By Lisa Goins
My husband and I live on the island of Java in Indonesia with our four children. We teach at the International school where our
children attend. We have traveled extensively throughout Java enjoying the beauty of Indonesia.
Our most memorable family vacation came about last year when my husband said that he wanted to take our children to a small, almost deserted Island in the Java Sea called Menyawakan. I said, “You’re crazy!” But after a little research and a modest down payment, we were leaving the ground in a Cessna 402, flown by an ex-Air Force fighter pilot!
Pick your Paradise
Menyawakan is one of the 27 “paradise islands” in the protected Karimunjawa Marine Park archipelago. This resort island was selected in 1999 to be the local host and dive advisor for the National Geographic TV documentary, “Marine Parks of Indonesia,” an expedition led by Francis Lee of Singapore.
It is located in the Java Sea, which is filled with reefs and marine life that offers every diver a new and exhilarating experience. Snorkelers and divers come from all over Indonesia to study the marine life surrounding this enchanted island. The resort on the island is called Kura Kura Resort.
Just after takeoff, our pilot asked if one of our children would like to fly the plane. Before I could object, my youngest son Spencer took the wheel and we all put on our white knuckles! The view was beautiful from the small plane. An assortment of islands and reefs were scattered everywhere like lily pads floating on a pristine sea.
Behind Curtain Number. One
Menyawakan was a spectacular sight. We could see the entire reef from the air, jutting out from the coconut trees, in shades of green painted on the water. The island itself is about two miles around, a leisurely walk, with never ending views of mountains and sea. Coconut trees sprinkle the sand like candles on a cake. Here in this paradise there is only one fly in the ointment, falling coconuts!
The pilot asked us if we wanted a closer look. While I was wondering what he meant by that, my children were nodding yes and the plane suddenly took a nosedive toward the bay! He circled the Island in one swoop, the wing of the plane nearly touching the water. For a moment I shared the thrill of a kamikaze pilot! We all held our breath and our hearts stopped, but our sense of adventure kept going as we marveled at the beauty of God’s creation from just a few feet above the water. We could actually see the staff at Kura Kura Resort wave at us and we could read the names on the boats. That moment remains frozen in my mind.
After we circled around Menyawakan, we headed for the big island of Karimunjawa for our landing. A delightful panorama of rice fields and mountains lined the runway. Children ran alongside the plane as we touched down and taxied over to a small hut like building, the Karimunjawa Airport. We deplaned, walked through the building, and watched wide-eyed as they threw our luggage into the back of an old pickup truck. My boys jumped into the back of the truck, and we followed them on foot. We proceeded down a dirt road to a ramp that led to a swamp. A speedboat, parked among literally hundreds of jellyfish, awaited our arrival. We boarded the outrigger named Fountain 38 and took off across the Java Sea.
Da Plane Da Plane
Arriving at Kura Kura Resort is much like arriving at Fantasy Island. The staff greets you as you get off the boat with smiles and huge coconut welcome drinks. As we scoped out the view from beneath the coconut trees, a sense of wonder surrounded us. They showed us to our bungalows, which were only about 15 feet from the water’s edge. I marveled at the thought of falling asleep with the sound of waves lapping gently at the shore.
There are 10 two-room deluxe bungalows and 5 VIP bungalows on the Island. They are currently in the process of building five new luxury beach villas, each with a private swimming pool. Every bungalow faces west with a sunset view. All rooms are furnished in teakwood. They are air-conditioned with all the luxuries of a five-star resort.
After settling in we all took a walk across the beach as the sun began to set. The sunset over the Java Sea is a sight that beckons attention. As the sun slips into the ocean, it leaves colors of every hue for your eye to follow.
The next morning began with fresh fruit and an assortment of baked delicacies. We sat in the open-air restaurant (the only one on the island), with a beautiful view of the harbor, listening to the morning and planning the day’s activities. We decided to spend the day snorkeling around the island. This was our children’s first snorkeling trip, and we wanted to start them out slowly. After we ate we went to the dive shop and gathered up all the equipment we would need, including lots of sunscreen, and headed out to the dock. All of our snorkeling equipment was included in our package price.
My oldest son Mitchell was the first one in the water. He is 16 years old and had never snorkeled. He had that teenager attitude like, “O.k., this is going to be fun for about 5 minutes.” He put on his mask, stuck his face in the water, and when he emerged he looked like he had seen the Loch Ness monster. He was stunned.
The water below the dock was filled with millions of fish of all colors and size. “It’s just like an aquarium!” he blurted out before he dove in again. About 5 feet from the dock the ocean floor drops off. At one point we spotted a school of barracudas. We stopped to gawk at them, partly out of fear and partly out of awe, when suddenly we realized that there were hundreds of them!
There was literally a wall of barracuda’s within just a few feet of our fins! They were seemingly unconcerned about this little interruption from the world above and just moseyed on by with little regard for us. We slowly swam toward the surface, breaking into the air, yelling, “Did you see that?”
Many moments such as this ensued throughout the day. My daughter and I snuck up on a small octopus and watched as she maneuvered around her deep-sea home, changing colors every few minutes. We stared as a friendly eel kept poking his head out of his rocky dwelling, waiting for us to get tired and go away. My husband saw a grouper larger than himself, and finding Nemo became the challenge of the day.
As we began to venture away from the dock we encountered a breathtaking array of coral. Exquisite coral of every kind lay quilted across the reef bed, a never-ending parade of bright colors providing endless hours of enjoyment for snorkelers. Canals, seemingly hand crafted by nature in a maze of beauty, were nestled just below the water’s surface.
We swam from canal to canal feeling the silent energy of underwater life. Sea anemones, kingdom and castle of the clownfish, were scattered among the coral, often hidden in cracks and crevices. Sea urchins, also known as nature’s pincushions, were to be carefully avoided, while soft corals and sea fans could be inspected up close and even touched. Soft corals, often referred to as underwater flowers, came in dazzling shades of red, pink, purple and yellow.
Stingrays were an exciting find, and starfish were scattered everywhere, clinging to rocks and coral as if hanging on for dear life! Dinner at Kura Kura’s one and only restaurant proved to be a most enjoyable experience. They serve both Western and Indonesian cuisine with assortments of seafood. We had three meals each day, and all were delicious! Drinks must be purchased separate from the package price.
The island has its own dive shop, which provides SCUBA diving equipment free to all guests who have purchased dive packages. You can arrange several different dive packages including trips to nearby fringing reefs, atolls and underwater wrecks. The surrounding waters have a huge variety of fish, some rare, such as crocodile fish and leafy scorpion fish. Whale sharks are spotted year-round and add a lot of excitement for the adventurous diver!
Yan, the dive instructor, invited us to go out on an all-day SCUBA diving trip. The boat was equipped with six wet suits, snorkel equipment and a full staff to cook for us throughout the day. We traveled across the Java Sea for about 45 minutes to a small, uninhabited island. We docked our boat in the bay area to facilitate dive instructions and still be able to swim to the good snorkeling areas.
Yan, our dive instructor, taught everyone in our family how to dive, one at a time. Learning to SCUBA dive is an experience in itself. Hold your nose, blow out through your ears in order to equalize the pressure every foot or so, breath through your mouth, let the air out of your floaties so you will sink, thumbs up if you want to go to the surface, thumbs down if you want to keep sinking, and whatever you do don’t forget to blow out your ears or you might start bleeding in the cavities just above your eyes from the pressure (which actually happened to our son, Mitchell). Whoa! That is a lot of things to remember!
Yan was patient with our children and gave excellent instructions. Each one of us spent time diving and snorkeling except for Hailey, my eldest daughter; she spent most of the day seasick!
Back to Kura Kura
During the ride back to Kura Kura, a family of dolphins that decided to join us pleasantly surprised us. We watched in awe as they raced along beside our boat, jumping into the air, spraying water on everyone and making wonderful noises. They put on quite a show for us, swimming seamlessly through the water, side by side, in unison. What a perfect ending to a lovely day at sea.
If you are interested in visiting Kura Kura Resort, see their web site at kurakuraresort.com. For More Info:
Kura Kura Booking Office
PADI Resort # 6133
Sunset Beach Cottages
Teluk Awur – 59424 Jepara
Phone +62 (0)291 595 931
Phone +62 (0)291 595 932
Fax +62 (0)291 595 933
Packages begin at 2 nts and go Up to 6 nts. You can also get more elaborate dive packages. See website for details.
All Packages Include
Accommodations in deluxe bungalow, All meals in restaurant, aeroplane return transfer to / from Kura Kura Resort, boat dives and scuba gear (dive packages), use of snorkeling equipment, sea kayak, paddle boats, welcome drink and 21% Tax and service.
Jet skis are available for rent at 50.00 per hour.
From Semarang to Jakarta
Garuda Indonesia flight GA237, dep. 18.35 arr. Jakarta 19.30
Mandala flight RI297, dep. 17.10 arr. Jakarta 18.05
Connections form Jogjakarta and Bali are also available.
See their website for details.
Contact our aviation office for more
Lisa Goins lives and teaches in Indonesia. Read more GoNOMAD stories about Indonesia
Latest posts by GoNomad (see all)
Lisa Goins lives and teaches in Indonesia.
Read more GoNOMAD stories about Indonesia