Seeking silence. Seeking peace of mind. Seeking to blow the cobwebs away. These are the usual unfulfilled aims I’ve been in search for my whole life. But I can tell you, I’ve found them. At least for a few days in Nusa Kambangan.
I never imagined to find what I was seeking for on an island also known as the Alcatraz from Indonesia. Home for murderer, terrorists and drug dealers. Indonesians most dangerous criminals will surely come across Nusa Kambangan. It’s the kind of person who you really don’t want to mess with.
On the other hand Nusa Kambangan has the beauty of a nearly unpopulated island. A breathtaking rainforest without a single human soul to be seen but therefor inhabiting a huge variety of wildlife, endless beaches and tropical fruits. We found ourselves in the footpaths of Robinson Crusoe.
But let us start from the beginning. During Idul Fitri, one of the most important holiday for Muslims, announcing the end of Ramadan, we got stuck in Pangandaran. Incidentally we met a local who told us about Nusa Kambangan and its untouched flora and fauna. According to him the island was deserted except for a few fishermen dropping in from time to time.
His portrayals definitely draw our attention. Like you might have read in our blog entry to Pangandaran the city turns to an Indonesian party zone during Idul Fitri. We couldn’t wait to get a little rest. Nicos wide opened eyes told me right away, that this spot needed to be discovered. We just had to overcome one obstacle: the fact that tourists can’t enter the island without a permit. The local, who gave us the idea of doing a trip to this island, agreed to help us out. He would get us to the island on one condition: till sunset we had to find at least six people joining us on this trip. Otherwise the transfer to the island would cost a fortune, which we weren’t willing to pay. This sounded like a great deal to us and kept us running the whole day. We asked every single tourist, if he or she would be interested. Some people we approached looked quite suspicious. However it took us hours until our group was finally settled, but we made it!
We started to prepare the trip. We packed our backpacks just with essentials like our swim wear, sunglasses, sunscreen, tent, mattresses, sleeping bags, cooker, headtorches, traveling plates, cups, cutlery and surely the most important: heaps of water and food. Our filled supplies guarantied us a stay of at least a week on the island. We wanted to make sure any little incident wouldn’t cause a serious effect immediately.
In a total we were eleven people, six tourists from Europe, the local with two fishermen helping him out and the two of us. We started off in a minivan setting for a nearby ocean access. Although we were sitting on our baggage, we had to take a motorbike in addition. As the helpers weren’t aware of the English language, we had to communicate by hands and feet. Every time I’m somewhere abroad I’m really surprised how well you can understand each other just by gestures and the facial expression.
From Pangandaran to the harbor it took us about two hours. As soon as we reached the seaside, I got excited and nervous at the same time. Shortly we would be on one of these wooden traditional Indonesian fishing boats, trying to overcome the huge waves, awaiting us on the high sea. Nearby the coast the boats were still silently floating in the turquoise water, but further out I could already see the stormy water and relentless pounding waves.
After our crossing, I knew straight away why we had the helpers with us. They spent their whole life on a boat and were capable of reading every single wave, knowing how to maneuver. This knowledge took a big part of my tension away. After 45 minutes we reached the coast of Nusa Kambangan.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s been like a picture perfect shot from a catalogue or scenery from a movie. Different shades of blue ocean water came up against a pure white sandy beach surrounded by an outstanding rainforest. I’m glad we have some pictures to show, because words alone can’t describe this pearl of nature. I have rarely seen trees of this height before. Take a closer look at the picture above. Can you spot me?
Although we would have loved to discover the jungle, we weren’t even able to enter it. The thickness of the trees and plants stopped us right away. No wonder the prisons are located in middle of the rainforest.
We set up our tent right on the edge of the jungle. Everyone was keen to jump into the crystal clear water. Unfortunately one of the girls from our small group hurt her arm playing in the waves. She received a local treatment.
In Germany we have the saying, you always meet twice in life. A few months later Nico bumped into the same girl on an island in Malaysia and was told that her arm got broken. She had to fly back to Switzerland for a serious surgery but was able to continue her travels afterwards.
During sunset we enjoyed a delicious fish barbecue from the bonfire our guides prepared for us. Especially when you are not used to life next to sea and having freshly caught fish, moments like this will stick to your mind.
The next morning everybody left, except for us. We arranged that someone would be coming to pick us up during the fifth day. I know, it’s really trusty from our side, but if you do never believe in man’s inherent goodness, you can’t enjoy life. But who knows, maybe I’m changing my point of view one day.
After everybody left, just the two of us remained on the island. To be honest I had somehow mixed feelings about it. There was this sense of delight, but at the same time this uncertainness.
After a few hours, I forgot about my concerns and was just totally thrilled by being dropped off into the wild. We both were keen to discover the beach and its wildlife. Besides heaps of hermit crabs, we found papaya palm trees and physalis plants.
The days passed by way too fast. We had plenty to do, although you might not believe it. Setting up a fire, so we could cook, washing dishes with sand and salt water, swimming in the ocean, moving around and reading under palm trees. Unfortunately but to my safety there were no coconuts.
The nights were exciting as well. Without any light pollution the stars were all clear and bright. Surrounded by the sound of the jungle and the sea, nights were mystic. One morning we found footprints around our tent. After our trip we discovered that they probably belonged to a puma.
Each following night we set up a bonfire, not only to spend some warmth but to protect us from further animal visits. The beaches were full of wood that got washed on shore so collecting firewood was an easy task.
All of the sudden we reached day five. Right in the morning two local fishermen came with their boat. They were a lot earlier than we expected them to be, but the waves were strong and they didn’t want us to be stuck on the island. My eyes were almost filled with tears when I had to head back into civilization.
At least I left the island with a smile on my face. I realized that a place exists on earth, I had been looking for so long. A place where I found myself in silence, peace of mind and with all cobwebs blown away.