Karimunjawa Tourism Suffers ‘Bad Blues’ Weather: Central Java

Extreme weather affecting parts of the archipelago has damaged the Karimunjawa islands tourism trade after several ferry services to the islands were cancelled locals said.

Karimunjawa usually draws around 100 local and 20 foreign visitors each weekend, with numbers often doubling during the New Year period. The island is dubbed the Bali of Central Java according to Suherdjoko reporting from Jepara.

Due to rough seas from Dec. 28 to Jan. 7 — in which the Senopati Nusantara ferry carrying 628 passengers capsized near Mandalika Island — small boats and ferry services were forced to seize operations to the island chain.

Two Muria ferries, each with a capacity of 300 passengers, usually service the Jepara-Karimunjawa route four times per week, while the Kartini express boat departs from Semarang for Karimunjawa once weekly.

“Due to the stoppages, there were no tourists arriving here. Five tourists have been staying here for the past week, unable to return to Jepara or Semarang because boats have stopped operating,” said Arif Rahman, head of the local Karimunjawa tour guide group.

“Around 100 potential visitors from Semarang also failed to arrive,” he said.

Among the stranded visitors were a Chinese citizen and two students from Bandung and Aceh.

Arif said the 18 hostels and three resorts on Karimunjawa and Menyawakan islands lost out significantly due to bad weather over the New Year period. Local islanders were also deprived of their earnings, he said.

“It is a tradition for many domestic and foreign visitors to celebrate the New Year here. But since boat services were restricted, we now face a loss in earnings. We tour guides cannot earn a living,” Arif said.

Local fishermen who rent boats to tourists also suffered financial losses of between Rp 200,000 (about US$23.00) and Rp 350,000 per boat hire lost.

The only unaffected facility was the Kura-Kura resort on Menyawakan island.

“We provided guests with Cessna planes to fly from Semarang’s Ahmad Yani Airport, so we’re not being effected by the bad weather. If the weather is tolerable, guests can arrive and depart from Dewandaru Airport on Karimunjawa,” said the resort’s manager, Antok.

Arif said Korean and Japanese tourists often ferry to the island over weekends, paying local guides Rp 75,000 for snorkeling equipment and Rp 150,000 for diving equipment.

Handicraft sellers and diving and snorkeling rental businesses were also affected.

The Karimunjawa chain consists of 27 islands, though only Karimunjawa, Kemujan, Menjangan, Parang, Nyamuk, Tambagan, Genting and Menyawakan are inhabited by roughly 8,000 people.

Three major ethnic groups exist on the islands, the largest of which are the Javanese. Significant Bugis and Madurese populations make up the rest.

“There are around 135 Bugis families living in the Batu Lawand hamlet in Kemujan village. Our predecessors have lived here since the 1970s,” said ethnic Bugis resident, Annar Arid.

“Though many of us have built brick houses, we still maintain our platform houses as tourist attractions,” said Sudirman, another ethnic Bugis resident.

He said tourism was essential to the islands’ inhabitants’ way of life.