At 3 AM one Friday morning, I found myself in a dark car on the streets of Jakarta.
The only person I knew in the car was Sabrina, the other exchange student in Bogor. My hosting coordinator from AFS had invited me to go with her and friends to Pulau Seribu. I passed in and out of sleep amongst the jolts and sharp turns of the car. And then finally, we got out.
I noticed the smell first. Like durian and trash and sea. Not the most pleasant combination. The streetlights cast orangey halos over a crowded parking lot. Turned heads, murmurs.
We hauled our bags to the docks and then walked a long ways down. We stopped at a boat and put our bags on it. And then we waited for everyone else to come.
Three hours later, we were finally going.
One of the differences I’ve noted between Indonesia and the U.S. is difference in safety precautions. In America, we have our children in car seats and what not until they are five or older. Here, kids will sit alone in the front seat. They can even sit in the driver’s lap.
Where this boat would’ve had a limited amount of passengers in America, the only limit in Indonesia was the lack of space. It was packed. That didn’t stop anyone from sleeping, though.
The water around Jakarta smelled. It was murky. Trash floated around everywhere.
Two hours later, after a hot and cramped ride, we arrived at the biggest island (Pulau Pramuka). The water was a crystal blue. The amount of trash had drastically decreased.
So what is this pulau business?
In Indonesian, pulau means island. And seribu means thousand. So Pulau Seribu means Thousand Island.
And that’s pretty much what it was. There were islands everywhere. Bigger ones. Tiny ones. Some were inhabited, some weren’t.
What did we do at Pulau Seribu?
Well, we snorkeled.
The underwater life was vivid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an underwater camera, so I don’t have any pictures of it. Sabrina and I eventually stopped using our snorkels and started diving.
Something that definitely shocked me was the difference in treatment of the corals. I’ve been lucky enough to have snorkeled multiple times in my life before this. One thing I’ve learned: don’t touch the coral, or anything for that matter. It kills it.
So I was very shocked when I saw others standing on the coral. When we anchored our boat, we anchored it to a coral outcropping.
Cultural differences, I suppose.
There was a lot of down time on the boat as we went from island to island.
I think that it would be safe to say that a large majority of times, we were just taking pictures.
But if that behavior is strange to you, you don’t know Indonesia.
Each night, we set up camp on a random island of our choice.
I didn’t have a sleeping pad or pillow, so I just slept on the sand and used a towel as a pillow. It wasn’t terribly uncomfortable.
We had luxurious bathrooms.
Now complete with a squat toilet and bucket of sea water for bathing!
(But it actually wasn’t that bad.)
We ate rice and fish/squid that some of the people on our boat had caught that day. I’m not a huge fan of fish, but I’m fine with it fresh. All the sea life that we caught and ate was delicious.
After the photo above was taken, I went with the guy in red and black and another girl out to look for a sea urchin.
Everywhere we’ve snorkeled, we’ve seen tons of urchins. Ironically, on this island, there were almost none. The sea surrounding the island was really shallow and bare, so we went pretty far out before we finally found an urchin in a rock. Around the same rock, we met two lion fish. That was kind of cool, but also a little scary.
After we brought it in, along with two other shelled creatures, the man snipped off the sea urchin’s spines and then cut the middle open. Right then and there on the beach we ate the sea urchin.
What did it taste like?
The sea. And it was slimy, but not bad.
And each night, there was an awesome sunset.
I really enjoyed myself on this trip. I enjoyed being “disconnected” and getting to know the people in the group I was in. I loved the nature I encountered.
Pretty chill, Pulau Seribu. Until next time.