Pulau Seribu, or “A Thousand Islands”, is the Jakarta weekend refuge. With only a couple of hours travelling from Anchol Harbor, you can be on a deserted tropical island and feel a thousand miles away from the city. If you are condemned to cheap holidays and the Eco resort on Tiger Island is too expensive for you, just make sure that you pick an island that is far enough away, so that hopefully it will be relatively clean and you will still enjoy a tropical escape. Don’t worry; there aren’t REALLY a THOUSAND islands, just a few hundred. With a crew of Jakarta expats, one morning I found myself leaving a club and taking a taxi to the stinky harbor. We took the cheap public ferry to Pramuka Island, the 3rd stop of the ferry, I believe although I was sleeping during the crossing. Here, the Muslim strictness is observed. Walking around in bikinis is frowned upon on this small inhabited island, but they can’t complain if they not don’t see you! You can walk north (or left from the harbor) to find some isolated spots. There is a small wooden peer with a hut, and after that, small wild beaches for your exclusive relaxation.
But your best shot at relaxing and truly feeling in your own little paradise, is to rent a fisherman’s boat. You can negotiate for a price which varies depending on how naive you are, whether you want to do some snorkeling, and how long you need the boat for, how many people there are and how much you smile.
Our fishermen-gone-tourguides took us first near the coast of the neighboring virgin islands for some snorkeling. My housemate Zach and I were horribly hungover, I was not able to enjoy my first experience reef snorkeling since every time I dived, I felt my head exploding when I reached oxygen again. But what enraged us even more was watching our guide stamp on the choral to take photos of us. He didn’t seem to understand that he was destroying his own and only source of income.
We were then taken to a small island uniquely occupied by free campers, Pulau Pari. As soon as I set foot on the island, I saw a cute new born baby. His mother excitedly laid him in my hands and started taking pictures of us. Apparently its good luck for your baby to be held by a bule! I then floated near the beach and the mangroves like the Indonesians do, enjoying the clear blue waters while collecting a few corals to decorate my apartment. Next stop on our busy schedule was a small Island immediately east of Pramuka that has been converted into a fish farm. I stood and stared at baby sharks feasting while my companions sipped beer. Back on Pramuka, Zach and I promenaded to the south of the Island and watched sun fall behind the mangroves in the Jawa Sea. We discovered pits of burning rubbish in the corners of the island where only the few most intrepid tourists reach. We had fresh fish with sambal chili by the sea for dinner and watched Indonesian men dancing around a pretty lady entertainer.
The next morning we did some snorkeling off the peer in the north, and enjoyed it so much that we decided to rent the boat again for the rest of the morning. We enjoyed our last hours of isolated-sun-burning and jumping off the roof of the boat. After bami goreng and mie goreng, which is just about all the street sellers offer in Pramuka for lunch, we joined the crowd waiting on the harbor. Two public ferries came, but both got so scarily overcrowded that we decided to take a speed boat instead. Sunken ferries in Indonesia are a common tragedy that we didn’t wish to be a part of.
So we spent a great part of the hot afternoon waiting around this harbor: