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Moments before landing at Jakarta airport, you gaze down on dozens of little islands in the Java Sea: this is the delightful Pulau Seribu archipelago — blessed with palm trees, sandy beaches and coral reefs. And even though some of the islands are as close as half an hour by boat from Jakarta, you’ll feel like you’re worlds away.
Most holidaymakers who want to escape Java and its cities simply hop over to the next big island to the east: tropical beach paradise Bali. They tend to miss out on Pulau Seribu, which — perhaps for that reason — is still wonderfully quiet. A few of the islands are home to fishermen and a handful even have buildings dating back to the days of the Dutch East India Company. However, the majority of the 110 islands belong to a national park and are uninhabited.
The islands off the coast of Jakarta are called Pulau Seribu, meaning ‘Thousand Islands’. That name is a bit overstated, as there are ‘only’ 110 islands – however, every single one of them is unique in its own way. The further the island is removed from the mainland, the clearer the sea water and the finer the sand on the beach.
These islands right off the coast do not only offer natural beauty, but also harbour historic treasures — reason enough for a visit. In 1615, the Dutch constructed a shipyard on Onrust Island, where they maintained the Dutch East India Company ships. In the years that followed, they also built a fort of red stone and sea coral on Kelor, the neighbouring island. Although the British destroyed these buildings on several occasions, quite a few ruins have remained.
Pramuka Island is a little way off, but may be the busiest island in the archipelago; this is of course only relative compared to Jakarta. The island has a butterfly garden and turtle breeding centre where, if you’re lucky, you may get to see young turtles being put out to sea.
Pulau Macan is a group of islands that is only a 90-minute boat trip away from the capital. One of the island’s resorts, the Tiger Island Village & Eco Resort, is constructed merely out of driftwood. The stylish and comfortable bungalows are hidden between tropical flowers and palm trees. The label ‘eco’ is carefully observed here, as most of the employees who work at the resort are locals, the vegetables come from the resort garden, the furniture is made by local carpenters, and the water from the showerhead is collected rainwater. Spend your days exploring the underwater world or paddling to a neighbouring island.