Better known as Billiton, Belitung Island, may be a hidden gem right now, but it will not be a secret for long. It is the perfect paradise for your next island getaway with its impeccable pristine beaches, blue waters, and natural granite rock structures. It is hard not to linger on its beauty as the island is now determined to reach its goal to become one of world’s best Geoparks. A Global Geopark is a UNESCO-designated area that contains natural sites with particular geological importance and is intended to be conserved on account of its heritage. Tourism is expected to act as booster to spread knowledge and awareness of this unique natural wonder.
Belitung lies midway between South Sumatra and Kalimantan, 340 km north of Jakarta, in the Java Sea, Indonesia. It is a small island flanked by the Gaspar Strait and Karimata Strait. The word Belitung is taken from the local language means sea slug. Belitung’s population of 270,000 is mainly Malay, with a range of other ethnicities. The island is circular, 85 km across, with low hills, and its major towns are Tanjung Pandan in the west and Manggar in the east. This tiny island paradise is part of the Bangka-Belitung province in Indonesia, which also includes several other smaller islands ripe for exploration. The island is noted for its tin production. Interestingly, BHP Billiton (2001), the world’s largest mining company, had part of its origin in the 1851 Dutch discovery of tin in Belitung.
Belitung is blessed with some of the best beaches of the country. The area is made up mostly of small hills, lower plains, and white pepper fields. Mount Tajam is the highest point in the islands and has a height of less than 500 meters. Coastlines alternate between stunning white beaches to mangrove forests. The most distinct features of Belitung’s many beaches are the fascinating granite rock formations along the shallow shores. These rocks can reach the size of houses and lie in bold contrast to the white sand. A great number of islets, banks, and reefs lie off the coasts, up to a distance of 30 miles, and only a few are inhabited.
Island hopping is a must-do while visiting Belitung Island. The white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters are the two main reasons you should rent a boat from Tanjung Kelayang Beach and visit the outlying small islands. A boat that goes for a rental can accommodate up to 10 passengers. An island hopping tour usually stops by at least five islands: Batu Garuda, Batu Berlayar, Lengkuas, Kelayang and Kepayang.
The island of Batu Garuda took its name from the large boulders there that resemble the head of the mythical bird. Meanwhile, Lengkuas Island is known for the site of a 19th century antique light house. The L.I. Enthoven Lighthouse was built in Dutch colonial times in 1882 and offers a beautiful overview of the area. Visitors can climb up to the third level to take in a view of the green seas below. Those who want to witness marine life may snorkel off the eastern and western shores of Lengkuas Island. Kelayang Island is also a must-visit spot during your island-hopping excursion. In addition to its white sand and giant boulders, the island also has interesting caves to explore. If the weather is good, the boat usually takes travelers to Burung (bird) Island and Pasir Island.
As with all regions across the archipelago, Belitung has two seasons: the wet season that runs from October to March, and the dry season, from April to September. The best time to visit Bangka Belitung is on the dry season, when it is less rainy, with more sun, smoother seas, and better snorkeling visibility. With the impacts of climate change, however, this is for general reference only, be sure you pack for sudden changes in the local weather.
Cruise ships to Belitung Island anchor at Tanjung Pandan – port town on the western coast. As the largest town as well as the capital of the Belitung Regency, downtown Tanjung Pandan is quite interesting due to the many Dutch Colonial buildings and shop houses. Most of the governmental buildings are the original Dutch buildings and the Old Dutch tin mining housing compound is still kept up. Traditional Bugis fishing craft and an odd assortment of other boats make the pier and fish market an interesting place.
Other Popular areas:
This is an abandoned Kaolin or white clay mine located in Tanjung Pandan that has been transformed into a hotspot for travelers and photographers. Bright turquoise water against a white rugged stone cradle is just a photogenic spot in an unexpected site. It is still restricted to enter the water due to safety precautions, but you will surely get a wonderful experience even if you stay dry.
Teluk Gembira Beach
Recently developed, Teluk Gembira Beach is a convenient yet quiet tourist destination that offers a wonderful view of crystal clear waters beyond a local pier. From the pier, you can hop on a fishing boat and sail to Seliu Island.
Sandwiched between the Arumdalu Resort and Teluk Gembira Beach, Penyabong features giant boulders and crystal clear waters and it is even quieter than Teluk Gembira Beach. However, you may need to prepare your own meals and drinks to visit Penyabong Beach, as the beach does not have restaurants or other tourist facilities.
Batu Berlayar Island
Batu Berlayar means the Sailing Rock. Its name is derived from the shape of the island’s rock formation that resembles a sailing ship. This is a small island that has some secluded spots with tiny beaches and huge granite structures. Getting here needs an experienced boatman, to navigate across the shallow and rocky seabed around the island.
A serene and tranquil beach that is perfect for swimming. A few hotels are situated along this lovely waterfront to serve tourists, offering an incredible view just outside the window. Be aware of the wind and current though, they may blow your sunhat away.
The Satam Monument
This is an iconic monument in the heart of Tanjung Pandan, capital of the district of Belitung, located in the middle of a traffic roundabout of this lovely city. Satam is derived from the word Hitam, meaning Black. It is a black rock that is considered sacred and powerful by the locals but can be bought in many forms of jewelers and other ornamental handicraft. Around this monument are shops and restaurants to indulge your shopping spree for special mementos.