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The dazzling offshore archipelago of Karimunjawa, a marine national park, consists of 27 coral-fringed islands that lie about 90km north of Jepara. The white-sand beaches are sublime, swimming is wonderful and the pace of life as relaxed as a destination defined by coconut palms and turquoise seas should be.
Holidaying Indonesians account for most of the visitors here, though Western travellers are starting to be seduced by the islands too.
The main island, Pulau Karimunjawa, is home to most of the archipelago’s facilities, and the majority of the islanders, most of whom are Javanese, though there are also some Bugis and Madurese. Fishing, tourism and seaweed cultivation are the main livelihoods. This is also the site of the islands’ only real town, Karimunjawa, and, despite widespread mangroves, a couple of good beaches. An airstrip is located on adjacent Pulau Kemujan.
The archipelago is divided into zones to protect the rich ecosystem. Zone One is completely out of bounds to all except national park rangers, with other areas set aside for sustainable tourism.
Access has improved recently, though during the rainy season boats don’t always run.