The Riau archipelago is still somehow a mystery to some but the islands that dot southern Singapore are a beach getaway waiting to happen. Pristine beaches mix with heritage sites thanks to the colourful history of the islands, making it a gem on Indonesian waters.
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to Bintan Island is mostly done by sea where you can take a ferry from Tanah Merah Terminal in Singapore or Waterfront Ferry Terminal in Johor Bahru, Malaysia which will take you to the capital of the Riau Islands, Tanjung Pinang. Tanjung Pinang has a couple of ferry terminals so get a good idea where your resort is situated. Ferry ride is roughly 2 hours from Singapore and 2 hours 45 minutes from Malaysia.
WHAT TO DO
Besides beach bumming, Bintan Island is home to a couple of championship golf courses designed by golf legends like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Ria Bintan Golf Club and Laguna Bintan Golf Club are some of the golf courses with magnificent sea views to tee off to.
Take a boat ride down the Sebong River amongst the Bintan Mangroves and be amazed by the clear river waters. The variety of wildlife is amazing with the area being popular with fireflies so for a special experience, take the night tour for a twinkling boat ride.
Sacred sites on Bintan Island include the 500 Lohan Temple featuring over 500 life size Lohan statues of all shapes and size. There is also a 200-year-old Banyan Tree in a fishing settlement.
WHERE TO STAY
Nestled between the forest and ocean, The Banyan Tree Bintan (www.banyantree.com/en/ap-indonesia-bintan) is an all-villa sanctuary offering luxury amenities in a prime location. Sleep in canopy beds overlooking the sea, perched on a cliff and take a dip in your private infinity pool for a relaxation getaway of your dreams. The Banyan Tree Bintan also host a golf course and a luxury spa featuring traditional Indonesia therapies using native spices.
A glamping option next to a blue lagoon is in the form of The Canopi (www.thecanopi.com) located at Treasure Bay. 40 spacious safari-themed tents surround the lagoon equipped with an en suite and some that include an outdoor whirlpool. The lagoon will keep you occupied with activities like canoeing, wake boarding and a ride on a water tricycle.
• Bintan has a community of sea gypsies, a nomadic sea tribe that live on water. Nowadays they live on stilt houses by the shore in a place called Panglong Village.
• To get the best of Indonesian street food, Akau is a car park turned night bazaar to feast on local dishes like the shellfish called gong gong and Indonesian satay.
• To better discover the island, hire a driver or rent a car to take you around. Better yet, rent a scooter at Treasure Bay under Adventure Scooters for some self-discovery.