Riau Islands is the ultimate paradise for holidaymakers and beach bums. Within the eyesight of Singapore, Malaysia and Borneo, the islands are often visited by the Singaporean and Malay holidaymakers – and that only indicates this would not be a place for budget travellers. Nevertheless, spending a few more dollars in the Riau Islands will not make one regret it. Besides, it is high time to make the archipelago known to the world…
WHERE ARE THE RIAU ISLANDS?
Some islands situated within the eyesight of Singapore and Sumatra, others closer to Malaysia, and the furthest almost reach Borneo; more than 3000 isles of the Riau Archipelago welcomes predominantly wealthy Singaporean and Malay holidaymakers – and this clearly indicates that it would not be a place for budget travellers.
The archipelago officially belongs to Indonesia, albeit culturally is closer to Malaysia, and natural wealth is the most important area of tourism.
In Bintan and Batam, upscale beach resorts fringe the granite coastline and first-class beachfront restaurants serve demanding customers who come here to escape from the hustle and bustle of busy Asian metropolises.
On the other hand, the Riau Islands can be as expensive (and often overpriced) as super basic and cheap, e.g. the remote Tudjuh archipelago – it solely depends on the island of your choice.
MAJOR BEACH RESORTS
Riau Islands Province is the second tourist gateway in Indonesia after Bali. Although rich Singaporeans and Malaysians often come to busk on the deserted islets not many foreigners have heard the word ‘Riau’. With fantastic tourist infrastructure and fast-growing development, the archipelago provides superb facilities and attractions.
The major beach resorts of Melur Beach, Abang Island and Nongsa Beach in Batam city, Pelawan Beach in Karimun, Lagoi Beach, Tanjung Berakit Beach, Trikora Beach, Bintan Leisure Park in Bintan and Natuna.
WHAT TO DO
The foremost activities in the Riau Islands are recreation, water sports, swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling. Besides, eco-tourism has been increasingly popular as well as cycling, jungle trekking and extreme backpacking. The visitors can find here both privacy with top luxury and remote adventure.
In addition to coastal and maritime, Riau Islands promote other points of interest, including great cultural heritage, ancient tombs, religious landmarks, traditional dances and festivals typical of the region.
CHOSE YOUR ISLAND ESCAPE
Some of the Riau Islands are within eyesight of the downtown Singapore, while others are hundreds of kilometres away from anything.
There are 5 major island regions to choose from: Bintan and Batam and the closest to the Malay Peninsula and the nearby Lingga and Karimun Islands are situated off Sumatran coast while the Tudjuh Archipelago (Anambas, Netuna, Tambelan, Badas) have Borneo in their near distance.
1.BINTAN ISLAND (FOR LUXURY AND CULTURE)
The favourite weekend-away for most of the Singaporeans with outstanding tourism development, sightseeing, water sports activities and recreation. Tanjung Pinang is the capital city, with plenty of luxurious tourist resorts along the coast (the most visited and expensive island), snorkelling, scuba diving (sea turtles).
Major attractions are: Penyengat Island (tombs of national heroes Raja Haji Fisabilillah and Raja Ali Haji), 500 Luohan Temple (impressive Chinese temple), Mount Bintan (trekking, views), Bintan Desert/Sand Dunes (Gurun Pasir Bintan & Telaga Biru).
TO GET THERE: from Singapore by ferry (45 min-1 hr depending on the part of the island), or from any other Indonesian/Malaysian city by air (international airport).
2.BATAM ISLAND (FOR LUXURY AND BOATING)
The nearest island to Singapore with lots of resorts and fast-growing tourism (shopping malls, spas, restaurants, sightseeing, various tours), great snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, sailing, yachting, recreation.
Major attractions are: Berelang Bridge, Pulau Abang, Vietnam Village, mosques, temples, beaches.
TO GET THERE: from Singapore by ferry (45 min), or from any other Indonesian/Malaysian city by air (international airport).
3.LINGGA & SINGKEP (FOR OUTDOORS AND UNDERWATER WORLD)
Just off the coast of Sumatra, the favourite islands for cyclists (little traffic), placid coastline, good snorkelling and diving, quiet villages, fresh seafood, less developed – more authentic, good for outdoor lovers, active people, independent travellers (rent a motorbike and explore the island independently).
Major attractions are: Dabo (the main city with nice markets and temples), Pasir Panjang Beach, fishing villages of Kedo & Kelume, Cibia Island (typical of granite boulders).
TO GET THERE: from Bintan, Batam or Singapore by ferry (3-6 hrs).
4. BERHALA ISLAND (FOR PHOTOGRAPHY AND UNDERWATER WORLD)
Visually similar to Bangka Belitung, Pulau Berhala is a pristine island off the Jambi coast with terrific scenery, known for sea turtles. Granite boulders, lush rainforest, turquoise shallows and radiant corals make it an excellent spot for photographers & scuba divers who fancy unusual destinations with no tourism development.
Major attractions are: traditional villages, boat tours, jungle trekking, sea turtles, wreck diving, snorkelling (bring your own equipment).
TO GET THERE: from Medan by bus to Sei Rampah (Serdang Bedagai port, 1 hr), hire a traditional boat to Pulau Berhala (5 hrs). Otherwise from any other nearby Riau islands (Bintan, Batam).
5. TUJUH ARCHIPELAGO (ADVENTURE/OFF THE BEATEN TRACK)
Nearest islands to Borneo, extremely remote, poor tourist infrastructure but man-untouched, tribal villages, extraordinary natural beauty, uninhabited islands, pristine beaches, corals and equatorial jungles.
Anambas, Tambelan, Badas & Natuna Islands are destinations for the independent travellers and they offer wonderful eco-tourism, snorkelling, scuba diving and extreme jungle trekking.
Anambas Islands – Air Terjun Temburun (Tarempa’s 7-stage waterfall), former Vietnamese refugee island of Pulau Kuku, Gunung Dewa Siantan Temple & Jamik Mosque (in Tarempa), Tarempa`s fishmarket.
For underwater activities, diving and snorkelling go to Pulau Penjalin, Pulau Ayam, Pulau Air Asuk, Pulau Mengkait, Pulau Temawan, Pulau Durai and Anambas’s showpiece – Pulau Bawah.
TO GET THERE: fly from Tanjung Pinang to Matak Airport in Anambas.
Natuna Islands – secluded beaches, pristine nature, independent snorkelling & scuba diving at Natuna Besar, Pulau Sedanau, Kampung Seberit and Pulau Senua (bring your own snorkelling or diving gear).
The highlight is Ranai`s Alif Stone Park – a breathtaking boulders collection along the beach, sea turtles – it is said that there are more sea turtles than people living on the islands!
TO GET THERE: fly from Tanjung Pinang & Batam to Natuna Besar Airport in Ranai.
Badas Islands & Tambelan – the furthest islands off the Indonesian coast, the most isolated and difficult to reach, equatorial location, near Borneo (West Kalimantan), great diving at its offshore islands Pulau Badas, Pulau Benua, Pulau Pejantan, Pulau Mendarik or Pulau Uwi.
TO GET THERE: from Pontianak/West Kalimantan by local Pelni Ship, 6 hrs or from Tanjung Pinang/Bintan in 16 hours.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
The dry season in the Riau Islands generally runs between June and October, depending on the island. That is a time of a year when waters are clear and skies bright.
HOW TO GET HERE
Fly to Singapore
For all domestic flights check out Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Susi Air and Sriwijaya Air
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