Pulau Macan is a small island resort a two-hour boat trip off the coast from Jakarta, Indonesia. The name translates as Tiger Island, although there are no tigers on the island (that I saw).
The area is officially known as The Thousand Islands even though there are only 342 of them. This is either the worst bit of governmental counting ever or a good piece of marketing. The islands spread out 45 kilometres north into the Java Sea from Jakarta.
Of the 342 islands, 36 are used for some sort of recreation, only 13 are developed (11 as resorts, two as historic parks), 23 are privately owned and the rest are either uninhabited or home to fishing villages. Essentially, there's not much out here except lots of blue sea. Which is very much the point after the insanity of traffic-clogged Jakarta.
Pulau Macan Eco Village And Resort Photo: Supplied
There's a jetty, a main dining room-cum-lounge-cum reception and a series of huts and cabins which all face the ocean around the perimeter of the island. That's it. Everything on the island that can be sustainable, recycled, reused and locally sourced is just that. It's amazing what these people can do with a bit of spare driftwood.
The whole place looks like it's been flooded by a high tide and the flotsam and jetsam left behind afterwards accidentally fell into the ideal shape for a cool boutique eco-resort. And that doesn't happen by accident.
The interior of this tiny island is a shady, palm dotted "jungle" criss-crossed by the paths to the accommodation and inhabited by half a dozen or so water monitor lizards of various charming and cutely alarming sizes.
There's a large two-storey bungalow on stilts in the middle of the island (good for large groups and families) and a redbrick eco bungalow but you're going to want to stay in one of the thatched-roof rooms around the edge of the island. These are essentially open-sided wooden platforms which sit right on the ocean with steps leading down into the tropical waters a metre below.
There are comfy beds with mosquito nets, coffee tables and chairs overlooking the ocean, showers, desks – and pretty much everything is made from driftwood with shells and dead coral as decoration. My bathroom is a simple wooden hut to one side of the platform. While showering here (cold water, just FYI) I watch a large monitor lizard glide into the water below.
It's as if Robinson Crusoe had built himself a sun-bleached, solar-powered five-star resort and thrown in a few cushions for the occasional splash of colour. There's no TV, no Wi-Fi, no mini-bar and no Nespresso machine – but when you can lay in bed and watch the sun set over an azure ocean who needs any of it?
Eating out at Macan Eco Village And Resort. Photo: yudi50
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served buffet-style in the main common room or just outside it by the jetty. There's nothing grand about any of it but it is fresh local food done well. Think lots of salads, rice, grilled meats, satays, noodles and oodles of amazing sambals. Bintang beer is available at the bar in the evening but Bintang singlets are banned. Breakfast is made up of fruit, pancakes, rice, salads, fruit juices and that Indonesian coffee in which you can stand a spoon.
Well, it's an island so stepping out is more of a wade out or a short walk to a hammock. There are kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and snorkelling equipment available for guests if you're feeling sporty. A slow kayak around the island takes about 20 minutes, if that, and there's an even tinier islet just offshore which is nice to visit in the morning. The snorkelling is OK but the coral here is a little wan. An afternoon boat trip out to a nearby lagoon is more successful but the coral is still patchy even if the fish population is pretty good.
Perhaps the two-hour boat trip out softens you up but there's something about Pulau Macan that hits as soon as you step ashore. It's as if this simple, peaceful place actively forces you to chill out. It's easy to see why it's popular with Jakarta locals eager to get away from the city.
Accommodation starts from about $186 per person per night midweek; $198 on weekends (rates exclude boat transfer, carbon offset, tax and service charges). The perimeter driftwood huts are more expensive. See pulaumacan.com
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
An early morning kayak followed by coffee on the deck.
The slightly moribund coral situation.
Keith Austin was a guest of Wonderful Indonesia.