I was having a stressful business trip in Jakarta. The client was pushing back meetings; meetings that were not pushed back were getting delayed with alarming regularity; my work outside of Jakarta was getting negatively affected. I had to extend my trip into the next week so I decided to check out the nearby Thousand Islands during the weekend.
The Thousand Islands are actually more like 110 islands. I found Pulau Sepa (Sepa Island), about 60 Km away from Jakarta, to be the best choice. It was expensive; I had to pay for two people. The cheaper options were not that great and not worth the trouble of a trip. I ponied up. I asked my Indonesia colleagues if they wanted to join in and one of them signed on.
We were asked to arrive at Pier 19 of Marina Ancol (the passenger boat docks in Jakarta) at 7:20 AM for an 8:00 AM departure. The last kilometres of the route, past the Marina Ancol toll booth was packed, with vehicles making no progress. I walked and got to the destination at 7:45, still 15 minutes ahead of the official departure time. Our contact who was leading the group to the island arrived at 8:00; most of the guests still had not arrived. We eventually left at 8:45. The boat had air conditioning, but it was also crowded and the windows were open. Everyone managed to be hot and miserable.
We arrived at the island, put our bags down and explored.
It was small with a circumference of less than 1 Km. We walked along the beach and found paths through the forest on the other side. There was a path covered in dry leaves and then a mini football field, also covered in leaves, that had not been used in a while.
There were signs of industry. We saw some people painting a boat. As we walked through some village huts at the end of our circuit, we saw a little mosque. Most weirdly of all, there was a cassowary in a little square enclosure. The enclosure looked like something that should be easy to get out of, but not for this big bird, I guess.
We joined the tables for a buffet lunch. It was not fancy, but there was nothing to complain about. What was odd was the band playing at lunchtime. It started off with some reggae music; the right island vibes. Then it inexplicably changed to hard rock; inappropriate as dining music, let alone at lunchtime; but there were no other options to have lunch on the tiny island.
We checked in and chilled out for a bit (in my case, I worked for a while). Once the sun has stopped blazing down insanely, we went out and got a canoe. My companion had no experience whatsoever with canoeing, and was terrible at it. He would dip his paddle in the water and swish it gently and ineffectually, with the canoe staying about where it already was. I tried giving him suggestions and demonstrating putting the body into it, but quickly realised that any movement was upto me. We did a circuit around the little island.
We talked to the local dive instructor, Agus, about scuba diving the next morning. I would arrive and kit up at 6:30 AM and the boat would leave at 7.00. The water supposedly had 7-10 metres visibility, which I thought was good so close to the pollution of Jakarta and its port.
We bought some cold drinks and found a nice spot to watch the sunset.
Having gone to bed early, I awoke refreshed and went to the dive shop at 6:30 AM. Agus had already placed the stuff at the docks so we went over and set it up. At 7:00, I was still the only guest of six to arrive. I had had just about enough of “Indonesia time”. I told Agus that if the rest did not show up in ten minutes, I would leave. Two people showed up, saw that the rest were not there and then went off for breakfast. I walked off.
I decided to go for a swim around the island and waded into the sea. I had barely started swimming when I spotted a sea jelly. This was interesting, so I stopped to observe it for a while. Then I saw another, and then another, at least two varieties of them. I had also seen sea jellies while waiting at the docks previously. I decided not to take the risk of swimming. I went back to the cabin and did some work. My travel companion later told me that a child was stung and there was some drama which the locals managed to resolve. From my experience, a lot of the jellies one encounters in South East Asia can have annoying stings that cause irritations on the skin for upto a few weeks, but are not necessarily dangerous.
Our departure, fortunately, was uneventful. We left at 2:03 PM, only three minutes past schedule.