How to Get There
Turquoise, crystal clear waters, beautiful marine life, pristine white beaches, delicious cuisine and aromatic artisanal coffee, Belitung is a spectacular island which offers visitors the unspoilt beauty of Bali in a secluded location just one and half hours from Singapore! Part of the Banka-Belitung island province in Indonesia, Belitung is located on the east coast of Sumatra, in the Java Sea. At just 4,800.6 square kilometres in size with a population of about 271,868, Belitung is free of touristy crowds and with more than 100 smaller islands surrounding it, there are countless clean, clear beaches to choose from, all of which offer welcome respite for visitors who need a weekend getaway from the stresses of city life. Garuda Indonesia Airlines flies to Tanjung Pandan, the capital of Belitung island, four times a week.
Navigating the Maldives of Indonesia
Sometimes known as the “Maldives of Indonesia”, Belitung is located half way between Singapore and Jakarta. Like a lot of lesser developed islands, Belitung has a hodgepodge of small taxi services that run through the island but there is only one licensed taxi service on the island which operates with a meter – Street Taxi Belitung. Some hotels do have private arrangements with taxi drivers when you approach your hotel for a taxi booking so do contact Street Taxi directly if paying commissions are not your thing. For airport pickups and dropoffs, it’s recommended to book the taxi before you land. Other alternate forms of travel on the island include online taxis like Go-Jek and Grab (just download the mobile app), scooter or car rental and local airport taxi services but airport taxi rates are much higher than those of Street Taxi Belitung.
Tanjung Tinggi Beach
As islands go, beaches are where you’ll probably see the most tourists but you’d be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful, pristine beaches in Belitung. For one, Tanjung Tinggi Beach, the most popular beach on Belitung, is not a crowded experience like that at Kuta Beach in Bali, the most famous beach in Indonesia. Instead, what you’ll find are lovely sea-washed, boulders dotting the beachhead at Tanjung Tinggi, wicked sea breeze and soft, white sand beneath your feet. Located 31 kilometres from the H.A.S. Hanandjoeddin International Airport in Tanjung Pandan, Tanjung Tinggi is approximately a 30-minute car ride from the airport and is located on a long stretch of sandy coast alongside Belitung’s other most famous beaches such as Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Kalam and Tanjung Pendam.
According to geologists, the smooth granite rocks on the beach are estimated to be 65 to 200 million years old. The beach was also the main location of hit Indonesian movie Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops). Adapted from a popular novel by Andrea Hirata, it is instructive that the movie is set in 1970s Indonesia as Belitung’s rustic charm harks back to a simpler time when life was less hectic.
Tanjung Kelayang Beach
Four kilometres away from Tanjung Tinggi, Tanjung Kelayang Beach is a more open stretch of beach with stronger waves.
Besides taking in a swim or a tan, Tanjung Kelayang is also home to local fishing boats which can be hired to take visitors island-hopping to nearby islands such as Batu Berlayar Island, a rocky island of mostly granite, Pasir Island, a sandy tidal island (sand is pasir in Behasa Indonesian) and Lengkuas Island, one of the most popular islands to visit in Belitung. You can rent a boat that sits 10 people for just 500,000 rupiah (S$50).
Pulau Lengkuas (Lengkuas Island)
Home to a 12-storey colonial-era lighthouse built in 1882 by the Dutch, Lengkuas Island is a popular destination for island hopping and is only a half-hour boat ride from Tanjung Kelayang beach. Located on the north side of the island, the lighthouse still guides ships travelling to and from Belitung and allows visitors a bird’s eye view of the coast from the third storey.
The real beauty of the island, however, lies not in the statuesque beauty of the lighthouse but in the amazing marine diversity in its clear, shallow waters. Home to local hawksbill turtles and pristine coral reefs, Lengkuas Island is famed for being an amazing spot to snorkel and swim.
Culture and Cuisine
Besides being the shooting location for the film adaptation of Andrea Hirata’s novel Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), Belitung is also home to the Museum Kata Andrea Hirata (The Andrea Hirata Words Museum). Indonesia’s first and only literature museum, the museum is located in Gantung and fulfills Hirata’s promise to build and provide an educational space from the profits of his novel.
Originally a mining town, Belitung’s work ethic has made coffee houses a staple in the people’s lifestyle. This is especially so in Manggar town, which was founded as a tin mining town in the 19th century. One of the favourite coffeeshops of locals and tourists in Manggar is Warung Kopi Kong Djie.
Besides the aromatic artisanal coffee, Belitung is also famous for its Bedulang cuisine. A communal eating experience where small plates of food are served on a long table for diners to share, Ruman Makan Belitong Timpo Duluk is one of the favourites of locals who love authentic Bedulang food. Similar to food in Sumatra, coconut milk and Indonesian spices are used liberally.
Another must-try dish while you are in Belitung is Mie Belitung, a soupy noodle dish with fresh shrimps and delicious gravy. With its beautiful beaches, amazing marine life and its fabulous coffee, food and culture, Belitung is an amazing getaway that will have you coming back for more.
To find out more about the wonders of Indonesia, you can visit Tourism Indonesia at www.indonesia.travel/gb/en/home