Ok, so I meant to do several posts on our trip to Puala Seribu but following the trip I got a bunch of work and then the Singapore fiasco and I just forgot. 

For those of you following you’ll remember we were embarking on our first island hopping trip to the closest islands to Jakarta.  They are kind of the weekend get away for a lot of Jakartans and as such arent really geared toward the average tourists.  Only one or two of the 120 or so islands have a proper hotel and even those seem to get pretty bad reviews. Also there are no ATMs on any of the islands. 

When we left our heros they were stranded at the marina because they hadn’t planned properly and missed the boat due to not having enough cash.  After finding an ATM we spoke with a really nice guy that owned a small shop at the end of the peer.  He said there were daily ferries that left from the fishing port called Muara Angke (prounounced like one word “mor-angk-ey”).  They are much slower than the $20/person speedboats but also far cheaper at about $4/person.

 When we arrived at Muara Angke, we found it to be a picture perfect SE Asian fishing port.  Fresh fish of all kinds being sold as you drive down a narrow street, the putrid smell of dead fish every where and the fishing boats….ahhhh so classic. We found our ferry to Pramuka, which is one of the more developed islands in Puala Seribu, with dive shops and some guest houses.  We really wanted to go to Tidung but were told boats no longer went there.  What we found out later was there were no longer tour packages which is what everyone was trying to sell us. In fact there was a ferry that went there but we haddnt asked the right questions. So, thinking Pramuka was our only option we had decided to go there and see if we could get a boat to Tidung once we arrived there.

The boat ride was about 2.5 hours in very rough seas. Lida was having problems with motion sickness but was able to keep her lunch down. When we arrived in Pramuka it was a bit disappointing.  Its really amazing how little respect the people on these small islands have for their environment. Trash floats in water as you approach and the marinas look like a trash dump in places.  They have no proper waste management and each house has a garbage pit in which they throw the majority of their trash and burn it.  For the houses that are next to the beach, the popular trend seemed to be to have the trash pit closest to the water with a small seawall built up around it.

We strolled around Pramuka for a bit but decided it was too populated and we wanted something a bit more isolated.  We went back to the marina and attempted to communicate this with some of the fisherman.  They wanted $50 to take us to Tidung. After a bit of discussion we decided it was the best option and took it.  We left Pramuka right at dusk which made for an exceedingly beautiful boat right south to Tidung with the sun setting in orange and purple.  The large waves were a bit more fun since we had the boat to ourselves and we played out our own version of Titanic.  I had a strong feeling of validation for my move to Indonesia for the first time and a realization that while ive told everyone part of my move was for business reasons, the real reason was for experiences such as this.

We arrived on Tidung just as it was getting dark.  I felt bad for the fisherman whose boat we charted as it was going to be a long dark trip back.  We jumped on shore and walked into town.  Tidung is a community of 4000 whose economy is 90% fishing. There are no hotels, no formal restaurants aside from Warungs and no running water.  We just started walking through the streets looking for a home-stay.  These are people who have extra rooms and rent them out to travelers.  Typically they are very inexpensive and include breakfast.  We found one place with the help of a curious woman.  The owners, Nanana and Mus, spoke no english at all. Combined with our poor skills in Bahasa it took about 15 minutes to settle on a price.  For the first night it was $13.  The room was very comfortable, aside for the lack of air conditioning.  It was bucket showers and a stoop-and-poop toilet.  After dropping our things off we set out to find a place to eat.  We found a very kind gentleman running a food cart.  He made some amazing mie goreng, perhaps the best Ive had yet and we quickly became the center of attention.  I couldnt help but visualize kids running across the island telling people there were two “bules” on the island. We attempted communication with them and after many “terima kasih’s” (thank you) we went back to out home-stay. 

In the morning I woke up early and did the rounds on the island in an attempt to find a snorkel tour. After not finding any to join I found a guy whose friend had a boat and would charter it for the whole day for $50. At 8am we met him and his deck hand.  The boat was a classic fishing boat with a motor that sounded like it would die at any minute. They wasted no time and got us to a great dive spot with in 15 minutes. The snorkeling was average.  A lot of the coral was dead.  It was a great contrast to the Lombok Gilis where the local dive shops pay the fisherman not to fish around the islands. The result is a vibrant sea life and some of the best snorkeling Ive ever done. The best part of the trip was probably the a little sandbar in the middle of the Java Sea. Pure white sand with some staghorn coral surrounding it and starfish littering the beach. We took some great pictures that I think would make great beer or chewing gum commercials.  We went to Pramuka for lunch, bought some beer, as they didnt sell it on Tidung and headed back.

We had made plans to go scuba diving with the islands only scuba instructor the next day.  It was going to cost us about $100 for two people, 3 dives and a 1 hour tanks.  However that night we learned that we hadn’t used enough or high enough sunblock as both of us were burned.  Not terrible but enough to make scuba diving uncomfortable. The next morning we decided to head back to Jakarta and come back again another time. We took the ferry back to Muara Angke and I talked with some locals about other great remote islands in East and West Java. 

All-in-all a pretty successful trip.  Ive been telling everyone that they should come here to visit because its so cheap to travel.  One of Lidas friends is coming in July but none of my friends have really expressed interest (except Joni!).  But I want to give you an example of just how cheap it is to travel.

  • One way to Pramuka $4/person
  • Chartered boat to Tidung $50
  • home-stay $13/night
  • 1 day boat charter for snorkeling $50
  • 3 meals per day $1.50
  • Bike rental $1.50/day
  • Snorkel gear $3/day
  • Return boat to Jakarta  $4/person 

So total for two days and two people we spent $158.  If we had known better, we could have saved $50 on the boat from Pramuka to Tidung by taking the direct boat from Muara Angke to Tidung, so really youre looking at about $100 for a weekend trip. We’re already planning out next one.  Talking about camping out on the beach this time.