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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Karimunjwa Diving and Snorkeling

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Karimunjawa, Beyond the Average

KARIMUNJAWA: Marine Adventure in the Java Sea
It was 12.00 a.m. and the air begun to be colder when people just fell asleep while I was riding my motorcycle from Solo headed toward Jepara with three other friends of mine. For the second time, I started my journey to Karimunjawa archipelago, geographically located more than 80 km north away from Jepara and culturally comprised of three different tribes: Java, Madura, and Bugis. Ferry Muria was the only transportation available in Jepara to crossover at the time (which is not every day). Lucky us not to wait in a long queue to get the boat ticket. February was not crammed with people going to the island. It will be more crowded in the peak season from May to October which is also the best time to visit.

Six hours on the boat. The only amusement on board is television. Dolphins’ parade might also be seen in the middle of Java Sea, but it’s not always, only on June till August. To pay the exhaustion of the voyage, an ewer of fresh cold young coconut juice was served on the round table under terminalia cattapan in front of  the homestay we lodged. Since we traveled on a shoestring, we set up in a homestay room which is far cheaper than in a hotel or resort. We only spent IDR 80.000 per room per night. It’s not quite solely, as it is a family’s house with shared bathroom. It is a clean and nice dwelling though.
People say that the island is a perfect place to catch a wonderful scene of sunset. And they were right! We witnessed it from a small dock where many colorful fishermen’s fishing boats were attached to. We captured it. Not any stumbling block or cross beam got in the way the sun to sleep under the horizon. Beautiful it was. The gold hour led to the blue one. The sky was amazing.

We took a walk during the first night in the island and stopped at an open place, quite a town’s square, not far from the dock. It is the busiest place at night. Local people build food stalls, sell local cuisine likebakso ikan ekor kuning (yellow-tailed fish meatball), ikan bumbu srepeh (grilled spiced fish), pindang serani (kind of fish soup), clam satay and other grilled sea foods. The tourists flocked around to dine in crowd.
Night is always where the crowds meet their world. Yes, night when the electricity is available from six to six (from evening to morning). Town’s square, cafe , and souvenir shops are fully filled. The island is only a small town yet the number of travelers and backpackers of either domestic or foreign is increasing more and more since words which are easily retrieved in the virtual world take most roles in raising the island’s fame. The government and local are seemingly trying to improve the accommodation and transportation facilities. One more fast boat is added from Jepara to encounter the greater number of travelers. The airport is in progress for enlargement. Many new buildings are constructed for lodgings ranging from the economic class as where I lodged to the more luxurious ones. The rate of luxurious lodging varies from IDR 200,000 up to IDR 1,300,000 per night. A bank and an ATM are now open for public. Some internet cafes are provided, not many though. Besides, small stores and food stalls selling daily needs are currently easier to find in the roadside. Bicycles and motorbikes rentals grow like fungus.
Local people know their home better and we asked them where to hit the spot for sunrise. At 4.30 a.m., half awake, we headed to Nyamplung Ragas, eastern part of the island, 15 minutes by motorbike from the homestay. God granted an epic sunrise along with cold morning dew dripping from the grass. Surprisingly, a one meter long lizard crawled crossing the street on the way back to homestay. The island is said to be occupied also by deer, monkey and other reptiles like snakes.
Morning is time to start snorkeling activity and island hopping. But, wait. We were not going to hop on some small islands namely Tengah, Kecil, Menjangan Kecil, Menjangan Besar, Cemara Kecil, Cemara Besar, or even Geleang. We switched from the standard itinerary, turned our back on those islands, diverted the direction of the boat to east farther, to triangle-patterned islands of three; Genting, Sambangan and Seruni.
Two hours to the destination was lapsed by sailing passing some islands and shorelines in the main island, watching seagulls hunting fish for feast and enjoying the fresh ocean air and the blowing wind. I remembered we screamed for we were mesmerized looking this deserted place. We anchored the boat in the middle of these three islands where a long white sand bank is widely unfolded contrasted to the blue of the ocean and the sky. It is more like a tiny beach in the heart of the triangle-patterned islands. I sauntered along the sand bank and set my eyes on blue starfish lounging here and there.
Genting Island is one of the five among the 27 islands in Karimunjawa archipelago which are inhabited. The residents are not so many compared to the main island. Neither are the tourists. Hence, we owned the crystal clear coast just then and played in the shoreline. It was so quiet so we really could hear the wave rippling kissing the sand.

Getting into the blue near Sambangan Island, we snorkel on the incredibly clear visibility water. We wanted no more but an underwater picture perfect. Various characters, size and types of corals, reefs and fish schooling full of color spoiled our eyes. This underwater spectacle which grew without blemish on all over the sea floor seemed remain untouched.

Splendor is not the only thing to be pictured. A glimpse of a swoop was caught on sight in the 7 meters deep sandy sea floor and ray fish swam across below us. Though panic attacked us, we tried to stay calm to avoid its reaction which can harm by its poisonous sting on its tail. Some things also ought to be taken into account that there some should-be-avoided sea creatures. Fire coral, stone fish, urchins and jellyfish are some of them.
Unnoticeably, noon came so soon. The sun was getting higher and fiercer. Our skin begun burnt and our bellies were hungry. We lied on the floury white sand of Seruni Island under a pine tree while waiting for lunch. A lip smacking grilled fresh fish from the ocean dished with sweet and spicy soya sauce was perfect for saving our starving tummy. The remaining day was consumed for canoeing and snorkeling in the deep of Sambangan Island. It is as stunning as the previous site.
The sun glided glamorously above the saffron skyline as the day turned into night and we navigated back to the main island. Night attraction in the island besides mingling in crowds is when we look up to the sky. It is where the constellations of stars and the Milky Way galaxy are brightly and clearly seen, the free and real planetarium with the limited lighting.
Snorkeling is indeed the main activity in the island. Yet, hills and forest are two things that should not be missed. We spent one more day trekking in these places. Nyamplungan hill is located � 300 meters above sea level. It is a graveyard of Sunan Nyamplungan, one of the Islamic preachers from Java in the times of yore. The local respect it as a sacred place because most of them are Moslem. We met some visitors from several towns in Java such as Kudus, Demak, Pati coming to this site for praying. Small fount in the middle of the woody graveyard is believed for recovering diseases and bringing fortune. Above all this, the view is spectacular. We can see the land and small islands scattered from this hill.

On the outskirts of the island, grow mangrove forest in a wide area. The officers of Karimunjawa National Marine Park take big roles not only in maintaining the forest but also in building the access for trekking activity for educational tour. The trek was constructed last year with 1 km long completed with shelters and information boards.

We had one last night to spend before we bid adieu to the island and had another 6 hours on the boat to Jepara. We needed something from here to be brought back to our hometown. Centered souvenir shops sell everything representing the island. Mention like T-shirts, bags, key chains, things decorated with sea stuffs, even preserved foods are available. Satisfied is not the suitable word to express for there are still unvisited small islands outside the main island. But for God’s sake, it’s a heavenly island!



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