It has somehow become my yearly ritual to travel solo at least once every year. A few days off from my works and not necessary has to be a long trip. I find that it is therapeutic to be around strangers once in a while where you know no one and no one knows you. If you want, you can start a conversation or if you don’t feel like doing so, you can just enjoy the ‘me time’ by observing people and surrounding.
Last year, I did that in Bali and spent for two nights in Padang Bay area. Although I have been to Bali many times, I realize I’ve never been to this side of Bali. I spent one day diving with Livingseas and the rest of the days just roaming around the area on my own. The local homestay I stayed at is a nice three-storey building, in a room with a private balcony where I could see the beautiful view facing the land with coconut trees.
This year, I went to Karimunjawa with two of my friends. I can say it is a semi-solo because I only met my friends right at Karimunjawa. We took a different way to get there and the first two days of the journey was my ‘me time’ – go alone to new places, on the road that I never passed before.
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How to get to Karimunjawa
There are two ways of getting to Karimunjawa from Jakarta. The fastest way is by taking flight from Jakarta to Semarang and Semarang to Karimunjawa. Two of my friends would meet me right away at Karimunjawa as I took a slower way which is by train, car, and fast boat.
That day, I was just from Yogyakarta for work and on the same day, I depart to Semarang from Jakarta by taking the late night 11 pm train. I reached Semarang 7 hours later, about 6.15 am. The only thing I wish I would have prepared for the train ride was an eye mask. It was my first time taking the night train and I didn’t know they would let the light on full force the whole night. I tried to sleep facing the window, it didn’t help. I tried to cover up my eyes with my hoodie, it didn’t help either. I slept but not thoroughly. Previously, every time when someone asks me whether I could sleep with the light on, I always answered that it shouldn’t be a problem. But now I clearly know that it is not going to work. Turn off the light, please. At least dim it down, no?
After reached Semarang, I still had to travel to Jepara by travel van which took about 3 hours to reach. I spent a night in Jepara at this simple place, Homestay89, which I booked via booking.com. The place is about 700 m away from the Kartini Jepara Harbour. There are other hotels that are closer to the harbour, however, I find this place is more comfortable for me with en-suite bathroom and air-conditioning. The eateries are still within the walking distance, too.
The next morning, I took the public fast boat, Express Bahari, to Karimunjawa. Not long, only about 2 hours. You may think that after that 7 hours train ride and 3 hours van ride, this 2 hours boat journey should be easy peasy. The fact is the sea wasn’t as calm as days before, based on what the locals said. It was kind of rough going up and down. I looked out the window and I could see the horizon line was not always there. Sometimes it went up and sometimes it went down, harshly.
But compared to the experience I had when I and friends sailed from Taka Bonerate to Selayar and also when we were in Raja Ampat a few years back, what I felt on the boat to Karimunjawa is considered mild. In fact, like a baby in the swing, I slept. I remember I saw Chris Hemsworth with his war suit on at a glance before I totally went off. Aa..yes, the television on the boat was showing the Thor Ragnarok movie. Probably, Aquaman movie would have given us a stronger feeling at that moment.
I felt the boat slowing down, I stood up peeking from the window. “We are almost there!” I shouted in my heart. Prior to the trip, a few of my friends said Karimunjawa is not good while other friends said otherwise. It got me puzzled. That’s one of the reasons that made me finally here. I think, seeing with my own eyes is the best way to find out. Anyway, it is always exciting to explore new places. Finally, I am here.
The harbour of Karimunjawa wasn’t busy at that time. I saw one by one people leaving the harbour mostly by motorbikes. There are very few vehicles seen around. As for me, I chose to walk. The hostel than I and friends would be staying is only 1 km away. After sitting for two hours inside the boat, I think it is good to walk a bit. I am not in a hurry anyway. Blue sky, sunny sun, island, sea, it was a beautiful day. A little hop to the left and to the right as I walked along the street getting to the hostel.
Accommodation in Karimunjawa
From budget hostels to luxury resorts, all are available in Karimunjawa. I can see many homestays or guesthouses along the street when I walked from the harbour to the hostel. We stayed at The Bodhi Tree Hostel and Restaurant which we find is actually good. We stayed in a family room for three pax yet it is still spacious. The style, the environment, the location, and the cleanliness are really worth the price. The staffs are friendly and professional, too.
They serve ala carte breakfast. Although we can’t choose the breakfast menu, however, they will only serve when we are already out from the room and sitting in the dining area. So, it is freshly cooked. Mineral water, tea and coffee is free-flow and always available in the dining area.
Transportation in Karimunjawa
As we stay near to Alun-Alun Karimunjawa, we don’t really need transportation. We can find food, mini-mart, and go to the harbour where we depart for island hoping by foot. But my friends do need transport to get to the airport which located on the other side of the island, about 30 minutes car ride. So, if you fly in and out to Karimunjawa and choose to stay near to Alun-Alun, you will need to arrange pick up services. If you stay near to the airport, you will need to rent a bike or car to move around especially if you plan to do island hoping.
For scooter or motorbike and car rental, or pick up and drop off services, the prices are the same for all operators as agreed by everyone who renders the services. So, save your energy to shop around for a better bargain.
Food in Karimunjawa
If the food in your hostel or accommodation you choose doesn’t suit your tastebud, not to worry though. There are many small eateries and restaurant around. At night, we can go to Alun-Alun Karimunjawa for seafood dinner. There are food carts selling fried rice, noodle, meatball soup, juices as well. The seating area is simply a soccer field that turns into the dining area once the sun goes down. The sellers lay the canvas cloth on the grass and set the tables without chairs. Each seller divides the seating area by canvas colour. So, be sure that you are sitting in the right territories. If you are sitting in the wrong are, it is okay. Most likely, they will inform you to move to the area of the seller where you order the food from.
Activities in Karimunjawa
The main activities in Karimunjawa are definitely snorkelling and diving. If you don’t do both, you can still enjoy the island hoping and the beaches on the main island of Karimunjawa itself. The island is pretty big and we only explored one side of the island that is close to Alun-Alun Karimunjawa. I heard that we can also do trekking but unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to explore more.
[ Read: Diving in Karimunjawa ]
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I actually planned to visit Karimunjawa alone on my birthday two years ago. However, it never happened because my birthday is in the wettest month of the year, not the right time to visit the island. The locals on Karimunjawa Island that I contacted, advised me to come in other months. When the locals say so, we’d better listen. So, I thought of going there probably one or two months later but who knows I only finally set my feet on the island two years later.
When I and my friends were there, it was during the fasting month. It was quiet, we didn’t see many people on the streets especially visitors. Even when we went out for diving, we didn’t see many boats. We chatted with one local lady when we stopped by at her ‘warung’ to buy drinks after back from diving. She said that it could be because of the fasting month. Usually, it is crowded especially on the weekend. That’s what I thought, I expected Karimunjawa is busy like Seribu Islands. While I actually like it not that crowded, but on the other side, I also wonder how crowded it usually is. Perhaps, I should come back again next time during their normal days.
Anyway, if you have any comments or questions about my trip to Karimunjawa, feel free to leave in the comment box below. :)