Best Activities in Indonesia
Belitung is a region of white sand, blue water and awe-inspiring granite boulders. And best of all, it’s just a short hop from Jakarta.
I have always considered myself more of a mountain than a beach person. During a recent visit to Belitung, however, I was blown away by the beauty of the place and its hundreds of beaches. With sparking white beaches adorned with picturesque granite rocks and crystal-clear water, surrounded by hundreds of small islands, one can only wonder: is this heaven on earth?
The Bangka-Belitung archipelago, off the coast of South Sumatra, offers the kind of quiet escape that can leave you feeling like a great explorer uncovering virgin beaches, totally unspoilt by humans. Bangka-Belitung was historically known as a centre of tin production, so its natural beauty was largely overlooked. These days, the tin industry is beginning to be eclipsed by tourism, as word gets out about the province’s beaches, blue water, coral reefs and giant granite rock formations.
There are 189 islands surrounding Belitung, each with powdery soft white-sand beaches, granite boulders and crystal-clear seas. The main attraction at Belitung is island-hopping and exploration. The best way to do it is to hire a fishing boat. We did just that at the white-sand beach of Tanjung Kelayang. Several granite islands can be reached by wading through the sea. More than likely, you will have the islands to yourself, to explore their unique boulder formations or just lie on the white sand. There is a small island made from granite rocks, including several giant ones shaped like a Komodo dragon. It took only 10 minutes to reach the island with the Komodo-shaped stones. We clambered up the rocks to the highest point, which offered us a great panorama over the ocean, islands, beach and sand.
Then off we went to Lengkuas, a little sliver of an island, less than a hectare in size, just off the coast north of Tanjung Binga village. The golden crown of Lengkuas is an old lighthouse that was built by the Dutch in 1882. You are free to climb to the top of the lighthouse, where you can get an unbelievably gorgeous 360-degree view of the surrounding islands and sea. The best time to visit Lengkuas is from March to November, when the waves aren’t too big, so you can enjoy sailing, snorkelling and swimming, just as we did. We put on our fins and facemasks and did some snorkelling above the reefs, frolicking among the vividly coloured fish, which darted amongst us, clearly undaunted by these human intruders.
Between Lengkuas and the fishing port of Tanjung Binga is another island, Burung Island. It’s bigger than Lengkuas, with white-sand beaches to the south and a rocky coast to the north. The most interesting object on the island might be the granite boulder in the shape of a bird’s head, which is how it got its name, Burung (bird) Island.
During our stay at Belitung we continued to explore the island. Tanjung Tinggi is located between two peninsulas and the stretch of sand is most notable for all the granite boulders along the beach. Some of the boulders are as big as a good-sized house and are great for climbing on and getting some amazing views. There is also a fishing port, Pelabuhan Bilik, and along the bay a stretch of at least 20 traditional seafood restaurants, where you can grab a coffee or a fresh seafood lunch.
Tanjung Kelayang is another beautiful beach on Belitung, near Tanjung Tinggi. It is one of the most popular holiday destinations on the island and you can find a nice combination of white beach, scenic granite boulders and small islands just off the shore. If you want to swim, the eastern side of the beach is your best bet, with clear water that isn’t too intimidating and nothing but white sand. Walk along the beach about 300 metres to the north and you will find a group of granite boulders spread along the edge of the peninsula and the sea.
Belitung offers incredible scenery, delicious seafood and unspoilt natural beauty. And the best thing is, you don’t have to fly halfway around the world to enjoy it. Just a short hop from Jakarta, Belitung feels like a whole different world. While Jakarta is all about rushing around and traffic jams, Belitung offers quiet moments, empty beaches and fresh air.