nusa kambangan island

Nusa Kambangan Island

Nusa Kambangan (also Nusakambangan, Kambangan island, or Pulau Nusa Kambangan) island is located in the Indian Ocean, separated by a narrow strait off the southern coast of Java; the closest port is Cilacap in Central Java province. Dubbed by one international journalist the “Alcatraz of Indonesia”, the island is notorious for its maximum security prisons, home to convicted murderers, terrorists, drug traffickers, and those convicted in high profile corruption cases. It is sometimes known as Execution Island because the island is the main location for carrying out capital punishment around Java.

The island was made into a prison island during the Dutch period. The colonial government built a high security prison on the isolated island to exile criminals and political dissidents. The prison on Nusakambangan was opened in the mid-1920s by Indonesia’s Dutch colonial rulers and was once considered the harshest penal institution in South East Asia. The island was declared off-limits in 1905 by the Dutch.

Its usage as a prison island continued after independence. During the rule of former President Suharto, hundreds of political dissidents were imprisoned on the island. Most were political prisoners, members of the banned Communist Party of Indonesia or sympathizers. These political prisoners were never brought to trial, and many of them died from hunger or illness.[citation needed]

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In 1996, the island was finally opened to the public as a tourist destination.

The island has also been involved in refugee handling. About 140 Afghan refugees were detained on the island after their boat, which was en route to Christmas Island, Australia, sank in rough seas on August 17, 2001. However, more than 90 of these refugees would later escape on September 19, 2001, sailing away in small fishing boats and are believed to have headed for Australia.

The island was also affected by the 2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami, when a 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake occurred off the coast of west Java. At least 11 villagers disappeared and 8 people were killed in the ensuing tsunami, two of which were prisoners at one of the Permisan prisons. At least fifteen inmates on the Nusakambangan prison island near Pangandaran were also missing.

Nusakambangan is separated from the island of Java by the narrow Segara Anakan strait. Being isolated from mainland Java, the island is relatively under-developed and less inhabited and the wildlife is better preserved. The eastern side of a bay is a nature reserve area where an old Dutch fortress is located on the Karangbandung beach. As a lowland tropical rain forest, Nusakambangan is biologically diverse.

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More than 71 different bird species, 14 reptile species and various mammal species are found in the island. Twenty-three bird species are in classified as protected, including Kuntul Karang (Egretta sacra), Black Egret (Ciconia episcopus), Bangau Tongtong (Leptoptilos javanicus), white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), elang bondol (Haliastur indus), and elang bido (Spilornis cheela). Several other protected mammal species include the black-spotted leopard (Panthera pardus), Javan Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) and Javan mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus). Four of six endemic primates in Java, namely Javan Lutung (Trachypithecus auratus), the crab-eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Javan Surili (Presbytis comata), and kukang (Nycticebus sp.), have been reported to live on the island.

From the mid-1990s, the island was intermittently promoted by local authorities as a tourist destination, primarily for its caves, beaches, and unusual wildlife that is extinct on Java.

Notable attractions include Permisan beach (Pantai Permisan) with its beautiful white and gray sands near the Permisan jail lighthouse, Ranca Babakan on the west coast of the island, White Sands beach (Pantai Pasir Putih), and several caves such as Queen’s cave (Goa Ratu). According to the Cilacap Tourism Office, Nusakambangan was opened as a tourist destination following an agreement between the Central Java Governor and Ministry of Justice in 1996. The Cilacap government then invested some Rp 1.7 billion (around $200,000) in preparations for the opening up of the island, most of which was used on the construction of tourist-related infrastructure. A special agency was also established to manage tourism on the island, with the Nusakambangan Prison warden made head of the agency and Cilacap Tourism Office chief as the deputy. No individual tourists are allowed, all of the tourists within a group of minimum 15 persons which is arranged by tourist agency then will be accompanied by security officers until maximum 6 p.m without overnight stay.

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One of the main cultural events is Sedekah Laut (sea sacrifice), which is held by the Surakarta Sunanate every Satu Suro (new year) in the Javanese calendar.

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