Away from the bustling islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun near Singapore, the Riau Islands remain a sleepy backwater ideal for leisurely exploration of an old fashioned island way of life that is rapidly vanishing. Until a few years ago only slow, unpredictable wooden boats plied the waters between the islands making travel slow and difficult. Today fast speed boats and ferries fan out from Batam and Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, to numerous remote island destinations.
Once you reach your destination you can rent a local fishing boat to explore the surrounding area. Within a day of leaving Batam you can be in remote areas that have rarely been seen by tourists. Sleep on the boat or camp on a deserted beach. People in the scattered, isolated island villages will be friendly and hospitable, inviting you to stay in the villages.
You can buy fresh seafood from a passing fisherman, or in one of the villages, to cook over a camp fire or on your boat. If you want to try local style cooking hire a local lady to come on the boat to cook.
Most of the islands south of Batam and Bintan remain jungle covered. Only a few Indonesian fishing villages dot the coastlines of these lightly inhabited islands. Sailing from island to island you may see only two or three other boats passing by each day. Occasionally you will see a flotilla of orang laut
(sea nomad) boats.
Pristine beaches fringe the exposed coasts on the east and west sides of the island groups. Countless coral reefs are ideal for snorkeling or diving. A number of the islands have World War Two wrecks at the edge of a reef. Diving trips can be organized as they are still wreck remains to explore.
The only historical place to visit in the southern islands is Lingga, which was the center of a Malay sultanate during the 18th and 19th centuries. But only a few jungle ruins remain on Lingga. Some of the ancestors of the sultan still live in Daik, the main town in Lingga. They will be happy to invite you to their homes to see some of the pottery, brassware, and costumes left from the old days.
The people on Lingga frequently dig up old pottery for export to antique dealers in Tanjung Pinang. If you are in Lingga at the right time you may find a bargain. Most of Lingga remains covered by primary forest, but logging operations are slowly reducing the forest cover.
Extensive tin mining has scarred large areas of neighboring Singkep Island, but there are still picturesque coastlines and extensive areas of primary jungle left. Bakung, on the north-west tip of Lingga, is a smuggling village with black speed boats lining the harbor. The group of small islands just west of Singkep has some excellent reefs for snorkeling and diving.
If you are traveling further you can catch slow boats to Jambi and other points on Sumatra from Dabosingkep (on Singkep Island). There are also flights from Dabosingkep to Jakarta and various destinations on Sumatra. Location
The Lingga Islands are an archipelago of islands located about 150km south of Singapore (and 100km south of Batam Island), and form part of the Riau Islands. They are sandwiched in the Natuna Sea by Sumatra in the west and Kalimantan in the east. The many islands of Lingga bisect the Equator, and these islands are remote and seldom known to tourists. The two biggest islands of the Lingga Archipelago are Pulau Lingga (Lingga Island) and Pulau Singkep (Singkep Island), the latter being the main island of this archipelago.Getting There
PT Sabang Merauke Raya Air Charter (SMAC) is a small regional airline which offers flights from Batam Island’s Hang Nadim airport to Singkep Island via Bintan Island. The fight from Batam to Singkep is three times a week (10am on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays – check as subject to change) and flight time is about 1 hour. Return flights from Singkep to Batam are at 11.30am on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays (the same plane is used – check as subject to change). The plane is a small one and can seat about 20 people. Cost is about Rp. 300,000 return (about US$30). There are no flights to Lingga Island, you have to fly to Singkep Island and then take boats to Lingga Island. Flights offer the fastest way to reach the Lingga Islands and the views are spectacular.
Super Jet has daily speed boats carrying passengers from Tanjung Pinang on Bintan Island
. Bintan Island to Dabosingkep at Singkep Island, with a stop-over at Cempah Island and Jago (at northern part of Singkep Island). There is only 1 boat per day leaving Tangjung Pinang at 11.30am to Dabosingkep, and the return from Dabosingkep to Tanjung Pinang leaves Dabosingkep at about 7am (check as subject to change). The return journey should cost about US$20 and each journey takes about 4 hours. There are also other speed boats but not on a daily basis, there is one from Tanjung Pinang to Jago and then to Daik (Lingga Island). The views from the boat are very nice, so it is a pleasant journey.Riau Island’s Currency
As the Riau Islands are very remote and off the beaten tourist trail, generally all the transactions are in Indonesia Rupiah (IDR) so you're required to exchange your currency to Indonesia Rupiah before you go. You can change in Batam or Tanjung Pinang on Bintan Island.Activities
Recreational activities include snorkeling, fishing, diving and island hopping. The Riau Islands are very remote, so there are not your typical resort island activities. Sun seekers may take a leisurely stroll along the white sandy beaches and enjoy sun bathing in the warm sunshine.Climate
Lingga Island is located right on the equator and has a tropical climate throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from 21° to 32°, with an average of 26° Celsius. Humidity ranges from 61 to 96 percent. The period between October to March is characterized as the north monsoon season with more rainfall and stronger winds, but the weather is generally sunny all year around. The Riau Island’s monsoon period starts from November through to March.
Riau Islands Accommodation and Hotels
Accommodation is fairly limited on both Singkep Island and Lingga Island, and mainly consists of Guest Houses and Budget accommodation, due to the relatively small number of tourists that visit. There is a hotel available on Singkep Island.
To view larger images, click on the pictures (page opens in new window)
A Map of the Riau Islands Archipelago, showing the two biggest islands Lingga Island and Singkep Island, the latter being the main island of this archipelago
The Singkep Island ferry getting ready to depart from Tanjung Pinang, on Bintan Island. It is about a 4 hour ferry ride to Singkep Island, via Cempah Island
During the ferry ride to Singkep Island, there is a short stop over at Cempah Island. During the stop, you can spend sometime admiring this beautiful coastal village
Passing by Lingga Island on the way to Singkep Island. You can get speed boats from Jago Village in Singkep Island to take you across to Lingga Island
”Ojeks” (motorcycle taxis) waiting for passengers to arrive at Singkep Island jetty. Taxis are also available to take you into the nearby town of Dabosingkep
One of the many beautiful beaches on Lingga Island. Due to the low number of tourists, the beaches are un-crowded and are great for swimming or snorkeling
One of the many coastal villages on Lingga Island. Traditional wooden houses are on long stilts built over the water, and they are predominately fishing villages
Aerial photo of the lovely Lingga Island coastline. Pristine, untouched and remote beaches surround the coast of Lingga Island, and are great for exploring by travelers
You can fly to the Riau Islands by air, from Batam Island or Bintan Island to Singkep Island, and from there take speed boats to the neighboring islands
Places of Interest in the Riau Islands
Lingga Island Map
Lingga Island is the largest island in the Riau Islands, with the main village being Daik. Most of the island’s tourist attractions are nearby, such as Cening Hill Fort, Damnah Malay Palace and Lingga Mountian. Budget accommodation is available in Daik, as there are no large resorts on the island
Damnah Malay Palace, Lingga Island
Foundations of the Lingga Sultan’s Palace, “Istana Damnah”, can be found in secondary jungle one kilometer west of Jalan Rabat in Daik. The original wooden buildings were burnt down when the Dutch deposed the Sultan at the turn of the century. Only the stone foundations remain, including the Sultan’s “Throne” (toilet)
Cening Hill Fort, Lingga Island
Only the foundations of this old fort overlooking the entrance to the Daik River remain. A number of 18th century canons have been unearthed and placed on top of the foundations pointing out to sea. You can stand here and imagine the old days when the Sultans and their sea nomad navy were fighting the Dutch invaders. A trail through secondary jungle goes from Daik to the fort
Mount Lingga, Lingga Island
At 1163 meters this is the highest mountain in the Riau Islands. It is an ancient volcanic plug that rises spectacularly from the surrounding area. The summit consists of three separate pillars with two hundred meter high vertical walls. Pristine untouched wild rain forest surrounds the mountain. Wild, virtually unreachable one to two hundred meter high waterfalls tumble down on several sides of the mountain. According to the local people no one has ever succeeded in climbing the summit
Daik Village, Lingga Island
The main town of Lingga Island is the village of Daik located next to a river. This is a small fishing village which can be reached via boats from Jago and Dabosingkep on nearby Singkep Island. You can buy local handicrafts in Daik, and many villagers still live a traditional way of life. Fresh seafood is readily available
Penuba Village, Singkep Island
This is an fashioned picturesque little harbor town on Selayar Island, which is very close to Singkep Island. It has a small colonial style guest house available, beside the town square. From the top of an observation tower on the hill just behind the town, you can get lovely views of the surrounding islands
Singkep Island Beach
Because the Singkep Islands are so remote, some of the beautiful beaches with soft white sand and beautiful sea virtually remained untouched by humans. If you can get to these islands, you will literally have the whole beach to yourself! Needlessly to say, the coral reefs here are rich with marine life, so are great for snorkeling, diving or fishing
Singkep Island, Riau Islands
Singkep Island is the major island of the Lingga Archipelago, and this island is the southern most of all the islands here. The main town is called Dabosingkep, and it is a lovely seaside town with very friendly people and simple lifestyle. There are many clean and untouched beaches on Singkep Island. The interior is mostly flat and hilly, with many remains of former tin mines, the island used to be booming with tin mining but now the Indonesian government does not allow it anymore
Tambelan Island, Riau Islands
Tambelan Island is about 200 km away from Tanjung Pinang. There are only six villages, which are spread over a few islands, with a total population of about 4,000. As is to be expected, the environment here is largely un-spoilt, and the scenery is truly magnificent. One of the most interesting of natural attractions on this island is watching sea turtles laying their eggs in great numbers, the turtles are protected by the locals.
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