Thousand Islands or Pulau Seribu is a collective term for some 128 small islands located in the Bay of Jakarta. With calm blue waters and white sandy beaches, magnificent coral reefs and beautiful underwater creatures, Thousand Islands is the closest place to paradise. The islands stretch up to 45 kilometers (70 miles) north into Java Sea, with the closest lurking only a few kilometers off mainland Jakarta. A sizable part of the exquisite islands is preserved as a marine national park. Development is only allowed on 37 islands, a few of which are now privately owned by super-wealthy Jakartans. Tourists usually go to Bidadari, Ayer, Kotok, Sepa, and Bira. Some of the islands, like Onrust and Bidadari are of historic interest with remains of Dutch-colonial fort, shipyard and other buildings. Others like Pulau Rambut or Pulau Burung are a protected sanctuary for birds where you can see large breeding colonies of herons, egrets, cormorant, and the almost extinct milky storks. Government administrative offices are concentrated on Pulau Pramuka, but most of the 18,000 inhabitants live on Pulau Kelapa, Pulau Tidung and Pulau Panggang.
Onrust island is significant in the unfoldment of Indonesian history. It was used by the Dutch from the early 17th century and became an important ship repair center. By 1775, as many as 2,000 people living on the island. But in the 1800s the British sacked and burnt the settlement, so today only the ruins remain.
Bidadari is the closest resort island from the mainland.You only need to take a 20 minute ride on a speedboat from Ancol Marina to reach Bidadari. Because of its proximity to Jakarta, rubbish from the city inevitably float along the coast. However, here you can marvel at the view of the city, as stunning bathed in sun as it is at twilight, while staying at one of the floating cottages. As well as golden sands, the 6-hectare Bidadari offers ample opportunities to engage in all manner of watersports. It’s possible for you to try your hand at everything from jet-skiing and fishing to inland touring by bike. Pulau Bidadari is also home to a 23-meter wide fortress built in 1849 and a well preserved lush green forest.
To the north of Bidadari, there is the cleaner and more exclusive Ayer island. In ancient times, Ayer was the private recreation retreat of the former kings of the Thousand Islands. It was also used by the first President of the Republic of Indonesia as his private vacationland many years ago. Except for the additional swimming pool and ‘banana boats’, attractions on the island are pretty much the same as Bidadari’s.
Bira is the only island that offers a 9-hole world-class golf course. The resort on Pulau Bira provides luxury traditional-style cottages, extra large swimming pool, club house, children playground and fishing boats. Pulau Bira is around an hour speedboat ride from Marina Ancol.
The area around Kotok is famous for diving and snorkeling. On any one dive you can be assured of coming into contact with so many different types of marine life, as well as interesting coral reef formations. The waters are always warm and visibility is usually perfect for a good dive. As for snorkeling, all you need is a mask and a snorkel and perhaps some fins. You can snorkel anywhere around Kotok and there are all sorts of exciting marine creatures to be discovered.
There is a resort named Pulau Putri Resor on this island that boasts a big aquarium and a 10-meter long underwater sea tunnel where you can see beautiful coral reefs and marine creatures through its windows. Besides swimming in the crystal waters at its beautiful beaches, here you can also enjoy any kinds of marine sports like diving, jet skiing, fishing and kayaking. However, it is also a good idea to just sit down at one of the stilted, thatched-roofed bungalows, reading a book while listening to the waves crashing nearby.
Pulau Sepa is one of the most beautiful islands at Pulau Seribu. The unspoiled island has outstanding turquoise water, rich marine life and white sandy beaches that are all ideal for anyone seeking an enjoyable escape. Here you have plenty chances to swim surf and relax under palm trees fringing the seaside resort. The clear crystal water teeming with many species of marine life which are set against the colorful coral gardens offers great opportunities to sea adventurers.
The main departure point to the islands is the Ancol Marina, where further information on travel arrangements can be found. Daily boats to most islands depart at 08.00 and 09.00. You can also go by air through the only airstrip on Pulau Panjang. It’s a more practical way to reach Kotok, Bira, Sepa and other farthermost islands. The air trip takes 25 minutes, with boat transfers to destination islands.
- The Rough Guide to Indonesia, 2nd Edition, pp. 122-124
- Footprint Indonesia Handbook: The Travel Guide, pp. 105-107