Three hours south from a town called Malang (popular for tours to Mt. Bromo) is an island that has nothing to envy to photogenic beaches that have been used in settings of Hollywood movies. I’m talking about Pulau Sempu or Sempu Island. Not so known between foreign tourists but popular between locals, this island has a beautiful lagoon with crystal clear water and mangrooves surrounding it.
Many people rent a car down to Sedang Biru and later take a boat to the island. I took public transportation, which I enjoy more and of course, its cheaper. Here is how I got to Sempu Island:
I started with a big breakfast at 7:30 am and later went to the market to buy water, some crackers and chocolate for the ride. After buying my bag of food, I took a blue Bemo to Gadang Bus Station (take the one that says GA) for Rp.5.000 (approx. USD 0.37). From there I took a big bus to Turen for Rp.10.000 (approx. USD 0.70). The ride was only 50 minutes and the public bus was comfortable. The bus dropped me in the market where mini buses wait to get full and move towards Sedang Biru. I had to wait one hour and a half for the mini bus to get full (18 people in a 12 seat bus). The locals going on the ride were carrying bird cages, baskets of fruits and vegetables. The ride started, the driver smoking all the time, women talking between each other all the time, the heat was almost unbearable and the car was full, luckily I was in the front seat just sharing half of my space with a local woman (it could have been worse). After 3 hours of slow driving and multiple stops, we got to the port at Sedang Biru. When the driver got distracted collecting the money, an old woman quickly approached me and showed me a Rp.20.000 note and warned me not to pay more (that was really nice of her). So I paid the Rp. 20.000 (approx. USD 1.48) and looked for a place to eat. Got 2 Mie Goreng (fried noodles) with egg for myself and some locals that were drinking there (it was 2pm not lying) gave me free Bintang beer.
I asked how much it would cost me to spend the night at Sempu: Rp. 120.000 for the boat, Rp. 150.000 for the local guide (you need one or else you will get lost), Rp.50.000 for the tent for a total of Rp.320.000 (approx. USD 23) without including the food and water that I had to take to the island (it was too much for me). I decided to take things patiently and wait to clear my thoughts until I could take a decision that would benefit me. After some minutes, I saw a new minibus arriving with a group of 9 Indonesian college students. A lightbulb turned on inside my head. Immediately, I went to talk to them and asked if we could split costs and Teguh, one of the students, said it was fine. Additionally, the guys said I could share the tent with them so I didn’t have to rent one (free accomodation).Yes!! I ended up paying Rp. 42.000 (approx. USD 3.11) for everything!!
After buying more food, we got in the boat and headed to Sempu (5 minute boat ride). After walking for an hour in the middle of the jungle with the guide, we found the lagoon. It was just amazing, really beautiful and breathtaking (I didn’t know that next day it would just get even better!). I was the only foreign tourist, there was just another small group of locals camping in there.
We set the tents, chilled for a while, later the girls cooked and they even gave me some food (everyone was really nice to me, I’m really grateful to them). Next day we woke up to enjoy paradise for ourselves.