Nestled in the Java Sea, off the coast of Sumatra, lies a small, yet wondrous island. At about 1,800 square miles, the island of Belitung is right in the middle between the size of Rhode Island and the size of Delaware.
Being only a 40-minute flight from Jakarta, this island was a perfect weekend getaway destination.
The capital of Tanjungpadan was where the “hustle and bustle” of the island seemed to be. It was easy to arrange a cheap inn for the night before heading directly for a coffee shop. It was so early in the morning that some energy juice was needed before any exploring could begin.
The coffee shop was only a few blocks away, and it was already packed at 7:30am on a Friday morning. The coffee was thick and strong and the men were extremely happy to see foreigners. Usually I find posing for pictures monotonous after a while, but everyone was very nice. One nice gentleman who spoke very good English even answered some of our questions, gave some suggestions and paid for the coffee. It was a sincere gesture of generosity with no sense of awkwardness or possibility of false pretense…how refreshing!
I was able to acquire a tourist map after a little searching and made the first stop the Museum Pemkab Belitung. This local government museum had displays of various pottery and metal fragments of days gone by. The attached mini zoo was also an interesting place to wander around with its over-sized animal sculptures.
Aft the zoo, it was time to make our way down to the fisherman’s pier and markets. It was nice to see the colorful boats and beautiful food selections along the waterfront.
A much-needed nap was taken back at the inn, in the comfort of AC. At around 2pm it was time to grab lunch and then get a taxi to Bukit Perahu. On an island known for its white-sand beaches and abstract granite boulders, every bit of coastline is gorgeous.
I able to explore this beautiful area just before, and then during, sunset, in magnificent, peaceful solitude. At this time of day the heat and humidity had finally subsided and I was struck by the allure of twilight. I could have stayed on that beach all night.
The next day we were up early, ate our complimentary breakfast of fried noodles, met up with a friend traveling to meet us and headed out to Tanjung Tinggi in the north. This area is famous for an iconic boulder-ridden area where an Indonesian movie was filmed. It was a fun place to climb on some rocks, pose for pictures, take a dip and eat some amazing BBQ fish.
The weather was very hot on the island, so a day of meandering around marvelous beaches was the perfect remedy. After a few hours of combing the coastline, we found another perfect spot to watch another beautiful sunset.
We were now in a homestay in an actual family’s house, which worked out to be absolutely amazing. After a home-cooked breakfast, our homestay helped us book an island-hopping excursion.
Our first stop was the island of Burung. This was an island so tiny that it was almost non-existent. A tiny patch of sand and a few boulders may not sound like much, but this little area is covered in starfish.
The next stop was the island of Lengkuas. This island was a bit bigger and drew quite a crowd. The first task was to climb to the top of the 129-year-old lighthouse for an unbelievable view!
Then we ate a delicious picnic lunch and made our way back to the boat to begin our snorkeling adventure. The snorkeling masks weren’t the best and I’m not the best swimmer, but it was amazing to see so many beautiful fish and colorful coral formations. I had a blast.
Our last stop was the island of Kepayang. After snacking on tea and fried bananas, we made our way to the turtle sanctuary. There were quite a few babies and only a few larger turtles being taken care of. After making friends with the animals, our group took a moment to look around before heading back to the boat. The water was getting choppy and we needed to get back home. This had to be one of the best days I’ve ever spent on the water.
The island may be relatively small compared to other parts of Indonesia, but the three full days I was able to spend here were probably some of the most memorable, and I would classify this island as one of my favorite places that I’ve ever been to. Natural beauty, kind people and a peaceful, simple way of life…what more could one ask for?