Sun, 01 Jun 2003

Escaping from it all in Central Java

Agustina Wayansari and Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Karimun Jawa, Central Java

We drank in the beautiful view as the Kura-Kura Aviation Cessna 402 approached Karimun Jawa, the string of islets set in a clear turquoise sea.

Not to mention the sight of the pristine white sandy beach.

We were enjoying the last moments of a 30-minute flight from Semarang to Kura-Kura Resort on Menyawakan Island, one of 27 islands comprising Karimun Jawa islands in Central Java's Jepara regency.

The aircraft passed over Karimun Jawa Island, the main island in the group, and landed at Dewa Daru airstrip on nearby Kemojan Island. These two islands, separated by a narrow strait, are linked by a bridge.

The airstrip's humble terminal was deserted as Kura-Kura Aviation is the only regular visitor.

From the airfield, we took a short walk to a simple pier where a speed boat was waiting to take us to Menyawakan.

There are 15 bungalows available at Kura-Kura Resort, each with a commanding view to the west to catch the glorious sunset.

The resort's diving master, Magnus Muhli, said there were more than 30 dive sites across Karimun Jawa Marine National Park, which were suitable for all levels of divers, from those testing the waters to experienced ones.

"There are shallow dive sites with no or weak currents for beginners, as well as deep ones with strong currents for more advanced divers," he said.

"Interested divers can also explore several shipwrecks."

Beginner divers can try Hawksbill Point, Gosong Cemara or the wreck of Biblis, while intermediate divers would probably find the wreck of the Mitra or Karang Kapal points quite interesting and testing.

Most of the diving points for advanced divers include shipwrecks, such as at Taka Menyawakan and Torpedo Reef.

"It is indeed a beautiful place because there are so many diving sites available for everyone," visitor Henrik Dahl told The Jakarta Post.

Henrik, who spent several days at the resort along with three friends, said they were looking to return.

"Four days is simply not enough to explore the entire area. We will definitely come back," he said.

Kura-Kura Resort can be a fun-filled escape even if you do not dive. That is as long as you can swim, of course.

Menyawakan itself is a good place for snorkeling, ringed by a beautiful coral reef like the other islands in Karimun Jawa.

The water is so clear the reef was visible as we took a jetski ride. As we circled the island three times, we stopped several times to take a closer look at the beautiful reef.

"It was such an awesome experience snorkeling around the island. We just floated and the current carried us around," said Dini, who was visiting with her partner Erick.

The island itself is encircled by a magnificent natural coral reef wall.

"We even had to break the coral line to make way for vessels entering our pier," said one of the resort staff, Eko.

Walking along the reef wall, we were able to differentiate the blue of the sea, which is a clear blue near the shore but a darker hue outside.

Muhli said everybody was welcome to visit the diving points as long as they respected the environment.

"We do not own the points because it is a marine national park. We just bring people there," he said.

"But we have good cooperation with the marine national park authorities to preserve the park."

The resort management is even trying to play a part in ensuring that the park is not spoiled. It has suggested to the park authorities to work with local fishermen on more sustainable fishing practices.

"We have suggested that the park authorities divide the park into fishing and restricted zones to provide a more conducive environment for fish to breed and regenerate," Muhli said.

"After a certain period, we can rotate the zones. In this way, the fishermen will always have fish to catch. Without such a rotation, there will be overfishing and there will be nothing left."

Although the plan has yet to be implemented, Muhli said the resort would continue to give its support.

The management also pays attention to other environmental issues, Eko said, including having all laundry done in Jepara to avoid run-off into the sea.

"We also ship trash like bottles and cans to Jepara and burn what we can can," he added.

And for those in search of kura-kura (turtles), the resort said they came ashore to lay their eggs.

It's a stunning, unspoiled piece of paradise, but there is one drawback.

There is only radio communication from the resort to the rest of the world, with telephone service only available on Karimun Jawa Island.

To make things worse -- or better for those seeking a complete escape from it all -- there is no cellular phone coverage at all.

But then who needs contact with the bustling, frenzied pace of modern life when you can indulge yourself in a hassle-free stay amid such beauty?