Cruising Pulau Bawean
A little jewel in the Java Sea! We spent six days exploring this beautiful area. White sandy beaches, uninhabited islands, coral reefs, monkeys and friendly local people. After the big city chaos of Surabaya, Bawean was just what we needed! We left Surabaya and motor-sailed, the Java sea, into head winds as we crossed to Pulau Bawean. The crossing took 13 hours and Dwayne had to do most of it as it was the first time I’ve had to take seasickness tablets for a while and they knocked me out. We had timed the crossing to arrive in the middle of the day. (Leaving at midnight so we could arrive in the afternoon the next day). We were thankful that when we arrived we had no visitors to the boat and we could just relax.
The next morning as Dwayne was making breakfast we had our first visitor. It just so happened that Dwayne was boiling an extra couple of eggs to save for our lunch, so we offered him breakfast. Wayan, our visitor, enjoyed his eggs, toast and coffee as we had a chat. (He ate one egg and stuck the other in his pocket… for his lunch!) He spoke no English so I got a lot of practice with my Bahasa. I tried to ask him if it was alright to burn our rubbish on the beach, we were shocked, but not surprised by his response, when he indicated we should just throw it overboard (needless to say we didn’t!) After a couple of hours Wayan left with some magazines, a pair of sunnies and an Indonesian – English conversation book, which was preferable to the binoculars and Dwayne’s fins that he wanted!
We anchored in several different places around the east coast of Bawean and a few days into our time there, we enjoyed what I would call the epitome of the cruising dream! It was a prefect day in paradise. Whilst moving to another anchorage we passed a tiny uninhabited cay and decided to anchor there for lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day and after lunch we took our snorkel gear and paddle boards and headed to the cay for a look around. On our charts we couldn’t see a name for it but a sign on the beach said it was Pulau Noko.
After a paddle and a look around the cay we went to the other end of the island and did a drift snorkel back to our boat. It was a beautiful snorkel and the water was surprisingly clear. It wasn’t all perfect coral though… some of the snorkelling unveiled beautiful coral gardens full of colour and life, while other parts resembled a dying garden… just a few blooming flowers pushing their way through the weeds.
I found an clownfish living in a beautiful purple sea anemone and the biggest cuttlefish I have ever chanced upon in the water. Dwayne found a couple of beautiful orange spotted nudibranch. Unfortunately my Gopro cover now has a broken latch, so I was not able to get any photos!
From Pulau Noko we anchored in a little bay on another uninhabited island just off of Bawean. We put in our paddle boards and went ashore to burn our rubbish and enjoyed a bottle of bubbly before we went for a walk to explore. This island is covered in jungle and is beautiful. As we were preparing to head back to Thorfinn, we saw about 20 – 30 monkeys crossing a small beach and heading up a hill on the point of the island. We went back to the boat and, as the sunset, we relaxed in our beanbags, on the deck, watching the monkeys in the trees.
We loved this spot and decided to stay another night and cook bebek betutu (duck with betutu spice) on the beach. So while I made a betutu spice, Dwayne built an oven on the beach before coming back to help me take everything ashore on our paddle boards.
The oven looked awesome and we just hoped it would work. The duck needed to be cooked for about four hours and, as the only wood on the beach was drift wood, bamboo and coconuts, we were unable to get coals so had to feed the fire constantly. The oven worked well, however not everything went 100% to plan; the oven half collapsed during the cooking, and we had to rebuild it. And a couple of times we had to put out a fire when the roof of the oven caught alight! It was a big effort but well worth it; I even cooked rice in a length of bamboo!
Everything turned out beautifully. We both agreed it was the best duck we’d had… not bias or anything! After dinner we packed up and paddled back to the boat with the left over duck… Dwayne was already thinking about the red duck curry he wanted for dinner for the next day yummo.
The following day we had some more visitors. Ari offered to take us ashore to Sankapura to show us around. We told him we would be going ashore the next day and he said he’d meet us at 0900. Ari is a nice guy who can speak a little English and Dwayne was happy chatting with him and he offered Ari and his friend Sela, a beer and then a scotch. Ari was so happy he started singing and Dwayne poured more scotch… next minute Ari was in tears as he talked about his government and the international people on death row. Talk about an ’emotional roller coaster’!
The following day we went to Sankapura in the dinghy. It was a little difficult to find somewhere to leave the dinghy until some helpful locals told us we could tie up to their boat.
We headed down the road and found Ari on his scooter. We hired his scooter and headed off around the island. There is one main road that circumnavigates the entire island and it was surprisingly well maintained in most places… where it was not however, it was very bad. We were about a quarter of the way around the island when the rain started. We stopped under a little shelter and waited for the rain to ease. I said the clouds weren’t that thick and that the rain wouldn’t last long… I was very very wrong! When the rain had eased a little, we hopped back on the bike and started on our way again. It wasn’t too long before we had to seek shelter again as it began to really pour down. We stopped at a little shop and sat drinking coffee and chatting with the owners – a grandmother, mother and children. They knew no English so it was good practice again for our Bahasa. The rain slowed down and we set off again.
We hadn’t gone far before the rain was once again lashing at us. We found a little warung and purchased a bit of morning tea and once again sat chatting with all the people that came to visit the ‘bule’ (westerners). That little warung was soon full of women and children and even a couple of men came for a chat. One of the young ladies and a teenage girl spoke a little English and they helped me when “saya tidak mengerti” (I don’t understand). As always, when chatting with the Indonesians, there was lots of smiles, laughter and fun.
We left there and the rain stayed at a drizzle until we were back to the other side of the island. About five minutes from our destination the skies opened up and an indescribable amount of water bucketed down! We arrived back at the warung where we were to meet Ari and, absolutely saturated, we had a big lunch of fried fish, chicken curry and rice with all the trimmings. After lunch we decided to wait for the rain to stop before taking the dinghy back to the boat. The rain didn’t look like it was going to abate so after a couple of hours we jumped into the dinghy and battered our way through the rain and back to Thorfinn. There is something so nice about putting up ones feet and watching telly on a wet afternoon… even if it is not cold.
We really liked our time at Bawean. It is a beautiful place – a jewel surrounded by the Java Sea. We both agree it is one of the nicest places we have been to in Indonesia. It was cleaner than most, with some areas we rode through having very little, to no, visible litter. We never know what to expect when we are visiting an island new to us, and I haven’t been to a place that I could really say I disliked, but here we found a special place of mountains, forests, vivid green rice paddies and beautiful people. Just when we think it can’t get any better we sail on, soon to stumble across another amazing place, animal, person or experience. My next blog has all four! Tune in when I write about our time with the orang-utans! Sampai Jumpa Lagi.
Travel Notes (August 2016)
Tourism in Pulau Bawean has only recently (2011) been introduced and is slow in taking off, therefore it is a great place if you want to explore somewhere off the beaten track.
Where is Pulau Bawean? – Bawean is an Indonesia island in the Java Sea about 80Nm north of Surabaya (150km).
How to get there?
Flights – Harun Thohir Airport opened in Pulau Bawean in January 2016. The first route in Surabaya to Bawean with Airfast Indonesia.
Ferry – Several ferries service the island – have a look here for more information.
Accommodation – have a look at this link for more information.
Things to do and see – waterfall, lake, hot springs, visit other small islands, snorkelling, trekking, see monkeys and endemic deer – Bawean Deer (Axis kuhlii).
There are companies offering package deals, the following highlighted links will take you to some of them. I have no affiliation with any of them and have not participated in a tour, therefore no opinion can be given. Package deals of differing lengths including 4day/3night are sold through Pamitran and EastJava.com and Bawean Tourism and javaisbeautiful.com to name a few.
Click here for the recipe of bebek betutu and more about our beach oven!
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