorkel equipment, admission fee to shark conservation, and of course, island hopping. However, price may increase these days due to high gasoline price. Should you interested in taking tour package, contact Mas Bowo 085225869874 or 087746029346.
We wished to take 2 days tour, but it was not possible because of the ticket…grrrrr. We had to take ferry Muria (which will be departed sooner) instead of Express Bahari/Cantika 89. That’s too bad! That’s why I told you that being sure with the boat ticket is very important, the first thing to care for before you go.
Where to Stay and What to Eat in Karimun?
There are many choices of different kind of homestay in Karimun. They have many similarities, however, each of them is nice, very very clean, looks new, and homey. Our homestay, Aulia, owned by Mas Ghufron (if I’m not mistaken). We intended to stay at Wisma Apung at first, but it was full in our choosen date, so we have to change the plan. I asked Mas Bowo for help (to search for vacant room), because that day we had holiday with minimum preparation so everything was so last minuted.
Cost for stay in Karimunjawa can be considered cheap, as you only have to pay about IDR 60,000 – 70,000 per room per night (shared bathroom). Our homestay Aulia was so valuable for that price, as it was amazingly clean (I was afraid if I spill something or carelessly left any litter). Room was large, with big spring bed and one dressing table with mirror. This homestay was as clean as newly bought saucepan! (which is a really good thing). Below are some photos of Aulia Homestay. Too bad I forgot to take pictures of the bathroom, but believe me, it was so shinning clean as well!
Most of those homestay, like Aulia (our homestay), was pretty close to the Alun-alun (only 2-3 minutes walk). You can have a good feast at this Alun-Alun at night, because good seafood are available here as well as souvenirs. At the first day in Karimunjawa, we celebrated the night with seafood (2 big grilled fishes, and one big grilled squid). In the second day, we had grilled fish and squid again, accompanied with a bowl of sea urchin. We had “bakso ikan” (fish meatball) at the third day, which known as signature food in Karimunjawa. It tasted good, yet the portion was rather small (I guess you need 2-3 portion to satisfy hunger). You can also find common food like “jagung bakar” (roasted corn), Siomay (ala Karimun) or instant noodle.
It was really a feast at night for seafood lovers. Fishes sold in Alun-alun were freshly caught and you can get it with very good value. We dropped at Warung Ibu Zawanah. Medium fishes here for only IDR 25K and bigger ones for IDR 30K – 35K. Squids were here as well, for only IDR 25K – 35K. Craving for lobsters? You are in the right track! Get them here for only IDR 60K per lobster.
Karimunjawa in The Morning Light
We woke up early here at Karimunjawa, and it was worthy. Air were so chillin’ fresh, and environment were just lovely. People were doing their morning activities. Small houses, empty street, greeneries, and mountain stood as a background. No electricity, no pollution. So simple yet breathtaking. It was a perfect depiction of a worry-free and simple life you won’t get in such a big city like Jakarta.
Snorkeling at The Marine National Park and Visiting Shark’s Conservation
Finally, this is the activity we waited for! Well, it was ME who waiting for that. Brown was reluctant at first; he cannot swim and has some kind of traumatic experience related to water. He stated that he will wait on the boat while we snorkel, and I thought that’s too bad. Come on, it was our main purpose in visiting Karimunjawa right? Well, I thought that I could “persuade” him to try snorkel in some way.
Before went to hop the islands and do snorkel, Mas Bowo visited our homestay to give our equipment. We didn’t pay extra charge, means that the equipment included in IDR 150.000/pax we’ve paid (for one day tour). Then we went to our meeting point at the back of Warung Bu Ester, near Alun-Alun. We sailed on the fishing boats, accompanied by 3 helpful guides. We sailed for about 1 hour before reached “Pulau Kecil”, the first snorkeling spot that day.
Me and the others started to wear our equipment, after a short briefing from Mas Gogi, one of our guide. This Mas Gogi will make big difference in Brown’s experience later.
As I thought before, everybody went into water and started to enjoy their activity immediately, except Brown. He was reluctant. I tried to convince him that as long as he wears his life jacket, he won’t drowned. But I failed to ensure him, until the experienced guide Mas Gogi “forced” him to leave his comfortable boat and make a leap into water. Well, was not exactly a leap, more like doubtful movement into the water, but he made it for sure. Mas Gogi made him utilizing his snorkeling equipment! Mas Gogi guarded Brown at first, until Brown felt safe and comfortable in the water, till finally he felt the excitement. At some extent, Mas Gogi finally released Brown to snorkel alone. And he did it!
Brown get used to swim and snorkel, and he cannot stop! He, like all of us, was startled at the beauty of the coral reefs and its inhabitants: small colorful fishes swimming freely around us. We event found a starfish. Water was so clear, and some guides started to took photo of us.
After about one or one and half an hour snorkeling, it started raining. We rushed into the boat, but unfortunately storm caught us in no time. We were trapped in the storm inside our small wooden fishing boat, feeling terrible as well as intoxicated. But we also felt excitement and unexplained feelings seeing such rolling tides, and started to think will we passed this day safely.
Well, we were lucky. The storm stopped quckly, only light rain remained. Finally we left “Pulau Kecil” and went on to “Pulau Tengah”, a larger island to have some lunch. This island has white sand and some palm trees, and it was a big wooden house at its center. That house built on some wooden pillars which separate it from the ground. We called it “Rumah Panggung”. Before the house, they built a kind of tent made of dried palm leaves and bamboos, where they grilled a bunch of fishes. We, chilled, wet and terribly hungry, was really moved by the ashy and delicious smell of that fishes as they being grilled. As we waited, we bought some fried bananas and fried “tahu isi” (tofu filled with veggies, grilled), accompanied by cups of hot coffee. We consumed those delicious treats, as we sat on the wooden floor of the house. Oh, that felt heavenly!
“This is what I called holiday!” Brown said. “It is perfect!”
With stomach filled with freshly grilled fish and satisfied feeling, we sailed on to one more snorkeling spot. This spot was at the very ocean, without any island around it. That was excited and fearsome feelings, but we cannot wait to snorkel again! Brown was so excited as well, and we snorkel much longer here.
Our final destination that day was the Shark’s Conservation. It was a wooden building built on water, and has two huge “shark tanks” made by trapping sea water in a huge pond-like structure with bamboos and stones. That’s where the 1 – 2 meters sharks live and feed everyday. There was two kinds of sharks: the “sirip putih” shark (darker sharks with tiny white spot at the corner of their upper fin) and the “sirip hitam” (lighter sharks with black spot at the corner of their upper fin). We can swim along with sharks here, but only with the “sirip putih”, which were less aggressive than the “sirip hitam”.
Here are my sharky experience:
I tried this intoxicating experience, to swim with sharks, with a mixture of feelings: scared and enthusiast. The underwater sight was so beautiful, however, and I was excited to see the plate-sized angel fish swam before my face. Really pretty. But I cannot stand the intimidating moment when me and a shark met eye on eye. Feel like looking into an evil eye. I knew that time, that this predator will do ANYTHING to get its prey. Fortunately, they were well-fed and maybe didn’t feel so hungry that time.***
Here Are Our Underwater Photos of Karimunjawa National Park: