A Day Trip to Thousand Islands – How to Enjoy Pulau Seribu the Local Way
by Kyle Dougherty
Are you feeling drained by life in Jakarta? Do you feel suffocated by the concrete jungle and long to rejuvenate yourself in nature but don’t want to spend the money and time on a flight to Bali or Lombok? Luckily for us, there’s a cheap, easily accessible but often overlooked island escape right within the Jakarta regency-Pulau Seribu, or Thousand Islands! A Day Trip to Thousand Islands. Though you may have heard of Pulau Seribu and deemed it not worth your time and effort, it’s actually a great option for a short trip, not very touristy, and cheap and easy if you have the right information. A return to nature that recharges mind, body, and soul need not cost a week’s worth of time and money- one day and an estimated 3 – 400,000 RP (including food, transport, and a little extra for any other costs) are all you need to enjoy Pulau Seribu the local way.
1. Get to the Harbor
There are two harbors in Jakarta that have boats going to PulauSeribu- Ancol Marina is the nice harbor that you may have gone to for dinner and a stroll or to check out the water park. However, I’ve found that for Thousand Island trips it’s best to go to Kali Adem harbor, in MuaraAngke, North Jakarta. This harbor is primarily used by local fisherman (as you’ll immediately be able to tell from the smell). The boats leaving from here are cheaper, and you’ll be able to catch the local ferry as well.
2. Choose your boat
The public ferry from Kali Adem leaves at 8 and 9 AM, and costs 40,000 RP. The other option is to take a speedboat which cost us 200,000 RP round trip (you may be able to get it for less depending on your bartering skills and how “bule” you look). The ferry can be a great “experience,” if you’re open to that. Try to get on a little early in order to get a spot next to a wall- you’ll still be sitting on the floor, but at least you’ll have a backrest to snooze on. The ferry deck (not air conditioned, but shaded and with windows) will soon be packed full with locals, sitting, eating, chatting, sharing snacks, sleeping (a lot of sleeping) and idly strumming guitars. It’s a nice communal vibe, and can get you in a good frame of mind to enjoy your Thousand Islands getaway. However, if you value comfort, privacy, and speed more than experience and cost, get the speedboat. It’s actually surprisingly comfortable and pleasant.
3. Choose your Island
No matter which boat you take, if you know which island you’d like to go to, be sure to tell the crew- they won’t stop somewhere unless they know someone is getting on or off. On our first trip, we planned to go to PulauPari, but didn’t tell anyone, assuming the ferry would stop at every major island and the names would be loudly announced to the passengers. This was not the case, and we did not realize it until long after we’d passed our desired destination.
But no worries. Your Pulau Seribu day trip is a great chance to let your feelings and the “vibes” show you the way. It’s the kind of luxury most of us don’t get in our intense lives in Jakarta, so really let things flow! My recommendation is: just get out when you feel you’ve had enough of the boat. As a general rule, the farther you get from Jakarta, the cleaner the air and water will be. However, the more time you spend on the boat, the less you’ll have on the island. Because of this, the speedboat is the best choice if you know you’re going to one of the farther reaches.
On our first expedition, we got out at Pulau Pramuka, or “Boy Scout Island.” This island is home to the administrative headquarters of Thousand Islands, but is not a big tourist spot. On our next trip, we took the speedboat to “Pulau Tidung,” which is a bit more commonly visited. Neither, however, had many tourists at all, giving the trip an authentic and peaceful feel.