Updated: Jan 23
I visited the island of Batam, just off the coast of Singapore but property of Indonesia and the island of Java, the main island of Indonesia with capital Jakarta in 2014, on one of these trips I went out the island of Krakatau, known for the volcano that actually forms the island.
In Batam I was able to rent a car from the hotel so we could drive around the island and explore parts that other people usually don't visit. One of those places was a former Vietnamese refugee camp that has now been preserved as an open air museum. In order to get there we had to drive over a well known bridge and see the islands inlets and waterways.
Once there, it looked like we were the attraction instead of the tourists, it 's clear that this place is rarely visited by outsiders, so it was well worth the effort to get there. Batam is more or less the pleasure island for Singaporeans to gamble, drink, party and ... well ... you get the picture!
Doing all stuff they can't do in Singapore. This makes the hotels pretty cheap and since my plans were completely different, it makes this island a good place to explore as further away from the busy ferry port and beaches, there is no mass tourism.
Java is a whole different story! On a long weekend we took a flight from Singapore to Jakarta in the evening, Jakarta is so much different from Singapore that it 's almost black vs. white. The organised society of Singapore where you could eat off the street vs. the chaotic bustle of an overcrowded Jakarta. Jakarta Airport is already a difference in many ways, the terminal building is designed to resemble a wooden waterside hut and the climate allows for much more open space than what we 're used to in Europe, the downside was that places to sit or lie down are limited and no way to plug in your phone for a recharge. We spent the night at a local Ibis hotel, a well trusted hotel brand worldwide. The hotel was luxurious and we had breakfast there as well. We had arranged for a local (www.krakatau-tour.com) tour operator to pick us up and drive us to our next destination, from then on they had arranged everything for us. They took us to a local beach hotel at Carita beach area and on the way I noticed that Indonesia has some high quality well maintained highways ... up to certain point, but then suddenly you get off the highway and ... you're back in the colonial era ... roads are full of holes and luckily we had a 4WD Toyota to get us there, I wouldn't know how a modern standard family car could survive these roads! Locals all live around the main road from the highway to Carita beach and further on. We could see that only the well experienced travelers do these kind of trips as there are no touristic facilities to be found, only a few hotels and mostly roadside stops that offer everything you would possibly need in this area while traveling. Most noticeable is the many car repair shops, they all have the great logos of famous car brands but none of them are actually registered dealers or repair shops, they just fix whatever they can fix and have become masters in it, as many cars break down often on these roads. We passed by a place I was eager to see ... the famous Anyer Point lighthouse! I learned about the Krakatoa volcano a long time ago and was happy to finally be in the area where it all happened. The original Anyer point lighthouse was destroyed by a tsunami in 1883 when the Krakatoa volcano erupted violently, causing a tsunami that destroyed most buildings in Carita beach including the lighthouse. In total, the disaster cost the lives of about 36.000 people! The foundations of the lighthouse are still visible at the coastline and the Dutch decided to build a new lighthouse just a few meters away up the beach in 1885, this lighthouse was prefabricated in Holland and then shipped out to Anyer to be built up on the site, it is 58 meters high and made of cast iron plates. It has a striking resemblance to the Den Helder lighthouse in Holland that was built in 1877. We were able to get access to the lighthouse and climbed the stairs all the way to the top, the view was just amazing! We settled into our hotel, not super deluxe but with all needed comforts and most importantly ... air conditioning! We ate local just across the road from the hotel in a local roadside shed, they offered great food for rediculously low prices, we were actual millionaires in Indonesia as the local currency has such low value over foreign currencies that just a few hundred Euro translated into millions of local Rupiahs. The next day we were taken to the local marina where the tour-guides had prepared all the equipment needed for 2 days and we sailed off in the small motorboat against pretty impressive waves towards the island of Anak Krakatau (indonesian for Son of krakatoa). We arrived in the area with calm seas and went ashore to find a small wooden hut that served as the base station for the rangers responsible for the islands, their boat was anchored just offshore as well. Other than this wooden hut there was nothing else to be found, even the hut didn't have plumbing or anything useful, so here ... you 're on your own! The forest is your toilet, the sea is your bath or shower and that's about it, there is no electricity, no wifi and no cell signal, just nature and this big volcano! The guides had taken supplies for at least the 2 days we were going to be on this island and they had already set up our tent before we arrived, fresh bottled water was kept cool in the cooling box and there was plenty of food to prepare, additionally they had caught some fish the day before to put on the fire. One of the guides took us on a walk to the top of the volcano and showed us around the island and its beaches. The biggest difference between the beach at our hotel yesterday and this beach today is the color, while most beaches in Indonesia have white sand, this beach had black ash and dust, left over from all the volcanic eruptions over the years. The forest is also temporary as this is an active volcano and each and every eruption changes the island, this is also the reason why there have never been any strong permanent structures on the island as the volcano can just destroy them with every eruption, the wooden hut being the only structure next to a concrete name sign, everything else is nature! The island is full of life but you notice that this life is well adapted to the marine environment, most animals from humble insects to big reptiles can either fly or swim, just in case they have to escape a burning hot volcanic eruption. Even the plants can easily grow back because seeds can float from other islands to this one and some can even survive being burnt on the outside, only to grow back from within. When the guides were preparing a meal on an open fire with some wood from the trees over it to roast the fish and meat en cook the rice, they called us to hurry and bring a camera ... apparently a large lizard had smelled our food and was curious to what it could find ... it was a Water Monitor Lizard (Varanus Salvator Bivittatus) and it was curious but cautious ... I managed to get some good shots of it as well, the animal isn't that dangerous and it quickly backed away when we came too close. We had a walk on the beach in the sunset and then ... dinner as prepared by the guides.
The night wasn't bad but it was a bit hard to sleep on thin camping mats compared to the comfy room we had the day before ... whenever I go camping again, I think I 'll bring an inflatable matrass instead! Anyway, the morning after, we noticed some larger tourist boats were coming in so we got up and had breakfast before setting off to sail around the island before going back to Carita beach to get a shower and go back to the airport for our flight back to Singapore.
You can find the photos in the album and below is a video I made of the trip to Java to visit the Krakatoa volcano.