Sunset Adventure and Snorkeling – Pulau Pari: Part 2

As promised in my last post, here is the continuation of my story in Pulau Pari.

After we had a little nap, at around 5 PM we decided to start walking to Pantai LIPI, a beach belonging to Indonesia’s state-owned research center which is commonly known as the best spot to view the sunset on the island. The beach itself is located a bit further from Pantai Bintang on the western side of the island. We stayed on the eastern side of the island so we’ve got quite some walking to do.

We walked by the sea near the port where there were a lot of fishermen’s boats or old unused boats abandoned at the shore. Against the changing hues of the sky, they sure made some beautiful sights.

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As we were walking this time and not riding a bike, I was actually able to take in a lot of the things I missed out during my bike ride to Pantai Bintang – such as how beautiful of a path it is that we need to pass in order to get there and two boats left behind a local’s house.

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I know, this photo looks pretty right? Would you be surprised to know that I was on top of a pile of trash trying to get this shot because there’s nothing else to step on?

Once we got to Pantai LIPI, the sun was already starting to set so I kind of speed-walked/ran to the beach because the hues were already changing in the most beautiful way. I was a bit aghast to discover how filthy the beach is. There was a huge amount of trash lining the coast and there were even some creepy jumping bugs skipping around my feet the entire time.

It was the most uncomfortable time I’ve ever had – trying to take the photos of what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. But the discomfort of that evening can’t hinder the beauty of the sky.

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It was really, really crowded on the beach during this hour. There were a plenty of selfie sticks being elongated so casually, DSLR cameras being held up and cell phones. I wouldn’t blame them, though because it was beautiful.

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Like I said earlier, it was hands down, one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. The orange and pink made the clouds turn a bit purplish instead of their dull grey and gave a new light and color to everything around it. What made it even more magical was the reflection of those pretty colors on the sea water below. The reflection of the sky made the entire scenery look ethereal and heavenly.

There was some point that evening that I decided to stop taking shots and just take it all in and realize how awesome God is for painting the sky like that. It was just a marvelous moment and for a while, I had a sense of peace.

Once the light had entirely disappeared from the sky, we began to make our way back to the house as most people decided to leave right after the sun disappeared, thinking the twilight wouldn’t look pretty. The bike traffic had already cleared out a lot by the time we started walking back. As night began to set in, I noticed something around the trees: green flickering lights. We were graced by the company of fireflies.

These fireflies were literally everywhere, bouncing off trees or just calmly sitting on a leaf. As there was so little light pollution on the path going back home, their lights became the center of my attention. I think their presence completed my sunset adventure.

We had dinner in the house which included rice, spicy anchovies (which were one of the best things I’ve ever had), fried chicken, and vegetable soup. Afterwards, there was supposed to be a barbecue session on Virgin Beach as part of our Pulau Pari experience package. But it was blustery that night and we didn’t think it was a good idea to be walking there so the barbecue was brought to us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t grill anything on our own so they grilled the fish and squid for us, and much to my dismay they tasted kind of awful.

I slept early that night thanks to the biking and walking and good meals I had. Really, island life suits me well. We got up at 6 AM the next day and rode a bike around the island and had such a good breakfast of nasi uduk, hard-boiled eggs with chili, noodles, and bakwan that I had a second helping. Pak Abeng came by our house at 7.30 AM with snorkeling masks, an underwater camera and life vests, telling us that the itinerary of the day included snorkeling and water sports.

We started the day off with snorkeling. Mind you, I was nervous about going underwater with only my swimsuit, snorkel, and life vest as my last experience of trying to be a mermaid wasn’t fun. I went diving 3-meters deep with full on scuba gear and air tanks and all and I freaked out underwater. But as a person who thinks fear should be faced and not avoided, I decided to try it anyway.

We went to the open waters with a traditional fishermen’s boat made of wood and sat on the floor of the boat. The boat was powered by a really noisy engine that hindered my hearing for about five minutes when it stopped. Our boat captain knew where the best spots were for sure, dropping the anchor near Pulau Burung, away from the spot with murky waters or lots of trash.

I got some lessons on how to breathe with the snorkel gear from Pak Abeng, got my big toe caught between the boat and the rung of ladder on its side, convinced myself that the life jacket will keep me afloat, put my mouth piece on and dipped my head underwater. I’m not going to life, I was a bit panicking at first because there were a lot of fishes and reefs. But I focused on the entire beauty of it and repeated “it’s okay, you’re okay” in my head and then the panic just stopped.

The spot that we snorkeled on was 2-3 meters deep and had good visibility. The water was pleasantly cool and there were a lot of reef formations: brown ones that looked like pinnacles, ivory cauliflower-like ones, even what looked like anemones. A lot of reefs means a lot of fishes and by a lot, I mean schools of fishes.

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The fishes nipped my wrists a lot and I think I slapped a lot of them trying to move, but what a marvelous sight it was.

A fair warning though is that the pinnacle-shaped reefs there were quite sharp. I found new cuts on my knees and ankle when we got back to shore thanks to those reefs so bear that in mind if you’re snorkeling at this spot.

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We got back on the boat after what felt like hours underwater and moved a bit nearer to Pulau Pari. By this time, I was so hooked on swimming with fishes that staying on the boat made me sick. I had to go back down there – which was funny considering how moments earlier, I was nervous about the whole affair.

This time, the visibility was a bit worse than the previous diving spot, but the reef formations showed more variety. There were tall ones that could reach my stomach when I swam over it, maroon hill-like ones, spongy-looking ones, and the pinnacle ones. However, the fishes were less varied this time and less colorful than in the previous spot. I was extremely happy nonetheless.

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Some rad underwater posing by yours truly

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The fishes were adorable as you only need to hold your hand out with bread on it and they will swarm over the bread and eat it like they haven’t eaten for days.

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I swam and snorkeled until my mask has seawater in it, my eyes stung as a result of that, and my mouth piece tasted like salt and nothing else. After what felt like hours, we boarded the boat again and went back to shore. The sun was way up by the time we made our trip back to shore and I was basically fried there that now, a couple of weeks from the trip, I still have that island tan.

When we got back, I decided to ride a “strawberry” – a strawberry-shaped rubber boat tied behind and pulled by a motor boat. I had high expectations about this ride since I was screaming my head off riding one in Bali. But unfortunately, it wasn’t fun at all. The speed was there, but as the Java Sea was a rather calm one, it wasn’t wild and the waves weren’t crazy enough for it to be exciting.

We got word from Pak Abeng that our speedboat to Jakarta would be leaving at 3 PM so we had about 2 hours to pack our things and get dressed. We all expected lunch since we were leaving the island past lunch time, but there wasn’t any food prepared for us. Fortunately, Pak Abeng was kind enough to help us get some food from the local people on the island. So I had some instant cup noodle from the warung across us which led to getting to know what island life was truly like for the locals from the woman there. I was amazed by how in spite of the limited amount of resources they have available for them, they enjoy it thoroughly. She talked about how expensive it is just to get to Jakarta and buy anything from there, her children wanting to get out of the island someday, and the reasons behind the her choice to live on the island.

When our speed boat finally came in to bring us home, the island was already a lot emptier than it was when we arrived but my heart was heavy on leaving it. For one, I was a lot healthier there than I could ever be at home. The air is fresh and I was living actively: kayaking, biking, swimming, walking. The people are a lot nicer than the ones in Jakarta and I honestly forgot that administratively, this island is a part of Jakarta. All in all, it was a marvelous trip that was worth becoming the joke of my friends for being so tanned upon return.

My experience on Pulau Pari was incredible, though not perfect. If you’re looking to improve the experience from what I’ve described, try contacting the island residents to have them organize a trip for you instead of taking the tour packages provided by various organizers in Ancol. We kind of got ripped off by the tour organizer we picked and I felt bad for the organizers on the island like Pak Abeng who were the target of customer complaints when they were just doing what they were told to do from Jakarta. All the things I did on this post were already part of our package – which price you can see on part 1 of the story – so I don’t need to break them down here. As for the photos on the underwater camera, you can have them by transferring them to a flash disk or memory card.

If you’re inspired by this post to go to Pulau Pari, please do. And when you’re there, please keep the island clean, keep the sea clean, don’t litter, respect the locals and be nice to them and listen to them if they tell you not to do something. For an even better experience, turn off your cell phone’s mobile data package and enjoy your time on the island.

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