Pak Al Fauzi is a very proud man, who lives on a small island off the coast of West Kalimantan called Karimata. Pak Al has a plan, which he revealed to me sitting in front of his recently constructed homestay.
“We became part of a new district that formed in 2007. Before that we were part of the Ketapung district (the mainland town a three speed hour boat ride away). Since we are now a little independent, we can make decisions that will benefit our beautiful island here,” he continued. “We get very few visitors but I believe our island has some of the best beaches and friendliest people in this part of Indonesia. I know we don’t have very good facilities just yet, but for people seeking an adventure and willing to rough it a bit, our island has beautiful forests, beaches and it is very peaceful and quiet here. For those who want to get away from the busy tourist islands, then this is a little paradise.”
“We want to attract tourism but we don’t want people coming here just to set up hotels only to make money. We want people who are interested in interacting with the local community and we plan to offer an eco-friendly programme, plus you have to like to eat fish!”
There are 403 families living on Karimata Island and 350 boat owners, of which Pak Al is one. Fish are plentiful and the island relies heavily on trading and selling to nearby Belitung Island, off the coast of Sumatra. Fish is traded for rice, as rice is not grown on the island. Pak Al hopes tourism will one day provide some much needed income for the village and welcomes the chance to meet people from other parts of Indonesia and other countries.
“The only foreigners we meet are sailors who sometimes stop in on their way from Java to Sumatra, sometimes this includes foreigners sailing around the world for one year, but they never stay long enough for us to get to know them.”
Pak Al is Melayu, as are 90% of the people who live on the Karimata Islands. There is a strong influence from Aceh, as there were many traders coming through these waters in the past. In fact, the area was once ruled by a Sultan, whose descendants still live on the island, but royalty is now something of the past and the royal family are treated the same as everyone else on the island.
The islanders still have strong beliefs in the spirits of the sea and a village cleansing ceremony is held annually. The entire village is strictly Muslim and one can see the Acehnese influence on this beautiful island.
For those interested in the Karimata Islands and supporting this new eco-friendly start-up tourism initiative, it is accessed via Pontianak by fast boat to Sukadana and then a three-hour comfortable private boat transfer. For those searching for a very authentic travel experience, where you have contact with the local village people, a million miles from the busyness of islands like Bali, come and visit Pak Al Fauzi on Karimata Island, West Kalimantan.
Pak Al can be contacted via Canopy Indonesia.
Contact: Deny +62 813 4530 2228