Pulau Sempu. The missing island.
S 8°25’54.6672’’ E 112° 41’06.6768’’ Java Timur, Indonesia.
Abdul Hanan, 70 and Opi 53, are good friends. Long time friends and almost every afternoon they meet along the fishing port to lower their net into water, smoke a few cigarettes and have a chat. Today was a lucky day, big fishes ended up in their net. I asked where they caught them and with a gesture and a smile, he answered there, right there in the channel that separates the Island of Java and Pulau Sempu, not far from the embankment that follows the coastline where they are sitting and mending their net. Abdul Hanan, the elder among the two, offers us cigarettes while he tells us that he has been fishing for forty years in this channel. He knows everything there is to know about fishing and the place where he was born and aged.
The idea of photographing of Pulau Sempu at sunset brought us there, but as soon as we arrived we were informed that the island is closed to visitors unless permission is given by the Park Conservation Authority in Surabaya. We came without the permission and thus we were not allowed to go to Pulau Sempu. So, we had a few hours to wander among the fishing boats along Pantai Sendangbiru. The manager who manages the Conservation Office there is a gentleman, thin and bare-foot, his skin withered by the sun and salt. He is sitting behind an old desk and talks quickly on the phone. Old map of Pulau Sempu adorns the wall of the office that smells of fish and cigarette smokes. Sempu Island Nature Reserve is a treasure trove of unspoiled nature that represents a perfect miniature of vast biodiversity area for research and education. We left empty-handed but happy to know that there is still a closely guarded island to safeguard the biodiversity with its flora and fauna.
A few hundred metres away from us, the inviolable island emerges calm and the sea appears still with just a small white sandy beach that leaves a thin trail of white foam every once a while. The light quickly disappears at these latitutes and we left this ‘unfinished reportage’ of Pulau Sempu with a promise to come again with the permissiom from the Authority.