Sep 1, 2010


The dewadaru tree.

Dewadaru tree at Dewadaru Airport - Karimunjawa
Dewadaru tree at Dewadaru
2 more photos
The dewadaru tree is Karimunjawa's sacred tree. The airport is named after it, and so is the Dewadaru Resort near the ferry harbour.

The legend
The name dewadaru can be rendered as "gift of the gods". See tip "The grave of Sunan Nyamplung" for an account of how the dewadaru tree came to grow on Karimunjawa island. For the islanders, the dewadaru represents the wisdom of the gods in maintaining harmony, stability and peace. The tree is seen as the guardian of all living souls on the Karimunjawa islands.
Therefore it is taboo to take a dewadaru tree, or even a branch or leaf from it, to mainland Java. If someone would try to do so, his boat would not arrive safely on Java. As proof is mentioned the case of motor vessel "Tongkol IV", which sank in Karimunjawa waters on October 11, 1983. Eighteen people are still missing to this day, sixteen bodies were recovered, and 48 people were rescued. All this because someone had smuggled a branch of a dewadaru tree from the grave of Sunan Nyamplung.

The facts
Looking up info about the dewadaru tree on the internet, we found a site which says that the tree is actually native throughout South-East Asia. The scientific name is said to be Messua Ferrea L.  from the Clusiaceae family.
The flowers, leaves and seeds of the tree contain compounds with medicinal value, especially for the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery. Indeed this is one of the virtues also claimed by the islanders.
On another site are stated results of research by the Biology Department of Gajah Mada University in 1992. They report that the tree is rare and not easily propagated, and that actually there are two strains on Karimunjawa island. One is the Dewadaru Baccaurea Sumatrana from the Euphorbiaceae family, the other Fagraea Elliptica from the Loganiaceae family.
Which leaves us - botanical laypeople - puzzled.

The photo's are of two dewadaru trees in the grounds of Dewadaru Airport. Distinctive features are the white flowers and the grooved bark.

The grave of Sunan Nyamplung
The stairway of 500 steps - Karimunjawa
The stairway of 500 steps
by theo1006,
4 more photos
The grave of Sunan Nyamplung (or Nyamplungan) in Nyamplung hamlet is a favourite pilgrimage site. Especially on Jumat Kliwon days (once 35 days according to the Javanese calender) people come and spend the night meditating near this grave on a hillside.

The legend
According to the legend, Sunan Nyamplung, a son of Sunan Muria, was spoiled and would not follow the teachings of Islam. His father sent the boy, whose name then still was Amir Hasan, to his uncle Sunan Kudus to be educated. As long as the boy was in Kudus he behaved well, but when returned to his father Amir Hasan fell back into his bad habits.
As a last resort Sunan Muria sent his son away from Java, not to come back until he had learnt to behave as a good muslim. He sent him - together with two servants - on a boat to the island that was vaguely visible from the top of mount Muria. In old Javanese a word for "vaguely visible" is kremun-kremun, hence the name of the island: Karimunjawa.
The stories we found on the internet vary as to what Amir Hasan brought with him on his quest into the uninhabited forest of Karimunjawa. Either one or two sticks that he may have picked up on the coast, and/or two seeds that he brought from Java. When he reached a spot fit to make his home, he stuck the stick(s) into the ground and they miraculously grew into Dewadaru trees. Alternatively or additionally he planted the two seeds which became Nyamplung trees, and probably Nyamplung tree is another name for Dewadaru tree.
However this may be, at this place Amir Hasan became Sunan Nyamplung, the man who is honoured for having brought Islam to Karimunjawa.

The site
To reach the grave of Sunan Nyamplung you have to climb a stair of 500 steps (exactly 500 as far as we could ascertain!) from the roadside. Yes, there is also an adjacent by-road suitable for car or motorbike, which brings one to a height of about 400 steps. But we think, if one wants to obtain some benefit in this life or the afterlife, one should walk all the 500 steps!
Once there, through the trees one has a good view on Pulau Menjangan Besar. And another 50 steps down there is a bathing place with fresh water from the hillside - very welcome after the hot climb.
There is a small dewadaru tree at the grave-site. More and bigger ones are said to grow in the forest. Those interested might follow some trails into the forest, we did not because of lack of time.
We also met a couple of pilgrims there, lying around on or near Sunan Nyamplung's grave. And don't overlook the wooden box for a voluntary contribution or amal.

Directions: About 10 km from Karimunjawa along the road to the airport there is a signboard pointing to the stairs. The caretaker or juru kunci lives behind the mosque opposite the stairs. We said hello, he did not seem to expect money.
Dermaga Gon Bajak
Pulau Gundul seen from Gon Bajak pier - Karimunjawa
Pulau Gundul seen from Gon
Bajak pier
by theo1006, 1 more photos
It's the harbour of Kemujan, the northern main island. The name Gon Bajak means the pirate's place. Here is where in bygone ages pirates found a refuge, no need to risk their skins at mainland Java. Subsequently the Portuguese and Dutch traders found this a good place to stock up on food and water on their way to the Moluccas; at that time the population of Kemujan island may have been more numerous than nowadays.

The photo's show an empty harbour with recently renovated pier. Yet, if we may believe our informant, one should come here at full moon, when domestic sailors from all over the archipelago come stocking up just as in bygone days. When they are not there, the water is crystal clear, suitable for a swim.

Go all the way to and past the airport, then turn north and follow the sign to Dermaga Gon Bajak

The Legon Lele trail
Legon Lele valley - Karimunjawa
Legon Lele valley
by theo1006, 4 more photos
The map on the billboard at the harbour indicates a few hiking trails, but without details. We decided to try out the Legon Lele trail, as we had already found its starting point.

The main and only through road of Karimunjawa runs north of the village. If you follow it east of Karimunjawa Inn, its final part is a 2.5 km stretch paved with concrete blocks. After negotiating a few steep hills, the road ends at the shore of Legon Lele bay. But an earthen path - suitable for pedestrians and motorbikes - leads on to a small hamlet in a green valley. This is one of the few places where people can cultivate rice, irrigated with clear water springing from the hill. A farmer told us that the same spring also supplies Karimunjawa village.

When you reach the hamlet the path turns left, passing a few isolated houses, and then starts climbing. Soon you find yourself on a steep and rocky path going up to the top of the ridge, then less steep going down. Eventually you reach the main road again, but about 3 km west of Karimunjawa. At this point a rusty billboard states that it is forbidden to enter the nature reserve. Who cares, there was no such board at the other end of the trail...

This hike took us 1.5 hours. A full circle back to the starting point would take at least one hour more, but we found some villagers willing to bring us there on their motorbikes, for payment of course.
Ujung Gelam Beach
Ujung Gelam Beach - Karimunjawa
Ujung Gelam Beach
by theo1006, 4 more photos
If you don't want to rent a boat for a swim, you have a few options.

Closest to the ferry harbour are the beaches of Dewadaru Resort and Escape Beach Resort. But you have to stay there or ask permission to use their beach. Somewhat farther east lies Nirvana Resort, charging Rp 12,500 for access to their beautiful beach.

Free, and suitable for snorkeling is Ujung Gelam beach. Close to the shore there are corals, although the site is not the most perfect.
From the main road one has to walk about 1 km along an earthen path. It is an interesting walk, the locals are friendly and eager for some small talk. We met men at work reparing a boat, and on our return found one willing to climb a tree and provide us with a fresh coconut drink.

  • Address: Ujung Gelam, Karimunjawa

  • Directions: Ujung Gelam beach lies about 7 km west of the harbour, so you may have to charter an ojeg. At a bend in the main road here is a signboard pointing to ¨Ujung Gelam, 0.5 km", but we estimate the distance is closer to 1 km.

  • Pulau Tengah

  • Like Pulau Kecil, also Pulau Tengah is a good place for snorkeling. The same abundance of corals near the jetty, but even more fish, shoals of them. Right below the jetty we saw this bright orange male one, with a female hiding in the sea-nettles below. While most fishes keep their distance, this male approaches you to indicate "keep away from my territory". The photo of fishes we made from the jetty, having attracted them by throwing some rice in the water. And there was this bird taking a ride on a floating log.

    After having had our fill of snorkeling near the jetty, we asked our boatman to sail around the island. On the far (east) side we saw from the boat vast stretches of more corals in water of perhaps 2 m deep.

    Pulau Tengah is owned by the same rich Chinese from Semarang as Pulau Cilik. But the bungalows on Pulau Tengah are for rent, if you can make a deal with the caretaker living there.
    There is a fenced-in basin at the jetty like the one at Wisma Apung (floating hostel); some big fish in there, but no sharks.

  • Directions: A quarter of an hour by traditonal boat from Pulau Kecil, or half an hour at most from Kohin beach.

  • At the far beach of Cemara Besar island - Karimunjawa
    At the far beach of
    Cemara Besar island
    by theo1006,
    4 more photos
    Pulau Cemara Besar takes its name from a species of pine trees (cemara) that grow here in abundance. But you find them in most islands of the Karimunjawa group.

    We went here by local boat for snorkeling (see Hiring a boat at Karimunjawa Harbour), the travel time was about one hour.
    The fishermen have their anchoring points where they moor the boat and you can jump overboard for snorkeling. The anchoring point at Cemara Besar island is near a sandbank, and you can walk to the island. Wherever you swim a short distance from the beach you find corals.

    Later we anchored at another place in mid-sea facing Ujung Gelam peninsula. At both places we saw beautiful corals and fish, but also much dead coral; see our Info page for comments on this. The corals near Pulau Cilik and Pulau Tengah we found in better shape.

    Sorry, no underwater-photography. Enjoy the pictures of the island.

  • Directions: North-west of Kariumunjawa harbour, one hour by traditional boat.

  • Pulau Gundul
    Pulau Gundul seen from Pulau Tengah - Karimunjawa
    Pulau Gundul seen from Pulau
    by theo1006
    And this is the island where no one will take you, Pulau Gundul or Bald Island. Not just because it is lacking in vegetation, but because it is a training ground for the navy and unexploded ammunition is said to lie around.

    This photo is the closest I succeeded in making with 6x zoom. It was shot from the far (east) side of Pulau Tengah.

    Pulau Cilik
    Pulau Cilik jetty - Karimunjawa
    Pulau Cilik jetty
    by theo1006, 4 more photos
    We found Pulau Cilik (Small Island, also called Pulau Kecil) one of the best spots for snorkeling on a short distance from the main island Kemujan. Jump straight from the jetty and all around you are fine living corals, only a few dead ones, Unfortunately we do not possess an underwater camera, so you have to come and see for yourself.

    Pulau Cilik is privately owned, so we were told. On the island are a few bungalows and a pendopo (open meeting hall), but they are not for hire. Admission is free, there is generally no one around. Your boatman will tie up the boat to the jetty, and you can go snorkeling or roaming the island at leasure.

  • Directions: Just one quarter of an hour by traditional boat from Kohin beach, but perhaps an hour and a half from Karimunjawa harbour.

  • swimming with shark
    the shark - Karimunjawa
    the shark
    by aalayaa
    shark is one of endangered species in karimunjawa.
    here, you can meet some friendly shark, swimming and taking picture with.
    don't worry, like in 'finding nemo', they're unharm, at first i thought they're vegetarian but too bad, i witnessed them eating some fishes.

  • Directions: near pulau menjangan besar

  • list of fave destinations among the islands
    ~ pulau burung [bird conservatory] ***** my first meet with anchovies
    ~ pulau galeang
    ~ pulau menjangan besar
    ~ pulau menjangan kecil **** we got bitten by spiky ones
    ~ pulau cemara besar
    ~ pulau cemara kecil **** lovely sunset from this place
    ~ ujung gelam [the extension of karimunjawa besar] **** nick's comments: like in la dique or praline, seychelles
    ~ pulau gosong selikur
    ~ pulau bengkuang
    ~ pulau karang kapal
    ~ pulau krakal kecil
    ~ pulau krakal besar
    ~ pulau genteng
    ~ pulau gosong tengah
    ~ pulau nyamuk
    ~ pulau gosong
    ~ pulau menyawakan *** private island with kura-kura resort [we never been there!!!!!]
    ~ pulau taka menyawakan
    ~ pulau kumbang
    ~ pulau karang
    ~ pulau gundul * closed for public, serviced as military field
    ~ etc

  • always beautiful sunset, so don't miss it!!
    it's also a heaven. anywhere in the islands, if the sky is clear ... can be seen beautiful sunset. also from my back window in the floating cabin [made from fishing platform]. serene and charm.

  • Address: anywhere in the islands of karimunjawa archipelago 

  • sunset over my cabin (c) ukirsari - Karimunjawa

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