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Home » The Thousand Islands » Dutch Colonial Vestiges on Jakarta’s Thousand Islands

Dutch Colonial Vestiges on Jakarta’s Thousand Islands

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  25. The Thousand Island/Taman Nasional Laut Kepulauan Seribu

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Overview

“The Queen of the East” and “the Jewel of Asia” were the names once given to Batavia, -  today’s Jakarta -  in the heydays of Dutch colonial power in Indonesia in the 16th century. Legacies of this bygone era are not only carved in some of the unique landmarks of the city such as in the  Fatahilah Jakarta Museum, the Sunda Kelapa Harbor, and many others, but they have also spread to the Thousand Islands  archipelago facing Jakarta  Bay.


Aside from its stunning beaches, wonderful marine life, and other indulging features, the Thousand islands are a compilation of heritage sites that spreads over the 340 or-so islands. Some of these include the islands of : Onrust, Kahyangan, Bidadari, Kelor , Panggang  and Damar Island, that once played an important role in the activities of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie  (VOC) –the Dutch East Indies Trading Company- and the Dutch authorities during that era. The waters around these islands were once packed with Merchant ships and War ships as the Dutch spread their influence over the Indonesian Archipelago.


In the 17th to 18th century Onrust Island was a busy dock for VOC’s ships that used to transport all kinds of goods from the entire Indonesian Archipelago before making port in Batavia. The name Onrust itself is derived from Dutch language meaning “Unrest”.  Besides being a trading post, this small island also acted as a defense post and military base to ward off any naval threat. Indeed, in the 1800 the defense posts on Onrust Island were bombarded by constant attacks from the British Fleet for suzerainty of the Indonesian waters.


From 1803 to 1810, Onrust suffered at least three massive attacks from the British Armada under Admiral Edward Pellow, which resulted in the total destruction of the base. Some of the structures were later rebuilt by Dutch authorities who turned the island into a logistics center in 1840. Legacies of this era can still be seen in some of the ruins of the fort, docks, and a Dutch cemetery (kerkhof) where one of the tombs belongs to Maria Van Der Lende –Daughter of one of the Dutch officials on Onrust Island.

In 1930, Onrust became a center and final port for the hajj pilgrimage. The Dutch authorities were very concerned about the growing nationalism of Indonesians at the time, thus those who intended to conduct the hajj journey  were assembled on Onrust Island for  quarantine.


The island was also used as a prison camp for Germans, when the Dutch waged war with Germany  in 1933.


On Kahyangan Island are still a number of VOC’s fort ruins complete with canons and other features.  The island, which is also known as Cipir Island was once also a sanitarium for those infected with leprosy and Tuberculosis from Onrust Island and others.  Onrust and Kahyangan were once connected by a bridge, however what is left now are only remnants of its foundation on both ends.


The approximately 1.5 hectares Kelor Island may just be a tiny island, but it surely played a huge part in Dutch Colonial history. It was here that the VOC and Dutch authorities established their first ever defense fort in the entire Indonesian Archipelago. Today, visitors can still see a defense fort complete with its watchtower or Martello. The structure was first only intended as a watch post, but the Dutch authorities later extended it as a fort. The structure is a 23 meters diameter circle covered with 2.50 meters thick wall.


Aside from being spoilt by its natural beauty, the aptly named Bidadari Island or the island of angels also holds her own legacies of the colonial era.  On this island stand remnants of a fort and watchtower which were built in the 17th century, bigger than the one on Onrust Island. In 1679, Dutch authorities also established a sanitarium for Leprosy and tuberculosis patients who were transferred from Muara Angke on the mainland of Jakarta. Thus, at that time, the people called it the island of the sick. However, today, Bidadari has been completely cleared and has become a popular tourist resort.


On Damar Island stands a watchtower built in 1879 by direct command of King Williem III of the Netherlands. The locals also believe that the island was once used as a secret hideaway for the queen of Banten who was then pursued by Dutch soldiers.


With all their indulging beaches, fascinating marine environment, topped by precious heritage sites of colonial history,  the Thousand Islands offer a holiday with truly complete experiences.    

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