Embraced by sunshine, fringed by turquoise shallows, dotted with granite boulders and sandbars – this is the Bangka-Belitung Archipelago.

Some tourists call it the “Little Caribbean”, others the ‘Seychelles of Southeast Asia’, and that neither of these epithets is exaggerated will become clear immediately at arrival. The islands are blessed by the idyllic scenery of crystal-clear, azure waters decorated with gardens of corals, palm trees and granite boulders. In fact, Bangka-Belitung offer more than Seychelles – affordable seclusion and crowds left behind.

Parai Tenggiri Beach, Pulau Bangka

WHERE ARE THE BANGKA BELITUNG ISLANDS

Situated off the coast of South Sumatra, right between the Java and South China Seas, the magnificent archipelago comprises of two large islands – Bangka and Belitung, and a large number of small isles and tiny islets.

Being part of Indonesia, Bangka-Belitung once was a Dutch colony, and their colonial heritage is still quite evident in towns and villages. The islands are easily accessible from Jakarta; visitors can reach the pristine paradise within only an hour flight.

Pulau Belitung

WHAT TO DO

The granite boulders add on the charm of the islands, and the striking scenery truly somehow resembles Seychelles. Fantastic scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, sailing and yachting in the islands is guaranteed.

The best way to explore the archipelago is ‘island hopping’ – renting a water taxi allows you to be dropped off and picked up anywhere you like – search around the boulders, hidden coves, sandbars and fishermen villages of the islands.

The active ones will definitely enjoy the islands` national parks, including Batu Mentas (endangered Tarsius monkey) and the picturesque Gurok Beraye Waterfall on Belitung Island, where they can have a refreshing swim after some jungle trekking.

Belitung Island is typical of granite boulders, hidden lagoons and coves

POPULAR BEACH LOCATIONS

Bangka-Belitung beaches and growing infrastructures have recently attracted both the local and international tourists from around the world.

Pulau Bangka is popular with holidaymakers and tourists looking for seclusion, and the most popular beaches are Pasir Padi, Matras, Parai Tenggiri, Tanjung Pesona, Rambak, Teluk Limau, Teluk Uber, Tanjung Penyusuk, Tanjung Kalian and Tanjung Kerasak.

Friendly kids on Pulau Bangka will greet the visitors with a big smile

Pulau Belitung is more known for scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and sailing at Tanjung Kiras, Tanjung Pendam, Tanjung Tinggi, Tanjung Kelayang Beach, Tanjung Binga, Panyaeran Beach, Tanjung Kubu, Teluk Gembira and Tanjung Ru Beach.

There are fabulous offshore isles and sandbars near Belitung easily accessible by a boat from any resort.

Pulau Pasir sandbar, Belitung 

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS ON THE BANGKA-BELITUNG ISLANDS

  • Tanjung Tinggi & Tanjung Kelayang gorgeous beaches, granite boulders, swimming, beautiful scenery, photography (Batu Belayar islet)
  • Lengkuas Island – great for a day trip, spectacular lighthouse, snorkelling
  • Kaolin Lake – turquoise-blue lakes (mining area)
  • Batu Mentas – national park, waterfalls, swimming, tubing, endangered wildlife
  • Gurok Beraye Waterfall – jungle trekking, swimming, conservation area
  • Pulau Pasir – picturesque tidal sand islet
  • Tanjung Binga Beach – an authentic fishing village with a wooden pier (access to the splendid islet of Pulau Burung via a sand strip at low tide or )
  • Babi & Keelung Islets – paradisiacal beaches, snorkelling, swimming

Kaolin Lake, Belitung

HOW TO GET TO BANGKA-BELITUNG

Fly to Jakarta.

BY AIR: Bangka Belitung Islands are well connected to the rest of Indonesia by air. There are frequent flights to Jakarta/Java (1 hr flight). From Sumatra, you can depart from Palembang or Riau Islands (2 hr flight).

BY BOAT: The cheapest option (often used by locals) is a day/overnight Pelni ship (10-11 hours) which is super cheap but extremely slow and basic or a speedboat from Palembang to Mentok for your comfort (Bahara Express, 3-4 hours).

View from a lighthouse on Pulau Lengkuas

THE THOUSAND ISLANDS (KEPULAUAN SERIBU)

While Bangka-Belitung is a popular summer vacation hub for the Jakartanese, their favourite weekend-away destination is the nearby archipelago of Kepulauan Seribu (The Thousand Islands). The extensive chain of small islands consists of a string of 110 islands, isles and islets, stretching 45 km north into the Java Sea.

Kepulauan Seribu (The Thousand Islands), aerial view

According to Wikipedia, ‘36 islands are used for recreation, but only 13 islands are fully developed, 11 islands are homes to resorts, and two islands are historic parks, 23 are privately owned and are not open to the public. The rest of the islands are either uninhabited or support a fishing village. It is hard to believe that this virgin paradise is located just off the shore of one of the most populated metropolises on the planet – Jakarta.

Semak Daun Island

WHAT TO DO

Similarly to Bangka-Belitung, Kepulauan Seribu features, crystal-clear shallows, sandy isles and secluded beaches.

On the top of that,  both sheer nature and a great luxury can be enjoyed by those who don`t mind to spend ‘a few’ more dollars; the visitors have a wide array of accommodation, from basic budget beach bungalows to the upscale private-island resorts.

Pulau Seribu Marine Park, the best way to move around is island hopping

The islands can be reached by a jetty in a short time from the Muara Karang Port, and they provide a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta.

Visitors will find top holiday resorts, restaurants and natural attractions will greet the visitors who can take pleasure in scuba diving and snorkelling, swimming, sailing and yachting.

Pulau Seribu Marine National Park is home to a magnificent reef ecosystem with large shoals of exotic fish, sea turtles, corals and beautiful mangrove forest with radiant birds and reptiles.

Pulau Tidung

TOP 7 ISLANDS TO VISIT IN KEPULAUAN SERIBU

  • Pulau Tidung – the most visited, very good facilities (popular honeymoon destination), outstanding underwater world
  • Pulau Pramuka – the administrative centre of Kepulauan Seribu with schools, hospital and other important institutions (the island is good for a day visit – turtle sanctuary, mangroves and very good diving & snorkelling)
  • Pulau Bidadari – closest to the Java mainland, great facilities, g. restaurants, beach bungalows, tour operators (ideal for couples and families)
  • Pulau Pari – a small island easy to walk around, basic amenities but clean and tranquil
  • Pulau Macan – tiny isle with a luxurious eco-resort and fantastic snorkelling and diving opportunities (popular with honeymooners)
  • Pulau Harapan – ideal for low-budget travellers, inexpensive homestays, beautiful beaches and fabulous snorkelling/diving
  • Pulau Kotok – the furthest from the mainland hence less visited, very clean and tranquil, with marvellous beaches and simple beach huts

TRAVEL TIP

The best way to move around the Thousand Islands is island-hopping. Boats are available throughout a day at any resort. Visitors with limited time can visit Pulau Sepa (only 30 min by boat from Jakarta) for a day trip.

Pulau Kotok

HOW TO GET TO KEPULAUAN SERIBU (THOUSAND ISLANDS)

Fly to Jakarta.

BY BOAT: from Muara Karang Port/Marina Ancol in Jakarta, from where scheduled passenger boats leave every morning (2.5 hr one way)

For all international flights visit www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com


WHEN TO TRAVEL

Both Bangka-Belitung and Kepulauan Seribu archipelagoes are best to visit between June and September, during the dry season. Especially, scuba diving, snorkelling and eco-tourism are dependent on good weather.

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Sunday 19 August 2018

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