Jakarta has long been the gateway to the thousands of magnificent islands that make up the vast archipelago of Indonesia. The majority of tourists stop briefly in the city, if at all, before heading to the famous shores of Bali, Lombok or Sulawesi for their piece of paradise. The city, chiefly, has the reputation of being a business and not a place where you would want to spend your hard earned holiday. It may come as a surprise to learn that the area of ‘Greater Jakarta’ includes a collection of islands that, in terms of natural beauty and exclusivity, are amongst the finest in the region. White sandy beaches, lazy hanging palms and clear waters, alive with a thousand varieties of tropical fish, are not a long air trip away but practically within swimming distance of South East Asia’s most vivacious metropolis.
The ‘Thousand Island’s, situated due north of the marina at Ancol, in North Jakarta, boast some of the cleanest waters and best dive spots in South East Asia, and benefit in both convenience and facilities from their proximity to the nation’s capital. Actually numbering in the hunders, the islands are a favorite weekend or daytrip getaway for the city’s expatriate community for obvious reasons; within minutes of setting off from the jetty, the layers of stress and strain which build up living in a city with over ten million other, are replaced with a contented state of well being.
Current trips available to the islands vary in price according to the length of stay facilities but they usually involve waking at the crack of dawn on a Saturday and trying to get to the marina before the water bus leaves you behind. Although these boats are generally fast and get you to the islands pretty quickly, they can sometimes be fairly cramped and uncomfortable and it is always a relief when you arrive.
An opportunity however to experience the islands in far superior comfort and style recently became available on board the luxury yacht, the Raden Mas.
This trip on a private yacht to an uninhabited private island is surrounded by the kind of style and service usually enjoyed only by royalty. The boat itself, which originates from the renowned boat-building yards of Cowes in Great Britain, was originally commissioned by British nobility its lunch in 1966 has played host to a virtual who’s who off society’s and historical maritime paintings instantly add a feeling of romantic adventure to any journey. The boat is fully equipped with fitted gallery facilities a microwave and two freezers, a dining area, an outdoor barbeque and four cabins which can comfortably sleep eight guests. On deck there is plenty of room to enjoy the sunlight or take a siesta on the large mattresses to the front and rear of the captain’s cabin.
Although the twin masts suggest being left at the wind’s merc, Raden Mas also has a powerful engine, with a top speed of nine knots, so there is no danger of getting stranded on the usually calm waters. She also benefits from state of the art navigation equipment including a depth sounder, radar and VHF Radio. This allows you the pleasure of leaving the city at night, sipping cocktails under the stars and waking up in another world without any danger of running into the many small fishing craft that frequent the surrounding waters.
Arriving on Kaliage Kecil in the morning is like discovering a modern day treasure island. Sparkling sand, emerald water and thick tropical vegetation greet you as you motor ashore. You are met by what looks like a clever replica of a classic Javanese house, hidden in the trees. On entry you realize that this is no replica but a beautifully carved original wooden house from Central Java dating back to the eighteenth century. This magnificent structure originally belonged to a religious teacher in the small town of Demak, but in 1996 there were plans to pull it down in order to build a mosque. The island’s owner, an avid antique collector, heard about its impending fate and immediately bought it and then painstakingly took it apart. It was then transported to Jakarta and brought to the island where the same craftsmen restored it to its glory. From where it stands, sheltered in the trees, you could be forgiven for thinking it has been on the island for eternity and not less than two years. The interior is like stepping into an antique gallery. The owner has been collecting antiques and historical artifacts for over the island. A set of chairs were discovered at a trance dance in Central Java, chests used for storing rice in Magelang now house the linen, and chairs, previously owned by Dutch plantation managers, are now arranged on the beach for sunset cocktails. Four poster beds with hanging mosquito nets add to the feeling of being on a romantic safari at the turn of the last century.
Apart from the main house, the rest of the island’s design is the result of the genius of renowned landscaper and architect Made Wijaya, Ir. Gusti Sarjana and Tunas Jaya. Hidden in the jungle at the end of winding sandy paths you discover a beautiful natural bamboo and rattan villa, an outdoor bathroom shaped like an African kraal and raised rice barn which also serves as a cool bed in the trees. Made is also responsible for the kitchen and dining area which tends to act as the centre of activity at extended meal times. The decoration is a charming mix of maritime paraphernalia, antiques and Indonesian artifacts. Raffles style lamps hang above the comfortable seating while Balinese cow bells sway in the fresh sea breeze.
The fantastic meals prepared by the chef are one of the high points of the trip.
Breakfast includes fresh croissants, yoghurt and fruit, with sausages, eggs and grilled tomatoes for those who prefer a fuller start to the day. Lunch and dinner consist of a buffet of international and local cuisine which tempt even the strict dieter to eat until truly full before retiring to a hammock for an extended siesta.
If the fresh air gives you a burst of energy, there are plenty of water orientated activities to keep you busy.
Apart from swimming, you can water ski, canoe and snorkel or take a round trip of the neighboring islands in the dinghy. Diving equipment is not provided but expeditions can easily be organized if you are qualified and have your own gear. The easiest thing to do however is just lie back, relax and enjoy the silence and peace of your own private island.
When the island was bought in 1993 it was completely undeveloped and desperately needing attention. Determined that it wouldn’t disappear into the ocean, the owner strengthened its shores with rock, protected the surrounding coral and planted over 250 trees to create a wild interior jungle. The result of this dedication to the environment is a natural unspoiled haven for rest and rejuvenation which when blended with the style and exclusivity of sailing the Raden Mas contributes to trip which will never be forgotten.
The most impressive part of the island package is also the most important, the service provided. As soon as you step aboard the yacht you are placed in the hands of a first class professional raw who successfully tend to your every need on land and sea until you arrive back in Jakarta. The standards of service attained are not a result of a recent hospitality course but through a relationship with the boat and island which has grown over the past fifteen years. The head cook has been with the boat since 1983, the captain since 1988 and this ensures that everybody knows exactly what they are doing, from guiding the boat in darkness to serving perfect gin and tonics at sun down. On the island everything is continually scrupulously cleaned.
Beds are made, meals prepared without you being disturbed or noticing any activity. As you leave the island after a large Sunday lunch, the crew is magically already on board, fully prepared for departure.
For a weekend or even a week of unrivalled Epicurean indulgence or just a welcome break from the pollution and traffic of the city, Raden Mas offers you unparalleled service and value for money. For the price of an economy holiday in Bali, you and your friends could enjoy a trip where all the inconveniences of travel have literally been ironed out, leaving you free only to enjoy yourself and your surroundings.