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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the north-east side of the island there are a number of pretty reefs to explore around the largely granite islands.
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.
Further west there are a lot more wrecks and the diving is apparently a lot more interesting.