As the boat speeds out of Ancol Harbour and Jakarta’s skyscrapers disappear into the city haze, you can set your watch to island time. Better still, take it off entirely. You won’t be needing it where you’re going.
Around 1.5 hours by boat from the city, the Thousand Islands region is one of Indonesia’s best kept secrets. But not for long. It’s been earmarked as one of the “New Balis” by the Ministry of Tourism. They plan to replicate the success of Bali in Indonesia’s other provinces.
For now, the Thousand Islands retain their unspoilt status. One island in particular is dedicated to maintaining the natural integrity of the area. Pulau Macan Eco Village and Resort is unlike any resort I’ve ever stayed at. They call it “glamping”, but it’s so much more.
Pulau Macan, or Tiger Island, is an all-inclusive resort but it’s nothing like the OTT chain hotels on the mainland. You won’t find any tigers on Tiger Island and you won’t find 1000 islands in the Thousand Islands – it’s closer to 130, but you will find sparkling, clear water, friendly staff, delicious food and Instagram-worthy sunsets.
When you visit Pulau Macan, you can do as much or as little as your like. Take a snorkelling, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding trip with one of the island guides or grab your equipment from the clubhouse and head straight out from your private deck.
The chefs on the island prepare a mix a traditional and western food (including vego stuff, of course). Breakfast and lunch are served in the club house, while dinner is out on the sun deck overlooking the sea. There’s also a morning and afternoon spread on offer each day. Pulau Macan runs on its own schedule. Breakfast is whenever you happen to roll out of bed. Happy hour is anytime after lunch. And bedtime whenever the hammock sways you to sleep.
There are 15 “rooms” on the island, most of which hang right over the water. They call them huts because, well, that’s what they are. No windows, doors or even walls. There’s no need for air-con either; the sea breeze will keep you cool. You’re probablythinking “what about the bugs”? Valid question. Each bed has its own mosquito net. Just remember to pull it out before the sun sets and the mozzies come out in force. You’ll also find a bottle of insect repellent on your bedside table if you get desperate.
The island has several huts to choose from, all with a private deck and ladder into the water. I stayed in Driftwood Hut 2, which had arguably the best view of the sunset. I spent most on my time dangling my feet in the water or sun baking on the SUP board I’d tethered to the deck.
It’s hard to believe such serenity exists within two hours of Jakarta. From a city of more than 10 million people to an island just 40 guests at a time, Pulau Macan really is a world away.
The Thousand Islands are one of the ten destinations receiving a big push from Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism as the “new Balis”. Other up-and-coming destinations include Borobudur Temple in Central Java, one of the seven wonders of the world; Mount Bromo in East Java, great for hiking and camping; and Mandalika in southern Lombok, a once-secret surfer’s paradise. Looks like I’ll have to add them to my list as well…
My stay at Pulau Macan was sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. This story was originally published on familytravel.com.au.