Written by Beverley Lennon

It was not earlier than mid 2019 that Neo (my boyfriend) and I decided we needed a good break from work – we were exhausted and drained from routine and eventually (being ‘the’ travel writer as he says), I was quickly imposed the task of finding a nearby destination to escape to.

Being real island folks, we had plenty of options including the islands around Malaysia or even Bali but little did he know that I had been eyeing this paradise island near Jakarta for over a year now, and finally we could make it happen!

And if just like him you’re thinking “a paradise island near polluted Jakarta?!!”, well friends you have to check out the Thousand Islands! Technically there are only some 300 islands, with only a dozen of them that are developed but each one of them is worth a visit!

I made sure to align our expectations as I read about how chilled-out and laid-back the island I wanted to go is, and since Neo also wanted to simply relax with a good book for a few days, we decided to sign up for a 4D3N getaway to the magical Pulau Macan which translates to Tiger Island (although there are no tigers on the island) – that being said, I like to refer to this island as the rustic Maldives of Indonesia!

Tip: It is pronounced as “Pulau Machan” and not “Macan” (you might get the locals confused as they raised their eyebrows to us when we asked).

The boat ride from Ancol Marina to Pulau Macan:

Since we were coming from Kuala Lumpur, we had to take a flight to Jakarta (the day before) and spend one night here. Of course, you could opt for any hotel in the city but we felt more safe to spend the night at Mercure Hotel at Ancol Marina as we had to catch the boat from the pier (which is a 15-minute walk from the hotel) at 8am the next day. You will receive all necessary information about the pier number, boat timings and more upon your booking confirmation. Please note that at this point of time, Pulau Macan Eco Resort does not own any boat, thus you will be sharing the boat with other people travelling to other islands too. The boat company operating the trip from the marina to the island is SeaLeader Marine.

Everything went smoothly; once ready for departure, they will call out your name to board the boat and it was quite a comfortable one too (like a mini ferry with A/C even)! Along the way, we stopped by 2-3 islands to drop people off and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we never knew if we made it to our island or not. For every island we stopped by, we asked each other if that was it until we finally made it to paradise at around 10.30am.

Photo Via Djmikeyadventures, Aaliyah.massaid

First thing first, Pulau Macan is what tropical dreams are made of, but it’s also much more than that, so let me tell you why I truly believe it is the rustic Maldives of Indonesia (and yes, you should believe me as being born with feet in the water, I sure am your real island connoisseuse!).

Note: They also have an overwater mushola (praying room).

1. It is a private island with only one resort on it – like in the Maldives!

The views simply got my mind blown the moment we stepped off the boat, but I knew that it was just the beginning. We were welcomed by our host – Fauzan, and he was incredibly pleasant. He briefed us about life on Pulau Macan, what we were entitled to, meal times and more.

Truth is – the island isn’t big; basically only the resort stands on it. There’s no beach area (as in, no sand), you will be required to cross over to the sister island known as Pulau Macan Gundul (which is where we spent most of our days at). You can paddle, kayak, swim or walk to reach the island and enjoy a stretch of white sand and amazing Maldives-like waters.

Photo Via Beverley-Lennon, Gesitwisnuprakoso, Rizasalahudin

What’s there to do the whole day?

Other than chilling on the bean bags, hammock or getting to some water activities when you’re feeling sporty, there’s literally nothing to do here but that’s the purpose of your trip, right? Every afternoon at around 3pm, the resort organises a snorkeling trip (included in your stay package) which takes you to the nearby lagoon – we joined once and it was quite pleasant, nothing extraordinary since we were able to spot bigger fishes right from our hut.

Photo Via Mazayagalva, Viaoktv29, Giffylino, Beverley-Lennon

How’s the food like?

Breakfast and lunch are served in the club house, while dinner is served on the sun deck overlooking the sea. The home-cooked meals were amazing, with daily seafood, vegetable selections accompanied by rice or other carbs – there was plenty of choices and they cater to your various diet requirements. Right after the afternoon snorkeling trip, they’ll be serving you some local treats like Pisang Goreng (banana fritters) with different toppings.

What I enjoyed the most was that mealtimes were very communal, it encourages other guests to bond and spend time together around the billiard table or some card games.

Photo Via Pulaumacan, Juan-Cazcarra

And since you’re on holiday, you might be up for some drinks. Not to worry, they have their full stock of alcohol at the Driftwood Bar where we thoroughly enjoyed our daily Bintangs (at an additional cost). They also have a cocktail menu, if that’s what you fancy.

2. You’ll be sleeping in overwater huts – like in the Maldives!

Check-in time at the resort is at 1pm but luckily, we managed to get to our room by 12pm as it was ready before lunch time. There are various room (or ‘hut’ as they refer to it) categories, depending on your group size and most of them are at the edge of the island (with two bigger bungalows in the middle of the island).

Photo Via Ireneverent, Ruedesrosiers

We opted for the Driftwood Hut with sunset view and honestly this is where you want to stay at – it’s probably what your Pinterest board looks like! The room or rather bungalow stands right over the ocean, with wooden stairs taking you right to crystal-clear waters and eventually, you are at the perfect spot for the most magical sunset.

You also have to know that the huts aren’t equipped with any actual walls or doors, but you have proper mosquito nets (and a fan) – as someone with blood type O, this was very important to me but thankfully we did not get any bites.

Photo Via Amelliahk, Beverley-Lennon

Your hut comes with simple cloth curtains and thicker bamboo ones that can be rolled up and down when it gets chilly (yes, it does at night) or when it rains but the rest of the time, we left everything open and it gave us the feeling of being free and sure did accomplish our island fantasies!

Photo Via Ellkusumaningrum, Blog.nicolinepatricia.com_

Now you might be concerned about people peeking into your room and the possible lack of privacy but we were comfortable and had no issue with this as other huts are spaced out and we did not experience any intrusion – except from the monitor lizards.

If you opt for the Driftwood hut, it also means you get a shared bathroom (cold water btw) rather than a private one (but I was happy about it as those with a private bathroom were waking up to a giant monitor lizard chilling in the shower every morning and that was a big no no for Neo especially).

3. The island has crystal clear waters – like in the Maldives!

The one trip Neo and I can’t forget is possibly the Maldives. I remember upon reaching this paradise in the Indian Ocean we told ourselves we would make this an annual trip; we had big dreams, indeed! Anyway, we can forget about it since we have now found a little Maldives with equally transparent waters right in Indonesia (best yet, just 2 hours’ boat ride from Jakarta).

There are no words to describe how amazing it felt to wake up and bask in endless views of the ocean right from our bed. My favorite moment was in the morning during low tide with schools of fishes making their way on their daily mission while the world is still asleep. I won’t lie, both Neo and I did fantasise about resigning our jobs, and spending the rest of our lives right here, over the ocean, with only a pair of shorts and few bikinis in my suitcase.

Photo Via Nia.aska, Beverley-Lennon
Photo Via Pterpang, Beverley-Lennon

The water surrounding your hut is permanently shallow so if you’re craving for a proper swim I would recommend to take a dip right in front of the sunset deck at the common area; this is also where you get to use their paddle boards, kayaks and canoes.

Photo Via My_untravelled_world, Momocleo

4. It also has an outdoor spa with ocean views – like in the Maldives!

To me, every island getaway matches with serious pampering. Plus, the main reason for our trip was to relax and unwind so I couldn’t say no to a full body massage. I’ll be honest, I was quite put off when the host informed me that there was only one spa therapist and it was an almost blind and deaf masseur – I spent hours figuring how on earth this massage would go with the masseur being unable to see or communicate and hear me.

Nevertheless, I booked in a massage and boy oh boy, I’d go back to Pulau Macan only for that! Not even bragging but this has to be the best body treatment I’ve ever gotten. It felt like the therapist had some super power since I never said a word to him (due to language barriers and his hearing impairment), yet he knew exactly where I needed to be soothed.

But… that isn’t all; the spa treatment hut itself is set right by the ocean – nothing fancy, just a little driftwood bungalow with a mattress on the floor but the sea breeze and soothing sound of the ocean itself put me in such a good mood – it was an ultimate way to relax; nothing like the typical spa soundtrack of atonal gongs!

Photo Via, Beverley-Lennon

Also, since I was truly devoted to take in the moment, I did not manage to capture lots of pictures of the spa and let me tell you that very little guests even know about the spa as you have to enquire about it, so it’s quite like a hidden experience to go for while you are happily stranded on the island!

Price: Rp. 150,000 for 1-hour full body massage (Approximately USD $10.55)

5. The resort is 100% powered by solar energy!

I knew before heading there that the island was an ‘eco resort’ but hear me; I’ve visited a bunch of so-called “sustainable resorts” before and most of them were using this title as a marketing gimmick – afterall, who does not want to go green nowadays?

However, Pulau Macan Eco Resort completely change my perception – everything on the island that can be sustainable (recycled or reused) and locally sourced is just that. I was impressed to see that almost everything built here was made out of driftwood – they are super creative and talented. Walking to your hut, you’ll be able to peek into the locals’ private village where they are constantly building things out of natural materials; it was indeed amazing to see.

Our host also informed us about how the island was powered by solar energy and recently (as of August 2019), they turned it into Indonesia’s very first island to operate 100% on clean energy. They collect rainwater for different purposes and highly encourage guests to put the lights and fan off when they leave the room.

Photo Via Sonia-Khan, Repeattraveller

To add, I was happy to see that they had their own manmade recycling bin separating cans and paper – there was no plastic items to be seen around either.

Not to forget, they have a coral restoration programme at the jetty too!

My big verdict…

Paradise found! Heaven on earth! The stuff dreams are made of! Neo and I had a blast at doing absolutely nothing throughout our 4D3N. Most guests come for only 2D1N but I would recommend you to extend to a minimum of 3D2N if you’re coming from outside Indonesia.

Our only lowlight was the monitor lizards – they are gentle giants but suffering from real herpetophobia (reptile phobia), it wasn’t very easy for us to sleep on both ears. Nevertheless, the laid-back vibe here is simply impossible to resist!

P.S. If you intend to post pictures on your social media, be prepared for tons of messages asking where this paradise is. It’s been a month since we got back and I am still responding to my friends from all around the world!

Pulau Macan

Price: 2D1N All-inclusive from Rp. 3,965,000 for Driftwood Hut (Approximately USD $278)
          4D3N All-inclusive from Rp. 10,594,000 for Driftwood Hut (Approximately USD $745)
Getting there: 2 hours’ boat ride from Pier 16 Marina Ancol, Jakarta. (8am departure from marina to Pulau Macan; 2pm departure from Pulau Macan to marina)

Would you consider a holiday to this paradise on earth? Tag whoever you want to bring along!

PLEASE NOTE: All the above information is correct at the date of publication. If you come across any changes or updates, please let us know and we will update the information accordingly. Thank you!
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