Beautiful beaches, clear waters
Karimunjawa’s number one activity is spending a leisurely day island hopping around the small archipelago and snorkelling (or alternatively diving) the spectacular underwater marine park.
Deserted white sand beaches and crystal clear waters offer a rich diversity of marine life, but sadly much coral bleaching and in some areas plastic waste—take a rubbish bag to fill up when you snorkel, and refuse single-use plastic. However there’s an abundance of hard and soft corals in good condition, a kaleidoscope of fish and even a shipwreck (The Indonor, a 30m long ship which sank in 1960), and you may be lucky to see turtles or dolphins too.
Organised daytrips on local fishing boats head out to islands either to the western or eastern sides of Kurimunjawa Island, which side is usually dependent on weather conditions. The trips include snorkelling from the boat at three or four positions with a guide (not always English speaking) pointing out things you may miss (and keeping you safe) and stopping at two or three islands (we visited Pulau Cemara Kecil and Pulau Geleang on the western side); a barbecue fish lunch (with vegetarian options), fruit, drinking water and snorkelling equipment, including lifejackets are all part of the deal.
The day concludes watching the sun set over the ocean from one of the islands before returning to Kurimunjawa after dark. These trips are excellent value at 200,000 rupiah per person, with boats restricted to a maximum of twenty punters. Book through your accommodation or one of the tour operators on the island.
For a more comfortable trip, Go Green Tours provide a catamaran with padded seats. They offer similar half day trips for 175,000 rupiah per person or full day trips for 225,000 rupiah per person. Alternatively you can charter your own boat for the day with guide, equipment and lunch included: fishing boats start at 600,000 rupiah per person with a minimum of two (cheaper per person with more), or Go Green Tours boat is 2,000,000 rupiah for the day (boat only).
Our friends at The Coconut House offer an island hopping dive trip that includes equipment, two fun dives (certified divers only), barbecue lunch and a guide for 1,000,000 per person (minimum two).
Bad weather conditions between December and March cause high winds and big waves, and if you make it to the islands during this time, it’s unlikely that trips will run, and you’ll be limited to snorkelling off the beaches around Karimunjawa Island itself.
Dangers in the water include stonefish and stingrays, our guide pointed out areas to avoid. We also saw some jellyfish near the mangroves, but not when we were snorkelling. It may be wise to pack a bottle of vinegar in your first aid kit just in case. Of course the greatest danger is the sun—lather on the sunblock, take a hat and wear a rashie or T-shirt when you snorkel.
This is a protected marine area, so don’t touch or take anything, and don’t buy souvenirs made from marine products including shells. Collecting shells from the beach also creates a perceived market—locals are likely to collect them live from the sea in order to sell them to tourists.
Also avoid the day trips that include swimming with reef sharks in netted enclosures, sharks have as much right to swim freely around the reef as you do. We were impressed by the messages at Hammertime T-shirt shop near the Alun-alun run by a local marine biologist who’s T-shirt slogans support and educate locals about marine protection.
Several guesthouses rent additional equipment that will make your day in the sun even more fun: including GoPros, drybags, hammocks, full face snorkelling masks and inflatable lounge chairs.
Go Green Tours: T: (0812) 2518 2101, (0813) 2792 4342; http://go-green-tour.com/
The Coconut House: Jalan Dr. Sutomo, Karimunjawa; T: (0274) 414 431, (0274) 580 643, (0813) 9267 8888; http://www.satu-dunia.com/karimunjawa.html
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.