I closed my eyes as we left Jakarta… and then…BOOM! We had landed. We were in Sumatra. Just like that.
Well, not quite like that, but that’s what it felt like. The fifty minute flight from Jakarta to Belitung is the fastest flight I have ever been on in my life – nowhere near enough time to catch a wink or two.
It was early in the morning and as every person close to me knows, I am not a morning person. If I am waking up to an hour of ridiculous o’clock, expect me to be the Grinch incarnate. Raaaar. This particular morning, Jack and I had to wake up at the ridiculous o’clock hour of 4am. Four flippin am. But through the grey mists of my grumpiness, I could see a glowing beacon of light; in a few hours, we would be in Sumatra.
Sumatra – one of the main islands of Indonesia that I was yet to experience.
Itsy bitsy Tanjung Pandan Airport only took a minute to get through, and at the exit a smiley Indonesian man was waiting, holding a card with my name written across it (this for some reason, is something I always get a kick out of. It’s the little things, I guess). We piled into the back of his car, and we set off for the forty five minute journey to Belitung’s coastline to catch our boat to our island accommodation for the next few days.
Sun shining, blue skies above us and dense forests of small palm trees on either side of us, the drive through Belitung was the epitome of calm. With my eyes transfixed by the dizzying depths of the palm tree forests, I imagined how fun it would be to run through them and just get lost. And, after living in congestion capital Jakarta for a year and a half, you know what the best thing was? No cars. No cars whatsoever. This one long stretch of road this side of Belitung, and we seemed to be the only ones on it. Kings of the road. As we zipped along, Jack fantasized about driving his trusty car, Black Mutant along this open, uncluttered road.
‘He’d love it,’ Jack smiled.
After a while, we spotted a humungous sign standing in the distance. In bold red letters, it proudly read, ‘Welcome to Belitong’(the old spelling of the name). Behind it lay a blue, still sea. We had arrived.
Now out of the car and on the beach, feeling the soft, powdery crunch of sand underneath our flip flops, we walked over to the pier to enquire about our boat. Jack chatted to a few of the local seamen relaxing on their boats, basking in the sun. It turned out it would be a few more minutes before they arrived, so we could have a few more minutes enjoying our new beach view.
I walked along the pier, looking at the turquoise water that was gently bobbing below. I noticed a group of tiny fish, a single one no bigger than my thumb, congregated in a mass, all facing the same direction. What are they doing? I wondered. And then I noticed there were even more, and more and more of them. Countless tiny fish had amassed together in the shallows of the water, all next to each other, completely still. Why are they all here?
After a few moments of unanswered curiosity, I gathered they had all probably just come to give me and Jack a big welcome. Of course that was it.
hundreds upon hundreds of tiny fish
Around ten minutes passed, and we saw our longboat emerge between two massive rocks in the distance. Once it reached the shore, the captain anchored the boat and we (Jack quite nimbly, myself rather ungracefully) climbed on board our blue and white wooden boat. Our captain then turned on the engine and chug chug chug, we were ready to set sail for our destination of Pulau Kepayang.
It was still early in the morning, and the fuzzy sun hung dreamily in the sky, accompanied by a few wisps of cloud. The sea was intriguingly calm. No waves, no ripples, nothing. It was so still, that when looking out at the horizon, it was an effort to see where the water ended and the sky began, almost like a mirror reflection. And, because the sea was so wonderfully placid, it was also insanely clear. From the boat we could look out at the sea and clearly observe all of the coral life beneath us. Large, squiggly, twisted, purple, pink and yellow alien-looking coral plants sat happily below and we didn’t even have to jump in and wear goggles to see them.
an abundance of coral
where the sea and sky met
this island shall be miiine
We continued to glide through the glassy water, passing by minute uninhabited islands, that I decided one day I would claim and live on. It wasn’t long before we saw the massive structures that have made Belitung famous; huge, curved rocks of pure granite. Emerging upwards from the surface of the blue water, they resembled gigantic, white whales. Some were dotted further out to sea, and others huddled together around the edges of the islands, creating a maze of peculiar shapes and sizes.
We sailed around the circumference of a larger, mysterious looking island which was covered in dense, green jungle and surrounded by the granite giants. We turned round, and before us we saw the shore of the island, guarded by an elephantine sized granite rock to side of it. A small, wooden sign hanging off a tree read, ‘Welcome to Kepayang Island’.
‘This is where we’re staying?’ Jack excitedly asked me.
Beaming as I took in the view, I smiled. ‘Yeh. This is our island home for the next few days.’
Tune in next time for more about Belitung in Sumatra, starfish, lighthouses and mysterious unidentified sea creatures…
Go Go Go!
Where: Belitung, Sumatra
How: From Jakarta by plane. Lion Air and Sriwijaya have daily flights to Tanjung Pandan Airport.
Why: Beautiful white beaches, calm clear sea, wonderful snorkelling and the famous granite rocks. And as the sea is so calm, if you’re not a confident swimmer, this is the perfect place for you to have a paddle.
Money: Our return flights cost approx.1.3million RP and accommodation cost 300,000 RP/night, but of course there are other more expensive/cheaper options.
Tips: Food is cheap, but if staying on one of the islands, hard to come by. The island we stayed on, Pulau Kepayang, has its own restaurant serving Indonesian cuisine and seafood.
The best time to visit is the dry season, from May – September. We went in early November – the weather was still good, but from around 2pm everyday, there would be a storm that lasted for around an hour.
Also, when snorkelling, beware of jellyfish!
If you’d like to know anything else, please just ask below!