Thursday, 8 March 2012

Why travelling to Karimunjawa in the rainy season may not be the best decision..

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Well Karimunjawa is pretty and all, and it goes without saying that visiting in the less crowded rainy season may net you a bargain or two.

But in Karimunjawa it may not always be the case. In the December-February period every year (this year included) the weather will not be the most pleasant. Every year there will be news of people getting stuck in the island longer than they intend to because of the high seas. When the waves are too high, ships from both Semarang and Jepara may stop operating altogether. So, it is prudent to check the weather and the sea's status with the ship operator periodically. In the past, foreign and domestic tourists alike have experienced these woes, forced to stay in the islands a few days to two weeks longer than intended. I, too, have experienced this to a lesser scale last year, when my fast boat trip from Semarang was cancelled on the day itself. Lucky me it happened before I set foot on the islands.

The simple 'terminal' at Karimunjawa
Well of course there's the bane of being able to explore the island more thoroughly, snorkeling everyday, lounging around and living like a boss! Sure, many who are forced to stay has said so. But what if you simply have not enough money to stay longer? Many of the lodgings will be kind enough to offer discount in such emergency situations, but how deep can your pocket go? Worse still, there is no ATM whatsoever in the island, so the only thing you have will be your cash. Almost no one accepts credit cards other than the top-notch resorts (which will burst your pocket anyway).

Dewadaru Airport Runway
If you are rich enough, maybe you can rent a private ship or rent a small plane at your risk. Last year there were Italian tourists who rented a plane for IDR 30 million because they get stuck! Ah and speaking about traveling by air, Karimunjawa is only equipped with a simple little airstrip with charter-only operation. Until the runway gets lengthened and the airport gets an upgrade, sea voyage will be the only way to reach this little paradise. This project is definitely in the pipeline, with the government planning to lengthen the runway to 1200 m this year. A further expansion of the runway to 1900 m and upgrading of terminal has also been proposed for tender in 2013 [source]. As of now, any trip you will be taking in the December-February period will involve an inherent risk of you having to alter your schedules.

That is until a scheduled flight gets into the Dewadaru airstrip more regularly. But will this be good or bad for the delicate environment in Karimunjawa? Will hoardes of tourists visit (and maybe ruin) it? That would be another story to ponder..

Monday, 19 December 2011

Karimunjawa - Figuring out your transportation options

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So you have booked that flight ticket to Semarang, but then you have no idea of how to get to this spectacular islands. Fret not, I will be breaking down the transportation options available to you.

Semarang, Jepara, and Karimunjawa
First thing first, your starting point most likely will be Semarang, although in some cases you will have to start from Jepara. Semarang is highly accessible by air and rail. There are many daily flights from Jakarta (Lion Air, Garuda, Sriwijaya, Batavia) as well as a 4x weekly flight by Batavia Air from Singapore. Ahmad Yani Airport in Semarang also have routes to other cities, such as Surabaya, Bandung, and Denpasar (Bali). Starting 6 February 2012, Air Asia will also serve a daily flight to Semarang from Kuala Lumpur.

Semarang is also well-served by the rail network of PT Kereta Api, with daily trains from other major cities like Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung (see PT Kereta Api Indonesia's Website for a complete schedule)

From Semarang, there are two options going to Karimunjawa, by air and by sea. Flying is obviously the fastest and most comfortable method, but it is also priced beyond most people's reach. All flights are chartered flights, operated by Kura Kura Resort, one of the most luxurious accommodation in Karimunjawa. The flights are operated on Cessna 402B with 6-8 passenger seats and one Cessna 172 for 3. For 1 May until 31 October this year, flights are scheduled as such:

Semarang Airport        12:00     Karimunjawa Airport     13:15
Karimunjawa Airport  12:00     Semarang Airport           13:15

Kura Kura Aviation's Cessna

The 130 km or so flight takes only half an hour before you will land at the tiny airstrip in Kemujan (one of the two main islands lying side by side).  For more information on rates, schedules, etc. you can contact Kura Kura Resort, by emailing them at info [at] kurakuraresort [dot] com or calling +62 (0)24-766 325 10

Most people, however will take the ferry from either Semarang or Jepara. Take not that the ferry route is not served daily, therefore you may need to plan your trip accordingly. The weather is sometimes unpredictable, and there are limited seats on the air-conditioned VIP / Business cabins, so do call in advance to book and then call another time to confirm that the ship will depart (no high storm, bad weather etc.)

The fast ferry serves Karimunjawa from both Tanjung Emas Port in Semarang and Kartini Port in Jepara (on different days). It is called KMC (Kapal Motor Cepat) Kartini 1. The journey on KMC Kartini 1 will take approximately 3.5 hour from Semarang and 2.5 hour from Jepara.  The schedule and pricing are as follows

KMC Kartini
  • Semarang - Karimunjawa - Semarang
    Semarang - Karimunjawa: Saturday, 09.00-12.30
    Karimunjawa - Semarang: Sunday, 14:00-17.30

    Ticket:
    Business Class: 130,000 IDR/pax (lower part of the deck)
    Executive Class: 150,000 IDR/pax (upper part of the deck)
  • Jepara - Karimunjawa - Jepara
    Jepara - Karimunjawa: Monday 10:00 - 12:30
    Karimunjawa - Jepara: Tuesday 11:00 - 13:30

    Ticket:
    Business Class: 69,000 IDR/pax
    Executive Class: 84,000 IDR/pax

    Note: With this one, you can still return to Semarang (every second week), but the ship will transit for around one hour, arriving in Semarang at approximately 17.00. Fare for Jepara - Semarang is the same as that of Jepara - Karimunjawa
These figures and timing are provided for estimation and planning purposes only. For the latest updates and bookings, do contact Mr. Purwanto (Dinas Perhubungan Semarang) at +62-24-70400010.

The slow ferry will be useful if you want to bring your car / motorcycle, or if simply there is no fast ferry on that day. The ship KMP Muria carries all sorts of commodities, into the islands from Jepara, so you are more likely to meet locals travelling on this ship. The journey from Jepara will take about 6-7 hours. The Departure schedule are as follows:
  • Jepara – Karimunjawa
    Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 09.00
  • Karimunjawa – Jepara
    Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday 08.00
KMP Muria
Tickets are IDR 30,500/pax (Economy), IDR 60,250/pax (VIP). If you plan on bringing vehicles, tickets are IDR 27.500 for motorcycles and IDR 300,000 for cars. For further information and on KMP Muria, do contact ASDP Jepara +62-291-591048, or Mrs. Retno +62-81-22895510. For your return, you can book from the ASDP office in the centre of Karimunjawa.

Take not that for this ferry, even though the departure is stated as 9.00 am, you are advised to be at the Kartini Port much much earlier, because once the ship is loaded to capacity it may depart somewhat earlier. Be there at 7 am, or even 6 am if you could, have breakfast or chit chat, and of course claim your precious seat as soon as the ferry opens.

Public transport in Karimunjawa are almost nonexistent, so do arrange with your lodging for pickup beforehand, or be prepared to haggle hard with the local pedicab drivers or van drivers. Prices may be steep.

If you do need to travel between Semarang and Jepara, there are buses from Terminal Terboyo (eastern part of Semarang) to the bus terminal in Jepara (from 15,000 to 30,000 IDR one way). The port is a  walkable 2 km or so from the terminal, but of course you can take local transport (becak / pedicab) too. But then, why not just stay in Jepara and admire their famous wood carving


Hope this summary can help anyone wishing to come to Karimunjawa. It is a beautiful island yet to be discovered by many!


    Saturday, 17 December 2011

    Semarang promotional tourism video, Kuku Bima Ener-G - Let's Go to Semarang!

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    Press CC to turn on the English subtitle (done by me :P)

    This is what a tourism video should look like. I have to admit that many promotional videos made by many Indonesian government agencies are boring and looks unprofessional. But this, is one of the better ones I have seen, notwithstanding the fact that it is a product commercial too.

    Sido Muncul, a home grown company, has helped in promoting Semarang as a travel destination. Its main product line is traditional herbal medicine (jamu). The company has grown tremendously, having started as a home grown industry in 1961. Before this video's release, this home grown company has promoted some other destinations too, like Komodo Island. I hope this can inspire governmental agencies (who can't even produce a decent tourism slogan), to buck up on their promotional efforts!

    AirAsia will soon fly to Semarang, Indonesia!

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    Flight                                               ETD*    ETA*
    AK1310    Kuala Lumpur-Semarang      0720    0830
    AK1311    Semarang-Kuala Lumpur      0900    1200

    Starting: 6 February 2012

    Semarang is a name alien to many travellers. This city is admittedly not a very popular destination (yet), far off the tourist trail and even among Indonesian is better known as a business city. Nevertheless, it has many hidden charms, both in and around it. There is something on offer for everyone, from culinary, history, architecture, nature, marine, to culture.

    Semarang's Location
    It was a major port during the Dutch era, and even nowadays many cruise ships would dock at the city, although admittedly most tourists will be bused away to the more famous Borobudur Temple. It is a city often overshadowed by its more 'Javanese' neighbours, Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo). Historically it has been a harmonious melting pot of cultures, with a large ethnic Chinese population.

    6 February is still two months away. So, I will be writing more about places of interest in my beloved hometown and its surroundings in the next posts. Stay tuned!

    Monday, 5 December 2011

    Citilink, the Best Indonesian Budget Airline for 2011/2012

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    This award is given to the leading Indonesian low budget scheduled airlines company providing air services for passenger generally with a recognized operation certificate license. Four airlines are nominated for this award, namely Citilink, Indonesia Air Asia, Sriwijaya Air, and Batavia Air. The awarding process is determined by both online votes by traveller, and an advisory board. There are also other categories, such as city hotels, hotel chains, and resorts included in the Indonesia Travel Tourism Awards 2011/2012.

    Funnily enough, last year’s winner Mandala Airlines have gone bust with debt problems after forced to temporarily stop their flights on 11 January 2011. What then makes Citilink different from its less than illustrious past winner?
    Many people outside of Indonesia may not have heard of it, but the airline certainly has a firm base. Citilink is a budget airline under a joint management with Indonesia’s flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia. This pairing is somewhat like that of Qantas and Jetstar in Australia. One caters to those flying in comfort, the other caters to people preferring no-frills for a cheaper price.

    Garuda Maintenance Facilities
    There are of course huge benefits that come with its association with Garuda. Firstly, unlike Sriwijaya Air, it is exempted from the blanket ban prohibiting Indonesian airlines from flying in EU airspace, together with Garuda, Indonesia Air Asia, and Batavia, (not to mention the now defunct Mandala). Citilink utilises Garuda’s Garuda Maintenance Facility Aero Asia (GMFAA) in Cengkareng, Jakarta, which is a top-notch facility compared to other Indonesian airlines. Unlike its counterparts, its flights do have a high chance of being on time. This is a huge bonus compared to airlines like Lion Air with its especially chronic delays in the afternoons.

    Despite those perks, tickets booked in advance much cheaper than Garuda, and like in many other Indonesian budget airlines, free baggage allowance is included (20 kg for Citilink). A selection of food and drinks may also be ordered on board, or when booking.
    My only peeve is that it does not have any routes to my hometown (yet), so I haven’t really have the chance to utilise it that much. Its flight hub was primarily in Surabaya, going to cities like Batam, Makassar, Balikpapan, etc, with some flights from Jakarta too.
    Citilink’s fleet now consists of Boeing 737 series, both Boeing 737-300 (148 seater) and Boeing 737-400 (170 seat)
    Citilink Fleet
    However, last month the Jakarta Post reports that they have ordered new A320s to prepare for the ever-increasing demand for budget airlines.

    Quoting the news:
    “By having 10 new Airbus aircraft next year and adding more flights, we are expecting 4 million passengers to fly with Citilink next year,”
    Elisa Lumbantoruan, the vice president of Citilink and executive president of finances for Garuda Indonesia told The Jakarta Post during the Indonesia Travel and Tourism Awards 2011/2012 in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta.
    "In order to take the advantage of the surging demand for budget airlines, the airline will add three more routes next year, which will link Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Pekanbaru and Jakarta and Palembang.”

    Current Citilink Routes


    View Citilink Routes in a larger map

    Still no flight to Semarang, but they fly to many other cities too!
    Awarding the best, inspiring the rest. Hopefully ITTA 2011/2012 can inspire other airlines to emulate Citilink’s success too.