Getting the Best Out of Belitung Island

Travelling to Belitung Island takes less than 2 hours, barely enough time for in-flight service or to break a sweat. But, that’s alright because this veritable Seychelles of the South promises a bucolic weekend fraught with local friendliness, fabulous food and fun in the sun. Although the name Belitung might not register with most, a renewed push by the Indonesian Tourism Board, together with newly established direct flights with Srivijaya airlines, it’s time you get acquainted with our charming neighbour not so far down under.


Disarmingly Beautiful Islands 

The beaches around Belitung are pristine and its coasts teem with sandy slivers of heaven that visitors can rent a ferry to hop between for a whole day or more. There are 12 islands scattered along the Northwest shoreline and includes absolute centerfold stunners like Pulau Lengkuas with its towering spire of a lighthouse rising skywards, Batu Berlayer with its natural monoliths and the inimitable Pulau Kepayang.





If you have only time for one, don’t miss Pulau Lengkuas. A combination of sandy beach, an interesting section of beach with large curiously shaped boulders, snorkeling, some amenities and a picturesque lighthouse built by the Dutch over a 100-years old make it a worthwhile destination. The views from the top of the old but still functioning structure are phenomenal and you can take in sights of the velvet blue sea studded with a generous scattering of sandy fringed island pearls
As with the transformation of the kaolin mining pits being turned into a tourist attraction, Belitung itself is making a transition into a favoured tourist destination. Infrastructure and transportations links have greatly improved and is set to continue improving, especially with direct flights from Singapore by Indonesian carriers. So, now that the word is out, and this article has, hopefully, prepared you for your own jaunt, don’t wait. Just go!




These islands can be reached by ferry from Tanjung Kelayang or Tanjung Binga within 30 minutes and cost between IDR 350,000 - IDR 500,000.



Staying on Belitung Island 
Those keen on keeping their feet on terra ferma can head to the nearest pantai (translated as beach from Bahasa Indonesia) and still have their fill of a bonafide beach experience. The popular Pantai Tanjung Tinggi is one such favoured destination; popular with locals as well as visitors. The beach is 30km away from the capital city, Tanjung Pandan, and is hidden behind some very imposing granite boulders but as you find a path to snake around them, you’ll quickly reach the shore. Scampering around the rocks and lazing around is the order of the day here. Vendors close to the parking area peddle food, drinks and simple souvenirs. Try a bundle of satay - freshly grilled over a charcoal fire; piping hot and full of flavour. Incidentally, for Malay film buffs, this was also the location for a scene in the wildly popular 2008 Indonesian film, Laskar Pelangi which, became the highest grossing film in the country and earned several international awards.


Cultural Pursuits 
Whether you are a culture vulture or not, there is one aspect of a country’s lifestyle that EVERYONE can agree on and that’s its food. Kampong Deduan, located an hour North from Tanjung Pandan is a good choice for local cuisine. Seafood is plentiful here as it is throughout the island, with squid being amongst the most popular. The clams in spicy sauce tasted heavenly - rich seafood flavours topped off with a sweet and piquant sauce. I couldn’t help making a mess trying to slurp up every morsel.



I was also very much taken by the steamed flower crabs which were significantly larger than those I had become accustomed to but, more importantly, the flesh was firm and so, so sweet. Although only being allotted only 1 of these fine crustaceans per person, I went on to polish off an entire serving dish of 5. “All’s fair in love and lunch”, that’s what I say…


Aside from the expected island culinary trappings, the hungry traveller can satisfy cravings for coffee and durian. Both of which I found to be robust and flavourful. The former can be found at the many coffee shops in the city. While there, do take some time to explore the lively markets that hawk almost everything you would ever need.




Durians, especially during the February- March season will see the fruit being sold almost everywhere from street corners to the side of highways. The best thing of all, is that here at least, the confluence of cheap and good can certainly be found.




Historical points of interest are also not lacking on Belitung. The large island shares a common heritage of British colonialism with Singapore and only ceased to remain under the sphere of influence of the British after the Dutch protested the establishment of Singapore as a port. This dispute was settled by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 where Belitung was relinquished by Britain. Prior to that it fell sway to the major littoral empires of the day such as the Srivijaya, Majapahit and Mataram Kingdom. Due to its location along major shipping routes, many Chinese traders visited the island in the many centuries past, and even brought the now dominant religion of Islam. This has led to today’s diverse make-up of the island. Both Chinese and Melayu influences, together with more recent Western ones abound throughout the island.





Head to the Hills 
Your commune with nature, after you have had your fill of salty air, crystal seas and sugar sand beaches, can continue at a higher elevation. Dive deep into the emerald forests and take a short walk up Peramun Hill.The little excursion will take you past intriguing vegetation such as luminous fungi and plus carpets of moss. The mesmerising views from the peak, will not fail to leave an impression , particularly so during the golden hours of dawn and dusk when the skies come ablaze in a riot of vermillion hues.




Industrial Pursuits 

Belitung was once engaged in tin mining and was famed for its pepper plantations. In recent times, kaolin was mined in large open pits that have now become a dominant feature of the land. Flying into the capital, Tanjung Pandan, these are very apparent and look very attractive as the waters that collect in the pure white pits usually take on a deep blue or green colour. Belying the obvious environmental damage caused by the open cast mines, the Danau Kaolin have become beloved photo spots, attracting many to come stand against the backdrop of pure white clay and hypnotic deep blue waters.


As with the transformation of the kaolin mining pits being turned into a tourist attraction, Belitung itself is making a transition into a favoured tourist destination. Infrastructure and transportations links have greatly improved and is set to continue improving, especially with direct flights from Singapore by Indonesian carriers. So, now that the word is out, and this article has, hopefully, prepared you for your own jaunt, don’t wait. Just go!








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