The closest thing we had to staying in an all-inclusive resort was the time we stayed on Pulau Sepa, one of the Indonesian Thousand Islands, off the coast of Jakarta. The trip was given to us as a present, and never being on the islands before, and quite eager to be in nature again after several days in Jakarta, we happily went.
This was also the only trip we took without any researching and the usual planning. We packed (lightly) and we followed the instructions on how to get to the island. The boat trip from Ancol Marina in Jakarta to the island took around 2 hours. It was still early morning when we arrived, and we couldn’t check in yet to our bungalow, so we deposited our luggage by the reception, and started to explore a bit.
I’m not familiar with the other islands for comparison, but the island seemed to be on the less-developed side. Almost all of the other visitors were locals from Jakarta, spending the weekend with their families. Facilities on the island was rather limited, with only one restaurant, one shop, and a small playground (but I heard they have a diving shop now).
Where we stayed
The resort has several bungalows scattered around the island. The accommodations are pretty basic; our 4-person bungalow has air-conditioner, and a private terrace directly by the beach, but there’s no hot water. Even being on a tropical island, the concept of cold shower was terrifying for The Kid (who was 3 at the time). Luckily, there’s a kettle in the room which I used to boil water to fill in a bucket, a liter at a time. In hindsight, I could’ve asked the resort staff to bring us a pan of hot water from the kitchen, but I guess I’m simply not used to relying on staffs that it didn’t occur to me at the time.
After most of the weekend crowds left, it was very peaceful on the island, and our bungalow felt even more private than before. We got most of the beach to ourselves too, and at night, we could even safely leave The Sleeping Kid in the bungalow while we strolled or hung out by the beach with some beer (there’s no bar, but the shop sold cold beer).
What we ate
Meals were provided buffet-style by the only restaurant on the island. The food was local, simple, and it always featured fish (I can’t remember if they served fish for breakfast too, though). I didn’t pack any special food for The Kid, and I was really proud that she coped well with rice, noodles, grilled fish, stir fried veggies and fried bananas. We had one accident with a fish bone stuck to her palate, but thankfully, it didn’t put her off fish (I combed through her fish super-thoroughly after that, though!).
What we did
The island was teeny tiny. Taking the path going into the small wood to walk around the island took only about half an hour. Walking by the beach around the island was more challenging. Some part of the beach was covered by mangrove-like trees growing well into the water. Going to the other side meant climbing and ducking around the roots and branches. It was like a natural jungle-gym, and of course The Kid loved it.
The water was clear, and the beach was relatively clean of man-made pollution. Most people I saw were snorkeling or did some diving. While the water is clear, it was not quite safe to swim in, especially not for a toddler. The corals grew well into the shallow water and they harbored nasty sea urchins. Hubby took great care not to place his feet on the corals, but he still somehow managed to brush his foot against one, which resulting is a lot of pain. There’s no medical facilities on the island, and the best they could do to him was to hammer the sting even deeper into his skin away from the nerve endings. I’m glad it wasn’t The Kid.
The Kid stayed on the clear shallow water and swam a bit, until she complained that she was bitten by a snake. Being with her all the time and saw no snake whatsoever (and she didn’t seem to be in any significant pain), I tried to figure out if she perhaps meant something else. Then I noticed that there were some small translucent creatures floating around in the water. Some of these washed up on the beach where I could have a better look at them. They were actually very small jellyfish. They’re apparently not dangerous, but they must have caused enough sting for The Kid to feel it (I didn’t feel it myself).
After that discovery, The Kid and I mostly spent the time on the sand. Sometimes, she forgot about the jellyfish and would wade into the water again. Luckily, there were no dodgy animals on land (if you don’t count mosquitoes), so we kept having fun with the bushes and the mangrove jungle gym.
If you ask me if I can recommend Pulau Sepa, I would definitely not recommend it for families with young children. Older children might enjoy snorkeling or swimming in the water, but they still have to be very careful with the water. If you’re just a couple or with friends, and looking for something on a budget away from Jakarta, it’s quite a nice island, especially if you book it on a weekday when it’s quieter. Just bring some books, snorkels, and water shoes.