I recently traveled to Karimunjawa, Indonesia, also known as Karimun Java, one of the many gorgeous islands of Indonesia. Traveling from Singapore on Garuda Indonesia, I flew into Jakarta with a connecting flight to Semarang, the capitol and largest city in Central Java. I quickly realised that Karimunjawa Indonesia is an explorer’s nirvana.
I decided that I’d stay one night in Semarang to see what the city had to offer. As with any capitol city, Semarang is a bustling business district mixed with local culture and traditions. There are interesting historic buildings and museums where travelers can find a wealth of information about the rich Chinese and Dutch history of this unique city.
I visited Lawang Sewu, translated to “The building of a thousand doors”, built in the mid 19th century by the Dutch and reportedly haunted. Although I didn’t encounter any ghostly souls wandering around, the massive property’s history is very interesting and worth a look.
I also took a tour of the Sam Poo Kong Temple. The property consists of five temples each a mix of Chinese and Javanese architecture which was established by the Chinese Muslim explorer Zheng He (also known as Sanbao). The temple is shared by several religions including Buddhists and Muslims. (Read our review of Semarang here)
After a very successful tour of Semarang it was time for some rest and relaxation before my trip on to Karimunjawa. I chose to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the heart of Semarang and was not disappointed. My suite was luxurious and the staff was exceptional. Situated conveniently atop a mall with modern shopping, banks, and nearby cinema, the Crowne Plaza is a perfect choice and I would highly recommend staying there when traveling to Semarang.
In the morning, after enjoying an expansive buffet breakfast, it was time for my journey and I was excited to be on my way. 80 kilometers (49 miles) from the Northwest of Jepara, Karimun Java is an archipelago comprising 27 islands in the Java Sea. It’s been designated as a national marine park and with its smaller uninhabited islands, unspoiled reefs, and long stretches of white sand beaches it’s become a paradise for beach lovers, snorkelers, scuba enthusiasts, and honeymooners.
There are several ways to get to Kirimunjawa. The island has an airport, which can accommodate small aircrafts, but the schedule depends heavily on the weather so it’s wise to have a back-up plan. Speedboats are available for hire from local captains and ferries leave from Jepara and Semarang three times a week. I chose the ferry and enjoyed a very comfortable ride to the island. (Note: the length of the trip for speedboats and ferries depends on sea conditions. It’s safe to plan on at least a 3-hour journey)
After exiting the ferry I was immediately struck by the beauty of the surrounding ocean and understood why her people are so eager to have travelers visit. The turquoise, warm waters are inviting and it was hard not to hop right in!
Since Karimunjawa is mainly a fishing village there is no shortage of seafood. Local snapper is abundant as is Parrot Fish. Of course I tried both and was thrilled with the freshness. I ate fresh seafood daily and never tired of it as its offered in a variety of ways with local, fresh Indonesian spices and sauces.
Activities on Karimunjawa Island are endless and during my stay I enjoyed island hopping and snorkeling where I was often one of only a handful of people delighting in leisurely lunches and snorkeling the endless coral reefs. Travelers can find local tour companies who are happy to organize trips and gear rentals for very reasonable prices.
Aside from snorkeling, I visited a shark and turtle pool where visitors are encouraged to jump in! The docile sharks and turtles happily glide around swimmers providing a thrilling experience for those brave enough to join them.
There are several places to lay your head while traveling through Kirimunjawa, from backpacker hostels and homestays to 5 star resorts. I chose to stay at Kura Kura Resort a short speedboat ride from the mainland.
The exclusive resort has yet to be over run by heavy tourism so its 22 hectares of pristine tropical beaches and natural flora and fauna give a feel of exclusivity to each visitor. (Read our review of this remarkable resort here)
After a luxuriously restful night, it was time to head back to Semarang for an overnight stay before heading back to Singapore. My guide told me about a unique resort just 10 Km (6.5 miles) from the Ungaran Mountains and so I chose to spend my last night there.
Balemong Resort is nestled at the foothills of the mountain and adjacent to rich, green rice paddies. The owner of this exclusive resort hails from a background of Chinese and Dutch, which resonates throughout the resort’s charming décor and landscaping.
Balemong offers three types of rooms and suites and is perfect for couples, families, and honeymooners. Their ample meeting room is great for conferences large and small. The onsite art center has wonderful displays of woodcarvings, stone, and textiles rich with culture from the region.
Surrounded by wonderful architecture, the open-aired restaurant serves traditional as well as international cuisine. The staff at Balemong is attentive and service oriented and I was impressed at how quickly they responded to guest’s requests. (Read our full review of Balemong here) I’d recommend this unique resort to anyone seeking a quiet get-a-way, honeymoon, or for groups seeking a traditional cultural experience.
The people of Karimunjawa, like most of Indonesia, are happy, gregarious people constantly willing to help travelers. You can always find locals that know a bit of English and are thrilled to help you find your way. I was happily accepted and found that most of the people I encountered were pleased to pose for pictures, suggest local foods, or help me with directions. My stay, in yet another of the remarkable islands of Indonesia, did not disappoint. I’m a bit biased as Indonesia still remains my favorite country in Southeast Asia, but I am happy to recommend Karimunjawa to travelers. It’s a must stop island when traveling through Indonesia for Karimunjawa, Indonesia ~ An Explorer’s Nirvana.