Sand and sea… and rubbish
What’s an island trip without a day at the beach? Punctuating Karimunjawa’s surrounding mangrove forests lay slithers of sandy white bays accessed from signposted tracks off the main paved road. Some are well marked, others, well, you’ll just have to keep your eyes peeled.
Five kilometres northwest of town a triptych of sparkling bays are the most popular and indeed the most impressive on the island: Tanjung Gelam, Sunset Beach and Pantai Batu Topeng. All can be reached by the same access road and it’s easy to walk between the three to chose your most desired. All three are graced with a handful of warungs selling drinks including fresh coconuts and cold beer along with standard nasi and mie dishes to keep you sustained.
It’s possible to snorkel the clear waters of the shallow reef, but you’ll have to bring your own snorkelling gear which can be hired in town for around 40,000 rupiah per day. We’d suggest hiring a hammock too (around 25,000 rupiah per day). The beaches are fairly rubbish free, kept clean by the warung owners, however a couple of tourists we spoke to mentioned there was much plastic among the reef here, although that is probably dependant on which way the wind is blowing.
The most popular beach with Western tourists is Pantai Batu Topeng, the furthest north, a shady secluded bay with gentle lapping waves and a deeper patch of sand than the others. Low slung trees here are perfect for stringing up a hammock.
Moving south, Sunset Beach is popular for (obviously) sunset, although better view of the descending fireball can be seen from Tanjung Gelam. Sunset beach tends to attract young independent Indonesian tourists, with a couple of beachside swings set up for selfie shots.
The most southern of the three, Tanjung Gelam offers the longest stretch of sandy beach, and is by far the most popular with many more warungs, and daytripping boatloads arriving for sunset, however, it’s all relative—don’t expect the crowds of Kuta, Bali. It was mentioned that sometimes local folk collect a 2,000 rupiah “entry fee” to the beach, although that wasn’t our experience.
Lagoon Lele sits within a deep bay on the eastern side of the island, about four kilometres by road from the town. When we visited it was most unpleasant, with water churned brown and piles of plastic rubbish strewn all over the narrow strip of sand, however we had been warned that this was not the season for this beach and at times the water can be perfectly blue, the beach much deeper and no rubbish.
What is an absolute delight, however is a private mangrove forest at the edge of the bay that is home to a colony of fruit bats. The area is gated and marked as private property, but our guide knew the owner and introduced us so we were able to wander along the path and spy on the hundreds of chattering bats.
At the end of the pier within the mangroves, the landowner is building a floating bar and small guesthouse (“Floating Paradise”), and the path will soon be open to the public. In the meantime, you could contact Fabian from Hammertime T-Shirt shop near the alun-alun who also knows the owner.
Anora Beach is tucked away around the middle of the island on the eastern flank, but accessed from the road that initially runs northwest from the village. This beach is fenced and a small group of warungs along the roadside charge 5,000 rupiah entry fee to the sand which is set up with “selfie props”. We don’t mind paying these unofficial fees (no one owns the beach in Indonesia) if it helps to keep the beach clean, but here, we were disappointed to see it covered in rubbish, and the stall holders just sitting around collecting the cash. The nearby headland (only accessed via the fee-charging beach), requires another 2,000 rupiah to climb, however the view is well worth it, and though we think it should be free, it’s possible private land.
Batu Putih Beach north of Anora is a little difficult to find, but as you travel past the turnoff to Ary’s Lagoon Bungalow & Hotel (that also leads to the pretty but only privately accessed through the resort, Barracuda Beach), you may notice a stilted traditional wooden Bugis house hidden back from the road, look for the small sign directing you to the beach here. The rutted path leads to the edge of a low cliff which you climb down to the beach. The water was a bit choppy and tide high leaving not much sand when we dropped by, but we could see that on a calm day this would be a pleasant secluded spot.
Continuing north past the airport, Bunga Jabe Beach fronts the simple desert island-like guesthouse, Bunga Jabe, a terrific spot for a back to basics stay. From here a series of small backroads lead to the western side of the island to Pantai Telaga, this is more local fisherman’s territory, but is interesting to ride along the red dirt tracks and see the traditional fishing boats.
Leading from the road to the east of town, in front of Sunrise View Villa, a track ends at Pancuran Beach. Note the small spring flowing to a mini lagoon behind the beach as you pass by on the track. This is another pick-the-right-time kind of beach, it looked as though it could be a pretty spot on a nice day, but choppy and full of rubbish at other times. Unfortunately we visited on one of the other times.
From here you can spy the lovely sheltered bay that’s privately accessed from Breve Azurine Lagoon Retreat. They offer a day beach package for 100,000 rupiah that not only gives access to the beach but includes use of kayaks, snorkelling equipment, beach mat and a soft drink, as well as use of the resort’s swimming pool and WiFI. Contact the resort to book.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.