Off the beaten track, not many tourists visit Sempu Island. I am here by exposing that secret that I was told, about this little paradise that is visited only by the locals, and very few foreigners!
Located in the South of Eastern Java, it was a 3 hours drive from Malang to get to the small port. Half the drive was on highways while the other was steeply across the mountains, with beautiful views of the Indonesian country side.
I am starting to really fall in love with the Dutch influenced Indonesian country side! It really looks amazing!
Once at the port, it was a 13,000 Indonesian Rupiah for the entrance of the scooter, and another 10,000 for 1 night parking there.
We had a quick lunch in a small warung (restaurant), fish and mixed rice, 8,000 Indonesian Rupiahs.
We also did our shopping there, at the port, with everything being more expensive than outside, but we had to get enough food, water and alcohol with us, because there is nothing on Sempu Island!
Off we went on the small sketchy boat with the loud motor, for only 10-15 minutes, to get to the island. Roll up your pants and take off your shoes, because you are going to walk on sharp and slippery rocks for a good 100 meters to get to dry land.
Dry land, or muddy/slippery land, depends on which season it is. Luckily for me, it is the dry season now, so it was just dry mud, which is still slippery, but I am sure it would be much worse in the rainy season!
Once on dry land, we trekked through the forest for one hour, passing above, under and in between tree trunks and roots, until we finally saw the sight of the ocean.
But wait! It wasn’t the ocean!
A closer look and it turns out to be a lagoon! Only fed by ocean water in the high tide during the early morning through a hole in the rocks/mountains that is forming the lagoon! This looked like paradise!
Finally on the soft sand, we set our tents among at least 50 other tents, all locals. Mostly young guys, a few young girls, and a few of the girls are unveiled. A couple of families in one of the corners.
But no, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds with all the covered girls and the dominating male population.
I guess the ones that make it all the way there are the kind of good people, they didn’t mind the western girls in bikinis, we didn’t get stared at for being foreigners all the time like it happens inside the cities. Everyone was just minding their own business, enjoying the peacefulness of paradise.
We spend the evening taking some dips in the water to cool off after the trek, then making a fire and chatting around it while sipping on some warm alcohol…it was fun, it was what I missed about Egypt! Camping! Except that in Egypt I usually camp in deserted place, be it by the desert or by the beach, we are usually the only campers out there!
Other people were doing the same. Camp fires, some were barbequing huge fish; others were playing on guitars and singing. You’d hear the laughter all around the place. It had a very good and positive vibe!
At night it actually got a little cold so I slept inside one of our tents, because I didn’t have a sleeping bag with me. But if you did, sleeping under the stars is always an option!
In the morning, another swim and a wander around the lagoon while the water is still high enough to swim in, and then we climbed over the mountains to catch a glimpse of the amazing ocean and get a better view of the lagoon from above.
Just be careful when doing this, do not climb in flip-flops, the rocks are sharp and you will need to step on many of them!
How much did the whole trip cost?
For a 2 days and 1 night camping:
13,000 Rupiah entrance to the port
10,000 parking in the port
+/- 20,000 gas for the scooter
15,000 food for both days
100,000 for the boat (that is both ways, divided among all people on the boat, my share was 8,500)
50,000 entrance to Sempu Island (it is a natural reserve, this is the price per the whole group, my share was 4,500)
I’s say the whole trip cost less than 100,000 Rupiahs…that is less than 10 US Dollars! Is it worth it?
PS it would definitely cost more with the alcohol included, but that is a personal choice…
The only drawback of this trip: My body is aching! Every single muscle hurts, from trekking to driving the scooter…(for me, it is 2.5 hours to get to Malang, followed by 3 hours to get to the port, and all the way back again!)
If you are ever in Indonesia and spending some time in Eastern Java, I would definitely recommend camping on Sempu Island!
And you should not worry about the camping gear; you can rent it from Malang (that is what we did.) If you wish, drop me an email and I’ll give you address and directions to places that rent out tents, sleeping bags and whatever camping/adventure gear you would want!