Beautiful Beaches of Belitung
Belitung is blessed with the glory of white sandy beaches, crystal clear and calm water, and the magnificent granite rocks on the shore. Soon after a movie captured most of its beaches, this island made it to the list of the top ten must-visit places in Indonesia.
Stretches of white sand with exotic stones, unlike most of Indonesia’s beaches, the fascinating beauty of Belitung was relatively unknown to the majority of Indonesians until the island’s native writer Andrea Hirata published his best-selling novel Laskar Pelangi in 2005. The novel was made into a movie in 2008, shot entirely on the island, which revealed Belitung in all its glory with white sandy beaches, crystal clear and calm water, and the magnificent granite rocks on the shore. Soon thereafter, Belitung made it to the list of the top ten must-visit places in Indonesia.
Now the tourism industry is thriving on the island. With its short 45-minute flight from Jakarta, this place is getting packed with travelers who fly into the area to see the real beauty with their own eyes. People come from all over Indonesia and overseas to soak in the fascinating scenery of the island, which has many nicknames including the Granite Paradise and the Caribbean of the East. Several types of accommodation have opened as well, from relaxed backpacker style accommodations to five-star bungalows overlooking the beach.
A visit to Belitung starts from the capital city of Tanjung Pandan, a small tin mining town. Although there is not much to see, a leisurely stroll is recommended to get to know its friendly people. Most probably they will recommend that you sample one of Belitung’s famous delicacies, the Belitung noodle. Its heritage is from the island’s Chinese immigrants, a simple noodle soup with sliced tofu, cucumber, bean sprouts, boiled potatoes and shrimp. This delicious noodle is best recommended for breakfast, to add nutrition before setting off to explore
It only takes 20-minutes to drive to the white sandy beach of Tanjung Tinggi. As a paradise of rocks, the beach is full of giant granite stones, some even bigger than a house. Simply breathtaking. The size alone is a sight to behold, not to mention that there are so many of them, as if they are simply sprouting from beneath the sand. The beach stretches for 1.2 kilometers, perfect for a nice relaxing stroll with no big waves. It’s also a paradise for swimming around and enjoying the warm tropical clear turquoise water.
Though the area is filled with supreme natural beauty, there are not really that many places to stay. Tanjung Tinggi has only one high-end bungalow called Lor In, that is most popular amongst Jakartan visitors due to its proximity to the beach.
On the other side of Tanjung Tinggi is Tanjung Kelayang Beach, which is known for its view of a small island made entirely of granite that forms the shape of a bird, called Pulau Burung or Bird Island. The best spot to swim at Tanjung Kelayang is at the eastern part of the beach because of the crystal clear water that is almost as still as a pond. Besides swimming and snorkeling, another recommended thing to do is to rent bicycles and ride to Tanjung Tinggi. There are small eateries selling fresh seafood and coconut drinks by the beach, which makes it popular destination among visitors. But unlike Tanjung Tinggi, the list of accommodations varies from mid to low budget.
Continuing this dream trip, take a wooden boat from Tanjung Kelayang to do some island hopping to the neighboring islands that are all uninhabited. It’s as easy as renting a boat, then when you spot an island, stop the boat and hop out!
Best to depart early in the morning and then land at Pulau Pasir if it is low tide. Not exactly an island, Pulau Pasir is a huge mound of sand that will be completely submerged with the high tide. Therefore it is best to visit this island first before hopping to other islands, as it will be completely gone when the tide is high. The surrounding water is so clear that a starfish swimming in the sea bottom is clearly visible from above. This beach is also a really good spot for snorkeling.
A second must-visit island is Lengkuas Island, the only small island that is actually inhabited. Standing alone on the tiny island is an old lighthouse from the Dutch colonial era that has been around since 1882. The actual height of the lighthouse is unknown, but it is approximately the same height as a 12-storey building. The view from the top is simply breathtaking, as one can enjoy a 360° view of the whole island from this site. There is nobody else living on this island, only the caretakers of the lighthouse.
On the way to Lengkuas Island there is no way to miss Bird Island. Don’t go past it, hop out and make a visit. The bird-shaped boulder is the icon of Belitung and has become the background of many, if not all, visitors’ holiday photos taken on the island. A walk to this bird-shaped boulder is possible only during low tide. However, caution is to be exercised as the coral reef and shells at the lower part of the boulder are pretty sharp. Sea urchins are commonly found on the boulders, but the south area is pretty clean and good for swimming as the water is shallow and calm, without any coral reef around.
Another island worth visiting is Babi Island. The place is completely empty and home to giant granite stones that sprout up all over the island. Like in other places in Belitung, the rocks are majestic and the hugeness of it will blow your mind. Nobody knows why the island is called babi or pig, as there are no animals living on the island. The history behind the name remains a mystery.
Marking the last visit in a Belitung island hop is Pulau Batu Berlayar, or the Island of the Sailing Rock in English. It is very close to Tanjung Kelayang, less than 20 kilometers away, but swimming to the island is not advisable because the water is quite deep. And just like the name suggests, there is a rock formation that resembles a sailboat.
Unlike other popular beach destinations, Belitung doesn’t offer any nightlife attractions, but fear not because travelers interested in a night stroll still can have an eventful night at Belitung. Take a walk to Tanjung Pandan for starters, as this place offers delicious chili crab from the many seafood joints. In this quiet neighborhood, the perfect thing to do is to grab a blanket and sit on the beach to stargaze. The stars are incredibly brilliant, so it makes up for the lack of entertainment after sundown. The sight of the full star studded sky can spoil the eyes and create a memorable night to remember.
The best time to visit Belitung is between March and November. During this period of time the sea tends to be quieter, making for perfect sailing. Between December and February the waves tend to be stronger and it can rain for days.
There isn’t any other place in Indonesia that is blessed with that many unique small islands that consist only of piles of stones and nothing else. And for that reason alone, you need to book your trip to Belitung pronto.
Text by Patricia Ivana
Photos by Josua Alessandro
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine