November 01, 2015
Stuck in Jakarta with only a few days’ holiday? Fret Not! Thousand Islands, located just hours from the center of Jakarta, offer the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle.
As you fly into Indonesia’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport, you can see many islands dotting the sea in the Bay of Jakarta.; these are Pulau Seribu, well-known as “Thousand Islands”. There are 78 coral islands here most of which are inhabited and can reach in less than three hours from Marina Ancol. Tourists can charter a modest boat, speedboat, or even a posh ferry to reach the islands.
The surrounding reefs are home to a wide variety of fish, making Thousand Islands an ideal spot for diving, snorkeling and fishing. Or if you just want to sunbathe and relax at your cottage overlooking the Java Sea, it is still the perfect destination.
With a short holiday of just 3 days, I decided to visit Thousand Islands, and my first destination was Tidung Island. The meeting point was at Muara Angke, North Jakarta. At 7 am, a wooden boat with a 30-50-person capacity carried me across the ocean. The weather was pretty bad, and the boat was rocking and swaying awfully. After two and a half hour sailing, I finally arrived at Tidung Island. I was welcomed by beautiful stretches of sandy, white beaches and clear blue waters. First thing first, I had to find a place to sleep. Thousand Islands have many home-stays organized by local people. There places are usually not exactly luxurious, but they are comfortable and convenient, and the price is usually negotiable. The thriving tourism industry here prides itself on being extremely community-based and is operated solely by the locals of the island, giving a more down to earth and laid-back atmosphere for tourists.
I found suitable accommodation and set off to go snorkeling. With a snorkel and fins rented from the homestay owner for Rp35,000 the thrillwas about to begin. Tidung Island is about 54 hectares, and is home to about 4,000 inhabitants. Tidung Island itself is divided into two islands: Greater Tidung and Smaller Tidung Islands. I went snorkeling off Greater Tidung Island forst. It has about 305.1 hectares of fringing reef. I saw little fish darting here and there. I continued my water adventure to Smaller Tidung Island. It is a breeding area for mangroves. Sadly, the underwater view here was not a picturesque as its sibling. Plastic waste littered the waters and most of the reef was damaged. But there was still another way to enjoy the island.
Smaller Tidung Island can also be explored on foot or by vehicle, through much of the path is overgrown with shrubs and greenery. For the more adventurous visitors, Smaller Tidung Island has also been used for camping since a bridge was built to connect the two islands. To capitalize on the thrills offered by the islands, I jumped from the 11-meters-height bridge, straight down to the sea. It was such an adrenaline rush, I just had to do it over and over again!
Thousand Islands has more than just water activities. There is also Onrust Island, a place of ship building and repairs from the Dutch colonial times, when the island was indeed very busy. The name ‘Onrust’ was taken from the Dutch language meaning ‘Never Rest’. There are many archeological remains from the Dutch colonial period. There is even a house that is still intact and used for the Onrust Island Museum. The museum is the only building left standing from that period. Only a few minutes from this historical island, there is also Cipir Island, which is well worth the visit. In Dutch language it is called Kujiper, meaning Angel Island. In 1991, it was used as quarantine for Haji travelers from Indonesia before leaving for Saudi Arabia. Then there is Kelor Island with its Martello Fortress built in 1850, which was used as a bastion against the Jakarta Bay Waters.
Only in this island, I went for a water adventure and didn’t get wet at all. How so? Because there is an Underwater Tunnerl Aquarium. This “Mini Seaworld” has a depth of about 5 meters, and the tunnels is approximately 15 meters long. I also took a short excursion on a Glass Bottom Boat: a boat with a glass window at the bottom to enjoy the underwater scenery. Satisfied with the water adventures of tehse past 3 days, it was time to go home and return to my urbanite lifestyle once again. I will definitely miss the bright golden sun peeking over the sea accompanied by the sound of the waves and the wind in the trees in Thousand Islands.
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