INDONESIA’S UNDISCOVERED ISLANDS

Students from Pulau Jang school.

The coolest guys at Pulau Jang school!

I almost feel guilty about sharing this. There is a part of Indonesia that is unspoilt, with beautiful beaches, patches of dense forest, skies in which you can see the stars and friendly local people with a relaxed attitude to the very few tourists that come here.

Would we want it to become the next Bali or Phuket? Despite my raving about it, I don’t think a blog post is likely to make that happen.

Mevrouw T and I have been regularly visiting the Riau Islands since 2005, as I run writing workshops for international school students from Singapore. We’ve seen the area changing, certainly, though as far as we can determine most of the changes are positive.

The Riau Archipelago is directly south of Singapore, over 3000 volcanic islands, many uninhabited, dotting the South China Sea. To get there, we catch the Sindo ferry at Singapore’s Harbourfront for a one hour crossing to Batam’s Sekupang wharf.

There we’re met by staff from our host resort, who guide us past the gaggle of motorbikes and taxis and local ferry ticket sellers yelling for custom, to one of the open pancung boats bobbing by the jetty.

Pancung boats at Sekupang Wharf.

Pancung boats at Sekupang Wharf.

Soon we’re skimming across the flat waters of the South China Sea, past traditional fish traps and the stilt house villages clinging to the shores of the islands.

A Riau fishing village.

A Riau fishing village.

It takes about 90 minutes to reach Telunas Beach Resort, a collection of thatched huts built over the water, connected by a rickety wooden jetty. The sweep of clean white sand is backed by jungle. The sea lapping below the floor is the only sound.

Telunas Beach Resort

Telunas Beach Resort

In the course of the next few days we are able to explore the area. We take the boats up the river through the mangroves of Sugi Island.

Indiana Jones territory. Watch out for mangrove snakes (though they're mostly harmless).

Indiana Jones territory. Watch out for mangrove snakes (though they’re mostly harmless).

Telunas staff have arranged for us to visit Pulau Jang (Jang Island), a community of about 200 families, where the local school has prepared a welcome for us.

Traditional dance from Jang Island.

Traditional dance from Jang Island. At first it seems a little sedate and shy…

...but when our students join in, things really loosen up!

…but when our students join in, things really loosen up!

Boys display their martial arts skills.

Boys display their martial arts skills.

A sort of jacks game, played with shells and a bounced golf ball.

A sort of jacks game, played with shells and a bounced golf ball.


At the home of Ibu Rafiah, we learn how to mix fish paste with sago flour and baking powder to make krupuk.

Making krupuk.

Making krupuk.

A crowd gathers wherever we go, but there is no hassling and no hawking. Though Telunas regularly brings guests to Jang, people still seem to be interested in their visitors and anxious to make contact, be friendly and to share their lives.

Wherever we go in the village, a crowd follows us.

Wherever we go in the village, a crowd follows us.

Fishing boats on Pulau Jang.

Fishing boats on Pulau Jang.

Too soon, it’s time to go back to Telunas, to write about our experiences and the people we’ve met.

Sunset at Telunas Beach.

Sunset at Telunas Beach.

Telunas Resorts cater for individuals and families. For individual enquiries and bookings, click HERE.

For information about Telunas writers’ camps and other school and group bookings, click HERE.

The writer was the guest of Telunas Resorts.

2 Comments

Filed under Indonesia

2 responses to “INDONESIA’S UNDISCOVERED ISLANDS

  1. I can understand why you would never want it to be the next Bali or Phuket, looks like a beautiful place and such beautiful happy faces.

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