Diving: Belitung Island, Sumatra, Indonesia

entrance to Kepayang Island Conservation and Diving Centre diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Introduction

From a diving perspective, Belitung is known for its large rounded granite boulders and the small reefs around them, plus the wrecks to the west. The island is surrounded by white sandy beaches and the coastline is dotted with smaller and equally picturesque islands. Being just an hour’s flight from Jakarta, it’s fast becoming a favourite weekender for the busy city folk of Jakarta. As well as diving Belitung is known for its island hopping – one of the most popular activities for visitors. That, the Batu Mentas Tarsius Sanctuary, where you can see tiny monkeys that look like grandmothers, and a visit to Tanjung Tinggi, made famous recently by its appearance in a blockbuster movie.

Boulder terrain diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Tanjung Tinggi (Tall Bay) forms a perfect semi-circle of white sand and is framed on either side by large, round granite boulders. It was made famous by a memorable scene in a blockbuster movie called Laskar Pelangi – or Rainbow Troops. The movie itself is the screen adaptation of a best-selling novel, written by a Belitung resident.

Sunset over water diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

While the island doesn’t have Bali’s rich and colourful culture, it has an interesting history none-the-less. There is no true indigenous population on the island, the people here are a mix of immigrants from other parts of Indonesia and South East Asia. The island first found its calling as a launching pad for pirates targeting the British East India Company back in the 1800s and is now populated by a mix of races and cultures, with the earliest Chinese, Filipino and Malay settlers presumed to be descendants of those pirates.

beach, boats and swimmers diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Location

Belitung Island lies off the north east coast of Sumatra, an hour’s flight from Jakarta. The main hub of the island is the not-so-bustling Tanjung Pandan (where the plane lands).

There are a number of 3 to 4-star hotels along the beachfront which comes to life at night as the cafes and bars are lit up and the live entertainment starts.

Neon lit 4-wheel bikes diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Dive Centres

There are several small dive centres on the island and at least one dive resort and they all appear to share resources. We dived with Sofian Syah Lubis and another instructor called Salam, both commercial and salvage divers, certified with CEMAS.

Three dive guides in a boat diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

On the side of the island that we visited, (closest to Tanjung Pandan) the normal departure point is the beach at Tanjung Kelayang. From here it’s a 5-10 minute boat trip to the nearest dive site.

Dive boat and island hopping boat diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Alternately, you could opt to stay at the eco dive resort on Kepayang Island which has beachfront cabins, quite a few decent shore dives and you can also contribute to their coral planting program and help out with the turtle sanctuary.

Dive shop diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Dive Sites

On the north-east side of the island there are a number of pretty reefs to explore around the largely granite islands.

Green yellow sea fan closer up diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

The diving, for the most part, is pretty shallow, with lots of coral gardens and a nice little wreck between Lighthouse Island and Kepayang Island.

The Black Longspine Sea Urchin at Lighthouse Wreck diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Further west there are a lot more wrecks and the diving is apparently a lot more interesting.

Red and Black anemonefish at Cepor cepor diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

View Dive Sites

Where to Stay

Mid Range

There are a few 3 and 4-star hotels to choose from in Tanjung Pandan. We stayed at the Grand Hatika Hotel, directly opposite the beachfront.

Rooms are a decent size with plenty of room for dive gear and there’s free wifi in the lobby bar, which serves mainly mocktails to its largely Indonesian and Malay guests. Beer is available, but no wine and the closest I could get to a gin and tonic was a Mojito.

Hotel bedroom diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Budget

There are a couple of fantastic budget accommodation options.

view towards Lighthouse Island diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

The Kepayang Island Dive Centre and Eco Resort is on Kepayang Island where you have the added advantage of being on the reef with quick and easy access to some great diving.

Kepayang Island Eco Resort accommodation diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Accommodation is in beachfront bungalows, right behind the turtle sanctuary, where you can also help out with the turtle hatchlings and participate in the coral planting program.

Welcome sign diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

At the Batu Mentas Tarsius Sanctuary you get to stay in tree houses and take part in a range of adventure activities including tree top walks and white water rafting.

Where to Eat

Signpost of Pulau Gede diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

The warung on Kepayang Island is a great place to stop for lunch while island hopping (or diving).

barbeque squid diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by DiveplanitYou’ll be served a range of fresh seafood, caught this morning, barbecued while you wait and served with a local favourite: banana fritters and taro chips.

taro chips and banana fritters diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

 

At Tanjung Tinggi there are a few little cafes (warung) selling seafood, noodles and nasi goreng. Be sure to grab a chilled coconut here to drink as you watch the sun set.

warungs behind the beach diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

In the centre of downtown Tanjung Pandan i a wonderful little restaurant called Timpo Duluk, serving authentic local food, served traditionally in a sort of Risstafel format.

A traditional meal at Timpo Duluk Restaurant diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by DiveplanitDefinitely worth a visit or two. It’s clearly very popular, with guests writing their compliments on bamboo accessories hanging on the walls.

Interior of Timpo Duluk Restaurant diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

How to Get Around

There are taxi services and the hotels can provide transfers, but the best option to explore the island is to hire a car or a scooter.

Other Activities

Swimming, snorkelling and messing about in the water.

Being surrounded by white sandy beaches, there’s plenty to do if you like getting wet.

Locals swimming diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

There are all sorts of floatation devices available for hire on the beach at Tanjung Tinggi and Tanjung Kelayang.

boats, snorkels, life jackets for hire at the beach diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

The water is clear and shallow, with virtually no current and no surf at either of these beaches so even the non-swimmers are safe.

Local boys with inflatable boat diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Island Hopping

Some of the tiny islands surrounding Belitung Island are ridiculously photogenic, so it’s well worth taking a day out to photograph them.

Island hopping diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Boats depart daily from Tanjung Kelayang and lunch is usually provided.

beach scene with boat diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Kepayang Island Turtle Sanctuary

There is usually an option to visit Kepayang Island for lunch on an Island Hopping Tour and it’s well worth walking through the lush rainforest interior to the sanctuary on the other side.

turtle hatchling diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

While you’re here, see if you can participate in the coral planting program. You’ll get to put your name on a piece of coral reef and when you get home you’ll be sent updates (with photos) of how your little coral has grown.

planting coral diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Batu Mentas Tarsius Sanctuary.

Belitung Island is one of the few places in the world you can see one of these tiny little monkeys.

 

Highly endangered (thanks mainly to the growing palm oil plantations here), the research undertaken here (funded by tourism dollars) goes some way to conserving the surrounding rainforest.

 

Tarsius monkey diving Belitung Island Bangka Belitung Islands Indonesia by Diveplanit

Getting There

Garuda flies daily from Jakarta and there are budget options with Sriwijaya and Citilink (Garuda’s budget domestic service). Six flights in total are available each day. Check out flights to Jakarta by clicking the Wego banner.