Hotel Review: Dewa Daru Resort, Karimunjawa: Sea Views with Woodworm and Noise

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Dewa Daru Beach ViewWe moved to this hotel as a last minute option, after the package tour we had booked turned out badly with terrible, unusable accommodation (beware of dodgy packages for Karimunjawa). We negotiated to stay in a room where the air-conditioning had broken (all the other rooms were full) for Rp. 225,000 per night including breakfast for two, and we spent two nights there.

The resort (as it calls itself) is right near the harbour, set about twenty metres back from the beach. It is made up of an open reception area and restaurant, wooden bungalows, and one two-storey wooden building. Our room was upstairs in this building, and had a fantastic view out to sea. In the room there were twin beds, a bedside table, another table and a TV with limited channels. The bed sheets were clean, but we were not given towels and there was no telephone or room service. There was a built-in fan, but it turned out not to work, and we spent a very hot night batting away the flies and mosquitoes, and getting very little sleep.

The wooden building had some inherent issues, such as woodworm, which meant that the tiny balls of wood created were everywhere, making the floor feel dirty. Also, noise was a problem; with thin wooden “walls” we could clearly hear the sounds of TVs and talking in the rooms around and beneath ours. The hotel runs a generator to provide electricity (the local population only has electricity part time) and the constant buzz rather spoilt what would have been a peaceful atmosphere, the generator noise blocking out the sound of the sea.

The shared bathroom block which services the rooms in the two-storey building is right behind, so if your room is upstairs, like ours, you have to go downstairs outside to get to the bathroom. There were around six bathrooms, which was more than enough and we never had to wait, though they could have been cleaner. They had cold water only and were in traditional bak mandi style where you take water from the trough with the dipper.

Staff were extremely helpful, and breakfast (Indonesian food, no choice) was delicious. There was free hot and cold drinking water available in the reception, and staff were prepared to make other food and drinks upon request.

We were very happy with the location, and spent some time relaxing on the beach in front of the hotel. The sea was good for paddling, but too shallow for actual swimming.

Overall I would not choose to stay at Dewa Daru again. Even in a nicer room, the noise and the woodworm issues would make it unpleasant. While the beach is nice, most people staying at Dewa Daru were on package tours, leaving the hotel early each morning; we were the only people enjoying the beach. If you want a relaxing holiday, it might be better to look at some of the more resort-like options. Book well in advance during holiday season as everything gets full, and avoid package tours.

Karimunjawa: Holiday Fail

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Karimunjawa is a group of 27 islands off the north coast of Java, 22 of which remain uninhabited. Due to its abundance of coral and marine life, the area has been designated as a national park. Famous for its pristine white sand beaches and relatively unharmed by the tourist industry, but accessible by sea from mainland Java, this seemed the perfect destination for a relaxing beach holiday.

This was the first (and last) time I have ever bought a package trip. Having met a friend of a friend who took groups to Karimunjawa on trips, we were convinced by him to buy a package at a cost of Rp. 475,000 per person (or about £35), which would include the following:

1. Economy return tickets on KMP Muria
2. Transportation to accommodation for duration of stay
3. Cost of homestay accommodation for 4 days 3 nights
4. 8 meals
5. Grilled fish 2x
6. Visitor ticket 2 days
7. Boat hire 2 days
8. Upwater and underwater documentation (copy of file, please bring 4GB flashdisk)
9. Drinking water and snacks for duration of stay
10. First aid equipment
11. Local guide fee
12. Karimunjawa Holiday guide fee
13. Coconut drink

It is important to point out that this is all we were told; we were not shown the company’s website and did not even know the name of the company until we arrived at Jepara harbour and paid in full. At the time, however, this seemed like a good deal and we happily paid a deposit. We arrived at Jepara harbour in plenty of time, met the people from the tour company and paid the remainder of the money. The dock area was already busy. We were given economy class tickets for the ferry, KMP Muria, and an information sheet about the trip. To my horror this sheet contained a detailed schedule from morning until night every day, whizzing participants to lots of different places with only one to two hours at each one, with breakfast at 6am every morning. This was not what we had paid for. Nobody had told us there was a timetable, let alone one like this. We wanted to relax on our short holiday, to spend time lying on the beach, swimming in the sea and soaking up the atmosphere, to sleep in as late as we wanted and not to be controlled by someone else’s schedule.

We boarded the ship, which was already getting crowded. Horror moment number two: we didn’t actually have the right to a seat with our tickets. All the seats were full. We walked past the door to the air conditioned VIP section and I regretted not getting a VIP ticket. We went upstairs onto the outside upper deck where people were sitting cross-legged on the dirty floor in small groups. The sun beat down upon us. We found a small piece of floor on the right hand side of the deck and sat down. Apparently conditions are always like this on KMP Muria. People rigged up sarongs and pieces of tarpaulin to provide shade during the six hour journey. I sat there sheltering under a sarong, hoping that the journey would go smoothly; on a ship this full there would be little chance of survival if anything went wrong. I suddenly understood why reports of ships sinking are not infrequent here in Indonesia. A man near me threw up into a plastic bag. Then his son threw up on the floor. They sat in the pool of vomit for the rest of the journey.

Cramped conditions on board KMP Muria

Cramped conditions on board KMP Muria

We sat and sat and sat. There was nowhere to go; you couldn’t walk around because there were people sitting or lying everywhere, filling all decks, in the corridors, on the stairs and even in the car park area. So we just sat there, sheltering from the sun, trying not to look at people vomiting, sometimes watching the horizon, and above all hoping the voyage would pass quickly.

At last the island of Karimun was visible. Then it felt like an age as we slowly approached it. Docking the ship took even longer and then we waited as various cargos that had spilt or toppled over during the journey were picked up. We disembarked; it felt good to walk on land again, and we quickly met our tour company representatives. Then we drank cold refreshing coconut drinks while waiting to be taken to our accommodation. We had specifically asked to be placed in a homestay near to a nice beach.

We were collected by pick-up truck and taken to a woman’s house. She said that since there were two girls and two boys, and two rooms, we would sleep girls in one room and the boys in the other. Ahem, we said, we’re husband and wife. Since our initial contact with the tour company we had been clear that we were a married couple. Oh, she said, sounding unhappy, and reluctantly put us in a room together. Later I heard her sounding suspicious about our marital status “Apparently they’re married.” This alone was enough to make us feel uncomfortable there. We weren’t made to feel at all welcome. She didn’t show us where the bathroom was or anything like that; we just got shown to our room, a plain affair, with a Javanese-style kapok mattress, a window looking out directly onto a grey wall, and the bangs and crashes of someone shaping metal outside. The sea was not visible from any part of the house, which was in a normal Javanese neighbourhood; it reminded me of my mother-in-law’s house, and I wondered what I was paying for. There was certainly no beach nearby.

Anyone who has travelled in Indonesia knows what a homestay is here; someone’s house that they have made into a mini-hostel, by addition of rooms and bathrooms, often in a separate block from the main house. This was no homestay; it was a home, and it felt deeply awkward to be told to sleep in someone’s home when that person clearly does not want you there.

We sat down in “our room” and pondered our situation for a while, before texting the tour company representative to ask for better accommodation. A group from the company came to the woman’s house and asked what the problem was. We were forced to talk to them about the issues right at the house, with the woman listening in. This was extremely embarrassing for us, but at least they agreed to find us alternative accommodation. We were told that all the hotels were full (it was holiday season), and that none of the hotels had beaches except for one expensive resort, but we were offered a room at Wisma Apung. This is a hostel out in the sea on stilts where you have to take a boat to the mainland. We went out to a jetty to look at the hostel from afar. It looked like a rickety structure, and having to pay every time you wanted to go to the main island did not appeal to us. Thankfully, we have internet on our phones, and using this, we found some phone numbers for other hotels. By phoning these hotels, we were told to check out Dewa Daru, a hotel very near the dock. We told the tour company reps to take us there, and were eventually able to negotiate to stay in a room where the air conditioning had broken at a cheaper rate. Nevertheless, we had to pay for this room on our own; it was not covered by the “package” at all. I was relieved that I had thought to bring some emergency money and that it was enough to cover this extra Rp.225,000 per night for accommodation.

Dewa Daru accommodation

Dewa Daru accommodation

By this time, it was nearly dark. We were given some food in boxes as our dinner, the kind of food that is given to musicians at performances in Solo because it is cheap: rice and a tiny amount of vegetables, a tiny piece of something else (in this case squid), and a small banana. I had been hoping to enjoy a range of Karimun food, particularly seafood, during my trip, but this was not to be the case, as over the next few days we would receive these food boxes every lunch and dinner (we got breakfast with our hotel room), with little variation.

Contrary to the information we had been given that the hotels do not have beaches, Dewa Daru is right next to a beach. Throughout our stay, tour company reps continued to assert that there is no beach there, even when we were sitting about twenty metres away from it. There is sand and then the sea. You can paddle in it, and if it wasn’t so shallow it’d be nice for swimming. If this isn’t a beach I don’t know what is. We were allowed to sleep for one night in a downstairs air conditioned room, because the people who had reserved that room, also through our tour company, had missed the ferry. After the unpleasant journey and the accommodation fiasco we were exhausted. We decided not to join the 6am breakfast timetable the following day, instead planning to relax and recover. Texting the tour company rep, we were assured that we would still receive lunch even if we didn’t follow the timetable.

The next day we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, where the staff were extremely kind and helpful. Then we moved to the upstairs room with the broken air conditioning. Actually this room appeared nicer than the downstairs one, with great sea views. We put on our swimming gear and headed down to the beach. Relaxing for a while, going for a paddle, finding shells or reading books, it was nice to chill out and we had no regrets about not getting up at 5am and being whizzed around on a gruelling schedule. We took a stroll along the beach, heading away from the dock, and saw a man making a large boat.

The beach near Dewa Daru

The beach near Dewa Daru

Coming up to 1pm we decided to find out about lunch; we weren’t sure if it would be provided by the tour company or the hotel. Enquiring at the hotel, we found out that the tour company should provide it. According to our timetable it should have arrived at noon. The hotel staff told us how, the night before, a group had waited until 10pm to receive dinner from the tour company. We sat in the hotel lobby area and waited. It was 2pm when lunch finally arrived, a full two hours late. We ate hungrily, a meal almost identical to that the previous night, except that the squid was cooked differently.

Then we rested for a while, before heading to the beach to watch the sun set. We were so fed up by this time, and the thought of going on a gruelling tour the next day did not appeal to us. If we could have done half a day or just gone to one other island that would have been enjoyable, but a 6am to 6pm timetable with a maximum of two hours in one place, and very often less than that, was not what we wanted on holiday. We were not given the option of half days or anything else. It was either everything or nothing. We didn’t want to spend yet more money hiring ourselves a boat or a motorbike and the cash we had left wasn’t much after paying for the accommodation (there are no ATMs on the island). The thought of the six hour ferry trip back was deeply unappealing. So we decided to ask at the hotel if there was a way we could leave the following day. There was, it turned out, a fast boat. Why we had not been given this option for our outbound journey I have no idea. We asked hotel staff to get us tickets.

That evening four of the tour company reps came to our hotel and sat in the lobby. They brought fast boat tickets for us and told us not to tell anyone who we had got them from. They then explained that a number of people who had tickets for the large ferry that morning had not been able to get on it; a limit on the number of passengers had been imposed, so even if you had a ticket it was not definite you could board. They were offering fast boat tickets to all their clients because otherwise there was a risk of having to wait two days for the next ferry. They told us that we’d be able to get some money back to compensate for the activities and food we would not receive the following day, because we would have already left. We accepted their offer and took the tickets, relieved that this nightmare trip was coming to an end, and they said the reimbursement would be made in the morning.

The next morning, bags packed, we waited in the hotel lobby, chatting to Shaiful from the hotel, who had been kind and helpful to us throughout our stay. He told us that people often have problems with these tour companies that are totally unprofessional, and he told us interesting tales of Karimun. Back in the 1970s he moved from Karimun to Jepara, and the voyage took two days and two nights by sailing boat. Now he’s back in Karimun at Dewa Daru. He even gave me a souvenir guide to the island as some kind of compensation for everything we had experienced.

We had been told to pay someone from the tour company, called Tidar, for our hotel room. He sat down with us, and received our money. Then he proceeded to tell us that we would get no reimbursement for the activities and food we would miss, using as an excuse, the fast boat tickets as compensation. As you can see in the table below this article, this does not equate. I suggested politely that he give us some reimbursement and he became angry. I picked up my bags, and began walking out to where the boat was waiting, keen to get away from this horrible man. He ran after me, swearing at me, as if he was going to attack me. My husband called him off, and we quickly walked straight on to the boat.

The fast boat took only two and a half hours to reach Jepara, though it was a stomach-turning journey. I was so happy to arrive back at Jepara, where we had enjoyed the first part of our holiday.

=======

If you are planning a trip to Karimunjawa, you may find my advice and information in this article helpful. Above all, don’t buy a package tour, even if it is from a friend of a friend, unless you really know what you are getting, and definitely don’t pay up front like we did.

The tour company we used, as it turns out, goes by various names, including hobiwisata.com, sukawisata.com, Karimun Jawa Meriah, Karimun Jawa Murah, Karimunjawa Holiday. People who “work” for them include: Ramone, Tidar Nech, Agus and many others. This company should be avoided unless you want a holiday fail like ours.

In fact, I would argue that package tours are damaging the tourism industry in Karimunjawa. Local businesses suffer. Hotels and resorts are forced to accept lower prices through tour companies. Restaurants cannot get off the ground because cheap meals are usually included in tour packages. And, ultimately, for every tour package, a share of the money is going to people outside Karimunjawa, the agents based around Java. Buying directly from the locals is much better than giving a portion of your money to a middleman.

Table of our tour

What the tour package offered: What we got:
1. Economy return tickets on KMP Muria One way on KMP Muria (Rp. 28,500 each) and return on Kartini (Rp. 84,000 each)
2. Transportation to accommodation for duration of stay Yes
3. Cost of homestay accommodation (room for 3 people) for 4 days 3 nights No. We had to pay for suitable accommodation ourselves at the cost of Rp. 225,000 per night (a total of Rp. 450,000 because we went home a day early).
4. 8 meals We got 3 small meals from the tour company. Breakfast was included in our room rate at the hotel.
5. Grilled fish 2x We got a small piece of grilled fish once.
6. Visitor ticket 2 days I think so though I never actually got given this.
7. Boat hire 2 days No, though it was our decision not to join a timetable that would have included boat use. At the time of booking, we were not told that there would be a timetable.
8. Upwater and underwater documentation (copy of file, please bring 4GB flashdisk) No.
9. Drinking water and snacks for duration of stay No.
10. First aid equipment No.
11. Local guide fee No.
12. Karimunjawa Holiday guide fee No.
13. Coconut drink Yes.

Jepara and Karimunjawa Information

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

This information from my recent trip may be useful if you are planning to travel to Jepara or Karimunjawa.

Solo to Jepara Journey

Bus to Semarang (Rp. 20,000 for air con, Rp. 15,000 normal), takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, though longer if there are traffic jams. Bus Semarang to Jepara (Rp. 11,000) is a smaller, more cramped, non-air conditioned bus, takes about 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Jepara: Hotel Segoro

Motel-style, nice atmosphere. We stayed in a VIP Bawah room with TV, air-con, and hot water, for Rp. 200,000 per night including a buffet breakfast. Clean rooms, bathroom in need of some refurbishment but perfectly serviceable. Helpful staff, prompt room service. Good restaurant and cafe. TV has extra channels such as HBO. There’s a city map in reception. Tel: 0291 591982.

This website has good up-to-date information about hotels in Jepara, including Segoro, and helpful info by phone too: http://hotelrestojepara.blogspot.com/2008/12/hotel-segoro.html

Jepara: Around Town

Museum R A Kartini, on the north side of the alun-alun, Rp. 3,000 entry. Turning left out of the museum and then left again walk up to Benteng VOC, free entry.

Pantai Kartini (Kartini Beach) with a huge turtle, foodstalls etc. Great sunset views. Everything here shuts down at dusk.

Get evening meals from the food stalls under the white awnings near SCJ (Shopping Centre Jepara).

Get around by becak (cycle rickshaw) for Rp. 10,000 to Rp. 15,000 per journey, depending on the distance and your haggling skills.

Jepara to Karimun journey

The large ferry KMP Muria leaves every other day at around 8am or 9am. Get there in plenty of time to get a seat. You can buy tickets at the dock before you board. Economy Rp. 28,500. VIP tickets limited availability. An economy ticket does not guarantee you a seat. The journey takes around 6 hours. Take food and water with you. It gets very hot on board. Take a hat, sarong or something to provide shade in case you end up on the upper outside deck. Take anti-motion sickness medicine such as Antimo (available widely at Indonesian chemists or apotek). KMP Muria leaves from Karimun to Jepara on opposite days, so it does a one-way journey each day.

Karimunjawa

You do not need to buy a package tour to go to Karimun. Although many websites give often inadequate information about packages (paket), it is entirely possible to go there without a pre-booked package and you will be able to arrange your activities once you are there with no problems. Many packages are very snorkelling-focused, but in fact there is much more to see, such as traditional Bugis homes (from Sulawesi), trekking inland etc. By avoiding the middleman of a package or tour you will be putting more money into the island’s local economy. We booked and paid for a package which turned out to be a complete waste of money (read about our bad experience here). Don’t buy a package, and you’ll have a better trip than we did!

Accommodation on Karimun: Dewa Daru

A large reception area with lobby and restaurant area, open to face the sea. Air conditioned rooms as bungalows with bathroom inside, and one larger two-storey structure with a separate bathroom block. All rooms made of wood. Good relaxing atmosphere, about 10 – 20 metres from the sea. Sandy beach. The sea is too shallow for actual swimming here. A lot of mosquitoes in the rooms, and also obvious woodworm problems. Cold water only and bathrooms in shared block could be cleaner. Prices Rp. 300,000 to Rp. 500,000.

See this website: http://www.karimunjawaparadiseisland.com/2010/12/dewadaru-resort.html

Contact: Shaiful 081 325 273727. He was kind and helpful throughout our stay. In addition to accommodation he can also arrange boat and motorcycle hire and other activities.

Karimun to Jepara journey

We took the fast boat, Kartini. It takes about 2 ½ hours from Karimun to Jepara, stops for half an hour, then continues on to Semarang (1 ½ hours). We had executive tickets (Rp. 84,000), but business tickets are also available. Air conditioned and indoors; you cannot go outside on deck. Seriously take anti-motion sickness medicine because the boat really moves with the waves.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer them based on my recent trip.