The blueness of the sea, the cleanliness and whiteness of the sand, and the virginity of the coastal forests are only part of the natural, exotic beauty tourists can enjoy at Karimunjawa National Park in the Karimunjawa islands, Jepara regency, Central Java, about 72 kilometers north of the provincial capital, Semarang.
The 27-island, 110,625-hectare area, which was designated a national park in 1988, offers various types of natural beauty, mostly marine, as, of the whole area, only some 1,500 hectares is land.
Among the features of the park are coral reefs, as well as mangrove, coastal and lowland tropical rain forest.
“The coral reefs and the decorative fish here are as beautiful and varied as in Bunaken, North Sulawesi,” said conservation expert Juwantoko of Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University’s School of Forestry.
The Karimunjawa National Park Office (BTNK) has recorded some 64 different types of coral reef in the park, 290 species of coral fish, seven species of kima (giant clam), three species of turtles and other marine biota, including sponges, soft coral, and anemone. Some are protected species.
However, of the varied fauna that Karimunjawa is home to, the hollow nautilus, or Nautillius pompilius, is the species’ flag-bearer, which explains why this mollusk has been made the symbol of Karimunjawa National Park.
“We have made the nautilus the symbol of the park because the population of this particular mollusk is still relatively high,” BTNK head Harijanto said, adding that this fact also explained why Karimujawa is often referred to as the home of the hollow nautilus.
The hollow nautilus is a protected species that is often dubbed a living fossil. That is because the biota has existed for 100 million years. Unfortunately, its population is falling due to the uncontrolled collecting of the mollusk. It is collected for its beautiful red-striped shell, which are usually sold as souvenirs.
However, as the nautilus lives in the basin of the sea, at a depth of some 1,800 meters, it is difficult for a tourist to meet the “host” of the park. But you can still enjoy the beauty of its shells at the BTNK information center on Karimun Island.
On the island, visitors can also meet some other “hosts” of the park, such as the extremely poisonous edor snake (Calloselasma rhodosthoma), long-tailed monkey (Macaca fascicularis), deer (Cervus sp.), three butterflies endemic to Karimunjawa, Euploea crameri karimondjawensis, Euploea sylvester karimondjawensis and Idea leuconoee karimondjawensis, and the white-chested sea eagle (Haliaetus leucogaster).
Karimunjawa is also a good habitat for raptors. Last August, for example, the Yogyakarta Animal Rescue Center (PPSJ) released four white-chested sea eagles that the center had saved from captivity.
“It’s the first release ever held in Indonesia,” said PPSJ director Sugihartono, adding that a survey by the center found there were some eight to 10 pairs of white-chested sea eagles in Karimunjawa National Park.
With the release, hopefully, the population of the raptor in the park will be higher in the future, so that visitors can also enjoy the beautiful sight of the sea eagles catching fish in the sea.
Karimunjawa National Park, according to Harijanto, is also famous for its lowland rain forest ecosystem, something most other national parks do not have. From a distance, the forest looks so green and cooling to the eyes. Here live two species of dewandaru, the Fragraea elliptica and Cleistocalix macrophyla, and another plant locally known as kalimasada (Cordia subcordata). Dewandaru and kalimasada are believed to have supernatural powers and there wood is often made into souvenirs like walking sticks and rosaries.
The mangrove forest in Karimunjawa is no less rich, with some 25 species of indigenous mangrove and 19 other species of mangrove trees. It is unfortunate, however, that in some places the mangroves have been cut down to make fishponds.
“The greatest threat to Karimunjawa indeed is not from nature but humans,” Harijanto said.
According to Fitriana, also of the BTNK, illegal logging is rampant in the lowland rain forest area. Unless serious action is taken against this illegal practice, she says, the “veranda” of the beautiful Karimunjawa, along with its beautiful coral reefs, will eventually be history. Erosion and abrasion will kill the coral reefs because soil sedimentation will prevent the coral from getting the sunshine it needs to live.
Apart from that, the ongoing uncontrolled, environmentally unfriendly fishing activities using poison and nets are also damaging the reefs.
That excludes the uncontrolled hunting of hollow nautilus and other sea and land biota that is no less damaging to the environment.
The illegal catching of various species of decorative fish and kima such as sand kima (Hippopus hippopus) is also still going on uncontrolled, and so is the hunting of other animals including deer and birds. Some sources say that some high-ranking government officials in Karimunjawa are involved in the illegal hunting of deer.
“But, of course, it’s difficult to prove. We are doing our best to discover the truth about it,” said Harijanto, adding that the BTNK had carried out programs both to increase people’s awareness of the importance of conservation, as well as to lessen the natural pressure caused by human activities.
Karimunjawa can be reached either from Jepara by speedboat or from Semarang by either speedboat or small plane; all head to Karimunjawa Island. It is from Karimun Island that tours to the other islands in the region, as well as the journey home, are arranged.
When leaving Karimum Island in the afternoon at about 2 p.m. — if they are lucky — tourists may also have the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunset while at the port in Semarang.