Pulau Sempu is a beautiful Indonesian island on the Indian Ocean that is just a short day trip away from the city of Malang in East Java. For anyone visiting the area, a trip to Pulau Sempu is a perfect addition to watching sunrise over Bromo or visiting Madakaripura waterfall.

A view of the lagoon from the cliffs.

A view of the lagoon from the cliffs.

What to See

Pulau Sempu is a small tropical island just off the coast of the island of Java. The majority of the island is surrounded by mangroves and covered in thick tropical forest. Small muddy paths criss cross the island.

The highlight of Pulau Sempu is a deep blue lagoon on the seaward side of the island. The lagoon is beautiful. It is large, deep enough to swim in and the waters are perfectly tranquil. On one side of the lagoon there is a large golden sandy beach, that is perfect for camping or sun bathing. Encircling the lagoon on three sides are rugged coastal cliffs that drop sharply away to the sea.

View of Pulau Senbu

Some of the views on the journey from Malang to Pulau Sempu can be incredible.

The Itinerary

If you are staying in Malang, you have the option of camping overnight on Pulau Sempu or taking a day trip from the city. If you are planning a day trip to Pulau Sempu you should leave Malang by at least 8:30 in the morning and expect to return at around 7 in the evening. It is a four hour drive from the city to the coast. The closest settlement to Pulau Sempu is the small coastal village of Sendang Biru. From there it is a 15 minute boat ride to the island and an hours walk from the drop off point to the lagoon.

On the road

On the road

Getting There

To get to Sendang Biru from Malang you have to either rent a motorbike at a cost of Rp50,000 per day, or you can rent a car with a driver for Rp500,000 per day. There are lots of rental agencies in the city, so it will be simple to find a suitable company to rent a vehicle from. The journey to Sendang Biru from Malang is enjoyably. The roads are clearly marked and there is always phone signal (so you can use google maps).

This is the type of boat that you rent to get to Pulau Sempu

This is the type of boat that you rent to get to Pulau Sempu

Renting a Guide and a Boat

Once you have arrived at Sendang Biru you will need to hire a guide and rent a small boat at the port. The cost of a guide is Rp50,000 per day, while the rental costs for a boat – a return journey to Pulau Sempu – is Rp100,000. Be aware that boats stop operating at 6:00pm, so it is impossible to return from the island after then. You should hire the guide at the small government building. It is possible to arrange a boat at the office, however it is slightly cheaper to organise this directly with the fishermen down at the port. When you are hiring a guide, you also have the option of renting football boots for Rp25,000. If it has been raining get yourself a pair of those shoes as the paths on the island become very very muddy.

Paths crossing Pulau Sempu

One of the many paths crossing the island

Getting to the Lagoon

The boat from Sendang Biru does not drop you off on the seaward side of Pulau Sempu where the lagoon is to be found, instead it drops you off on the near side of the island. To get to the lagoon you need to walk along mud tracks that cross the island. The paths wind and split, so it is easy to get lost if you do not have a guide. The length of time it takes to walk from the drop off point to the lagoon will depend on how much it has been raining lately. If it’s rained the paths become very muddy and it will take at least an hour to cross the island. If it is dry then crossing the island takes just 30 minutes.

the lagoon on Pulau Sempu

A view of the lagoon from the beach.

The Lagoon

Your first view of the lagoon will be as you turn a bend along the muddy forest path. Through the branches of the trees you will see clear azul blue waters and a golden sandy beach. Behind this are rocky cliffs that you can climb to your hearts content. The cliffs shelter you from the worst of the wind, while the trees that hug one end of the beach offer shade from the hot afternoon sun. You can choose to either camp here overnight or simply spend a few hours on the beach. Expect to bump into other groups, especially if you visit the site on the weekend. If you want to learn more about Pulau Sempu, read about my experiences visiting the island.