Peter Milne –
It took me 16 years of living in the country, travelling far and wide throughout the archipelago, before I finally got my act together and made it to Java’s very own island paradise.
The Karimunjawa – the 27 islands that make up the island group — are located about 90 kilometers north of Jepara, off the Central Java coast, and about three hours by direct fast boat from the provincial capital Semarang.
Until now something of a backwater, improving transportation connections are slowly making the islands, which were declared a national marine park in 1999, more accessible to visitors.
The result is that more people are coming from farther afield to visit this island paradise.
My hotel manager informed me there had been a 200 percent increase in the number of visitors during 2011 compared with the previous year.
That’s a sign of success, and yet it also poses something of a problem for the limited accommodation options on the main island during the peak season from May to October.
Home to some 9,000 residents who live on five of the islands — the remaining 22 islands being uninhabited, the population is largely Javanese, with pockets of Bugis and Madurese too.
Arriving by kapal barang (the cargo boat) in the principle town, also called Karimunjawa, I found something incongruous about the strong Javanese feel to the place at first.
Then I realized the difference was just that in all my island travels in Indonesia, I had never come across a Javanese island before: Karimunjawa is after all the only Javanese collection of islands in Indonesia.